Sierra Inspection Services has received the Reader’s Choice Award for Best Home Inspector in El Dorado Hills, 2020 by the Folsom Telegraph Newspaper! Thank you to all of our past and present customers for your support in voting for us, your trust and loyalty are very much appreciated!!

Last night the California Association of Realtors issued guidance stating specifically that Residential Real Estate is now considered an “Essential Industry” based on the latest update from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). You can read the official statement here:…/abo…/mediacenter/news/essentialservice

Since Governor Newsom’s March 4, 2020 order incorporates this list, the order now incorporates residential and commercial real estate, including settlement services, as essential services in California. However, if a city or county has an order with a more restrictive standard regarding what qualifies as an essential service, or more restrictions on activities, those guidelines will still govern the activities of those engaged in these essential services.

Sierra Inspection Services is here for you serving all of our home buyers, sellers and Realtors in these challenging times. We are performing inspections and will continue providing this essential service. We recommend verifying that your local city or county has not issued a more restrictive standard.

If you need to schedule inspection services, please contact us! (916) 256-2022 or You can also order inspections, and view our available inspection appointment openings in real time, 24/7. Simply click on “Order an Inspection” on our Homepage!

Happy New Year!

We now include HomeBinder with a lifetime subscription ($360.00 Value) for all of our new Home Inspection clients!

Features include:

  • New Homeowner Reference Guide explains the function and operation of the various systems and components in your home … learn and explore.
  • Appliance Recall Alerts that notify you if any appliances in your home have been recalled by the manufacturer.
  • Schedule Maintenance Reminders for your homes reoccurring maintenance needs like replacing air filters and draining sprinkler lines.
  • Store Contractor Information to always remember the handymen who work on your home so you know who to call for repairs.
  • Organize Home Projects by storing photos, paint colors, and project costs for easy repairs and tax deductions at the time of sale .

New Report format, even easier to read, with lots of links to relevant and informative articles for our clients about systems and components in their new home.

New Action Items List (Click here for video) automatically generated to the Buyer’s agent for each home inspection report to make filling out your request for repairs simple and easy!

Order your inspection(s) today, it’s easy!

Don’t forget to visit our site again soon for more new and exciting features!

If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, you should absolutely install them. And if you do already have them, you’ll want to be sure they are in the proper locations in your home. If you have any fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or attached garage, you must have a carbon monoxide (“CO”) detector/alarm in your home. The installation locations will vary by manufacturer for their specific type and style of detector, and you should read and follow your manufacturer’s instructions for your specific unit. But here are some general guidelines for where to place your CO monitors, so that they are the most effective in keeping your family safe . . . and where you should NOT place your CO detectors.


The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend a carbon monoxide detector be installed on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet outside of each bedroom door, and there should be one near or over any attached garage. It is important that your CO detectors be close enough to the bedrooms so that the sound from the alarm is loud enough to wake up the person in the room. Because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air (and because air with CO is typically warmer, and therefore rises) your detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor. Some CO detectors can be plugged directly into wall electric outlets, so you may be tempted to plug them into wall outlets which are only a foot or two off of the floor. But for the best effectiveness, they should instead be located about 5 feet off of the floor. If your manufacturer recommends it for your particular model, your CO detector may be placed on a ceiling.


The following are places where it is NOT recommended to place your CO detectors:

  • A CO detector should not be placed within 15 feet of heating or cooking appliances.

  • CO detectors should not be placed in or near humid areas, such as bathrooms.

  • Do not install CO detectors within 15-20 feet of any furnace or fuel-burning appliances, as these appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up, and give false alarms.

  • Do not place your CO detectors in areas where they will be damaged by children or pets.

  • Do not install CO detectors in direct sunlight or areas subjected to temperature extremes, such as crawlspaces, unfinished attics, and porches.

  • They should not be installed behind curtains or other obstructions.

  • And your CO detectors may not function properly if installed near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh air returns, or open windows.


The life expectancy for your CO detectors will be specific to each manufacturer’s recommendations. Most detectors should be replaced every 5-6 years. And if you wait longer than 5-6 years, then you can be living with a false sense of security. Also, some CO detectors can be wired into your existing home security or fire panel which is monitored by a central station. With your CO detectors wired in to a central monitoring station, the central station can be alerted to the high concentrations of CO gas and can send the proper authorities to investigate possible carbon monoxide poisoning. This can be extremely valuable in case your family has become overcome from the effects of CO, or are sleeping soundly, or if no one is at home.

Heat does make things dissolve more readily, whether that is your favorite coffee beans or tea leaves or seasonings. This same principle applies for chemicals in pipes such as the solder holding pipes together in older homes, And even modern plumbing materials such as PEX lines.

According to Beth Skwarecki with LifeHacker, engineer Andrew Whelton’s team found that some brands of PEX piping release 100 times more of certain chemicals in hot water versus cold, and that some brands of PEX leach more than others. Not all of the chemicals are necessarily dangerous to be sure, but some may change the water’s taste or odor and may exceed the health limits established by some states.

If you want to play it safe for your family’s health, be sure to stick to cold water for cooking and drinking.

On October 11, 2017 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 442. The bill is known as the Pool Safety Act. This law took effect January 01, 2018.

This means that anytime a home with a pool and/or hot tub/spa is sold, and a home inspection is performed on that home, a Pool Drowning Prevention Device/Safety Inspection MUST be performed by the home inspector to comply with the changes to California Business and Professions Code (2018). Our inspections & reports are in full compliance with the revised standard as of 01/15/18.

This is a regular full “Pool Inspection” as a value added bonus for our clients.

This law revision (B&P Code 7195c) now states: “In connection with the transfer, as defined in subdivision (e), of real property with a swimming pool or spa, an appropriate inspection shall include a noninvasive physical examination of the pool or spa and dwelling for the purposes of identifying” the safety features present.” It goes on to state “in a dwelling with a pool or spa, the report shall identify which of any of the seven drowning prevention safety features listed in sub division (a) of section 115922 of the Health and Safety Code the pool or spa is equipped with and shall specifically state if the pool or spa has fewer than two of the listed drowning prevention safety features.”

I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation which is available for Brokers/Agents as a 10-15 minute presentation for your office to provide more information. Please drop me an email if you would like me to schedule a time to present the information to your office.

By the way, this bill is very similar to one, which the governor vetoed during the previous legislative session. His stated reason for the veto at that time was that “pool safety is the primary responsibility of the parents”. Apparently he no longer feels that this is the case… Since last year?

The Reason For The Bill

“According to both federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the State Department of Public Health’s EpiCenter data, drowning is the second leading cause of death for California children one to four years of age inclusive. EpiCenter data shows that between the years 2010 and 2014 more than 160 children one to four years of age, inclusive, suffered fatal drownings, with the majority of the incidents involving residential pools, and between the years 2010 and 2015 more than 740 children one to four years of age, inclusive, were hospitalized after suffering a near drowning incident with the leading cause of hospitalization being brain injury due to the lack of oxygen, also known as asphyxiation.”

The bill goes on to say,

“Additional children suffer near drowning incidents and survive, but many of those children suffer irreversible brain injuries, which can lead to lifelong learning deficiencies that impact not only the affected child and his or her family, but also the resources and moneys available to California’s health care system, regional centers, and special education school programs. The State Department of Developmental Services reported that as of December 2016 the agency was providing care for more than 755 near-drowning victims with severe brain damage resulting from the near drowning.”

The legislature also finds and declares:

“Close parental supervision of children with access to swimming pools is essential to providing pool safety for children. Barriers, such as those required pursuant to section 115922 of the Health and Safety Code, can help deter young children from gaining unsupervised access to pools.”*1

CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Association) produced a SB-442 White Paper outlining some of their perspectives and proposed amendments to the bill, here are some of them:

1. The bill will only effect a fraction of residential pools in California. 2. Home inspectors are not certified or capable of validating that safety provisions are compliant with ASTM standards. 3. Home inspectors cannot verify that pool barriers are properly installed or that pool alarms function properly. 4. Home inspectors identify items, as they exist at the time of the inspection. 5. A prudent home inspector will defer specific evaluation of safety devices to a qualified professional. 6. Each home inspector will need to secure their own copy of the various ASTM Standards to find out what standards they are expected to adhere to. 7. Inspection fees will increase by as much as 30%. 8. Insurance cost for home inspectors will increase. 9. Home owners should provide all appropriate disclosures and documentations related to the pool and pool safety provisions. 10. THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT TO MAKE ANY SAFETY REPAIRS

My thoughts regarding these changes

The nature of our inspection

Our inspection of pool safety features is not dissimilar from our inspection of other components & systems of the home. Bus & Prof Code 7195 (a)(1) states that a “Home inspection is a noninvasive, physical examination… of the mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems or the structural and essential components of a residential dwelling of 1 to 4 units designed to identify material defects in those systems, structures, and components.”

“Section 7195(a)(2) states, “In connection with the transfer, as defined in subdivision (e), of real property with a swimming pool or spa, an appropriate inspection shall include a noninvasive physical examination of the pool or spa and dwelling for the purposes of identifying” the safety features present.

“Our inspection of the safety features is to be “appropriate.” Merriam-Webster defines “appropriate” as “especially suitable or compatible: fitting.” The task of our inspection if further defined to be a “noninvasive physical examination.” Many of the safety features cannot be verified by a non-invasive physical examination. (No one would not think it appropriate to get two adults and one child to walk out onto a pool cover to make sure it meets the 485 lb. (220.0 kg) static load test required by ASTM 1346.)” *1

Changes required of our Inspection Report. 7195 (c) states “A ‘home inspection report’ is a written report…(that) clearly describes and identifies the inspected systems, structures, or components of the dwelling, any material defects identified, and any recommendations regarding the conditions observed or recommendations for evaluation by appropriate persons.” It goes on to state, “in a dwelling with a pool or spa, the report shall identify which of any of the seven drowning prevention safety features listed in sub division (a) of section 115922 of the Health and Safety Code the pool or spa is equipped with and shall specifically state if the pool or spa has fewer than two of the listed drowning prevention safety features.”

“Our “appropriate,” “noninvasive physical examination” observations of the pool safety features are to be a part of the “home inspection report” in which we describe and identify conditions and provide recommendations for evaluation by appropriate persons. Our standard of care is not that of a trained and qualified ASTM professional. Our standard of care is that of a reasonably prudent home inspector (7196). To be sure, we need to be careful and diligent in our inspection, our standard of care requires it. When we see a foundation deficiency, we do not play engineer. We recommend further evaluation by a qualified and registered engineer and that appropriate repairs be made. When we see a damaged/deficient breaker in a sub-panel, we do not play electrician. We recommend further evaluation and repair by a qualified and licensed electrician. Inspection of pool safety features is no different.” *1

What Does The Bill Require

The bill requires:

1. When a single family residence with a pool (see definitions below) is transferred and a home inspection is performed on the home, the home inspection report shall identify which, if any, of seven specific drowning prevention safety features are present. Those safety features are defined in section 115922 of the Health & Safety Code. 2. The home inspection report shall specifically state if the pool or spa has fewer than two of the listed drowning prevention safety features.

Applicable Definitions (Health and Safety Code 115921)

Section 11591 defines terms related to the requirements of the Bill.

“Swimming pool” or “pool” means any structure intended for swimming or recreational bathing that contains water over 18 inches deep. “Swimming pool” includes in-ground and above-ground structures and includes, but is not limited to, hot tubs, spas, portable spas, and non-portable wading pools. “Public swimming pool” means a swimming pool operated for the use of the general public with or without charge, or for the use of the members and guests of a private club. Public swimming pool does not include a swimming pool located on the grounds of a private single-family home. “Enclosure” means a fence, wall, or other barrier that isolates a swimming pool from access to the home. “Approved safety pool cover” means a manually or power-operated safety pool cover that meets all of the performance standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), in compliance with standard F1346-91. “Exit alarms” means devices that make audible, continuous alarm sounds when any door or window, that permits access from the residence to the pool area that is without any intervening enclosure, is opened or is left ajar. Exit alarms may be battery operated or may be connected to the electrical wiring of the building.

