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Hows your ceiling holding up?

Spontaneous Plasterboard Ceiling Failures
2017 again saw reports of several ceiling collapses in metro Perth areas, these ceiling collapses were often spontaneous, collapsing without any warning sending plasterboard sheeting, cornicing and roof insulation crashing to the floor.
The materials combined weight often exceed serval hundred kilos, they, with the falling air conditioning ducting, duct vents and electrical cables are a dangerous hazard with the potential of causing fatal injuries. Falling electrical cables may also be damaged exposing live conductors producing further hidden hazards and possible electrical shock.
Homes built during the boom times particularly between 2005- 2009 have been the subject of a Building Commission Report*, they highlight the cause of the failures may have resulted from several contributing factors, the one constant factor in all cases was noted to be poor application of adhesive.
The homes we live in need constant maintenance and repair, they also need a vigilant eye to ensure unsuspecting dangers are not accumulating in the home. Regular checks around the home will ensure it remains in a safe serviceable condition.
Many checks can be done by the home owner, the occupier, the property manager and most importantly by someone suitably qualified to carry out building inspections. These qualified inspectors will have a sound building knowledge along with many years’ experience in the residential building industry, this experience will enable the inspector to identify any significant defects to the ceilings, and of any other significant building issues around the home.
Summary:
1. Check ceiling condition including alfresco/patio regularly, look for signs of sagging and wave action across the ceiling ( ), nail popping (showing of nail fixings pulling through the ceiling board), or placing a straight edge across the ceiling to identify any sagging or unevenness.
2. Use the services of a suitably qualified Building Inspector to check the ceilings and provide assurances to the current condition of ceilings in the home.
3. Ceiling condition can also be checked from within the roof void. We recommend you engage a suitably qualified person to carry out this activity, we do not recommend the normal lay-person to access the roof void as space is often limited, air conditioning and other obstacles prevent easy passage, ceiling boards and metal ceiling battens are not designed to take a person’s weight, roof void insulation often restricts vision of the ceiling joists and extreme care is needed when moving through these spaces.
4. If you are entering the roof void then ALWAYS isolate all electrical services before entering to prevent possible contact with live wiring. Correct procedure for isolating the supplies and lock-out notification displayed at the isolation point should be carried out.
5. Buying a new home? Engage a suitably qualified building inspector (Registered Builder – current registration checked at https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-commission/find-registered-builder ) and instruct them to check for any defects and report on the ceilings condition. Checking ceilings is outside the REIWA building inspection clause and outside the definition of a structural defect so consider if you need to have the property inspected prior to submitting an offer.
If any doubt exists as to the condition of the ceilings in your home then having them inspected by a suitably qualified Building Inspector is strongly advised, remember when engaging the inspector confirming the building inspector’s credentials needs to be a priority.
Further information:
*Ceiling Collapses;
https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ib_85_ceiling_collapses_0.pdf

How To Choose A Building Inspector;
https://www.housecalls.net.au/756/

10 Tips To Choosing An Inspector
https://www.housecalls.net.au/10-tips-to-choosing-an-inspector/

Information On Building Inspections;
http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/professional-building-inspections

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© Housecalls Property Inspections Pty Ltd

10 TIPS TO CHOOSING AN INSPECTOR

If the selection of a building inspector is made carefully and ahead of time, home buyers will have one less detail to worry about during the chaos and excitement of finding a new home.

Home buyers may call several inspectors in their area and contact them in advance to ascertain their qualifications. Home buyers may also check their Department of Commerce site to see if the inspector’s builder’s registration is current.

Here are some important questions to ask:

  1. What professional associations does the inspector belong to?
  2. Is the inspector a Registered Builder? Is the registration current?
  3. Does the inspector supply a written report? Will the inspection and report be done in accordance with AS4349-1 2007 “Inspection of Buildings”?
  4. How long has the inspector been in business as a building inspection firm?
  5. Is the inspector specifically experienced in residential construction?
  6. Does the company offer to do any repairs or improvements based on its inspection? This might cause a conflict of interest.
  7. How long will the inspection take? (The average is 1 to 1-1/2 hours; anything less isn’t enough time to do a thorough inspection.)
  8. How much will the inspection cost? (Fees vary and do not necessarily reflect the quality and thoroughness of the inspection.)
  9. If you would like to attend during the inspection does the inspector object the client to attending the inspection? Remember permissions of attendance from the selling agent is a requisite and may not always be granted. Check with your selling agent about attending during inspections.
  10. Does the inspector participate in continuing education programs to keep his expertise up to date?

