Structure Talk

Structure Talk

By Reuben Saltzman
Home inspections, home maintenance, repairs, upgrades, safety, real estate, energy, performance, and durability.
Where to listen
Apple Podcasts Logo
Breaker Logo
Google Podcasts Logo
Overcast Logo
Pocket Casts Logo
RadioPublic Logo
Spotify Logo
Stitcher Logo
PODCAST: James Thomas, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors
James Thomas joins the show to talk about all things related to home inspections. The show starts off with James touching on the origins of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and how he ended up in his current position. The conversation shifts to education and training for home inspectors, and James talks about some recent changes to The ASHI School. James also talks about increasing diversity amongst home inspectors, as well as the future of home inspections in the next 5-7 years.
38:16
July 13, 2020
PODCAST: Nasty Issues In Houses
For this episode, the gang gets down and dirty discussing disgusting doozies discovered during home inspections. Most of the grossest stuff is related to people and animals, but that's not all. Don't listen to this episode while eating.
23:40
July 6, 2020
Easter Eggs, Part II
The gang discusses hard-to-find home inspection discoveries, which they call Easter Eggs. Reuben talks about a recent inspection that he did, and shares some of the finds from that inspection. One of those was a blocked toe-kick register below the kitchen sink, pictured here. Reuben also discusses finding a hot dimmer switch that controlled a 900-watt chandelier. The conversation turns to furnace fan settings for summertime conditions, and then the gang has a good discussion about exactly how much water damage should be disclosed by a seller.
28:05
June 29, 2020
House Timeline For Issues
The gang discusses a timeline of home inspection defects or issues that might come up, based on when the home was built. Reuben shared this timeline on the Structure Tech blog and on the Structure Tech YouTube channel, but we thought it would be fun to discuss these issues during a podcast to help explain some of them a little bit more in-depth.
27:23
June 22, 2020
Fires, home inspections, and insurance
Bill opens the podcast talking about a terrifying fire that happened across the hallway in his mother-in-law's condo high-rise building, and about the damage caused by smoke and water. The gang discusses the possibility of an FPE Stab-Lok panel causing the fire, and Reuben goes on to discuss the disproportionate number of condo buildings with FPE panels when compared to single-family homes. The conversation then turns to a 3-alarm house fire that happened during a Structure Tech home inspection back in 2019, where things turned very serious very quickly. Because of legal and insurance concerns, this is the first time the gang has mentioned this fire, but it's quite a story to share.
22:46
June 15, 2020
Air conditioning follow-up, COVID-19 protocols for home inspectors
Bill, Tessa, and Reuben start the show discussing a few minor corrections to the podcast from two weeks ago on air conditioners. Next, they discuss the new standards for home inspection attendance and safety for home inspections. Reuben also mentions a facemask that most Structure Tech home inspectors are wearing, which can currently be found here.
20:49
June 8, 2020
George Floyd, commentary from Dr. Stephen Crawford
For this podcast episode, Reuben does a one-on-one interview with Structure Tech's business coach, Dr. Stephen Crawford. Dr. Crawford has been conducting weekly team huddles for his coaching clients every Friday morning, and he conducted a special meeting on May 29th to focus on George Floyd, protests, riots, racism, and advice to business owners. Dr. Crawford shares his insight for this podcast episode. We'll return to our regular home inspection topics next week. About: Dr. Stephen Crawford with Experience Leadership is a founding partner of the John Maxwell Team. For the last fifteen years, he has been developing and training thousands of leaders seeking to improve their leadership skills and increase their impact on the world.
15:55
May 29, 2020
Air conditioners and the end of R-22 refrigerant
Bill, Tessa and Reuben discuss how air conditioners function, why it's extremely unusual to have an undersized air conditioner, and the end of R-22 refrigerant. Older air conditioners that contain R-22 refrigerant are typically going to be cost-prohibitive to service, but it's not illegal to do so. We also mention a video compilation we assembled showing 60 home inspection defects in 3 minutes. One of those was an iced-up evaporator coil melting all over the place while the furnace ran.
