Author Archives: Greg Karkowsky

Ground Fault Circuit interrupter! !!

2015-01-22-11-29-58-1303943182015-01-22-11-30-06--958236841images-1  Ground Fault Circuit interrupter!


We’ve all seen these fancy outlets in bathrooms and kitchens. Well they’re not just over priced outlets for the guy who has everything. They are an essential safety system to protect against electrical shock.

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles should be installed in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry areas, garages and on the exterior of a house.

A 15 amp GFCI duplex receptacle will cost around $13 for the basic type.

There is no need to have a degree in rocket surgery to install one. However, you never know what you’ll find when you open a receptacle box. Always consider hiring a qualified electrician for any electrical issue.


A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or Residual Current Device (RCD) is a device that shuts off an electric circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, possibly through water or through a person. It is used to reduce the risk of electric shock. It works by measuring the current leaving the hot side of the power source and comparing it to the current returning to the neutral side. If they are not equal, this means that some of the current is flowing along an unintended path, and the GFCI shuts the power off. When the problem is corrected, the GFCI can manually be reset by pushing the reset button. There is also a test button that can be used to verify that the GFCI works. It is recommended to test GFCIs at least once a month. GFCIs are required in kitchens, bathrooms, unfinished basements, garages, outdoors, and anywhere near a sink. GFCIs are available in two types for permanent installation, the circuit breaker type that installs in the panel, and the receptacle type that installs in a normal electrical box. GFCIs that attach to appliance cords are also available. These are often found on hair dryers. Although GFCIs are designed primarily to protect from electric shock, they can also prevent some fires, in particular fires that result from a live wire touching metal conduit. GFCIs can be used to upgrade older two-prong (non-grounded) outlets to three-prong (grounded) outlets without installing any new wire. This is safer than using the two-to-three prong adapter, as the adapter may not connect the appliance to ground at all. The GFCI is installed in the electrical box without connecting the ground screw (as there is no ground wire). A label that says “No Equipment Ground” must be placed on the GFCI outlet and all downstream outlets. Several of these labels are usually included with the GFCI.


“Ghost Staining”, “Thermal Tracking”? Only the shadow knows…….

Thermal_Tracking_Joey_003e_DJFs                  thermal-tracking-cathedral-101d75b9

This is odd and more common than you’d expect. “Shadow Staining” the sooty, dusty stains along the walls or ceiling that track along the wall studs or ceiling joists.

Basically what happens is the wall studs or ceiling joists are cooler than the interior air. The most likely culprit? Poor, improper or a lack of insulation.  This temperature variance causes a very slight film of condensation to develop on the surface. Now, any dust or soot that may be in the air will eventually land and be caught by the moisture.

Sometimes you will be able to see every stud in the wall.

PICT0015 the plus side, this will make finding the studs to hang pictures easy.   ghosting-above-kneewall


I would clean it off. in most cases it will clean off with soap or bleach and water.  Then paint over it with an oil based paint designed to cover stains like Binz or Kilz or Enamelac.

Keep in mind, this is a thermal transfer mechanism so unless you fix the insulation issue there is a good probability it will come back.

Le French Drain

Some freinds of mine have a place in the country (it’s so far out of town that I have to keep reminding myself that it is still in this country) where they want to have lots of raised bed gardens. However, the yard is a swamp.

carboniferous-swamp_870_600x450  It isn’t quite that bad but you’ll get your shoes wet if you walk out there.

They plan to add a French drain!

paris-fashion-50  Very Chic!

Just between you and me. This seems to be just the kind of thing the Romans would have been all over.

FortDrain1       images      nerja viaduct      SewerDrain


Anyhow,  a properly installed “French” drain can move a lot of water away from yards and more importantly foundations.




WoW that’s a good one!

Should the home owner attend the home inspection? You will get a different answer for every person you ask. They all have valid points.

A. The buyer is paying for the inspection and he/she should be there alone with the inspector.

B. The home owner may say some thing or give out too much info that throws up red flags.

C. Nobody wants strangers creeping around their house.

As you can see, these are good points. As for me, an inspector, if the home owner wants to be at home then we need to respect their wishes.

An inspection dose get pretty invasive. We need to be in basements, crawlspaces, attics, closets, under sinks etc. etc. This can be very nerve racking and intrusive. I once had to move about $10,000 worth of hand guns and rifles to gain access to the electrical panel. It’s only a mater of time before the home owner claims that after you inspected their home they can’t find their Picasso.

Weeping Woman 1937 by Pablo Picasso 1881-1973    Sure, this is an exaggeration but you get the point.

A nice happy medium could be having the sellers representative attend the inspection. They could follow along in the background. They will know what NOT to say and they may be able to give useful information.