Bonus Tip. Most importantly, does the building inspection service currently have full professional indemnity insurance? This will protect you if the inspection misses a problem that must be fixed.

For further information on building inspections:

www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/professional-building-inspections

HOW TO CHOOSE A BUILDING INSPECTOR?

Choosing a qualified and ethical building inspector is the toughest challenge facing buyers in today’s real estate market, Remember, buying or building your dream home is most likely to be your largest financial investment, therefore confirming the building inspector’s credentials needs to be a priority, the following points should be qualified, considered and assessed before engaging the inspector.

  • Fees for a professional building inspector is small in comparison to the cost of buying a property that needs extensive unforeseen costly repairs missed by not having, or receiving a poor inspection, and remember with inspection fees generally speaking, you only get what you pay for!
  • Checking a building inspector’s affiliation with a professional association is an important prerequisite in selecting a qualified building inspector. Is the business locally owned or is it a franchise operation from elsewhere? Most franchisees are not qualified.
  • Code of Ethics protects consumers from potential conflicts of interest by prohibiting inspectors from promoting any of the repairs to themselves in the homes which they inspect.
  • Most consumers are not able to judge the professional qualifications and experience of a building inspector, and can be too easily impressed by a good sales pitch or contrived testimonials.
  • A professional inspector’s concern is to educate buyers about selecting a building inspector who has suitable qualifications. Registered builders must successfully complete mandatory accreditation courses which test the applicant’s knowledge of building systems and components, the diagnosis of house and building defects, and in addition good report writing practises are required. Their professional capability is also a concern, inspectors membership to recognised associations and government bodies needs to be the minimum benchmark of performance in the building inspection profession.
  • Neither warranties nor insurance policies can take the place of the knowledge and experience gained from such hands-on education, and that’s what makes a truly qualified inspector.
  • A qualified building inspector is a “generalist” who from his book learning and field experience gets to know how a home’s many systems and components work together and how they stand the test of time. He will have the expertise to tell the buyer not only on the structural integrity of the property, but whether the electrical service is proper and has the necessary protection devices, he can also tell if it needs to be updated. Other areas he can identify are wet problems and is able to recommend solutions.
  • He can explain the importance of roof voids and house ventilation to protect the building’s structure, and, along the way, he’ll provide valuable maintenance advice to help the home buyer preserve and enjoy his or her new home in the years to come.
  • Building inspectors are expected to continue their education in order to keep current with new technology and building practices. Building inspectors need to attend educational seminars and courses to be kept informed.

Read our “10 Tips to Choosing an Inspector” and be better prepared. 

Thelma M 15 June 2017

Hi Ross,

Thank you for seeing this work throughout and I honestly do appreciate all your hard work. It gave me a peace of mind and took the pressure off me. Likewise, it was a great meeting you. I will definitely keep recommending you guys.

Regards, Thelma

Ground Mounted Hot Water Units

Are you or your home at risk from unsafe hot water storage units?

Here we talk about hot water storage units that are externally mounted on the ground and are heated by gas, solar or electrical supplies and how a little time spent on regular checks and maintenance can help your system remain safe and in working order.

Hot Water Unit Base Support Slabs.
Recent inspections have revealed potential safety issues to some installed ground based hot water storage units. On existing homes within a period of 15 days our pre-purchase property inspections revealed 10% of homes to have the hot water unit sinking into the ground, putting undue stress on the supply pipes, where  left unattended these pipes are liable to fracturing allowing water or gas to escape with potential disastrous consequences.

