Home Inspection: Boiler


  #1  
Old 01-29-12, 07:00 AM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Home Inspection: Boiler

Hello!

I am recently under contract for a new home (built 1978, one owner, in mountains near Salt Lake City, natural gas boiler). I've never had a boiler heater so I am trying to read all I can about them, including the good posts here.

Our inspection is tomorrow and my question for you is what I should be focused on with respect to the condition of the boiler, rads, and all the other related parts. Anything I specifically need to concentrate on? I know the inspector will do his job but I want to do mine too.

In our showing, we looked at it briefly and it did look pretty ancient, so its probably original to the house. We mentioned this to the showing agent and she said that it should have 30 years left at least. Does this sound right assuming it was maintained properly? Turns out our agent knows their boiler repair guy pretty well and gave us the thumbs up on his capabilities.

So any info you guys might have for tomorrow would be really appreciated. I'm sure I'll be talking with you more in the future.

Thanks!!
-Tim
 
  #2  
Old 01-29-12, 07:43 AM
NJT's Avatar
NJT
NJT is offline
Member
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 23,538
Received 7 Votes on 5 Posts
Gosh, it's such a general question... one could write an encyclopedia.

I wouldn't even know where to start.

I would have to see it.

We mentioned this to the showing agent and she said that it should have 30 years left at least.
Whether you want to hear this or not, I'm gonna say it.

Your 'agent', although hired by you, and presumably with YOUR better interests in mind, is after all working for himself. Not to question his credentials and motives, but do remember this. His paycheck biases his words.
 
  #3  
Old 01-29-12, 08:12 AM
tldoug's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 317
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I know the inspector will do his job but I want to do mine too.
Another "whether you want to hear it or not": Home inspection has come under a lot of fire in the past few years because they haven't "been doing their job." I strongly recommend you investigate the performance of the inspector your agent is using. If Utah licenses inspectors, check that this guy has the license. Also, check BBB. Finally, contact your local Home Builders Association and ask about their experiences with this inspector. You can start at State Association and they can put you in touch with your local HBA.
 
  #4  
Old 01-29-12, 08:37 AM
NJT's Avatar
NJT
NJT is offline
Member
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 23,538
Received 7 Votes on 5 Posts
I second Doug's sentiment.

You might be surprised when reading the 'fine print' of the inspector's so-called 'contract' that they are NOT RESPONSIBLE in any way for things that they didn't find, or screwed up on.
 
  #5  
Old 01-29-12, 09:21 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,575
Received 15 Votes on 13 Posts
Non pro suggestion if you are sure this may be the house for you. On your own dime hire a boiler repair person of your own to take a look after the inspection. Don't hire anyone recommended by anyone involved in the sale. Don't tell him what the home inspector said before he inspects it. You want a "blind" uninfluenced opinion. Compare his report to the home inspectors report and go from there.
 
  #6  
Old 01-29-12, 09:52 AM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 10,234
Received 65 Votes on 60 Posts
I think that you are mainly interested in its reliability and how long it might last before needing replacement.
Its outward physical appearance could tell you a lot about how it has been maintained but might not necessarily answer the above questions.
A heating pro could for sure offer more info but might not necessarily be able to predict the future either.

A boiler water test and maybe an internal inspection would tell more than a cursory look over but if it is old then you might want to allow for a replacement down the road because nothing lasts for ever.

If you were to take some clear close-up and wider view pictures , preferably not with a camera phone, and post them on a free site like Photo Bucket we could take a closer look.
 
  #7  
Old 01-29-12, 03:03 PM
rbeck's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 2,640
Received 40 Votes on 34 Posts
new home (built 1978,
it should have 30 years left at least
At 30 some years now I doubt there is another 30 years left. One cannot tell when the boiler is going to fail, I think we can say that you are on the home stretch
 
  #8  
Old 01-29-12, 04:20 PM
G
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 3,055
Received 20 Votes on 20 Posts
At 30 some years now I doubt there is another 30 years left.
Yes, probably not - but my 60-year-old steel fire-tube is still going strong. (Knock on wood.) But the boiler in question, I assume, is a cast-iron segmented unit - maybe not quite so long lived?
 
  #9  
Old 01-29-12, 04:53 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Hi All!

Thank you very much for the good feedback. I really appreciate it. We know our agent pretty well so out of all things, we feel pretty confident about him. But, as you said, the inspector is just another inspector as far as we know, though again, our agent recommended him. So I guess that helps, but after I wrote "the inspector will do his job" I immediately thought I should have said "should do his job". Basically why I asked you guys for help... Pretty much too late for really doing some research into his quals & experience but that's a really good idea to do so, so even afterward I can at least be a bit more confident if I can trust him.

I'll snap some hi res photos of the boiler in the morning and post for you to take a look at if you would be so kind.

Again, thanks for your thoughts. I'll post later tomorrow...

-Tim
 
  #10  
Old 02-03-12, 08:57 AM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Good Morning!

Well, we had the inspection a couple days ago and so far we are pleased with the professionalism of the Inspector. He took 3.5 hrs on the 2700sqft house and had some things to say about the boiler. Rather than skewing your opinions of the boiler, I thought I'd share a few pics.

