June 2018 Newsletter  

Notes from the editor

Good day, fellow inspectors.  I know you’ve been eagerly awaiting the next newsletter. Actually, a newsletter was completed for January that Mike and I forgot to send out. (Oops.) Maybe that one will be sent next December as the content is more winter-oriented.   I was also told not to do an April 1 newsletter as a number of members almost cancelled their membership in the chapter after reading in last years April 1 newsletter that Mike had been removed from office for expropriating chapter funds (this was an April Fools issue, but I guess I the article was fairly convincing). 

In any case, Mike has provided probably all really valuable information in this newsletter (on the upcoming Fall Conference, to be held in Portland, Maine.  Apparently, David Rossinow has been reborn as (Bob Mulloy) Rossinow  by taking over the educational responsibilities of the chapter from Greg Boyd, and doing much of the planning for the conference.  Greg, I hate to admit, did an incredible job as last year’s educational chairman, but has now retired to fish and travel the world. (It’s a tough way to end up, isn’t it?)

Anyhow, thoughts on the current market…

I assume everyone is busy. We had better be as June is usually the busiest month I’ve found – and who knows what will come next with the economy and the real estate market.  Personally, I’m having a lousy year.  Although my central problem is my lack of marketing effort and poor phone coverage, I’ve been told by agents I work with that many if not most of their clients are waiving the inspection to get their offer accepted.

I know, I know. This is insane.  I could go on (and on) about this but I’d be preaching to the choir.  Perhaps we should exert our newly developed legislative muscle and have the state require home inspections. Fat chance.  I also find the ‘no negotiation’ situation annoying as it allows the sellers to be jerks and not do anything for the usually strung out first time buyers when adverse conditions are revealed.  (Seller: “Yes the house has termite damage and the heating system is failing but ‘screw you ’ to the buyer – I’ve got mine…”).   I’ve started to do inspections for homeowners who waived their inspection.  I think this is a good idea obviously, but let’s face it, I’m don’t have a purely objective motivation promoting these.  Still, its interesting how much the buyer can learn.  Getting people to part with money after they have closed, however, is not an easy proposition, so I’m not optimistic.    

On another tack, the Boston Globe had an interesting article that provided a warning for home buyers about sellers recording their conversations as they walk through the house.  Apparently, sellers with home security and monitoring systems are recording prospective buyers as they walk through to get an idea of how interested a buyer may be and how high they may be willing to go.  I’ve provided a link below.  My advice to a buyer would be to talk up the negatives while they are in the house. They could possibly have a conversation stating that any buyer of the property will have to do a complete make over, given the conditions present – but I don’t think it will matter much.   The link:


The Darwin Awards  (given to those whose stupid actions will remove them from the gene pool for future generations) has already been won – by me.  Did you know that, when setting a ladder up to a large limb you want to cut as it is shading your garden,  climbing up and chain sawing the outer half of the limb, that the release of this weight would cause the remaining trunk to violently spring up throwing the chainsaw, ladder, and wood-be logger backwards.  Who would’ve thought?   I will recover, but having a separated, possibly fractured ribs is one of the more painful things one can go through. (I’ve done it before).  You can’t do much except take lots of pain pills and try not to bend over – ever, until the bone resets.  

A final thought (finally):  when the stock market gets this high (not from good economic conditions by the way: its from companies buying back their stock to keep the price high so the CEO’s and corporate officers can cash in their options at a high price) AND the real estate market gets this crazy, haven’t we been here before, say in 2005?  It won’t be the same cause of things going bad as, at today buyers actually have to a provable income to buy a home -  but it will be something. My guess:  the oil situation.  Or perhaps something arising from our – sorry, can’t go there in this newsletter. 

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Seminar Review

This was an ‘oldie’ but ‘goodie’.  Fireplace and chimney seminars always seem to provide a lot of valuable information. Unfortunately, after a few months (or a few hours for some of us) the information is lost. So, I ran across my notes from this speaker, which dates all the way back to January 2016.  Anyhow, it was good information (and I may start reviewing some of my notes from the better seminars for future newsletters.

Seminar highlights:

  • Ventless fireplaces, if working properly, have a 99.8 combustion efficiency. They can go from “good to bad in a week.”
  • They don’t come with a CO detection system.
  • Gas ovens throw out lots of CO. There are ways to adjust the burners so that throw out less CO. 
  • CO levels at 30 to 50 PPM will have a noticeable affect. CO detectors available to homeowners won’t go off unless levels are over 20 ppm (I think this should be 30 PPM?). 
  • Vent free stove in a masonry fireplace requires a vented chimney.
  • Gas log fireplaces cannot have glass doors closed. These must be open when running.


  • The shelf on these collect water and corrode out the unit.
  • You cannot use a roof-top damper when the damper is no longer functional.

Gas fireplaces

  • Generic ceramic panels cannot be used. Cracks in the panels are okay. Gaps are a problem.
  • Vapor etches the glass, especially when using propane. Develops a white film.  “Some gas cleaners will work some of the time”.
  • “Zero clearance fireplaces” should be called “factory built fireplaces”. These require 16 to 18 inches of non-combustible hearth in front. Builders often run carpeting right up to the unit. 
  • Cannot put a wood stove into a pre-fab fireplace.
  • Glass doors and different fact trim may have their own instructions.
  • The speaker noted that you need the tech data to properly inspect a pre-fab fireplace.
  • You cannot block the louvers. Homeowners commonly block these as they feel cold air coming out. 
  • The inside of the chase must be sheet-rocked. No exposed insulation should be present. 
  • Many pre-fabs do not allow glass doors.
  • The hearth extension may require thermal rating.

Combustibles vs. non-combustibles

  • Non-combustibles include metal, brick, tile, concrete, plaster on metal lath
  • Combustibles include plaster on wood lath, papered sheetrock, windows. Hardibacker (contains cellulose). Permabase (uses polystyrene for an aggregate and should not be considered non-combustible.


  • Ahrens makes a non-combustible firebox that can be used when plywood was left under the hearth.
  • Ignition by pyrolysis occurs at 170 F. This can occur from a steam pipe (?).  Wood doesn’t always show pyrolization.  There is no test for this. 
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