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During new homes [just completed– PCI Handover] inspections we noted some base support slabs to be inadequately constructed and installed, this can again can lead to future issues with the units sinking and leaving [you] the home owner with costly repairs.
Note: Ground mounted units need to be installed in compliance with Standards AS/NZS 3500.4, AS/NZS 3000 and all local codes and regulatory authority requirements.

Hot water units should be installed with the base slab at about floor slab level and 75mm above surrounding surface levels to facilitate good airflow for burning and to ensure the cabinet is not in contact with the soil to prevent rusting. The base slab should be of concrete with minimum dimension of 600mm x 600mm x 50mm, if a pre-cast slab is used then it should be fully supported on solid compact ground. Supporting the slab “on a couple of bricks” is not stable or acceptable as the bricks can settle and easily move causing both the unit and the base slab to move and become unstable.

Hot Water PRV’s (Temperature Pressure Relief Valves)
PRV’s are one of the hot water storage unit’s safety mechanisms, should the system overheat this valve [Hot PRV] is designed to open when any overheating of the system occurs. Overheating causes expansion and an increase in system pressure, if the valve does not operate then failure in other parts of the system can occur with potentially disastrous consequences; the storage unit can burst, external or internal [roof spaces] pipes can split/burst leaving the home owner with expensive repair costs, interruption to home occupancy and possible personal injury. Check and,  Have this valve replaced if it does not operate.

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Maintenance/Servicing.

Minor Maintenance Every Three Months.
It is recommended minor maintenance be performed every three [3] months. Minor maintenance can be performed by the dwelling occupant.
This minor maintenance includes:
1. Checking the unit and its base support slab [some units have been seen without support slabs!] for signs settlement and movement, [the units casing set may below the ground level], wall retaining brackets pulling away from wall or set at an angle between unit and wall, unusually bent and out-of-line service pipes, pipes showing stressing at wall fixings. If you are unsure about the safety of the units installation contact us at Housecalls reports@housecalls.net.au M. 0418 902 240, or contact your local licensed [gas] plumber.
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2. Operate the easing lever on the temperature pressure relief valve [Hot PRV, mounted on top or high level to the unit side]. It is very important you raise and lower the lever gently. Warning: Exercise care to avoid any splashing of water, as water discharged from the drain line will be hot. Identify and stand clear of the drain line’s point of discharge when operating the valve’s lever.

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Where the [PRV] drain line pipework is incomplete or damaged [as shown in the image above] have the pipe repaired or extended so as the drain point end safely discharges near the ground or into purpose fitted ground drain. Remember to test the valve, gently operate the easing lever on the temperature pressure relief valve. It is very important you raise and lower the lever gently [some units are fitted with turn type valves, operate these gently]. Remember use only licensed personal to carry out plumbing renewal and repair works.

3. Check the drain line from the safe tray [if one is installed] is not blocked.

EXPANSION CONTROL VALVE. In many areas, including Western Australia and scaling water areas, it is mandatory an expansion control valve is fitted to the cold water line feeding to the water heater.

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The expansion control valve may discharge a small quantity of water from its drain line during the heating period instead of the temperature pressure relief valve on the water heater. Operate the easing lever on the expansion control valve once every six months.
It is very important the levers are raised and lowered gently [some units are fitted with turn type valves, operate these gently]If water does not flow freely from the drain line when the lever is lifted/turned, then contact your Local Qualified [gas] Plumber and have it replaced. The expansion control valve should be checked for performance or replaced at intervals not exceeding five [5] years, or more frequently in areas where there is a high incidence of water [calcium] deposits.

Service Every Twelve Months
For safe and efficient operation, it is recommended a service be conducted on the water heater every twelve (12) months and must be carried out by qualified personnel.
Warning: Servicing of a gas water heater must only be carried out by qualified personnel. Phone the Manufacturer’s Service Department, their nearest Accredited Service Agent or contact your Local Qualified [gas] Plumber. Only genuine replacement parts should be used to water heaters.
The annual service needs to include the following actions:
• Inspect and flush the temperature pressure relief valve.
• Inspect and flush the expansion control valve (if fitted).
• Check and if necessary adjust the inlet gas pressure.
• Check the piezo igniter, gas control and thermocouple.
• Check the operation of and clean the pilot light and main burner.
• Visually check the unit for any potential problems.
• Inspect all connections.
• Check the drain line from the safe tray (if one is installed) is not blocked.
Note: The water heater may need to be drained during this service. After the completion of the service, the water heater will take some time to reheat the water. Hot water may not be available for a while.