I would really appreciate it if you could review these and let me know what you think...

The Boiler... - a set on Flickr

Thanks again!
-Tim
 
  #11  
Old 02-03-12, 09:30 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 6,130
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
A home inspector is a genralist and qualified observer and not a specialist and cannot be expected to be because of the small amount for the 2 to 4 hour inspection (plus travel). He is required to point out potential future problems (if you purchase) and make suggestions on future actions. There are many systems that cannot be shut down or tested for obvious reasons.

Realtors will always suggest an inspector that is easy and cheap.

It is ironic that the best and toughest inspectors (and most expensive) are often hired by sellers to point out every possible item that another inspector may find, so he can correct or prep the home for sale and avoid last minute price haggling that slows up and complicates the process.

A good inspection will point out future problem areas and even give the names (at least 2 or 3) of contractors or specialists (roofing, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc.) to contact and most reputable or certified inspectors are not contractors or are not allowed to work on properties they inspect.

Dick
 
  #12  
Old 02-03-12, 10:30 AM
X
Member
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 2,455
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Some observations from a non-professional, in no particular order.

Obviously the piping has seen some relatively recent changes. Isolation valves on return and isolation+drain on supply are new (not original).

There are some newer components (backflow preventer, air eliminator).

Doesn't look like the burners have been cleaned in forever.

No obvious evidence of recent combustion tests (e.g., a tag with results hanging somewhere).

I don't think the wiring to the burner is code.

The sellers recently put a new aluminum foil drip pan under the pressure relief valve. It leaks, or did before the repiping and new components.

Not sure if you can use plastic on the pressure relief valve piping. Around here, no.

It took me forever to find it, but the expansion tank is an old style up in the ceiling joists. And since that's the case, there should not be an air elimination device as installed on the right side of the boiler. If this system has air-in-the-pipes problems and/or waterlogging problems, that's why. Also possible the pressure relief valve was popping because the expansion tank became waterlogged and needed draining/servicing.

The venting is too new to show whether there are condensation issues in the venting system. Don't know enough about sizing for multiple appliances to say whether all that is ok or not.

Most of these are not big issues and could be addressed very simply. None of them really have a tremendous impact on boiler lifetime.

The major issue I see is that there appears to have been almost no attention paid to maintaining the burners, and probably likewise little or no periodic combustion testing to ensure safe and optimal operation. And these of course are what you should really be concerned about here. They have a big impact on boiler longevity and reliability.

On the plus side the piping is reasonably neat and organized, so sticking a new boiler in there would not be a huge big deal.
 
  #13  
Old 02-03-12, 01:09 PM
P
Member
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: US
Posts: 552
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
The electrical box up on the joists, needs a cover and it looks like the wire nut is missing from the white wires.
no biggie.

The water pipe off the ater heater is leaking.
no biggie.

Looks like there is some soot on the lower riight side of the front of the boiler near the burners.
Possibly there was a draft problem at some point?


The only other thing i questions is the clearance of the flue pipe from both appliances to the wall. The water heater should be 6 inches, looks closer.
The boiler should be 9 inches and it's ok except for the extension out of the chimney, which looks like its only a few inches from the wall.

Peter
 
  #14  
Old 02-03-12, 01:46 PM
ItsTim's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: God Bless America
Posts: 122
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I would hire your own inspector, directly.

A thorough inspector will always find something wrong. Too many things wrong, too many sales lost.. Most agents find an inspector that won't lose a sale on them.

Many inspectors swear off agents as a conflict of interest.

I realistically would not expect a boiler made in 1978 to last another 30 years.
 
  #15  
Old 02-15-12, 04:50 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Hi Guys!

So its been a couple weeks since the inspection and we brought in a boiler guy to look things over just to be sure. Thanks for the advice.

He mentioned a few things: He did a compression test and everything looked pretty good. The burners were definitely dirty and he cleaned them. The only other major thing he saw was that the incoming air was not done properly, as it just pulled in locally from the vented closet etc. We will probably fix that one whenever the boiler goes.

So for the life, he said it was tough to tell, but seemed in good shape, but don't expect another 20 years out of it.

We ended up agreeing on a contract price for the house and we have put in 5k off to the side of our savings in case the boiler goes sooner rather than later.

Thanks again for the help. I wanted to close the loop since you were nice enough to give me your opinion when I asked.

Take Care!
-Tim
 
  #16  
Old 02-15-12, 05:08 PM
G
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 3,055
Received 20 Votes on 20 Posts
I realistically would not expect a boiler made in 1978 to last another 30 years.

Agree, probably not until 2041. But it might last longer than the current owner of the house - maybe even longer than the house itself.
[SIZE=2]
[/SIZE]
 
  #17  
Old 02-15-12, 05:32 PM
NJT's Avatar
NJT
NJT is offline
Member
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 23,538
Received 7 Votes on 5 Posts
Good Luck with your new home Tim! Thanks for stoppin' back and lettin' us know!
 
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: