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  1. #1
    Martin lehman's Avatar
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    Default Water level (Manometer)

    I want to start providing manometer readings (surveys??) for my clients.

    How many of you guys provide this service??
    What type of water level do yo use???
    How do you report your findings???
    Do you use a separate contract and fee or do you integrate the survey into your home inspection???
    What do you charge extra??
    How do you disclaim that the survey has nothing to do with engineering??? Do you call it a "survey" or is that a bad idea???

    Thanks

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    1) Why?

    2) For what purpose?

    3) Comparing what to what?

    4) Discard the water level, it tells you nothing other than what is level.

    5) You can buy pressure measuring devices which use water (i.e., the real things, to read inches of water column), however, you are better off to buy a manometer, dual type, so you can measure (as an example) the pressure on each side of a door at the same time, inside/outside at the same time, etc., to obtain a pressure difference.

    6) I have one.

    7) I have r-a-r-e-l-y_u-s-e-d_i-t, and only then for special purpose inspections.

    8) I would stay away from them unless you know how to use them (maybe you do?).

    9) I would keep them out of, and away from, your home inspections.

    10) If there seems to be a problem ... what type of problems are you trying to investigate?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Martin,

    To me a manometer is a device used to measure the pressure (of gases) or pressure differential (e.g. indoor vs. and outdoor). Is this what you are considering using? I don't see a great need for this device in a typical home inspection.

    If you are doing energy audits and using a blower door then the pressure differential (indoor vs. outdoor) would be very important. Also, if you are doing radon testing and find elevated levels of radon the pressure differential would be important because a house with a significant negative pressure may be drawing in radon in through the foundation.

    If you are talking about a water level to measure levelness of floors a good one is the Zip Level Pro-2000. It costs around $800 (last time I checked). It is on my wish list but I don't have a pressing need for it.

    You can measure how much out of level a floor (or beam, etc.) is BUT unless you know it was originally perfectly level you cannot say exactly how much it has moved.

    For example, let's say you check the four corners of a rectangular house. The right-rear corner is 2" lower than the left-front corner. Can you say the RR corner has dropped 2"? (I can't & I wouldn't.) All you can tell your client is that the RR corner is presently 2" lower than the LF corner. If you can monitor the house over time you should be able to tell if the house is actively moving. A year down the road if you measure a differential of 3" you could report with reasonable certainty that the house is moving (either the RR corner is dropping or the LF corner is rising or both).

    You might want to check with your state's Board of Registration for Engineers and find out if measuring or monitoring the levelness of floors, etc. is considered practicing engineering. If so, unless you are a registered engineer, you should find something else to add to your tool bag.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

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    Cool Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Martin
    Please listen to Jerry P as he has given you excellent advice. I know you are a member of CREIA and should you elect to employ a Manometer for your inspections you are going far beyond CREIA’s SOPs, nah, in fact every home inspection SOP I’ve ever heard of. The best tools by far for home inspectors are their eyes, ears, nose, hands, and feet. A 1” steel ball-bearing, golf ball or queue ball also works just fine for checking out of level floors.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  5. #5
    Martin lehman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    I am planning on using the manometer to measure how out of level a foundation is - basically as you have explained it Bruce.

    I fully understand that a single measurement is actually not very meaningful and can be misleading as far as finding out if a foundation is moving. For me and I think “home inspectors” in general, it is more of a matter of finding out how level the foundation is and how large the variance is between two points.
    For example, if there is a “large” difference of 4 inches between two points 40ft apart, that may not be to a buyers liking and is an indicator of possible movement (along with other signs of course) or the foundation may not have moved at all and it could just be horrible workmanship on the part of the contractor who laid the foundation (pretty unlikely). Either way a 4 inch variance over 40ft is not up to generally accepted standards, not too many people want to pay full price for that.

    There are a few inspectors out here who use this device as "home inspector" and not as "engineer". Maybe I am wrong but for the example above I don’t think it is crossing the line from “inspector” to “engineer”.


    Here is a first choice for myself WatrLevel - Home Page
    And another - quite pricy for basically the same thing Pro-Level Manometer Overview - Function, Uses, Advantages, Accuracy


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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Martin, I purchased a water level a couple of months back in a moment of weakness for about $300 and have never used it on an inspection yet. I don't think it will ever pay for itself.
    If a house is moving, there will be signs in the walls, doors, etc. and measuring how much it is out of level is not really that beneficial, since there is no baseline to compare to.
    Save your money until you see the need and develop a viable marketing plan.
    That said, send me an email if you are interested in a neat little toy
    Jim

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

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    Angry Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Martin
    What don't you understand about CREIA's Standards of Practice or generally nationally accepted practices of the home inspection profession?? Hopefully you will not be seeing me or several other CREIA members who do EW work down the road if you insist on being foolish.
    If you want to provide this as a separate service, that’s fine, but you are clearly out of line performing this type of evaluation as a home inspector. Somehow I’ve got to believe you are having some fun with a post like this?
    (at least I hope so)

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Martin,

    Do you own a moisture meter?


