What I'm Seeing Now

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Ignorance Is NOT Always Bliss

One would hope that Flippers were either capable of renovating a home, or employs professionals who know what they are doing.  Doing home inspections professionally I have learned that hope really does spring eternal...

This particular house, with the fine front stoop repair, was serviced by Liquid Propane gas (LP).  I checked and the furnace and water heater were made to handle LP gas.

Is that important?  YES!!  Appliances can be made for LP or, if made for natural gas, can be converted for use with it.  On remodels it is important that proper appliances be used, or have evidence of conversion kits.  LP is compressed and its molecules are smaller and require a much narrower orifice for proper mix and combustion.  When LP is used on a natural gas appliance there is too much gas being burned and the result can be disastrous.

An LP appliance will have a sticker that indicates it, or "PROPANE" will be somewhere on the information sticker.

If a conversion kit is used there are similar stickers very visibly placed to so indicate!  They are sometimes RED and often include serial numbers.

This is evidence of a proper installation.

In this house I turned on the brand new oven to test it.  A moment later flames were licking out of the gaps on each side of the oven!  They were three inches high!  Despite many photographic attempts the flash drowned out, and made it impossible to capture, these flames, but trust me they are there!  The brightness of the light coming from those openings is unusual in itself.  And the house began smelling like poorly-combusted propane.

Did this Flipper know to use the correct appliance, or have one converted for LP use?  Did he know that this house was serviced with LP gas?  Did he understand the difference?  I don't know.  But I DO know that such ignorance is very dangerous.

My recommendation:  If a house has LP and there has been remodeling done, ask for proper documentation that all the gas appliances in the house are so manufactured, or converted for LP use.  If not, who knows, one day you may hear that your clients are in the news...

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 27 commentsJay Markanich • August 29 2010 06:55AM

Comments

Wow.  That's a good catch.  I don't even want to think of what could have happened.  You would think the people that install this stuff would know better.  How sad is that?  Yes, so important to have the right people...and make sure they are licensed in their trade.

I design and install flooring, so I have a contractor's license.  I know enough that when I work in kitchens that a licensed plumber is needed for water shut off/reinstall, and more importantly gas.  Not willing to risk my license on something like that as the consequences could be disastrous for the homeowner (not to mention potentially losing my business).  Sheesh.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 8 years ago

Thank you for the post. It is scary to think of consequences of improperly installed appliances.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) about 8 years ago

Good advice. And thanks for the lesson! I appreciate and use your tips when viewing homes - although I am not an inspector!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) about 8 years ago

I often wonder if the installer even looks at the jetting for these appliances or tests them afterwards. The problem would be obvious if they ran them...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) about 8 years ago

The trick when taking pictures of flames like the over or even a furnace is not use the flash. This is a shot of a natural gas oven, similar to the one above, that wouldn't light. The owner was using the broiler tray as pan storage. Those are aluminum tins caught up in the burner.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

Flippers can be fun...or not...there is less of the DIY variety than there used to be...at least here...don't want to waste all that money with time on the market when they just painted the family room and called it updated...heads up on the lp ....we hear you !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 8 years ago

Jay:  This is a prime example of the need to have a Professional Home Inspector.  Not only is the Flipper frequently uninformed, but the Buyer and Agent as well.  Very, very informative; thank you, yet again! Great post; think this should be a feature.

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) about 8 years ago

Lunched with my sister on Friday.  She goes to closing on Thurs for the sale of her ONLY real estate purchase she has owned for 20+ years.  She said * she will not SELL again without a pre-listing inspection.  $3,500 of her $80,000 new went to HVAC that she thought was OK * listing agents should be cautioning their sellers to get pre-inspection.

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) about 8 years ago

Thanks Debbie.  On a previous inspection I had actually identified a water heater as NOT being converted for LP use.  The County had previously approved it!  Well, a couple of months later the water heater exploded when many family members were visiting for a family event.  I suggested on my report that they have it professionally looked at and properly converted or replaced.  My suggestion went ignored...

Gita - in many ways!  Sooner or later you will pay the piper, so to speak.

Thank you Gary.  That is a very nice compliment.