27:29
May 25, 2020
Patrick Huelman, Tessa's professor
The gang is super-excited to finally get Patrick Heulman, a leading building science expert, on the show! We've talked about having him as a guest for a long time and now that we're temporarily recording our podcasts from our homes, we were able to get Pat on the show. He's an Associate Extension Professor with the University of Minnesota and works on several other projects as well. The show starts out digging into Pat's background and then moves onto the importance of considering a house as a system. Pat talks about how air exchangers first began making their appearance in Minnesota in the early 90s, and Pat also talks about "The Cliff", the benefits of insulation at the exterior of homes, and perfect wall systems for homes. The show ends with Tessa sneaking in a question about one-and-one-half-story homes.
42:57
May 18, 2020
PODCAST: Everyone loves Milind
Milind Angolkar was the first home inspector to join the Structure Tech team after Reuben, and we love him. In fact, everyone loves Milind because he's a good, kind person. We start the show by discussing Milind's history with the company, and Milind shares some crazy home inspection fail stories.
34:56
May 11, 2020
Mean feedback, leaky hose spigots, and wet sub-slab ducts
Bill starts off the conversation talking to Reuben and Tessa about life, spring maintenance, and business in general. Reuben and Tessa go on a tangent talking about mean feedback given during free continuing education classes, which leads to Tessa discussing her current project of creating a home inspector training curriculum. Bill brings up leaking faucets, and that leads into leaking backflow preventers, how to remove them, and what happens when a hack tries to take them off with a pipe wrench. Next, the gang discusses sub-slab ductwork, commonly referred to as transite ductwork. Related links: How to remove a vacuum breaker (video) How to drain a vacuum breaker (video) Water in sub-slab ductwork Transite vs. sub-slab ducts
32:05
May 4, 2020
Reuben's flooded house and other homeowner flubs
The gang starts off the show by talking about their lives spent working from home, and they quickly move on to projects happening around the house. Bill discusses the time that he ended up with a frozen outdoor faucet because he forgot to remove his garden hose.  Reuben talks about the time that his entire 1.5-story home flooded because of a plumbing leak on the second floor. Tessa reminds us of the importance of knowing where the main water valve is. Tessa also talks about some flubs at her own home and shares the story of the first time she cut a hole in an exterior wall for a dryer duct.
29:04
April 27, 2020
PODCAST: Tessa and Reuben get serious about attic access panels
Bill, Tessa, and Reuben start the show off by talking about the new standards for life at home, working with family, and trying to broadcast to large audiences while not having spouses carry on loud phone conversations in the same room. Reuben discusses how COVID-19 has changed the face of home inspections at Structure Tech, and has the potential to change home inspections forever. Tessa talks about all of the new continuing education classes that are being taught to real estate agents, and that segues into the topic of accessing "sealed" attics in new construction homes. That gets both Reuben and Tessa whipped up, and they go on a 20-minute jag about attics, attic access panels, building code changes, and refusal to change. Related Links: FREE Continuing Education for Minnesota real estate agents Reuben's blog post, Sealed attic access panels Reuben's blog post, Frost-free faucets are now required in Minnesota Skuttle-Tight attic entry systems (referenced during the podcast) Battic Door attic access solutions Tru-Seal attic hatch
26:33
April 20, 2020
COVID-19 and Home Inspections discussion
Bill, Tessa, and Reuben do their first-ever remote podcast, where everyone on the team broadcasts from home. The gang discusses changes that COVID-19 has brought to the home inspection world, which includes things such as restricting buyer and seller attendance at the inspection, wiping down surfaces, and even wearing a mask during the inspection. They also discuss the importance of having a support network to get industry news during this time, and what the team at Structure Tech is doing to help the real estate community during this time. Note: the mask featured  on the cover for this podcast can be found here: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MTTK4BA/ . We think it's much more official-looking than the handmade cloth masks that everyone is wearing. This podcast was recorded on Friday, 4/10/20. For the next remote podcast, Reuben will get himself a new microphone.
20:15
April 13, 2020
Ceiling fans don't cool rooms
Do ceiling fans actually cool down rooms? No! They only cool people. Reuben and Tessa explain how this works, while Bill grumbles about how he still likes running fans all over his house while he's not home. In the sustainable urban core. The gang also discusses the misconceptions that more insulation is always better, high-efficiency furnaces are always better, and new windows are a smart investment.
23:51
April 6, 2020
Real estate talk with Dan Sibinski, part 2
We have Dan on for a second podcast because there was just too much content to cover in one episode. We continue on with the discussion of pocket listings, and Dan discusses the pulse of real estate in the Twin Cities market. This episode was recorded earlier in March before our entire world turned into the twilight zone, but there is still a lot of excellent information in this podcast about listing a home during the spring market in Minnesota. Bill also talks about the importance of home inspectors remaining unbiased and neutral with their findings, and Reuben discusses market penetration and tracking sales.
26:16
March 30, 2020
Pocket listings with Dan Sibinski
For this episode, we sit down with Minnesota Realtor® Dan Sibinski to talk about the ins and outs of pocket listings. Tessa also shares a frustrating personal story related to pocket listings.
25:18
March 23, 2020
Best advice ever with Neil Saltzman
We interview Reuben's dad, Neil Saltzman, on this episode. Neil talks about doing home inspections in a suit and tie, and Reuben and Neil talk about the early history of home inspections. Reuben also shares the best advice that Neil ever gave him related to doing a good home inspection.
24:53
March 16, 2020
Interview with Minneapolis TISH program supervisor Breanna Patsch
We interview Minneapolis Truth-In-Sale of Housing  (TISH) program supervisor Breanna Patsch during this podcast. We discuss the purpose of the Minneapolis TISH program, and how the program has 'teeth'. We also sidetrack into the licensing requirements for TISH evaluators and discuss how difficult the licensing exam is, making the National Home Inspector Exam seem like a cakewalk. We also discuss the purpose of the new Energy Disclosure requirements and talk about some specifics of that program. At the end of the podcast, we discuss the most common repair items related to Minneapolis TISH evaluations, and Reuben mentions a one-page pdf that gets sent to all Structure Tech clients at the time they book a Minneapolis TISH evaluation. Here's that pdf: https://structuretech1.com/common-tish-repairs-minneapolis.pdf Related links: Minneapolis Time of Sale Energy Disclosure takes effect on January 15th, 2020 Podcast: Our thoughts on the new Minneapolis Energy Disclosure
25:45
March 9, 2020
Facebook Live Q&A Session #2
For this episode, we answer your questions about houses and home inspections. These include the following: Should home inspectors open Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok panels? How to deal with ice dams if you don't want to pay a professional to remove them How to best find a drain leak with an infrared camera Should people be allowed to do work without a license? Sagging beam, repair desired; how big of a deal is this? We also did a video recording for this episode, which can be found here: https://business.facebook.com/MinnesotaHomeInspections/videos/566990100563454/
31:45
March 2, 2020
Old houses vs new houses, Part 2
For part 2, the gang starts out discussing the operation of gravity furnaces, and then discuss forced air heat vs gravity heat. They also discuss ductwork design and the design of heating and cooling systems.  Next, the gang discuss changing out the air in a home, and how older heating systems used to unintentionally change out the air, and what an 80% efficient furnace means, vs a 97% efficient furnace. That brings up the topic of combustion safety, combustion air, and makeup air. That discussion naturally transitions into combustion testing of gas appliances, as well as draft testing at natural-draft water heaters.
