Ghosting is a term that refers to discoloration that appears on surfaces in a home. The source of this discoloration can be a mystery to anyone not familiar with the phenomenon. Ghosting is the result of particulates attaching themselves to surfaces.  “Particulates” is a catch-all word for any kind of particle small enough to be suspended in the air. Small dust particles from soil, animal dander, cooking residue, and soot residue from a fireplace and candles are all common sources of household particulates.

Many particulates tend to stick to the surfaces of materials with which they come into contact, and there are two reasons for this. The first is… those particles are sticky! Particulates from cooking are a good example of this process.

When you fry something (say, a breaded squirrel in a lemon and dill butter sauce), you can see tiny droplets of grease buildup on the stove around the frying pan. Grease droplets smaller than those that land on your stove can become airborne. Stove hoods with fans and filters are installed in kitchens so that airborne grease won’t accumulate on the wall above the stove.

In homes with inadequately working stove fans or vents (or in homes where the occupants cook six squirrels at a time), the ability of the range hood to remove tiny airborne grease droplets from the air overwhelms the system, and those sticky grease droplets can escape from the cooking area and move through the home carried by air currents.

Another reason that airborne particles are attracted to a surface is that all airborne particles and surfaces carry an electrical charge. In the world of electrical charges, opposites attract. A negatively charged airborne particle will be attracted to a positively charged surface. So, if they come close enough to each other, the negatively-charged particle will land on and stick to the positively-charged surface (just like male and female squirrels).

The act of a particle being attracted to a surface, making contact with it, and then sticking to it, is called “plating out.”

So, now we know that both sticky particles and those with opposite electrical charges will plate out onto the home’s surfaces. If the plating out is extreme enough, particulates will accumulate to the point at which they become visible as discoloration.

In most homes, we don’t notice this discoloration because most homes are designed with air flow adequate to prevent it. However, there are design issues as well as human behavior that can cause plating out anyway.

Any home in which air currents carry particulates that come close to a surface may suffer ghosting. It’s most commonly visible on carpets and walls, but may appear anywhere. Bear in mind that since the particulates are airborne, it’s the movement of air that brings them into close contact with home surfaces. Air currents are key.

Doors that have inadequate clearance from a newly installed carpet are one source. If a new pad and carpet are installed over a tile or hardwood floor, the clearance beneath the door will be reduced. Each time the door is opened or closed, air will be forced against the carpet and particulates will plate out on the carpet. Over time, the carpet under the door swing will become discolored.

Another example is above baseboard heating units. As the heat source within the baseboard housing heats the air, it draws in cool, particulate-laden air from the layer of cool air just above the floor. As the air is heated, it rises from the housing, and particulates flow against and plate out on the wall just above the baseboard heater housing.

Fireplaces that smoke may leave soot stains on the wall above the firebox opening, which form as soot-laden air spills out of the firebox and rises along the wall.

Any place in the home that draws air through a small space or which pushes room air against a surface may create ghosting.

During an inspection, if you have trouble determining the source of discoloration on a surface — whether it’s a floor, wall or ceiling — remember the physics of ghosting.
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining. As water backs up behind the dam, it can leak through the roof and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.
 
How do ice dams form?
 
Ice dams are formed by an interaction between snow cover, outside temperatures, and heat lost through the roof. Specifically, there must be snow on the roof, warm  portions of the upper roof (warmer than 32° F), and cold portions of the lower roof (at freezing or below). Melted snow from the warmer areas will refreeze when it flows down to the colder portions, forming an ice dam.
Although the primary contributor to snow melting is heat loss from the building’s interior, solar radiation can also provide sufficient heat to melt snow on a roof. For example, in southern Canada, enough sunlight can be transmitted through 6 inches (150 mm) of snow cover on a clear and sunny day to cause melting at the roof’s surface even when the outside temperature is 14° F (-10° C), with an attic temperature of 23° F (-5° C).
Gutters do not cause ice dams to form, contrary to popular belief. Gutters do, however, help concentrate ice from the dam in a vulnerable area, where parts of the house can peel away under the weight of the ice and come crashing to the ground.
 
Problems Associated with Ice Dams
 

Ice dams are problematic because they force water to leak from the roof into the building envelope. This may lead to:

  • rotted roof decking, exterior and interior walls, and framing;
  • respiratory illnesses (allergies, asthma, etc.) caused by mold growth;
  • reduced effectiveness of insulation. Wet insulation doesn’t work well, and chronically wet insulation will not decompress even when it dries. Without working insulation, even more heat will escape to the roof where more snow will melt, causing more ice dams which, in turn, will lead to leaks; and
  • peeling paint. Water from the leak will infiltrate wall cavities and cause paint to peel and blister. This may happen long after the ice dam has melted and thus not appear directly related to the ice dam.

Prevention

  • Keep the entire roof cold. This can be accomplished by implementing the following measures:
    • Install a metal roof. Ice formations may occur on metal roofs, but the design of the roof will not allow the melting water to penetrate the roof’s surface. Also,Notice how the ice is heaviest beneath the chimney, where snow can be melted easily snow and ice are more likely to slide off of a smooth, metal surface than asphalt shingles.
    • Seal all air leaks in the attic floor, such as those surrounding wire and plumbing penetrations, attic hatches, and ceiling light fixtures leading to the attic from the living space below.
    • Increase the thickness of insulation on the attic floor, ductwork, and chimneys that pass through the attic.
  • Move or elevate exhaust systems that terminate just above the roof, where they are likely to melt snow.
  • A minimum of 3″ air space is recommended between the top of insulation and roof sheathing in sloped ceilings.
  • Remove snow from the roof. This can be accomplished safely using a roof rake from the ground. Be careful not to harm roofing materials or to dislodge dangerous icicles.
  • Create channels in the ice by hosing it with warm water. Because this process intentionally adds water to the roof, this should be done only in emergencies where a great deal of water is already flowing through the roof, and when temperatures are warm enough that the hose water can drain before it freezes.

