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Imbalanced Heat in a Four Story


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I bought a house 2 months ago. First day i moved in i realized that the heat was not working. I called the renovator and a week later he got the heat going but then main level and upstairs have a 20 degree heat difference which the renovator says he will fix but has not got to it yet but what i want to know is if i can sue my home inspector for missing

1) The imbalance in the heating system

2) No heating/AC vents in a finished in law suite basement

3) Gaps in hardwood floor which my handy man says needs to be reinstalled because water can leak through it and cause mold problem.

on first inspection gas was not on so could not check heat/ac but i had him do reinspection and specifically told my realtor to focus on heat/ac since i could not be there.

Thank you in advance for your help

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I bought a house 2 months ago. First day i moved in i realized that the heat was not working. I called the renovator and a week later he got the heat going but then main level and upstairs have a 20 degree heat difference which the renovator says he will fix but has not got to it yet but what i want to know is if i can sue my home inspector for missing

1) The imbalance in the heating system

2) No heating/AC vents in a finished in law suite basement

3) Gaps in hardwood floor which my handy man says needs to be reinstalled because water can leak through it and cause mold problem.

on first inspection gas was not on so could not check heat/ac but i had him do reinspection and specifically told my realtor to focus on heat/ac since i could not be there.

Thank you in advance for your help

This is the USA, you can sue anyone for anything. You don't need our permission.

But since you asked, here's my opinion:

1: Balance of a heating system is outside the scope of a home inspection. It's unreasonable of you to expect the home inspector to comment on this.

2: If there's no source of heat in a habitable room, and if he didn't tell you that, then I consider that a screw up. I think he should have noticed it and told you about it.

3: I have no idea how gaps in a hardwood floor can allow water to leak through and cause a mold problem. This comment makes absolutely no sense. Either you're not relaying the information correctly, or your handman is a moron.

As for how to deal with it, why are you jumping over all of the preliminaries and going straight to a law suit? Why not call and ask the inspector to come over, look at the problem, and go from there?

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#1, maybe. It depends on a lot of variables you're probably not able to provide. It is outside the scope of professional society Standards of Practice and most licensing SOP's. Hard to say without seeing it.

#2, sure. He screwed up.

#3 The wood floor thing is silly; I have no idea what the handy guy is talking about. He sounds like an idiot.

I agree with Jim; little benefit will come from a lawsuit. It means you're pushing the problem out several years with discovery, depositions, and all the other crap and you still may not get satisfaction.....this stuff isn't carved in stone.

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I do a lot of litigation support. Unless the case involves severe injury or death, lawsuits usually don't end in anyone really winning, except the lawyers and consultants/experts.

Did you select the inspector based on experience/knowledge, or did you rely an the realty agent's suggestion?

1. We don't know the conditions at the time of the inspection. Is there an "imbalance in the" cooling system too? There is usually an exclusion for determining adequacy and uniformity of heat distribution in an inspection.

2. Does the basement in-law suite meet the definition of a habitable space? Does it have the required egress?

3. That sounds absurd. Is the hardwood floor in a shower?

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Thank you for your prompt responses

1) I am talking about a huge imbalance. My house has 4 levels including the basement.Thermostat is sitting on the main floor which is one open space with an open stairwell. Furnace is on a finished attic with 2 bedrooms when i set the thermostat to 70 and it is 35 degrees outside in about 2 hours the 2 floors above become about 90 degrees and keep on rising all i can do at that point is turn off the heat and keep the fan on to cycle the air and cool it down. at night before i go to sleep i set the theromstat at 45 degrees and the 2 floors above stay at about 74 degrees. To begin with the first day i moved in the heat was not working at all but the renovator worked with me and got the heat back in a week. The inspection was done in october and was a nice weather out however i don't know what you guys do to check this things.

2) we all seem to agree. yes it is a nicely laid out livable space with everything being newly renovated. the renovator told me the idea was to make the basement a separate unit. As i come to think of it when we first inspected it it had wires sticking out which were meant to be for connecting the heat/ac system and i did ask the inspector why they had those sticking out. he just noted to conceal them.

3) The handyman is talking about spills in the kitchen which is also hardwood floor and below it is the basement ceiling. The openings are about 1/2 inch at some areas and 1/4 inch in some areas with the floor squicking in some areas.

The inspector was recommended by my realtor and yes i have tried contacting the inspector through calls and email with no response but after i posted my comment here i decided to email him one more time and let him know if he doesn't respond i am taking legal actions and he called me right away and promises to come and fix the situation. I will let you know the outcome.

Thank you again

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3) The handyman is talking about spills in the kitchen which is also hardwood floor and below it is the basement ceiling. The openings are about 1/2 inch at some areas and 1/4 inch in some areas with the floor squicking in some areas.