25:09
February 23, 2020
Old houses vs new houses, part 1
Today the gang digs into the pros and cons of old houses vs new houses. We all know that we don't build them like we used to, but is that a bad thing? New houses are more energy-efficient, but they're also less durable. This the result of less drying potential, different building materials, and different building methods. The gang also discusses moisture management, building science, and vapor drive. Tessa also discusses a new "perfect wall" system. This excellent video on basement insulation methods is also mentioned in the podcast: https://youtu.be/kwn0Vjw_ji0 Here's some information on the Perfect Wall system that Tessa mentions: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/04/f34/12_11150f_Huelman_031517-1400.pdf https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2018/06/f52/11150f_Huelman_050118-1330.pdf
24:13
February 17, 2020
Why some homes qualify for hail damage insurance restoration but others don't
Today, we interview Charles Thayer from All Around. If you listen to the radio here in the Twin Cities, you've surely heard his company's rock-anthem slogan: "We get it done and we do it right! Chya!" Charles explains that while his company is an exterior contractor, he himself is probably the last person you'd want working on your home. He's in the relationship business, and he hires people to do the work on homes. Charles also discusses the background of his weekly radio show, the All Around Home Improvement Hour. For the final segment of the show, Charles gets into the nitty-gritty details of storm chasing, insurance claims, and we end the show with Charles explaining why two different insurance adjusters might come up with completely different results when looking at the exact same roof that has potential hail damage. To those in the insurance and storm damage restoration business, this might be old news, but to us home inspectors, we were quite surprised to hear how the process actually works. Charles shared some fantastic insight with us in this episode.
30:26
February 10, 2020
Don't call them smoke detectors!
For this episode, the gang digs into the details of smoke alarm safety, starting with a discussion between the differences between smoke alarms and smoke detectors. That turns into a discussion of exactly which smoke alarm everyone should have, and why most smoke alarms in people's homes will probably not protect them in a fire.  Related links: Do you have photoelectric smoke alarms in your home? Photoelectric smoke alarms are all you need Which smoke alarm to buy How to replace a hardwired smoke alarm
25:48
February 3, 2020
Podcast: Roof Vents with Ross Anderson, Part 2
We complete our two-part interview with Ross Anderson, president of the Minnesota Building Performance Association. We discuss the myth that ventilation is a cure-all for roof and attic and ice dam issues, and discuss the real reason for these problems, which is attic air leaks (aka attic bypasses). The gang also discusses turbine vents, turtle vents, and ridge vents. The gang also works in a jab at Bill's beloved 1.5-story homes, and Ross explains what it takes to cure ice dams on those homes for good. You can get in touch with Ross through his company website, The Energy Network Worldwide. Related link: Roof Vents: Problems and Solutions
24:37
January 27, 2020
Air Quality with Ross Anderson, Part 1
We interview Ross Anderson, president of the Minnesota Building Performance Association. We discuss energy score ratings for homes, managing indoor moisture levels and indoor air quality, and challenges faced by Minnesota homes. We also discuss the perfect setting for an air exchanger in a home, along with the ideal humidity level for a home. You can get in touch with Ross through his company website, The Energy Network Worldwide.
24:33
January 20, 2020
What should be negotiated after the home inspection?
Bill, Tessa, and Reuben discuss negotiations after the home inspection. Some home buyers turn to the home inspector for advice on how to negotiate with sellers after the home inspection, but this is something that we also lean on the real estate agent for. This is their realm. Nevertheless, we at Structure Tech do have a list of things that make for reasonable and unreasonable negotiation requests, and the gang discusses those items in this podcast. Also, here's a document we put together that summarizes all of this: Negotiations After the Inspection
24:54
January 13, 2020
Podcast: George's Pet Peeves
We had our very own George Ury on the podcast a few weeks ago to discuss the new Minneapolis energy stuff, and he was such a peach that we decided to have him on for another episode. This time, we just let him rant about all of his pet peeves. And he has a lot of them. We had some fun with this one, but we really went off the rails. We'll return to our regular podcast format next week.
28:08
January 6, 2020
The most common place to find mold in homes: mold talk with Vickie Swenson, Part II
One podcast just wasn't enough. For part II, we open the show with Reuben discussing whether or not it's possible to identify mold in attics just by looking at it. We also discuss mold remediation strategies for attics. Tessa asks about the Top 5 places to find mold in homes, then we discuss mold testing procedures, along with conditions in a home that might prevent mold from being found even by someone like Vickie.