*1 Source: CREIA

*In connection with the transfer, as defined in subdivision (e), of real property with a swimming pool or spa

Due to popular demand, we have added optional sprinkler system inspection to our home inspection service. Call us today to order your Home Inspection!

How to Detect Sprinkler Leaks

Our latest post comes to us from SFGate’s Home Guides ,

A leaking irrigation system can lead to many lawn problems. Water may pool in lower areas and form mold and mildew that kills your lawn. The nozzles on sprinkler heads may spray in an uneven pattern due to debris inside and not provide complete coverage. This can leave dry spots in your lawn that turn brown in the heat of summer. Observe your system while it is operating and shortly thereafter, to point you in the direction of any sprinkler leaks so you can make repairs.

External Leaks

  1. Remove the last sprinkler head in the irrigation system. Turn the sprinkler head counterclockwise to unscrew it and lift it off the riser. Some models of sprinkler heads require you to insert a flat screwdriver, hex key or a special sprinkler head key first to unlock the head before removing it.
  2. Insert a paperclip under the screen that lies under the head. Pull the screen out and rinse it off under a strong stream of water. Rinse the nozzle on the sprinkler head with water to clean it out.
  3. Turn the sprinkler system on at the controller. Observe the sprinkler system at each sprinkler head; the last head will pour water out in a fountain and this is normal. Removing the head and turning on the water flushes debris from the last head in the line, where it accumulates. Turn the sprinkler system off.
  4. Replace the screen and last sprinkler head in the line.
  5. Turn the controller back on and observe all of the sprinkler heads. Each one should pop up on its riser and emit water at the same rate. Cut any nearby grass with pruning shears away from each head that does not pop up.
  6. Clean the screen under each head that has an odd spray pattern. Clogged nozzles are usually due to debris accumulation in the nozzle.
  7. Replace any nozzles that are cracked. Cracks in a nozzle will let water drip out underneath it instead of spraying a distance. Replace missing nozzles that may have fallen off with lawn maintenance.
  8. Straighten any sprinkler heads that are tilted and spray directly into the grass near them, causing a puddle in the area where the water sprays and leaving dry spots where the water should be directed.
  9. Turn on the controller and allow the system to complete one irrigation cycle.

Underground Leaks

  1. Observe your lawn soon after a cycle of watering is complete. Look for areas that have pooling water or are much greener above the water lines; this indicates an underground leak in the water line.
  2. Use a shovel to dig small amounts of grass and soil in the area of a water puddle or extra-green grass above a water line. Remove soil in small amounts so as not to cut into the lines and make a leak larger. Remove soil from under the water line that is cracked to about 2 inches deep using your hands.
  3. Cut the cracked water line out with a hand saw approximately 3 inches longer on each side of the crack.
  4. Cut and install a piece of PVC pipe with a coupler on each end into the water line. Allow the glue to dry for at least one hour and replace the soil.
Things You Will Need
  • Flat screwdriver

  • Hex key

  • Sprinkler head key

  • Paper clip

  • Pruning shears

  • Shovel

  • Hand saw

  • Damp towel

  • PVC slip couplers (2-inches long)

  • PVC pipe

  • PVC cleaner

  • PVC glue

  • The best practice is to check all external components and observe the sprinkler system at the start of each year before using an irrigation system to eliminate leaks and ensure even water coverage of your lawn.

Today’s blog post comes to us courtesy of the Solar Energy Industries Association. I have quite a few clients ask about Photo-voltaic electrical systems which are becoming quite popular. Here are the facts, I hope you find it interesting.

Photovoltaic (Solar Electric)

Photovoltaic (PV) devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material, called semiconductors. Electrons in these materials are freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit, powering electrical devices or sending electricity to the grid. PV devices can be used to power anything from small electronics such as calculators and road signs up to homes and large commercial businesses.

How does PV technology work?

Photons strike and ionize semiconductor material on the solar panel, causing outer electrons to break free of their atomic bonds. Due to the semiconductor structure, the electrons are forced in one direction creating a flow of electrical current. Solar cells are not 100% efficient in Diagram of a typical crystalline silicon solar cell. Solar cells are not 100% efficient in part because some of the light spectrum is reflected, some is too weak to create electricity (infrared) and some (ultraviolet) creates heat energy instead of electricity.