If the gaps are that large, why didn't you notice them. Most (many?) standards state that cosmetic items and visibly obvious defects are excluded from the scope of an inspection.

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3) The handyman is talking about spills in the kitchen which is also hardwood floor and below it is the basement ceiling. The openings are about 1/2 inch at some areas and 1/4 inch in some areas with the floor squicking in some areas.

If the gaps are that large, why didn't you notice them. Most (many?) standards state that cosmetic items and visibly obvious defects are excluded from the scope of an inspection.

I wondered the same thing. People don't hire me to tell them about the obvious things they can see that even a kid understands is wrong; they hire me to tell 'em about the not-so-obvious stuff.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thank you for your prompt responses

1) I am talking about a huge imbalance. My house has 4 levels including the basement.Thermostat is sitting on the main floor which is one open space with an open stairwell. Furnace is on a finished attic with 2 bedrooms when i set the thermostat to 70 and it is 35 degrees outside in about 2 hours the 2 floors above become about 90 degrees and keep on rising all i can do at that point is turn off the heat and keep the fan on to cycle the air and cool it down. at night before i go to sleep i set the theromstat at 45 degrees and the 2 floors above stay at about 74 degrees. To begin with the first day i moved in the heat was not working at all but the renovator worked with me and got the heat back in a week. The inspection was done in october and was a nice weather out however i don't know what you guys do to check this things.

It doesn't matter how huge the imbalance is. Heat distribution is outside the scope of a home inspection. This stuff is codified in various published standards of practice. As far as I know, every standard excludes it. Look at your home inspection contract. It will contain a reference to the standards that the inspector is supposed to perform to. Then study that standard.

Getting uniform heating & cooling to two floors is a challenge. It's nearly impossible with three floors. A savy installer would have designed his ductwork to accommodate main dampers that could be manipulated in the spring & fall to redirect air flow when changing from heating to cooling. You might investigate whether or not such dampers exist.

It sounds like the basement area was never intended to suckle off of the main heating system but was supposed to have its own system.

2) we all seem to agree. yes it is a nicely laid out livable space with everything being newly renovated. the renovator told me the idea was to make the basement a separate unit. As i come to think of it when we first inspected it it had wires sticking out which were meant to be for connecting the heat/ac system and i did ask the inspector why they had those sticking out. he just noted to conceal them.

I'd like to hear his version of what happened.

3) The handyman is talking about spills in the kitchen which is also hardwood floor and below it is the basement ceiling. The openings are about 1/2 inch at some areas and 1/4 inch in some areas with the floor squicking in some areas.

I still don't understand what that has to do with mold. Hardwood floors are not waterproof. Doesn't matter how big the gaps are. If you spill water on the kitchen floor, the water is going to run beneath the hardwoods.

The inspector was recommended by my realtor and yes i have tried contacting the inspector through calls and email with no response but after i posted my comment here i decided to email him one more time and let him know if he doesn't respond i am taking legal actions and he called me right away and promises to come and fix the situation. I will let you know the outcome.

Well, that's good.

In the meantime, I suggest that you call an HVAC guy to see what can be done about improving the heat distribution to the upper 3 floors and about installing a heating system in the basement.

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I'm going to disagree with Jim.

A lot (all?) of the SOP's are lame, and exclude a lot of stuff I think is critical or mandatory. Systems have to work, and basic balance is big part of working, so in this case, the SOP excuse is a bit soft. At any rate, expect some amount of push back because the "professional" standards don't require it.

On first blush, I'd have looked at your system and thought it was crap. How in the world can a single furnace on a top fl. heat all that space? Can't be done without fairly complex duct balancing systems that, in essence, create zones in the house. I'd have checked general air flow through the house and looked for supplies and return.

Second, if there was supposed to be a another unit on the lower level, there should be a completely separate system; you can't have a single forced air furnace heating multiple units as contaminants in one unit can be transferred to another.

Analyzing balance in a system can be a very delicate undertaking; it's almost impossible, even with a finely tuned system, to have perfect balance. This system sounds whacked, though; the tip off is a single heating unit on the top floor of a 4 story structure.

I look at a lot of old inner city renovations that are vertically oriented like your house; I'd have been skeptical of that setup from the outset. Maybe your guy isn't so used to this sort of building.

I'm not taking sides, as there are always 3 sides to any construction controversy.....yours, the inspectors, and the truth.

But, from what you're telling me, the guy didn't do a good job on the heating system.

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Where is the air return grill located? Is there more than one return grill?

