When I inspect a home there are certain things I always look for and I’m sure most inspectors know exactly what I mean. These conditions get written up no matter what. And sad to say, many times they go unknown by the owner, and are often deal breakers – it has happened before.
Here are a few things that may exist in your home. Identifying these items before putting your house on the market may save you a lot of trouble.
Federal Pacific Electric Panel (FPE)
FPE electric panels were manufactured from the 1950’s to the early 1980’s. The main issue with the FPE panel is the circuit breaker. These have a serious problem – they may not trip when overloaded, which is the job of the breaker in the first place. Moreover, if the breaker handle is successfully tripped it may not de-energize the circuit! Secondly, the “Stablock” breaker design is faulty and often leads to arcing and overheating which can cause fire. Although these electrical panels were never officially recalled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, every good home inspector knows to write these guys up when spotted.
Consolidated manufactured roughly 190,000 of these furnaces from around 1980 to the mid 1990’s under many different brand names (mainly Premier/Consolidated brands). These are a known fire hazard and have been responsible for numerous residential fires in homes throughout California. All Consolidated furnaces can be recognized by the steel control rods installed above the burners and are usually installed horizontally in attics or crawl spaces.
Aluminum Electrical Wire
Mainly used in housing from the mid 1960's to the early 1970's, aluminum wiring can be a potential fire hazard. The problem is due to expansion and contraction that can cause arcing and overheating at the connections, which may eventually lead to fire. Even after the alloy was altered in the aluminum wiring around the1970’s it was still problematic. However, aluminum wiring is permitted and used for certain applications, such as residential service entrance wiring and 240V amperage circuits. If a good home inspector finds that the branch circuits in your home are aluminum, he or she will always write it up.
Defective ABS Plumbing
Manufacture by Polaris, Gable, Centaur, Apache, and Phoenix from around 1984 to 1990, this rigid, black pipe is used to drain your sinks, tubs, showers, washers etc. Plain and simple these brands are known to be faulty and prone to leakage. Found mainly throughout the sate of California these pipes may be found in other states as well. As home inspectors we always keep an eye peeled for these name brands.
Polybutylene Plumbing Lines (PB) (Quest)
These are water supply lines that range from grayish to blue in color which were manufacture around 1970’s and have been used in homes through the 1980’s and 90’s. The issue with this pipe is that it’s known to fail due to the chemicals in tap water which deteriorate and harden the fittings causing leakage. Replacement costs can be in the thousands of dollars. Any good home inspector will call this out and recommend a licensed plumber investigate further.
So if you are planning to put you home up for sale you may want to find out if it has any of the previous concerns. Taking care of these issues before the home is in escrow can save you a lot of trouble. And if you are unsure if these concerns exist in your home, hire a good, thorough home inspector. He or she should be able to identify these issues and will likely recommend what you should do about them.
© 2005 Martin D. Lehman, Solid Foundation Home Inspections
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