Diagram of a typical crystalline silicon solar cell. To make this type of cell, wafers of high-purity silicon are “doped” with various impurities and fused together. The resulting structure creates a pathway for electrical current within and between the solar cells.

Other Types of Photovoltaic Technology

In addition to crystalline silicon (c-Si), there are two other main types of PV technology: Thin-film PV is a fast-growing but small part of the commercial solar market. Many thin-film firms are start-ups developing experimental technologies. They are generally less efficient – but often cheaper – than c-Si modules. In the United States, concentrating PV arrays are found primarily in the desert Southwest. They use lenses and mirrors to reflect concentrated solar energy onto high-efficiency cells. They require direct sunlight and tracking systems to be most effective.

History of Photovoltaic Technology

The PV effect was observed as early as 1839 by Alexandre Edmund Becquerel, and was the subject of scientific inquiry through the early twentieth century. In 1954, Bell Labs in the U.S. introduced the first solar PV device that produced a useable amount of electricity, and by 1958, solar cells were being used in a variety of small-scale scientific and commercial applications. The energy crisis of the 1970s saw the beginning of major interest in using solar cells to produce electricity in homes and businesses, but prohibitive prices (nearly 30 times higher than the current price) made large-scale applications impractical. Industry developments and research in the following years made PV devices more feasible and a cycle of increasing production and decreasing costs began which continues even today.

Costs of Solar Photovoltaics

Rapidly falling prices have made solar more affordable than ever. The average price of a completed PV system has dropped by 33 percent since the beginning of 2011.

Modern Photovoltaics

The cost of PV has dropped dramatically as the industry has scaled up manufacturing and incrementally improved the technology with new materials. Installation costs have come down too with more experienced and trained installers. However, the U.S. still remains behind other nations that have stronger national policies to shift energy use from fossil fuels to solar. Globally, the U.S. is the fourth largest market for PV installations behind world leaders Germany, Japan and Spain. Most modern solar cells are made from either crystalline silicon or thin-film semiconductor material. Silicon cells are more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity, but generally have higher manufacturing costs. Thin-film materials typically have lower efficiencies, but can be simpler and less costly to manufacture. A specialized category of solar cells – called multi-junction or tandem cells – are used in applications requiring very low weight and very high efficiencies, such as satellites and military applications. All types of PV systems are widely used today in a variety of applications.

If you own an older home (built before 1990), you might have one of these hazardous main electric panels/boxes in your home.

And these outdated panels don’t just make you un-cool like still using a flip phone might. They can also be extremely unsafe.

Electrical panels contain safety devices (either fuses or circuit breakers) that trip and shut off the power when too much electricity flows through them. This helps prevent fires caused by overheating wires.

Yet many Sacramento area homes have old, outdated panels that might not work as intended, leaving them vulnerable to a house fire. Here are 4 types of unsafe panels you should consider replacing if you have them…

Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels

For a long time (1950s-1980s) Federal Pacific Electric was one of the most popular manufacturers of electrical panels in the United States. And they were installed in millions of homes.

But these panels are extremely unsafe.

Why they’re unsafe: FPE electric panels’ circuit breakers fail to trip when they should (when there’s a short circuit or circuit overload). This problem has lead to thousands of fires across the United States. There are also many reports that FPE circuits in the off position still send power to the circuit. This can cause electrocution when working on a circuit you believe to be off.

How to tell if you have one: FPE panels are most common in homes built between 1950 and 1980. Federal Pacific Electric will likely be written on the cover of your breaker box. Inside, look for the name Stab-Loc (the brand name of the circuit breakers).

Zinsco Panels

Zinsco or GTE-Sylvania panels were popular electrical panels installed in homes throughout the 1970s. Zinsco is now defunct, but many homes still have these panels.

Why they’re unsafe: The circuit breakers inside many Zinsco panels melt to the main ‘bus bar’. This means the breaker can’t ever trip, even when there’s a short or overloaded circuit. So if there ever is a short or other problems, the surge of power melts wires and starts fires in your home. They also have a reputation for failing to trip in the case of a short circuit or an overload.