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    Exclamation Re: Water level (Manometer)

    As others have said, this can be a very slippery slope for a home inspector. I have heard these surveys called "Foundation Level Surveys" . They are usually used as a "lost leader" type service. In other words, you don't charge for this service. It is to make your service appear to be more of a value. The major problem is that it will increase your liability ten fold or better.

    With a level survey you are teetering on the edge of an engineering function and if you are not a PE this could cause you problems down the road. Before I ever attempted to provide a service like this I would get the blessings from the State PE License Board.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

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    Question Re: Water level (Manometer)

    terminology: you are referring to a "water level" and not a manometer, though the principle is similar.

    Just curious:
    What is the industry standard on how to conduct this measurement?
    What is the calibration procedure?
    Storage of the equipment? Operating temps?
    Temp. compensation?
    What liquids/ dyes are acceptable?
    What slope over what distance is acceptable or unacceptable?
    How do you measure for an undulation or "belly" btw points?
    How do you account for unstable soil conditions?
    What is the accepted standard deviation for this measurement according to AIA Stds.?
    What are you using for reference points? The finished floor, top of foundation wall, soffit, etc?
    Who is requiring this measurement?
    Does your liabiliy insurance cover you for this sort of measuring/ testing?
    With one person, who holds the other end?
    Do you read the top or bottom of the meniscus?

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin lehman View Post
    I am planning on using the manometer to measure how out of level a foundation is - basically as you have explained it Bruce.
    A manometer is for measuring pressure.

    A water level is used to measure level.

    Referring to a 'water level manometer' is not only referring to something which does not exist, but had us all confused and wondering which you wanted to do.

    Drop the term 'manometer' and leave it in the trash.

    Replace it with the term 'water level'.

    Two entirely different things for two entirely different uses - not related in any way, shape, or form.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    What Jerry said.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    I have used a water level when I was building a long retaining wall in my yard. Not a fancy one, just a long plastic tube with water in it. Now way for me to measure any diff.

    As far as using something to check for foundation level, I would use something else. Something similar to a survey tool probably.

    That said, I don't think I would offer this as a service unless I was qualified to do so, such as an engineer or surveyor.

    That said, I have been on many jobs (in CA) where the foundation contractor was using a laser transit to set his forms. I'm sure he probably wasn't an engineer - and I'm not sure that ONLY an engineer would be qualified to use those tools. Checking a foundation for level is not exactly rocket science, and probably doesn't require advanced mathmatics or calculations to determine IF it's level, or for that matter, how much OUT of level it might be.

    As far as "exceeding" SOP from any organization is something that just about every inspector does on a daily basis. In fact, the ASHI SOP actually allows inspectors to include other inspection services. SOP 2.3. "These SOP are not intended to limit inspectors from:
    A. including other inspection services, systems or components in addition to those required by these SOP".

    Just my take - your mileage may differ
    JF


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Water level manometers certainly do exist. I frequently see pressures measured in inches of mercury (Hg) or inches of water. The beauty of it is you can make your own manometer quite easy and use inches of water column if that is how you would like to measure pressure.

    I wouldnt use it for a home inspection though. Its great for measuring extremely low pressures (less than 1 bar). Mercury measurements are much more precise though when you get down to the RCH.


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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Quote Originally Posted by imported_John Smith View Post
    Water level manometers certainly do exist.
    NO, you are using an incorrect term.

    They are NOT "water LEVEL manometers"

    You DO measure pressure with them (but they are not water levels), and, in fact, you can read "inches of water column" directly off them.

    For one example, go here: Manometers

    Or here: Measurement of Pressure With The Manometer

    Or here: Gas Laws: Pressure

    They *are not* "water levels" though.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    I have used a water level when I was building a long retaining wall in my yard. Not a fancy one, just a long plastic tube with water in it. Now way for me to measure any diff.
    There IS a way to measure elevation difference with a water level. Use a tape measure. Set up your water level and measure from the water level to your reference point on one end and from the water level to the target point.

    Example: Set up your water level with the water level (the surface of the water) above both points. Measure the height of water level above the reference point (e.g., 12" at the left-front corner) and above the target point (e.g., 14" at the right-rear corner). Subtracting the second measurement from the first gives you the elevation differential. In this example it would be 12" - 14" = -2". The right-rear corner is 2" lower than the left-front corner (a negative dimension indicates the point is lower than the reference point).

    I used water levels when I built houses. They are good for rough measurements for things like Jack's retaining wall.

    The water level I used was nothing more than clear tubes that screwed on each end of a garden hose. That meant that I could measure elevation between two points that were quite a ways apart by using two or three garden hoses.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Breedlove View Post
    The water level I used was nothing more than clear tubes that screwed on each end of a garden hose. That meant that I could measure elevation between two points that were quite a ways apart by using two or three garden hoses.

    I made a water level out of 100 feet of of 1/4" vinyl tubing like you can get at the big box stores. I put a water/anti freeze mix in it and kept it coiled up in a 5 gallon bucket. Easy to store and carry, never needed water (was already in there), easy to use, take each end out (I had it coiled up with 10 feet loose for the 'fixed reference point' Bruce was talking about) and the other end just pulled out as much as I needed.