Kurt has a good point: if it was intended for a separate living space on the lower level (levels?) then there should not be ductwork between the two. Did the renovator actually finish things out this way (legitimately, with permits?) or is he just planting an unrealistic dream in your head?

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The inspector was recommended by my realtor and yes i have tried contacting the inspector through calls and email with no response but after i posted my comment here i decided to email him one more time and let him know if he doesn't respond i am taking legal actions and he called me right away and promises to come and fix the situation. I will let you know the outcome.

The referral came from the person who had the most to lose as a result of the inspection?

Maybe, you might consider digging a little deeper to see if this is an ongoing arrangement between the agent and inspector.

An inspector can make a very nice living being fed by a few agents who trust them to not make too many waves and cost them their commission. It's really not that big of a deal if once in a while someone like yourself stands up and confronts them instead of grumbling and doing nothing. He might just look at it as part of the price of doing a steady business.

Unfortunately, this conflict of interest is a widespread problem that will continue until the day someone takes action to legislate the accepted practice of realtor referrals of inspectors out of the home buying process, and exclude realtors from sitting on the boards of state home inspection councils.

It would be naive to believe that this would eradicate the conflict of interest, but it could go a a long way in educating the public, weeding out some of the incompetent, and discouraging what seems to be a growing public opinion that all inspectors operate under the direction or influence of the agents they're referred by. If an agent says they use a particular inspector, there might be a good reason behind wording it that way.

Knowledge is power. It levels the playing field. It could have helped you with the decision of who you hired to look out for your best interest.

I hope this works out for you.

Good luck.

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Blum said what I was thinking.

The whole NAR oriented transaction paradigm is screwed up; there's a reason the Justice Dept. has taken them to task twice in the last couple years. The first time, it was for unfair practice in listings; they weren't following their own rules. Last time, it was for outright lying about the number of home sales; they cooked the books to make things look rosy.

In general, taking the advice of a real estate agent in choosing your inspector is full of problems. That said, I get referrals from a few good agents. Few.

Bottom line, if the agent isn't someone in whom you place ultimate trust for your best interests, don't take their advice on much of anything. The real estate industry is built on smoke and mirrors.

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On first blush, I'd have looked at your system and thought it was crap. How in the world can a single furnace on a top fl. heat all that space? Can't be done without fairly complex duct balancing systems that, in essence, create zones in the house. I'd have checked general air flow through the house and looked for supplies and return.

No amount of balancing precision can do that, assuming that the air return includes interior conditioned space without doors between the floors.

Gravity is the reason. Duct design doesn't consider the effects of gravity on multi-floor applications. The floors need to be isolated in regard to air return and regulated on a floor by floor basis (zone system), or install a separate system for each floor.

Anyway, it's like Jim said: it's outside the scope of a home inspection.

Marc

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I forgot to mention on #1 the renovator is working with me in good phase. The first 2 weeks after i moved in the 2 floors on top felt like they could catch fire with the amount of heat. The walls and the fabric were getting so hot at that time i did not have a thermometere so i could not say what the temperature was but it felt like it was going to catch fire. Then i called the renovator and he came and put a manual damper blocking the heat going to the attic bedrooms which made it a little better. I also closed all the vents and on the once on the floor i put a carpet over them trying to block the heat that comes out after you even close the vents. The huge imbalance i am talking about is after doing all this. Now the renovator says the imbalance might be because there is no heat in the basement and says he will check after installing heat in the basement he recommended the 18000 btu LG dual zone ductless heat pump and promised he will install it free if i get the unit which is about $1400 which i don't think i should be liable for.

I don't see how the profession excludes imbalances since that is the most important thing in the house next to structure. I would understand an imbalance of 5 to 6 degrees but 15 to 20+ is rediclous.

on #2 there is no duct at all. basement has its own electric water heater and is waiting on approval for a separate electric meter.

on #3 i guess i should have paid more attention but i only noticed the scratches not the gaps however i would assume the inspector would point it out. As a first time home buyer i was just excited to find a home that i liked and never knew what to look for.

I am waiting for the inspector to show up today and see what he says. I used an FHA loan shouldn't the appraiser catch the no heat source in the basement?

Thank you, you guys are great

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there are 3 big returns

1 on the ceiling middle part of the main floor

2 on upstairs next to the stairs

3 on attic on top of the stairs

I have seen on a website that you can use fans on top of stairwells to push heat back down. Do you think that can be part of the solution since my stairs are open all the way up.