Prevention and Removal Methods to Avoid

  • electric heat cables. These rarely work, they require effort to install, they use electricity, and they can make shingles brittle.
  • manual removal of the ice dam using shovels, hammers, ice picks, rakes, or whatever destructive items can be found in the shed. The roof can be easily damaged by these efforts, as can the homeowner, when they slip off of the icy roof.
In summary, ice dams are caused by inadequate attic insulation, but homeowners can take certain preventative measures to ensure that they are rare.

All GFCI outlets have one little-known flaw: their circuitry eventually wears out, usually after about 10 years, at which point they no longer function properly.

The reset button alone won’t tell you if a pre-2006 GFCI outlet is still working properly—you’ll need to check it with a special tester.

By detecting dangerous current flow and instantly shutting off power, ground fault circuit interrupters save hundreds of lives each year. But after 10 years or so, the sensitive circuitry inside a GFCI wears out. And usually the test button on the GFCI doesn’t tell you there’s anything wrong: When you press the button, it shuts off the power as always. So the only reliable way to check an older GFCI is to use a circuit tester that has its own GFCI test button (sold at home centers and hardware stores).

Plug in the tester and push its test button. If the power goes off, the GFCI is working. Press the reset button to restore power. If the power doesn’t go off, replace the GFCI.

Your new GFCI will never require a circuit tester. All GFCIs manufactured after mid-2006 are designed to tell you when they fail. The vast majority indicate failure by shutting off power permanently. So someday your GFCI (and any other outlets connected to it) will simply stop delivering power and you’ll have to replace it.

How GFCI Receptacles Keep You Safe

Two-thirds of all electrocutions in U.S. homes could be prevented if people installed the receptacles.

By Max Alexander of This Old House magazine

Portable

A ground fault happens whenever electricity escapes the confines of the wiring in an appliance, light fixture, or power tool and takes a shortcut to the ground. When that short cut is through a human, the results can be deadly. About 200 people in the U.S. alone die of ground faults each year, accounting for two-thirds of all electrocutions occurring in homes.

To prevent such accidents, Charles Dalziel, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, invented the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), in 1961. Most of the time, his invention does nothing; it just monitors the difference in the current flowing into and out of a tool or appliance. But when that difference exceeds 5 milliamps, an indication that a ground fault may be occurring, the GFCI shuts off the flow in an instant — as little as .025 second.

GFCIs are required by the National Electric Code in all new kitchens, bathrooms, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, and most outdoor receptacles. Owners of older houses can retrofit $10 GFCI receptacles at those locations or have GFCI breaker switches (which run as much as $108 for 50-amp models) mounted in the main breaker panel. Portable GFCI adapters, which plug into regular wall receptacles, are available for about $40.

“The great thing about GFCIs is that they protect you whether or not your wiring is grounded,” says Bill Grande, manager for safety products at Leviton, a manufacturer of GFCIs. Because lightning and other power surges can damage a GFCIs delicate circuitry at any time, Grande recommends the following monthly test: Plug in a light fixture and turn it on. Then push the device’s test button. If the light stays on, the GFCI needs to be replaced.

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”https://www.nachi.org/transcripts/2.0/NACHI13020504.js”></script><br />Transcript provided by InterNACHI, the <a href=”https://www.nachi.org”>home inspector</a> organization

One of the most common comments I make when inspecting a home is one that points out moisture damage at the exterior door jamb. There are typically a couple potential causes for the damage. It is a common issue that can sometimes be repaired without replacing the door. Using materials that resist rot can help minimize further damage as well as installing a storm door.  Depending on your skill set and the amount of damage, this might be a project you could do yourself. Sometimes the damage can extend to the sub-floor or rim joist. These conditions are more difficult to address on your own.




These conditions are more common than you’d want to believe. The pooling water on the ground under the house, elevated moisture content in the wood joists, and the sagging insulation are some signs of a sick crawlspace. The conditions allow for some significant structural damage over time and must be corrected in order to mitigate some potentially costly damage.

The level of damage often depends on the extent of the problem and the length of time in which it has existed. Here are some of the more frequently identified causes:

  • Ground water
  • Evaporation
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Poor venting practices

Downspouts that dump against the foundation are a major contributor to the first issue. The water will choose the path of least resistance and end up under the house.

Missing or damaged vapor barriers can also be a contributor. Depending on the moisture content in the soil, a missing barrier introduces a lot of water thru evaporation.

Plumbing leaks in a crawl offer go undetected. Depending on the severity, a lot of water can sit in the crawlspace and this can go on for a while.

Poor venting can cause issues that are more difficult to identify. Many times I’ll exit a crawlspace durning the summer months and my back will be wet. This is caused by the hot humid air being pulled into the cool crawlspace where it condenses on the floor joists and insulation. This, over time, can cause many issues like rotting wood. Here is a great article that explains better what is taking place and the problems that can occur.