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Understanding Basement Water Intrusion

It sure feels like we get a lot more rain than we used to. Basement water intrusion is a common issue that homeowners face, and it can lead to significant problems if not addressed properly and promptly. Understanding the causes and signs of basement water intrusion is crucial to maintaining a dry and healthy home environment.

Causes of Basement Water Intrusion:

  1. Poor Drainage: Improper grading around the foundation or clogged gutters can lead to water pooling near the basement walls.
  2. Foundation Cracks: Cracks in the foundation walls or floor can provide pathways for water to seep into the basement.
  3. Hydrostatic Pressure: High water tables or heavy rainfall can exert pressure on the foundation, causing water to infiltrate the basement.
  4. Faulty Waterproofing: Inadequate or deteriorated waterproofing membranes can compromise the basement’s resistance to water penetration.

Signs of Basement Water Intrusion:

  1. Damp or musty odors
  2. Water stains on walls or floors
  3. Mold or mildew growth
  4. Peeling paint or efflorescence (white, chalky deposits)
  5. Sump pump running frequently

Preventing Basement Water Intrusion:

  1. Ensure proper landscape grading away from the foundation.
  2. Maintain gutters and downspouts to direct water away from the house.
  3. Seal foundation cracks and joints.
  4. Install interior or exterior waterproofing systems.
  5. Keep basement windows well-sealed.

Our Expertise: If you suspect basement water intrusion in your home, our professional inspection team is here to help. We specialize in identifying the root causes of water intrusion and providing effective solutions to keep your basement dry and protected.

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Do Home Inspectors Check Code?

Do Home Inspectors check code? The short answer is no, they do not. But there is more to the question than just yes or no. Let’s dive into it.

In New York, licensed Home Inspectors follow what is known as the Standards of Practice. This is a set of guidelines that state what home inspectors shall and shall not inspect. It also states that home inspectors are required to report on unsafe conditions. An unsafe condition is defined as a condition that presents a significant risk of bodily injury during normal, day-to-day use; either due to damage, deterioration, improper installation or a change in construction standards.

So, what are these standards? Although they are not specifically codes, most, if not all inspectors know that this means code because construction standards are defined by codes. So technically Home Inspectors do not inspect for code compliance but in many instances, they are actually checking code. In addition to many code compliance items that are checked during a home inspection there are many more things that have nothing to do with code but are equally as important such as: How old is my roof? How long will my HVAC equipment last? How old are my windows and should I replace them? Will my basement have water intrusion?

With me so far? Now here is where it gets a little confusing. A home inspector cannot be expected to know every code for each of the building trades. This would be nearly impossible. But they must be familiar enough with the current version of the IRC (International Residential Code) to know when
things don’t seem right. They can also use safety as a compass to help them determine what recommendations they should make and when.

You might ask why your inspector would not check all codes?  An inspector must be a generalist, not a specialist.  A generalist must have a deep knowledge of each of the building trades so that they can pick out small details that might present an issue to the performance and functionality of a system or present a safety concern.  There are far too many codes within the IRC to memorize them all.   Also, Home Inspectors inspect homes that were built at different times and with different sets of codes.  Not all new codes must be complied with.  Older houses are “grandfathered” from many newer codes because keeping up with current codes would mean rebuilding houses much more often than homeowners would like.   They only must comply with new codes as the house gets upgrades or remodeled.

Here are a few examples of where building codes and Home Inspector Standards of Practice overlap:

  1. Guard rails too low.  An inspector does not need to know the exact height the railing should be but will recommend higher if they seem too low by a visual inspection.
  2. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors: A home inspector worth their weight in salt should know what current code requires for fire safety.
  3. Electrical wiring: A home inspector must know what size wires belong with every size breaker.
  4. Soft copper piping used for gas lines inside of a structure: This used to be allowed by code but is no longer and should be replaced with hard (steel) piping.

The moral of the story is, your Home Inspectors is not required to check code by the New York State Standards of Practice, but they had better be familiar enough with them if they want to be valuable to their clients.

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Readily accessible as it pertains to New York State home inspections

Many people feel it’s the inspector’s job to move furniture, appliances, and other personal items to inspect a particular component. However, New York State license law says otherwise. Home Inspectors are not required to inspect anything that is not readily accessible.

What does readily accessible mean? It means “available for visual inspection without requiring the home inspector to remove or dismantle any personal property, use destructive measures, or take any action which will likely involve risk to persons or property.”