How to tell if you have one: The name Zinsco anywhere on the panel is a sure sign it should be replaced. Also, many GTE-Sylvania or Sylvania panels are simply re-branded Zinsco panels or contain the problem Zinsco design. These should also be replaced.

However, not all Sylvania and GTE-Slyvania branded panels are dangerous. So if you have one, an electrician will need to inspect it to see if it has the problematic design.

Split-bus electrical panels

A typical modern circuit breaker has a single metal bus. Electricity comes into the panel, passes through a main breaker and to the bus. The bus then connects to each individual circuit breaker, providing power to your entire home.

You can then shut off power to the bus (and therefore your entire home) simply by turning off the main breaker.

Split-bus electrical panels are different. They have 2 buses and no single main disconnect. They have up to 6 breakers labeled “main”. One of these main breakers controls power to half (the bottom) of the breakers in the panel. The other main breakers connect directly to the first bus.

If you see the top 3 breakers are connected directly to the incoming power (large black wires at the top). Then the 3rd breaker supplies power to the lower breakers (see the blue wires connecting them).

Why they’re unsafe: By themselves, split-bus panels aren’t unsafe. However, these types of panels haven’t been used for over 40 years. That puts them past their expected lifespan, meaning the circuit breakers may not trip as they are designed to.

Plus, electrical code no longer allows for multiple disconnects.

How to tell if you have one: Open the front cover of your electrical box. Are your breakers divided into 2 groups? Is there no single disconnect breaker? These are good indications that you have a split-bus panel.

Fuse box

Fuse boxes are old electrical panels that use fuses instead of circuit breakers to protect your wires from becoming overloaded. When a circuit draws too much electricity, the fuse burns out and must be replaced.

Why they’re unsafe: Fuses aren’t inherently unsafe. They work just like circuit breakers (except they can’t be reset and must be replaced.) However, most fuse boxes in homes today are unsafe because they’ve been modified to try to serve today’s energy demands.

Homeowners (and sometimes contractors) create problems in many fuse boxes that make them unsafe. Here are a few:

  • Placing too many things on a single circuit. Because fuse boxes typically have fewer circuits, homeowners often end up plugging in too many electrical appliances to a single outlet. That leads to fuses that blow a lot, which can lead homeowners to…

  • Replacing a fuse with a bigger fuse. If you replace a 15-amp fuse with a 20-amp fuse (or larger), your fuse may stop blowing. However, you’ll also create a massive fire hazard. The wires in that circuit are only rated for 15-amps, not 20!

  • Replacing the fuse with something metal. Some homeowners go a step further and insert a metal object (like a penny) where the blown fuse once was. Again, this eliminates blown fuses, but also completely removes the safety that fuses provide. Your wires could pull large amounts of electricity, overheat and start a fire.

How to tell if you have one: Chances are if you have a fuse box, you already know it. But if you’re not sure, find your main electrical panel and open it up. Instead of a bunch of switches (circuit breakers) you should see fuses.

Consumer Product Safety Commission website

If you need help identifying your panel or more information, contact us for an inspection today!

Our first Blog Post comes to us from Tom Feiza – Owner of Mr. Fix-It

I receive questions about squeaking floors all the time on my inspections. This post provides an excellent solution for fixing those annoying squeaks!

Flooring of all types has the potential for squeaks. Floor framing dries and shrinks, and squeaks occur as fasteners become loose, allowing movement in the subfloor and framing. Hardwood floors are known for this quality as they dry during the winter.

For a quick fix, try sprinkling a little talcum powder between the offending hardwood boards. This may temporarily quiet the squeak as the talc lubricates the rubbing surfaces.

For a better quick fix, try Counter Snap. This screw fastening system secures loose hardwood floorboards and stops squeaks. You drive the slotted screw through a special bracket into the hardwood and subfloor. (For dense woods, you will need to drill a small pilot hole.) Once the screw tightens the loose board, you break off the screw just below the finished wood surface.

You will be left with a very small hole which you can patch with wood putty or colored filler – or just ignore.