29:15
December 30, 2019
Mold talk with Vickie Swenson
We sit down with Vickie Swenson of Minnesota Mold Inspection to discuss mold testing in Minnesota. We discuss Vickie's background, the lack of official standards for mold testing, the health effects of mold, contractors diagnosing mold types by sight, and the #1 location to find mold in Minnesota homes.
24:49
December 23, 2019
Our thoughts on the new Minneapolis Energy Disclosure program, taking effect 1/15/20
It's official, Minneapolis is implementing a Time of Sale Energy Disclosure program, which takes effect on January 15, 2020. For today's episode, we invited Structure Tech home inspector and Minneapolis Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator George Ury onto the show to help discuss this new program. We explain why the program is happening, the nuances of the program, the stuff we don't yet know, and how this will affect people selling their homes in Minneapolis.
23:50
December 16, 2019
When the seller attends the home inspection
Tessa starts off the podcast by talking about a recent "memorable" home inspection. A less-than-helpful seller decided to stay home for the inspection because nobody told her that she was supposed to leave, and the situation got extremely awkward. To make things much worse, the seller's agent showed up to the inspection and tried to get in the middle of the whole process. Next, we talk about what can be done to help prevent these types of situations, giving advice to home sellers, buyers, and real estate agents. We also talk about different variables that will affect the length of the inspection, and ways for homebuyers to get the most out of their home inspection by showing up at the right time. Reuben also tells a story about how he almost ran a dishwasher with the seller's laptops hidden inside of it, and they discuss whether or not real estate agents should attend the home inspection. The podcast ends discussing Continuing Education classes offered by Structure Tech to real estate agents.
24:44
December 9, 2019
Smart Home Improvements
Bill, Tessa, and Reuben discuss several 'smart home' improvements they've either made or have considered making to their own houses. Reuben also mentions how his Arlo camera caught some kids stealing his pumpkins and his kid's scooter from his front door: Thieves stealing pumpkins and scooter.
22:30
December 2, 2019
Facebook Live Q&A Session
For this podcast episode, we did a live Q&A session through Facebook Live, while also recording the podcast. We covered a lot of listener questions and didn't have time to get through all of the questions that were asked. We'll do another one of these live episodes sometime soon. For a video recording of this podcast, check out https://youtu.be/LmygdXyjffI.
34:14
November 25, 2019
Home Maintenance with Kura
For this episode, we interview Daniel Felt, the owner of Kura Home Maintenance.  We talk about some of the most important home maintenance things that are neglected by homeowners and talk about some of our least-favorite chores.
22:50
November 18, 2019
Projects we're working on
Bill, Tessa, and Reuben discuss projects they're working on at their own houses.
23:12
November 11, 2019
Chimney and Fireplace Safety
This episode is all about chimney inspections, chimney safety, and we discuss some of our craziest interactions with so-called chimney experts.
21:26
November 4, 2019
Roof de-icing cables with Steve Kuhl
We have a special guest on this episode, Steve Kuhl. Steve owns a bunch of companies, but for this podcast, he's representing his heat tape company, Radiant Solutions Company. What we didn't know about heat cables before talking with Steve could fill a warehouse. This man knows more about heat cables than anyone we've ever talked to. To top it all off, he's entertaining to listen to. We need to have Steve on as a guest more often. We talked about including some pictures of the different products after doing this podcast, but we're actually going to a lot more than that. This podcast episode will turn into a three-part guest blog series by Steve Kuhl. This podcast sets the stage for that.
30:42
October 28, 2019
All about Radon
Reuben, Tessa and Bill discuss all things radon. They cover radon conspiracy theories, health effects, test methods, mitigation systems, licensing in Minnesota, and a whole bunch of myths regarding radon. Related Links: DIY test kits for $9.95 New licensing for radon in Minnesota Minnesota Radon Awareness Act Also, please enjoy these old photos from 1997, featuring Reuben and Rick wearing lab coats, testing for radon. Good. Times.