Major Service Every Five Years
It is recommended a major service be conducted on the water heater every five (5) years and must be carried out by qualified personnel.
Warning: Servicing of a gas water heater must only be carried out by qualified personnel. Phone the Manufacturer’s Service Department, their nearest Accredited Service Agent or contact your Local Qualified [gas] Plumber. Only genuine replacement parts should be used to water heaters.
The major service should include the following actions:
• Replace the temperature pressure relief valve [PRV].
• Inspect and flush the expansion control valve [if fitted]. If required, replace the valve.
• Inspect and if required, replace the anode[s]. If the anode[s] is not replaced, it should be replaced within three years of this service.
• Check and if necessary adjust the inlet gas pressure [gas unit only].
• Check the piezo igniter, gas control and thermocouple [gas units only].
• Check the operation of and clean the pilot light and main burner [gas units only].
• Visually check the unit for any potential problems.
• Inspect all connections.
• Check the drain line from the safe tray [if one is installed] is not blocked.
Note: The water heater may need to be drained during servicing. After the completion of the service, the water heater will take some time to reheat the water. Hot water may not be available for a while.

Remember – always use reputable licensed trade personnel to carry out plumbing and electrical works

Information kindly produced for you, by the Housecalls Property Inspection Team. ©Housecalls Property Inspections Pty Ltd. 2016

Smoke Alarm Laws

 

 

Selling, Buying or Renting? Then the Smoke Alarm Laws apply to you.

Recent inspections revealed a number of homes for sale did not meet the Smoke Alarm Laws. Some of these homes had been recent rentals, or occupied for over 10 years, and although the installed alarms were hardwired they were found to be out-with the 10 year manufactured date. In one home (a recent rental now up for sale) the fitted alarms were out of date and were no longer connected to the mains supply. Without a Pre-Purchase Building Inspection these faults may have gone un-detected and put the future occupier’s lives at risk.

Smoke alarm laws (The Building Regulations 2012) require owners (those selling or making properties available for rent or hire) must ensure that the smoke alarm(s):

  1. are in accordance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) applicable the time of installation of the alarms (the BCA specifies the minimum standards and location that smoke alarms must comply with); and
  2. are not more than 10 years old at the time of transfer of ownership or making the dwelling available for rent or hire; and
  3. are in working order; and
  4. are permanently connected to consumer mains power.

Are there penalties for non-compliance?

Yes, local governments have the power under the Building Act 2011 and the Regulations to either issue an infringement notice or prosecute an owner who fails to have compliant smoke alarms installed prior to selling, transferring ownership, renting or hiring the dwelling.

Further information can be found http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/publications/smoke-alarm-laws

Jonathan Allegretta – January 2016

Thanks Ross/Glenn.

You provide a very good and thorough service. Your reports are written in an excellent form and produced in an outstanding amount of time. Thank you for your great work and service. I have recommended you to a friend of mine who has his final inspection upcoming.

Regards,

Jonny and Christine.

Mike – September 2015

Thanks very much for the house inspection you performed yesterday.  It looks like a very thorough job and it was great that you could answer the extra questions that we had.  The report was very prompt and professional and the payment and delivery was easy.  I won’t hesitate to recommend you to anybody who needs an inspection done.

Thanks.

Mike.

About The Company
Housecalls is independently owned and operated by a licensed builder. We are based in Perth where all our inspectors have 40 plus years’ practical experience in the residential construction industry, coupled with our local knowledge we are able to specialise, and pride ourselves, in giving our clients the best in property reporting services for the Perth Metro area.
Contact Info
9/45 Tidewater Way,
Ascot WA 6104

08 9457 6066

reports@housecalls.net.au