Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Your Contractor Licensed?

If you live in California, 2011 was an interesting year for contractor law. If you're remodeling, building or altering a structure you might want to read the following by "Brittany Levine" of the Orange County Register.

In 2010, unlicensed contractors are in store for tougher penalties. Starting Jan. 1, those caught contracting in California without a license for the first time will face six months in jail or a fine of up to $5,000 because of a new law that will take affect. Right now the offense is only considered a misdemeanor with no set jail time or penalties.

Second-timers must pay 20 percent of the contract price, or $5,000, whichever is greater and spend at least 90 days in county jail.

A third offense would be punishable with 90 days to one year in a county jail and a fine between $5,000 and $10,000, or 20 percent of the contract price, according to the law, Assembly Bill 370.

Anyone who uses an unlicensed contractor is a victim and is entitled to a refund, regardless of whether they knew the contractor was unlicensed, according to state law.

In October, the Contractors State License Board, which operates under the Department of Consumer Affairs, conducted a sting operation in San Clemente and caught 15 illegal contractors. This year, the CSLB closed 133 cases on unlicensed contractors in Orange County, either sending them notices to appear in county court or administrative citations, according to CSLB data. State law requires that all jobs valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must be done by a licensed contractor.

To get a license, contractors must pass several tests and get a background check from the Department of Justice. Those with offenses substantially related to contracting are not granted licenses. There are currently about 315,000 licensed contractors in California. Because unlicensed operators don't carry worker's compensation insurance, they often cost less. But if a worker is injured on the job, the homeowner could be liable. Also, if there is a contract disagreement homeowners have very few options, said a CSLB news release.

By Brittany Levine - The Orange County Register

As you can gather from Ms. Levine's article, the state is no longer playing slap and tickle with regard to non-permitted items and the use of non-licensed contractors. To do so, one would proceed at their own peril.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Commercial Property Inspection

The commercial inspection process is quite different from a home inspection. Where the home inspection requires an inspection process from soup to nuts so to speak. This would include flooring, electrical, plumbing, roofing, HVAC, windows, screens, doors, child safety issues, landscape and irrigation issues, smoke alarms, GFCI's and... Well, you get point.

The commercial inspection is more commonly referred to as a Four Point Inspection, (Roofing, Plumbing, Mechanical and Electrical systems). You would still look for issues with regard to visible structural and water intrusion issues but not concern yourself with the more aesthetic issues of the property as with the home inspection.

For many commercial and industrial inspections, the properties are quite large. This creates the need for an inspection team. In addition to myself, I bring in a commercial roofing contractor, commercial mechanical contractor and commercial electrical contractor. A recent 8000'sf commercial property inspection had 37 tons of central air equipment over (6) roof mounted package and split units, a roofing system with (5) different elevations and (3) different types of material and a 600 amp switch panel board with (6) interior sub panels.

Total time on location for a vacant property of this size was (6) hours. We discovered substantial issues with regard to each of the inspection disciplines. The client in this case was provided a full report package with general inspection report from myself and subcontractor reports for each area of expertise. The completed package with photography was delivered to the client via email with cover sheet and SLA - Service Level Agreement within 48 hours of inspection.

Have an upcoming commercial or industrial building inspection in California? Let "Progressive Inspection Service" handle the project for you with one phone call. You'll thank me later!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Water Heater Installation

So you're thinking about changing your water heater. Let's discuss some common issues related to improper installation of a water heater. Since I live and operate "Progressive Inspection Service" within California, we'll be refering to installation common to this state. Your area may differ slightly.

Let us begin at the top of a gas fired water heater. Check to ensure the exhaust vent has proper rise so as to prevent carbon monoxide roll out. Check to ensure that all exhaust vent joints are fastened correctly, using screws or high temperature tape if allowed in your jurisdiction. Look for rust/corrosion and or active leaks at the upper plumbing connections, (Remember - leaks can cause damage). Are the upper plumbing connections and visible supply plumbing properly insulated? Is the (TPR) valve present? ie; "Temperature Pressure Relief Valve", does it have a proper drain line with discharge to a safe location within 6" of grade? The drain line must not be elevated above the valve, water must be able to gravity flow away from the TPR valve.

What about "Earthquake Bracing"? Here in California we're required to have a double strap earthquake bracing system. The straps should fully encircle the unit. The straps should anchor to wall studs off opposite sides of the unit so as to prevent lateral movement. The upper strap should be located a minimum of 9" down from the top of the unit. The lower strap should be located a minimum of 4" above the top of the gas controls. Don't forget to install the bracing spacers to fill the gap between the unit and wall. This will allow the straps to hold the unit firmly in place.

Let's abandone the old rigid or semi-flexible gas connectors and install a new "CSST" flexible gas connector. Water heaters are one of the major sources of fires in residential structures. The gas system and related components are critical to have properly installed. If the water heater is located in a garage and in the direct path of a vehicle, it must be protected my a metal post embedded in the concrete slab sufficient to prevent contact from said vehicle.

And finally, the bottom of the unit. If the water heater is intalled in a manner in which leaks can cause damage then the unit should have an over flow pan system with proper drain line discharge to a safe location. Again, water heaters are going to leak, when they do we want to limit or midigate the damage they can cause.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Poor Drainage - Negative Slope and Faulty Grade

Poor drainage conditions are one of the common and damaging scenarios impacting your home or investment property. Negative slope and or faulty grade conditions can cause abnormal wear, damage, deterioration, decay and or water intrusion. Left unchecked, the repairs can run into thousands of dollars.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

ASHI Inspection World 2012

Just finished attending this years #1 rated home inspection industry conference, ASHI Inspection World 2012 in Phoenix Arizona. Four days of outstanding educaction tracks, events, tours, vendor displays, marketing and networking with industry professionals from around the world.

For you history and fine dining buffs who have an opportunity to visit the Phoenix area, don't forget the "Wrigley Mansion" directly adjacent to the Arizona Biltmore Resort.

Happy New Year!