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Useful Inspection Information – Electric Meter Box

The household meter box houses a number of electrical components including the meter, main switch, fuses and circuit breakers including RCD’s, which control the flow of electricity to your home.

It is important to understand regulations that apply to electrical installations within the meter box and to accessing them.

Facts:

Location of the meter – Western Power website includes the following information –

http://www.westernpower.com.au/documents/reportspublications/brochures/13923_WP_Your_Metre_Brochure_Web.pdf

It is essential that Western Power can easily and safely access the meter. When considering such access, please take into account:

  • The meter must be accessible without the need to enter a neighbour’s property.
  • If the meter box or access way to the meter is locked, it must be with an approved Western Power    master key lock – available from licensed locksmiths and security suppliers.
  • The meter must be accessible without the need for service personnel to climb fences or locked gates.
  • Western Power will not enter an enclosed property with dog warning signs or where a dog is enclosed in the vicinity of the meter.
  • If the meter is locked inside a carport, basement, enclosed verandah or other enclosed area where service personnel can only access by customer appointment, the customer will need to have communications gear fitted to the meter at their cost
  • The meter has to be free from obstruction by trees and gardens.

Inside the meter Box:

  • Inside the meter box will be the meter, a device that measures and records the amount of electricity used. It is usually enclosed on an external wall of a house or building. It is important to know where the meter box is so Western Power can access it. There are four types of meters:
  • Electro-mechanical dial meters. • Electro-mechanical digital meters.
  • Electronic digital meters. • Electronic smart meters.
  • A Main Switch will have been installed for isolating all the power supply to the property.
  • Fuses and circuit breakers, these control the flow of electricity into the home. Some homes have an external main Meter Box housing the meter and mains fuse. Fitted internally will be a “Sub-board” this will have all the fuses/circuit breakers and RCD’s
  • Are RCD’s installed? How many should there be? RCD protection is required by law in all new homes built since 2000. At least 2 RCD’s are required and these are to give protection to all the Power & Lighting circuits.

Note: before anyone enters the roof space power must be turned off at the meterbox The Department of Commerce website includes the following information –

http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/EnergySafety/RCD/RCD_laws.html

RCD laws

Since 2000 it has been compulsory for all new homes to have two RCD’s fitted to protect the power and lighting circuits as part of an electrical installation.

In the past 17 years, 29 people including eight children have been electrocuted in homes in Western Australia. Twenty-three of these deaths could have been prevented if Residual Current Devices (RCD’s) had been fitted to the power and lighting circuits.

To help reduce deaths from electrocution, the Western Australian Government implemented new RCD regulations in August 2009.

The new legislation applies to people selling their homes and to landlords. Every home sold or leased must be fitted with a minimum of two RCDs which must protect all power and lighting circuits.

When a new tenant takes up residency, landlords will need to install the devices before the lease agreement is signed. For homes that have a continuing tenancy, landlords had until 8 August 2011 to fit the RCDs. All tenanted homes should now be compliant by having RCD’s installed.

Penalties

A person failing to fit RCDs in accordance with the regulations may incur the following penalty:

  1. In the case of an individual a fine of $15,000;
  2. In the case of a body corporate a fine of $100,000

Further information:

RCD identification.

It must be remembered that where there are two RCD’s fitted to the property the installation they may not meet regulation requirements. The installed RCD’s may be protecting other services within property, such as outbuildings, pool or spa equipment. The power and/or lighting circuits may not be fully protected.

It is often difficult to identify if RCD’s are installed as there are many different types now available, they are not uniform in size, test buttons are of different shape, sizes and colour. Some test buttons are small and can hardly be seen.

 Q: How many RCD switches required for the house?    

This depends on the number of circuit breakers / wired fuses there are to the switchboard / fuse box.  As no more than 3 circuit breakers / wired fuses are permitted per RCD it may be necessary to install multiple RCD switches to larger fuse boxes. In any instance a minimum of 2 RCD’s are required.

Q: I have 2 light fuses, can I put these on 1 RCD?     

N0. The Australian Wiring Regulations will not permit all light circuits to go on 1 RCD.  For example, where more than 1 light circuit exists these must be split up over different RCD’s. The reason for this is that if the RCD trips not all lights will be affected. These arrangements are intended to minimise the impact of the RCD tripping. (Having all lights trip off at night could be more than inconvenient).

 

Identifying Circuits.

It is the responsibility of the installing licensed electrician to clearly identify and mark all the RCD’s and the circuits they protect. Poorly identified circuits can cause confusion, maybe misleading and require confirmation from a licensed electrical contractor that the RCD protection complies with new RCD electrical codes.

Note: before anyone enters the roof space power must be turned off at the meterbox

A Housecalls Property Inspection will report on RCD compliance and meter box location.

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;
http://www.housecalls.net.au/756/

10 Tips To Choosing An Inspector
http://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. 

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 [email protected] 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

Exhaust fan and other ventilation to your Home

Exhaust fan and other ventilation to your Home.