For example, if the attic access is blocked by clothing in a closet or a refrigerator in the garage, it may force an inspector to exclude the attic in the inspection report.

Sometimes the inspector must make an appointment to reinspect an attic or other area of the house or component because of the buyer’s concerns. (Nobody likes to book a second inspection.) Therefore, we recommend that sellers make all areas as accessible as possible. By the way, the seller should move or protect clothing in a closet if that’s where the access to the attic is.

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  • A not-so-good situation is when warm, humid air comes in contact with cold surfaces inside of a building. Condensation can occur, resulting in water droplets forming on the surface, just like when water droplets form on a cold beverage while sitting outside on a humid summer day. This can occur on concrete walls/floors, air conditioning ductwork or water piping. This situation can occur during a warm, humid day if basement windows are open. Humidity can build up in a basement even when the windows are closed which is why it is important to keep a dehumidifier running throughout the summer months. It can also happen if air conditioning vents are not properly insulated. Many combinations of this process happen in homes and buildings. This can lead to mold or wood rot and is a condition you should try to avoid whenever possible.
  • So when is Condensation good? New high-efficiency boilers and water heaters take advantage of the fact that heat is released when condensation occurs. So this new equipment is designed to capture the heat released from condensation inside a heating unit or water heater. This “second step” results in substantially higher efficiency in these types of systems.

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Here’s a quick primer on tankless water heaters.

First, we need to talk about typical/conventional water heaters. These water heaters heat water to about 150° to 170° Fahrenheit. Once the water reaches its designated temperature, the unit temporarily shuts off until the water temperature cools down again. The water heater then cycles back on to keep the water hot. The system runs 24/7 for the life of the water heater. Remember that the water heater operates all day and night, even if you’re away on vacation. The culprit is “standby loss.” The hot water temperature naturally drops in the water heater and plumbing system, so the water heater must kick on periodically to maintain the desired temperature. Again, this is due to “standby loss.”

Now we can understand why tankless water heaters are more efficient. It’s because tankless water heaters don’t need to maintain hot water. Instead, they heat the water almost instantaneously when you want hot water in your kitchen and bathrooms. Once you turn off the hot water, the tankless boiler turns off until you turn on the hot water faucet again. So, there is no “standby loss,” and that’s where most of the efficiency comes in. These water heaters gain efficiency by capturing more heat from the fuel due to condensation, which will be the subject of another email.

Tankless water heaters are more expensive to purchase and install but will save you money due to their substantially lower operating costs and longer life expectancy.


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Most people think of cooling when it comes to air conditioners. But the other main benefit of air conditioning is dehumidification. Air conditioning produces cooling and dehumidification; both are significant benefits.

The cooling benefit is predominantly related to comfort. The dehumidification benefit includes comfort and protection against mold and mildew.

By the way, sometimes the air conditioning system is too powerful and therefore doesn’t have much runtime. When the system is too powerful, it cools the space too quickly, so it doesn’t have enough time to provide sufficient dehumidification. This makes it feel “clammy”.

So, the moral of the story is to have a properly sized air conditioning system installed by a licensed and qualified air conditioning contractor so that the system provides proper cooling and air conditioning.

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Heat Pump


A Hybrid HVAC system uses an efficient electric heat pump and a furnace or boiler (gas or oil powered).  The heat pump warms the home very efficiently when the outside temperature is above about 40°.  Below about 40°, the furnace or boiler kicks in, and the heat pump shuts off.  So, based on the outside temperature, the system automatically switches to the most efficient heat source.

These systems cost more initially, but they will save you money for years.  The energy savings are substantial.  In addition, because the entire system is under less stress than a conventional system, the equipment will likely last longer.  By the way, these systems also reduce greenhouse gases and the impact on climate change.

There are a few different combinations of equipment that should be considered.  For instance, the system can include a high-efficiency boiler or furnace, which saves you even more money.  When it’s time to replace your HVAC, we recommend you investigate installing a hybrid.  A knowledgeable HVAC contractor is a must when considering these alternative systems, so we recommend getting a few proposals to hear different alternatives from qualified HVAC companies.

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Septic and Waste Systems

Did you know that on Long Island, many areas have coastal and groundwater pollution, which is leading to strict laws pertaining to septic and waste systems in buildings and homes? Increases in nitrogen levels in our coastal water systems and groundwater are causing bays to close for bathing and drinking water is being polluted.