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I forgot to mention on #1 the renovator is working with me in good phase. The first 2 weeks after i moved in the 2 floors on top felt like they could catch fire with the amount of heat. The walls and the fabric were getting so hot at that time i did not have a thermometere so i could not say what the temperature was but it felt like it was going to catch fire. Then i called the renovator and he came and put a manual damper blocking the heat going to the attic bedrooms which made it a little better. I also closed all the vents and on the once on the floor i put a carpet over them trying to block the heat that comes out after you even close the vents. The huge imbalance i am talking about is after doing all this. Now the renovator says the imbalance might be because there is no heat in the basement and says he will check after installing heat in the basement he recommended the 18000 btu LG dual zone ductless heat pump and promised he will install it free if i get the unit which is about $1400 which i don't think i should be liable for.

I don't see how the profession excludes imbalances since that is the most important thing in the house next to structure. I would understand an imbalance of 5 to 6 degrees but 15 to 20+ is rediclous.

on #2 there is no duct at all. basement has its own electric water heater and is waiting on approval for a separate electric meter.

on #3 i guess i should have paid more attention but i only noticed the scratches not the gaps however i would assume the inspector would point it out. As a first time home buyer i was just excited to find a home that i liked and never knew what to look for.

I am waiting for the inspector to show up today and see what he says. I used an FHA loan shouldn't the appraiser catch the no heat source in the basement?

Thank you, you guys are great

All the above is good information. You cannot balance 4 stories. But if this is a major renovation there should have been permits and inspections by the local building authority. Check that out. Then sue the realtor because most, not all, only give business to "soft" inspectors because they don't want the sale to fall through based on a silly thing like an imbalanced heating system. And if she recommended him and made the arrangements she is a party to the agreement.

Good luck.

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I started paying much more attention to this after I read a few statistics about the #1 construction defect in new construction.....drumroll.........

Under performing HVAC systems, poorly balanced HVAC systems, etc.

The problem is epidemic. It's ridiculous that the professional societies exclude it.

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This was cut from the thread when the thread was split, it was a response to Marc.......this is pasting it back in at the wrong location, but what the hey......

That's not true; I see systems constantly that are balanced from floor to floor. You don't need one system per floor. I've even seen 3 floor systems, but for them to work, you have to have duct balancers tied to thermostats, in essence creating control zones. I don't like them, but they can work.

Basic function is part of the scope of a home inspection. This fellow sounds like his system just plain doesn't work. I think that's easily in the scope of our job. And, for goodness sake, how hard is it to turn a system on and walk around the house to see if there's a heat source providing air flow?

SOP's weren't written with the customer in mind; they were written by folks trying to balance all the competing interests of the stakeholders in the inspection industry.....I said industry (this time) on purpose.

This hiding behind the SOP thing is wrong if something doesn't work.

Kurt in Chicago

Workin' the Inner City

"Things are more like they are now than they ever have been before"

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Doesn't determining the adequasy of an HVAC system depend on careful calculations that involve a number of factors other than the square footage of a home?

Things like the number and types of windows and doors in the house, insulation, and ceilling heights?

Have I misunderstood this or does it involve some engineering to accurately calculate?

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Doesn't determining the adequasy of an HVAC system depend on careful calculations that involve a number of factors other than the square footage of a home?

Things like the number and types of windows and doors in the house, insulation, and ceilling heights?

Have I misunderstood this or does it involve some engineering to accurately calculate?

Yes.

We are not required to perform a Manual J calculation on the property; that would be wildly outside the scope of an inspection.

But, it's reasonable to expect us to see if the system is working, meaning there's supplies and returns that are delivering air.

I think we are responsible for determining some basic elements of the installation. For me, that means checking for air flow and basic observations on locations of supplies and returns.

Most of my brethren disagree with me. I respect their opinions.

There's a reason I do this. It involves an unpleasant story with an unhappy customer, many years ago. You get someone really pissed at you, it sticks with you, and you forget silly things like SOP's and start doing the job.

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After reading all your posts, it seems to me that all of your wrath is directed at your inspector, who didn't do enough to protect you from a crappy house. But why aren't you more mad at the builder, who actually built your crappy house? Is it because your builder is a nice guy who says please and thank you and cracks funny jokes occasionally? This guy left you without heat for a whole week, not to mention all the other problems you're still having. I think you should redirect the bulk of your anger towards the builder. If you're going to sue anybody, sue him.

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Manual J and Manual D calcs are almost never done on residential jobs here. Duct imbalance issues are pervasive. I recently added this new item to my boilerplate:

It's beyond the scope of this inspection for me to check the duct system for the proper distribution of conditioned air by completing manual J and manual D calculations. These two calculations should be done during the design phase of the HVAC system by the contractor but my experience is that almost none ever actually does them for residential applications. They just guess. I don't know if they were done for this house.

Needs editing. Gunning Fog index of 13.88. Thanks again to J Morrison.

Marc

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