Proper ventilation of your home is a priority in maintaining your own health and well as the long term maintenance of the building. Properties that are not well ventilated readily promote moulds and mildew that not only affect your health but also affect the building itself.

Some ventilation is as simple as opening a window. If windows are fitted with security screens or vent locks they can be left open at all times to provide fresh air and promote the removal of moisture, caused by simply living, from the building. This moisture is from breathing, showering and washing, cooking, clothes washing and drying etc.

We regularly are asked to inspect and report on properties where tenants have complained of mildew and mould growth. Inspection reveals improper ventilation as the cause. Keeping a house fully closed in winter months is not always necessary as many days the outside temperature is above the internal so a change of air is not detrimental to keeping the home warm. Running exhaust fans for an extended time would also remove the potential for mould growth.

 

Other ventilation is targeted to specific areas of the home.

Toilets 

Toilets and bathrooms with a toilet should be vented with a short glazed window with permanent mesh vent to the top and an Air Lock vent directly outside the door. The airlock vent needs to connected to a flue pipe out through the roof; where the toilet does not have an external wall for the permanent vent window an exhaust fan connected to the flue pipe is required. Obviously having a flued fan along with the permanent vent in the toilet is even better.

 

Bathrooms and Laundries

Bathrooms and laundries need to have at least a static vent of sufficient proportions to remove any airborne moisture from the room; an exhaust fan is better. Exhaust fans should be kept running after the use of the room to ensure all moisture is removed.

Kitchens

Proper ventilation of the kitchen is essential to remove cooking odours and moisture from the building. Current regulations do not insist on venting from kitchen fans and range hoods; although the local authority may make it a condition of building approval at time of issuing the building license to the builder. It is sensible to properly vent the kitchen to the exterior otherwise oils and fats from cooking collect in the roof space impregnating insulation which would create a fire hazard and harbour cockroaches and attract other vermin.

 

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Roof Coverings

This week we had another inspection on a house that has been re-roofed:

Changing from galvanised iron to Zincalume, the “upgrade” is a whole transmutation from a simple roof structure to one that involves elementary structural forces on the entire building. The inspected home is a timber framed weatherboard cottage built in the early 1920’s that had a corrugated iron roof nailed to a sparse hardwood timber frame. While the roof has provided adequate cover for over 90 years the change of covering and method of fixing has altered the nature of the building to such an extent that it has become structurally unsound.

The original galvanised roof sheeting has been replaced with the current Zincalume roof but no work to the roof frame has been carried out to compensate for the change in characteristics of performance under storm conditions. The original roof would have been nailed to the framing whereby individual sheets could loosen and relieve variance in air pressure between the internal and external areas of the roof covering. The current roof is now screwed together making one cohesive sheet. No tie down restraint strapping between the roof and wall structures has been implemented to comply with the requirements [when completely renewing roof coverings the roof framing needs to be brought up-to current Austrsilian Standards and Buiding Codes] for securing this type of structure. The roof frame is well below the required specification for sheet roofing with rafters being over span and over spacing. Battens for securing the roof sheeting are also spaced too far apart and are not correctly secured to the rafters. The roof frame structure and its fixing methods although suitable at time of the building construction (1920’s) no longer met the Australian Standard’s and Building Codes applicable at the time of the roof being re-covered. When having roofs recovered [sheet metal] it is essential that the roof frame structure, [and any additional framing and restraint strapping required], is installed and secured ensuring that the finished structure and installation meets the Standards and Codes applicable at the time of the works.

While it will, no doubt, be argued that the cottage has stood for all its life without failure the building has been so fundamentally altered that there is now a real risk of total collapse if cyclonic force winds are applied.

The original hardwood frame was constructed with green sawn timber that has dried and shrunk, the drying and movement has caused nails to loosen, and stud framing housed into notched wall plates (top and bottom members of the wall frame) are now also loose. All that is holding the wall frame together is the weatherboard outer cladding and internal wall boarding – both very aged.

If you have any concerns about the condition of your property then speak to a Housecalls team member; [email protected]u or 0418 902 240

Deemed to Satisfy

The term “deemed to satisfy” is often used by builder’s site supervisors to excuse poor workmanship or other faults within a building; this is a total misuse of the term and is purely used to blur the issue.

Deemed to satisfy provisions are in place so a new or different method or design feature can be used in lieu of the building code provisions whereby the end result is at least as good as the intent of the code. The use of this provision is designed to provide advancement of ideas and methods to make the building industry more efficient or improve the quality of workmanship and/or the end product.

To use the deemed to satisfy provision the method or deviation from the code the plan must be resubmitted to the local authority for approval as a variation to the approved plans.

“Deemed to Satisfy” is not an excuse for anything that is below reasonable expectations, normal code requirements or manufacturer’s specification.

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

0418 902 240

[email protected]