QUESTION: Our early-1960s house has a cracked sliding-glass door. We called a glass company, and were told that the sliders are dangerous and should all be replaced. Could this be a scare tactic to sell us new doors?
ANSWER: A cracked sliding glass door is proof that the glass isn’t tempered safety glass, and it is indeed dangerous if someone should walk or stumble into it.
But there is an alternative to complete replacement of all your doors. Safety film is available that laminates onto the glass, offering greatly enhanced protection. Of course, the cracked panel should be replaced with safety glass, but others can simply be coated with the safety film.
We urge readers to check their sliding-glass doors (and picture windows) for an etched label similar to the labels on your car windows, which indicate safety glass. If they are not, have them coated or replaced. If replaced, you might consider updating to the fashionable “atrium doors” or French doors.
View the Inspector as a Team Player
Q: I’m in the process of buying a home, and my agent said my home inspector exceeded his authority by suggesting safety features that were not required at the time of original construction. Was it proper of the inspector to question such things as lack of ground fault interrupters and earthquake strapping?
A: It strikes me that you are now a better informed home buyer for knowing about enhancements that might make the house safer, regardless of whether they are mandatory. Think of the inspector as a personal consultant with information to share, and not (as your agent seems to think) as someone to simply recite what’s broken or what’s not working.
Shower Volume Drops When Toilet Flushed
Q: Over the last few years, we have noticed a drop in our shower pressure when a toilet in another bathroom is flushed. Is this a problem, and will it get worse?
A: I presume you mean a drop in flow volume in the shower when other fixtures are used simultaneously. If your house is older, say 35 years or more, this condition is probably due to your water supply plumbing being aging galvanized iron pipe.
This type of piping is notorious for becoming restricted and leak prone as it ages. Removal and replacement of all galvanized piping with a modern system is recommended. If your house is newer I would suspect an undersized main supply and/or branch piping. I recommend that a licensed plumber be contacted to determine if the water piping is properly sized.
Check Association for Inspector Names
Q: My real estate agent has advised me that she uses one inspection company all the time. Should I use the firm she recommends?
A: Real estate professionals will usually suggest the names of at least three firms for you to choose from to avoid negligent-referral suits. I suggest you call the California Real Estate Inspectors Assn. at (800) 526-2135 for the names of member inspectors in your area. I also suggest that you shop for experience and quality, not price. A good inspection for the average home will cost $200 to $300.
Tries to Find Source of Noxious Odor
Q: We have a noxious odor in our house. We’re at our wits end with this problem and haven’t been able to find what’s causing it. We’ve explored the crawl space for dead animals or whatever; we’ve cleared away brush near the house where the former occupant’s dog “went,” but all to no avail. Do you have any suggestions?
A: There are a number of possible explanations. If it’s an animal odor, you might try pulling back carpet to see if a pet’s “accidents” might have penetrated the flooring. If the smell is musty, and especially if mildew occurs within the house, you should suspect water damage.
Another possibility is a faulty sewer vent, allowing sewer gases to enter the house. Some home inspectors will do partial inspections such as this, but it may be on a “best effort” basis, since smells can be elusive.
Why Do Costs Vary Widely for Inspections?
Q: I called three home inspectors and got three widely different prices to inspect a house. Why?
A: Home inspections are anything but standardized, thus neither are the fees. Think of us like you would a suit of clothes, which you might buy at a chain discount store or you might buy on Savile Row.
Continuing the analogy, some inspection companies offer simple “off the shelf” reports, others highly personalized “tailored” reports. We suggest you talk to each company thatyou are considering, and choose one whose qualifications and style meets your needs.
Ross is the public relations chairman for the California Real Estate Inspection Assn. (CREIA), a statewide trade association of home inspectors. Readers may send their comments or questions on home inspection topics to Bill Ross, CREIA, 1100 N St., Suite 5-D, Sacramento, Calif. 95814.