New laws require septic tanks to be installed in addition to a cesspool or a drainage field.  And some municipalities even require a nitrogen reduction system on the septic tanks. This means a significant increase in the cost for replacing these systems as they age and fail and new code must be complied with.

Many areas in Suffolk are being converted to sewers in order to treat wastewater before it enters the natural environment around us in an effort to reverse many decades of increasing pollution from septic and cesspools systems.

Long Island’s sewer systems are evolving too and becoming more complex as population increases and federal and state codes become stricter to protect the environment.  Sewage treatment plants are being upgraded and massive projects of new piping and pumping are being installed to handle the increased demand.

Many areas in Nassau County are getting subsidized to convert their old, aging cesspools to newer, more environmentally friendly septic systems.  Up to $10,000 per system is given through a grant system.

This will all likely lead to rising costs for homes connected to sewer systems.  So whether you live in an area with cesspools or one with sewers, remember, there is a significant cost to flushing water down the drain.

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What does Hydronic Heating mean?

Hydronic heating means water-based heating. The most common type of hydronic system

utilizes a boiler to make the water hot, a pump, and pipes to send the hot water to an air

handler, which transfers the heat from the hot water to the air, which in turn warms the space.

Now, the next question is, what is an air handler? The air handler consists of a fan and a hot

water coil. The hot water goes through the coil, which makes the coil hot. The air handler

sends air past the coil, which warms the air. The warm air then gets distributed by the fan. The

water gets pumped back to the boiler, and the cycle continues until the space reaches its

proper temperature.


This system is popular in new and retrofitted homes. It’s pretty economical and relatively easy

to install. Another benefit is that the air doesn’t get hot; it gets warm. Hot air systems can

make it uncomfortable in the winter because it continually dries the air. Hydronic systems

don’t dry the air, making it more comfortable than conventional hot air systems


Now, if somebody mentions hydronic heating, you’ll know what it means! We hope you find

this information interesting and helpful.


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Late Fall Comfort Bucket List for the Season

I was going to write a technical newsletter about cleaning your gutters, replacing your air filter, etc.

But I decided to list some comfort to-dues for the season:

  • sit by a campfire or your fireplace
  • make a gratitude list
  • cook an apple pie
  • roast marshmallows
  • decide what you’re going to do/cook for Thanksgiving
  • donate to a food/clothing bank
  • make some soup
  • put some warm socks on after dinner
  • watch an old classic movie
  • go on a nature walk
  • make some oatmeal raisin cookies
  • make a pile of leaves and jump in it
  • make a scarecrow
  • play a game of monopoly
  • go to a Fall Festival
  • take a picture of your loved ones

 If you still want some more technical stuff, here it is:

  •  Clean your gutters, have gutter guards installed to avoid blockages of your roof drainage system.  Properly draining roof water can avoid water intrusion in your basement.
  • Check your roof and gutters with some binoculars to see if there are any damaged areas from age or falling branches, etc.
  • Seal up air leaks.  Go into your basement and check for air leaks around the perimeter.  Caulking is cheap and easy.  This will save you some money!
  • Check the weather stripping on your doors and windows.
  • Have your sprinkler system blown out.  Drain your outside faucets to avoid freeze ups.
  • Replace your air filters.
  • Have your HVAC guy check for mold inside your air-conditioning unit.
  • Get an HVAC service contract ASAP.  You’ll be glad you did in the middle of the winter!  Have the system checked now.
  • Get your chimney and fireplace checked by chimney contractor.  (Ask them to take pictures of any recommended items in order to keep them honest!)
  • Prune your exterior plants.
  • Drain the gas in your lawnmower and change the oil.  Clean the underside of the lawnmower.
  • If you have a whole house generator, have it serviced by a generator contractor.  If you have a portable generator, change oil and gasoline.  Fire it up to make sure it works.
  • Store your garden hoses and make sure the water is turned off.
  • Check your thermostat settings.  Lowering temperatures can save substantial money.  It’s a good idea to have programmable thermostats that automatically reduce temperatures at night.
  • Buy ice melt for your walkways and driveways.  Don’t use rock salt because it can damage your concrete.
  • Check your smoke/CO detectors, press the button to make sure it rings. This may be the most important thing you can do for your safety.  Current code requires a CO detector on each floor and smoke detectors in each bedroom and outside the sleeping areas.  Each of these detectors should be hardwired or have a 10-year battery life.
  • By a new fire extinguisher and keep it in handy area (like a kitchen cabinet or pantry).

We hope this newsletter has been fun and helpful!  Best wishes for the rest of fall and winter!

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