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Take note: ALL new manufactured home installations in Ohio MUST be inspected

September 23, 2010

I am a certified inspector for the Ohio Manufactured Home Commission (OMHC).  About every month, the Commission meets to discuss issues that arrive relative to the installation requirements for manufactured homes.  At the meeting this month, the Commission discussed the fact that a large number of manufactured home owners are still unaware that manufactured home inspections have been required since September 2007.  Therefore, I thought that this would be a good subject to blog about.

Prior to initiation of the OMHC, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), powered by the manufactured home industry, developed rules to serve as a model code for all of the states.  The law that passed also dictated that all states would have to initiate a program for inspecting all new installations (sets) of manufactured homes.  At the least, the states had to use the HUD model code as a minimum code for each state.  Ohio adopted a slightly stricter version of the HUD model code, and at times various revisions to the Ohio code are made.

The basic fact is that the Ohio code requires all new installations of manufactured homes undergo inspections.  “New installations” does not mean installations of just new manufactured homes.  It means all manufactured homes, whether they are installed on private property or in manufactured home parks or whether they are brand new or years old.  Even if you are relocating the home from one manufactured home park to another, you must have its installation inspected.  Even if you are relocating a home from private land to a manufactured home park or vice versa, you must have it inspected.

Installations currently require three inspections: footing, electrical safety and final installation.  The footing inspection may not be needed if approval is given to an existing footing that is being reused.  Furthermore, all installations must receive a permit prior to any work beginning.  For information on the permits, the permit application forms and the steps you need to go through in the installation process, refer to this location: http://www.omhc.ohio.gov/Consumers/tabid/59/Default.aspx.  The permit is issued by the same certified OMHC inspectors that perform the inspections.  Local building departments and some Ohio Department of Health agencies perform manufactured home inspections as well as Third Party Agencies, such as my firm, Criterium-Cincinnati Engineers.  You can find a list of Third Party Agency  inspectors by county at this location:  http://www.omhc.ohio.gov/CallforInspections/tabid/57/Default.aspx.   Note that you can be fined if you begin work without obtaining a proper permit.

The rules require that installers licensed by the OMHC perform both the footing and installation work.  Most installers have unlicensed assistants helping them.  In these cases, the licensed installer must be on-site 80% of the time supervising the work.  Installers may also obtain the permit and line up the inspection agency.

After a home passes its inspections, the inspector will place a seal inside the electrical panel.  Note that this seal is only for that home’s installation on the site for which the seal was issued.  If the home is moved to another location, it will need to undergo the permitting and inspection process again and receive a new seal for the new location.

Several other important points need to be understood:

  • If a home was installed  after September 2007, it must still be inspected and meet the existing rules.
  • Homeowners may do their own installations; however, if a homeowner chooses to do the work, he or she is required to do all of the work him or herself, including obtaining a permit.  We highly recommend that homeowners not do their own installations because we have had nothing but bad experiences when they do.  In pretty much all cases, the homeowner is taking on much more work than they realize and likely does not have the proper equipment to do a complete installation.  Homeowner who are thinking about doing the work themselves should review the rules to which the home’s installation must adhere at this location:  http://www.omhc.ohio.gov/LawsandRules/tabid/66/Default.aspx (if you looked, yep, every one of ’em).  Whereas, most installers have had a number of years of experience.  They are also required to be trained and pass a qualifying test prior to obtaining a license.  We therefore recommend that homeowners have licensed installers do the installation.
  • We recommend that the homeowner have the installer obtain the proper permits.  If the installer obtains the permit, he or she is responsible for completing the work.  If the homeowner obtains the permit, he or she is responsible.  If additional work is needed for the home to pass inspection, having the installer responsible for the permit gives the homeowner leverage to assure the work gets done.
  • On the other hand, we recommend that the homeowner select the inspection agency.  Some installers have a “comfortable” relationship with some inspectors and, let’s just say, the homeowner might not be getting the inspection they should.
  • Permits are for 180 days only, which should be adequate time for the installation to occur.  An extension can be given; but, if one is needed, then something is definitely wrong.
  • The homeowner is not supposed to occupy the home until it receives a passing final inspection and is sealed.  The inspector can issue a temporary occupancy permit if he or she finds that the issues that need to be resolved for the home to pass inspection are not serious.  However, the temporary permit, as the name implies, means that the home must eventually pass inspection.
  • Most electrical companies will not connect the electric service to a home until after it passes the electrical safety inspection.  The problem has been that some homeowners have gotten the electrical service connected and then not completed the installation so that it passes inspection.  The Commission is currently working to close this loophole.  Inspectors are also going to get more aggressive at assuring that the installation is satisfactorily completed.

I have heard all of the excuses about why manufactured homes should not be inspected and complaints about the inspection requirements.  But, after performing nearly 600 manufactured home FHA inspections, I understand the requirements for every part of the rules.  The inspections are not intended to simply aggravate the homeowner.  They are there to assure that the home is installed safely and to help preserve the homeowner’s investment.  With proper installation, a manufactured home can last for many years.  I see no reason why a properly installed and cared for home cannot increase in value over time.