Michael - I expect the Flipper has already jetted somewhere exotic with his profits...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

You do a great job Jay. Inspectors everywhere could learn from reading your posts. Too bad you aren't here in Michigan.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) about 8 years ago

That's a great tip Jim!  I am not that camera smart.  I had it set on the All Use setting, which you probably understand.  I suppose I could cover the flash with my finger.  There's always the next time!  I really wanted pictures of the flames, which were huge.

S&D - you have to wonder how often a disaster happens with this kind of thing.

Thank you Tish!  I very much want to be informative on my posts.

Wallace - if an appliance is very old, but working, at the time of the inspection, even though she didn't have one, there's not much that can be done to a seller.  "It's working!" or, "It's been here for years and has worked for us," is what would be said.  And, it's funny, but I have tried for many years to get pre-listing inspections to catch on around here without any success.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Thank you Randy, that was nice to say.  And I hear property is really cheap there!  If you can stand the cold...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay - Having grown up with propane and once more living in an area with no natural gas service, I'm very familiar with the dangers. My dad bought us a new house when I was a kid and the "builder" hadn't bothered to convert the water heater to propane. an error that almost burned down our new home.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) about 8 years ago

John - an explosion happened on a home where I could not find a conversion sticker or LP label on a natural gas water heater.  My suggestion that they have someone come to look at it went ignored and they were very lucky.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Lately I have seen more flops than flips!

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) about 8 years ago

Well, Damon, that is my current world too.  And it's too bad.  After all, on TV they can flip a house in an hour!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay, in addition to what Jim said about not using the flash is you can fool the sensor with a really bright flashlight so that it won't be out of focus.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 8 years ago

That's a good tip too Charlie!  You guys are a lot smarter than I, so thanks for the ideas!  I took about 6 or 8 pictures from different angles and none worked out.  Better luck next time...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay thanks for another one of your very educational post.  I am afraid of gas and would never let anyone work on mine except a licensed professional.

Posted by Diane Williams about 8 years ago

Good thing they had you doing the inspection!!

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) about 8 years ago

Great and important info.  I just had an experience with a water heater for one of our clients.  The property is vacant and the P.O.A. in PA.  Due to a leaking gas old water heater a new one was ordered.  To make a long story short it was installed and when I asked for the Product Information Package on the heater it was clearly printed on the front in BOLD NOT FOR MANUFACTURED HOMES, which this was.

The plumber/installer said he'd put them in other manufactured homes and didn't have a problem!  I told him it wasn't staying in this one and he needed to replace it with the correct one.  Thank heavens it was caught before he left the premises.  Manufactured homes must be vented from underneath as I understand it.

A good Home Inspector is worth a lot!

Sue of Robin and Sue

Posted by Robin Dampier REALTOR®, Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source (Coldwell Banker King) about 8 years ago

I know I do not want to here that my clients are in the news over some neg. report.

Posted by Tim Lorenz, 949 874-2247 (TIM LORENZ - Elite Home Sales Team) about 8 years ago

Diane - I would agree with that!  No matter the gas, proper installation is crucial.

Carla - opening the oven it wasn't hard to see!  Unfortunately I am a camera dope and did not get a good picture.

Good catch Sue.  They put those stickers on there for a reason!  That plumber knew what he was doing.  He did not want to waste time ordering the proper heater - he wanted to get paid now!

Tim - that would be a bad day for anybody.  Once I had heard about a fire in an apartment building that I had recently inspected a unit in and immediately worried about my client!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

It's nice to know that an improper installation will be so obviously wrong when the burner is turned on.  I inspected a house last week that had LP gas, and there were no stickers on the oven indicating that it had been converted.  I turned the oven on and let it heat up, and everything seemed normal, so I didn't say it was a problem.  I feel better about that now.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 8 years ago

Reuben - if the oven has been there a while it is likely that it's fine.  This was a brand-new oven and it really made the house smell bad.  It was wrong, and I did not find the sticker either!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

I am putting a flip on the market this weekend....I will be peeking though the blinds to see if Jay is coming!

Posted by Steve and Jan Bachman, Realtors - Northern Virginia (RE/MAX Gateway, Reston, Herndon, Ashburn, Sterling, Fairfax ) about 8 years ago

Well, Steve, I will take that as a compliment!  I have two new homes scheduled for Saturday right now, but no flips!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

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