26:07
October 21, 2019
Fall maintenance for Minnesota Homeowners
Reuben and Tessa talk about several of the required fall maintenance chores that Minnesota homeowners need to take care of. Bill laments about how difficult it is to be a homeowner, and how he'd rather be watching football ;-). 
21:37
October 14, 2019
Asbestos, Home Inspections, and Vermiculite
Today the gang discusses asbestos. While home inspection standards of practice don't require home inspectors to report on environmental hazards such as asbestos, most home inspectors will still point this stuff out if they believe that it presents a problem.  The most common locations for hazardous asbestos are discussed, along with what can be done when asbestos is found. Related Links:  Asbestos in homes Vermiculite insulation Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust Transite asbestos flues Transite vs. sub-slab ducts
24:02
October 7, 2019
Stucco Failures
In this episode, the gang discusses stucco failure on newer Minnesota homes, as well as failures with stone veneer siding.  Related links: City of Woodbury Position Paper on Stucco in New Residential Construction Stucco Woes - The Perfect Storm Moisture testing stucco (the Structure Tech process) Stone veneer siding installation defects Video clip of Reuben pouring water against a stone wall Video clip of water pounding the window on a new-construction home
20:52
September 30, 2019
Home Inspection Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. In this episode, we share some of our worst home inspection mistakes. We're also joined by Structure Tech home inspector Jim Tobias. Reuben has already blogged about several of these mistakes recently, which you can find here:  Wrong house Bathtub flood Trampled insulation, ruined ceiling
22:29
September 23, 2019
Home inspector training
Reuben, Tessa, and Bill discuss home inspection schools, certifications, licensing, and training requirements, along with the training process at Structure Tech.
17:40
September 16, 2019
A home inspector's perfect house
Reuben, Tessa, and Bill discuss what would make for a perfect house. They talk about roof lines, water management, siding, basements, heating, and cooling systems. They also talk about an old blog post of Reuben's, titled Boilers vs. Furnaces.
22:05
September 9, 2019
Ice dams: how a professional fixes them the right way
Reuben, Tessa, and Bill discuss repair methods for ice dams. Before starting with Structure Tech, Tessa used to spec out insulation and air sealing work for houses with ice dam issues. The team discusses the cause of ice dams, how to fix them the right way, and things to look for when hiring an insulation contractor. Also mentioned in this episode is Project Overcoat, which Tessa was involved in.
20:16
September 2, 2019
Problems with Story-and-a-Half Houses
Reuben and Tessa gang up on Bill, complaining about the shortcomings of story-and-a-half houses. The discussion is focused on insulation, ventilation, heating, cooling, and ice dams. Reuben blogged about this topic back in 2011: My beef with 1.5-story houses
20:59
August 26, 2019
Sewers and floor drains
 Sewers and floor drains: In Episode 3 of our podcast, Reuben, Tessa, and Bill discuss all things related to wastewater leaving houses. They discuss the importance of sewer inspections on all houses, not just old houses, and discuss what it takes to fix these issues when they occur. They also discuss the mystery of floor drains backing up, the importance of floor drain cleanout plugs plugs, and how floor drains work. 
16:54
August 19, 2019
Basement Water
 In Episode 2 of our podcast, Reuben, Tessa, and Bill discuss ways of keeping water out of basements. It all starts with exterior water management; roof lines, gutters, downspouts, downspout extensions, and drainage and grading. When everything has been done at the outside of the home but there are still problems, drain tile and a sump system can be added. We discuss how these systems can work, and what typically goes wrong with them. We also discuss recommended backup options, which was blogged about here: Backup Sump Pumps. Tessa also mentions one of the most disturbing things that she has found in a sump basket, which was a doll floating face-down, covered in bugs.
17:01
August 12, 2019
Pilot Episode: Home Inspection Easter Eggs
This is our very first podcast episode, hosted by Reuben Saltzman, Tessa Murry, and Bill Oelrich. The focus of this podcast is crazy stuff that we've found inspecting, and finds that we're especially proud of.
22:23
August 2, 2019