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5 Things that have changed in building design to cause today’s issues

September 16, 2010

I received a link to an excellent article by someone whose writing I follow.  His name is Dr. Joe Lstiburek and he is to me THE authority on building moisture issues.  His article is titled, “5 Things”, and the link to it is:  http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/insights/bsi-039-five-things/files/BSI-039_Five_Fundamental_Changes.pdf.

Those 5 things that Dr. Lstiburek lists as changes that have occurred to buildings to cause today’s moisture issues are:

  1. Increased thermal resistance.
  2. A change in the permeability of the linings that we put on the inside and outside of building enclosures.
  3. Water and mold sensitivity of building materials.
  4. The ability of the building enclosure to store and redistribute moisture.
  5. Complex three dimensional airflow networks that inadvertently couple the building enclosureto the breathing zone of the occupied space via the mechanical system.

Let me see if  I can translate from the engineer-ese.

  1. Thermal resistance is the ability of a material to transfer heat, similar to the way a wire conducts electricity.  A higher thermal resistance material, such as fiberglass, slows heat transfer.  Dr. Lstiburek says that with reduced thermal transfer, building materials do not dry as rapidly in newer buildings as older ones.
  2. Permeability is a measure of how easily moisture can move through a material.  Over the years, the exterior wall materials have become less permeable.  The result is that moisture that gets into walls cannot get out and moisture inside the home cannot get out of the home the way it used to.
  3. Dr. Lstiburek uses the term sensitive in his list of  Things, but then uses a better term later in his article–resistant.  Basically, the materials being used in today’s buildings are not as resistant to mold growth as those in older homes.
  4. Dr. Lstiburek states that older building materials were able to absorb and not be harmed by moisture than newer materials.  We still have buildings with lath and plaster walls that are over 100 years old because they could take moisture exposure.  The same moisture exposure would have demolished drywall in one exposure to the same moisture quantity as the older homes.
  5. In the older homes, the building exterior was usually more solid than now and it acted as an air barrier.  Nowadays, the exterior is not as resistant to airflow as back then.  The stud and joist cavities serve as runs for wiring, plumbing and supply and return airflow.  Every time a hole is made in a stud or joist, a new airflow path is created.  Then, we open holes in walls for electrical outlets, which are air paths.  So, the newer buildings are holier than the older ones–and not in a good way.

Dr. Lstiburek provides recommendations for resolving these issues in the latter part of his article, and you can read those as well as I.  So, check out the article and if I have not adequately translated the terminology in an understandable way, send in your comments and I will do better.  BTW, if you want other excellent articles on building construction, visit the Building Science website at http://www.buildingscience.com/.

A potential Freon fiasco

March 8, 2010

One of the inspector message boards recently posted a letter from one of the home warranty companies to realtors about Freon.  The parts of the letter related to most homeowners are duplicated below:

Starting January 1, 2010, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate will change the way your clients’ home

air conditioners are serviced and repaired. At that time, manufacturing HVAC equipment that primarily utilizes Freon®

(also known as R-22 and HCFC-22) will be banned, and the nation will begin using products such as Puron® (also known

as R-410A) as the standard refrigerant for air conditioners. This change will affect your buyers and sellers in many ways.

Costs will increase

A variety of factors will lead to increased costs:

  • R-22 parts may no longer be available.
  • Since R-410A parts are not always interchangeable with R-22 parts, replacement of the entire system might be necessary.
  • Physical changes to your system may be needed to accommodate the larger equipment required in air conditioners using R-410A refrigerant.
  • The supply of R-22 refrigerant will be limited, causing the price to increase.
  • Repairs may take longer because you may want to explore your options and wait for less expensive parts, if they are available.
  • New HVAC equipment may be more expensive to purchase and install.

Manufacturers’ warranties may not provide full coverage

Typical manufacturers’ warranties only cover parts for one year, in most cases. Labor is a significant part of any repair.

Each manufacturer may take a different position if an R-22 system cannot be repaired or parts are not available.

System and appliance warranties/ service contracts typically exclude coverage resulting from government mandated changes

Most system and appliance home service contracts/warranties contain language that effectively excludes the additional

costs resulting from this government-mandated change. Each home service contract may deal with this situation

differently.

Visit http://www.r410asolutions.com to answer all your questions concerning the impact of this new government mandate to you and your clients or call 877-777-3188 to deliver real time answers to agents and homeowners.
Even though the letter was originally written to realtors, it contains information that is important to homeowners, particularly the parts about prices of the Freon alternative.  But, one other part of the letter, which I did not include here, was that homeowners who are selling will likely now have to disclose any Freon systems.  As home buyers get wise to the Freon system problems, sellers will likely end up reducing their selling price because of the Freon problems.  Likewise, if you are in the market for a home, you may want to ask about whether the air conditioning system uses Freon.  Most likely it does or it will (depending on which side of the sell you are on).  That means in turn that older air conditioning systems that need repair might end up being cheaper to replace than repair.

A very good home basics web site

January 8, 2010

Why am I being so selfish?  From time to time, I come across web sites that I feel are really good for providing certain information.  I came across one of those from US Inspect, as relocation firm.  This site provides very good basic information for the homeowner about their home.  I recommend that you give it a gander.  Here is the link:

http://www.usinspect.com/resources-for-you

Enjoy!


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