    I kept the ends crimped closed with those spring Pony clamps, the small ones.

    The anti freeze not only kept the water from turning yucky (technical term), it also made the level easier to read.

    If I needed to go more than 100 feet, I would set the bucket in the center and measure both ways, I could reach 200 feet that way.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  18. #18
    reggie smith's Avatar
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    Angry Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin lehman View Post
    I want to start providing manometer readings (surveys??) for my clients.

    How many of you guys provide this service??
    What type of water level do yo use???
    How do you report your findings???
    Do you use a separate contract and fee or do you integrate the survey into your home inspection???
    What do you charge extra??
    How do you disclaim that the survey has nothing to do with engineering??? Do you call it a "survey" or is that a bad idea???

    Thanks
    Excellent idea. Inspection services must advocate for the buyer not the seller. I just bought a house and hired five different inspectors each with a different specialty: termites, septic, HVAC, roof, electrical and general construction. Wow...what a difference in the reports! They all did their inspections on the same day. The termite guy licensed by the state structural pest control department found termites in an area that had no access! Very interesting. The general construction guy claimed that ALL areas under the floors were accessible and he found no termite or wood rot damage in all areas he checked including barge rafters outdoor wood structures, posts etc and "complete" inspection in all areas of the crawl space.

    AFTER I purchased the house...within DAYS, I noticed a wet area through one of the vents to the crawl space. It had NOT been raining. I immediately hired a general contractor to conduct his own investigation. I did not show him any of my inspection reports.

    What did he find? Well first he had to tear up the floor in one of the rooms to inspect ALL areas under the house. I learned that this single story house is on a raised foundation and uses TRUSS type rood construction was built on expansive soil. This is the first I heard of this. The soil is caliche - clay. The foundation consists of a perimeter of concrete footings in the shape of two perpendicular rectangles that are separated by solid concrete footings. It was NOT possible to inspect all areas under the floor. The official drawing of the construction inspector did not show that there were any inaccessible areas. I had my general contractor photograph all areas of interest and we compared the reports!


    The termite guy found termites in an area that had NO ACCESS. We had to cut a hole in the floor to get access. Actually we had to cut three more access holes in this "hidden" sub floor area. We found LOTS of problems with the foundation but NO wood rot or termites where the termite guy said they would be. Water had seeped under this area because of the nature of the soil and construction. I had to add six new concrete piers under this area, but first had to jack up this area of the house to do it. Not cheap! But at least we didn't find termites!

    I studied the perimeter of the house and have been removing all plant material within 6 feet of the structure. No trees are within 30 feet. I had to cut down two of them. I ran new French drains from the roof drains out twenty feet to drain into a deep trench connected to the County storm drain. Yes, I had to get County permits to do this. I called up the "master construction inspector" with 30 years experience and all he could say was "Why are you concerned about a little water under the house? Well firstly, you never put it into the report and secondly my foundation construction so far cost over $20,000. They used some type of device, and found that the "billiard ball or ball bearing test" on the floor was not accurate enough. All it showed that for the most part, individuals rooms seemed level. But when measuring the gaps between the bottom of the interior doors and flooring you could EASILY see the angle where the door meets the floor, even though the floors were supposedly level. We had to tear down two rooms to the floor joists and rebuild the floors. Why because the concrete foundation was NEVER LEVEL. I don't know how it ever passed inspection when it was built. It was a custom home. The Architect-Engineer has died years ago. Am I upset? No, I can afford to fix up these problems, but any other buyer would hide the defects and hope no one would discover them.

    I heartily recommend that pre buy home inspectors use some method of evaluating the levels of the house.

    I have a friend who had similar issues but with a slab on grade construction. He solved the problems by hiring a general contractor who used GPR-- Ground Penetrating Radar. GPR is used for inspecting commercial slab structures and is the technique many police use to find buried human remains. What did the GPR find? The concrete slab was not poured correctly and had many voids and was not compliant to local building codes. His GPR report was so thorough that you could see beer cans nails and other metal objects --other than steel rebar- in the slab.

    I think GPR should be used in ALL slab home inspections and some type of level indicator manometer? water? to inspect raised foundation structures to assure that the buyer ---and mortgage company - does not end up buying LOTS of other peoples problems.

    The foundation job is almost complete. Why do I care or bother? I don't like to know that I have 4 inches of standing water under my house when it only rained one inch. It's now dry as it should be.

    I am still looking for those "termites".

    Last edited by reggie smith; 12-06-2013 at 08:47 PM.

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Interesting perspective.

    It just goes to show that no one is infallible, no guarantees, but doing your due diligence was in some respects futile, but you now realize the variance in professional opinions and quality of work carried out by so called professionals.

    Thanks for posting your experiences.

    The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.

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    Default Re: Water level (Manometer)

    Martin

    Just be careful with any whole house or foundation assessment. You can quickly fall into the trap of calling a difference in elevation a settlement issue when in fact it may be due to construction errors or poor workmanship. Most contractors I have work with buy the cheapest levels they can find and throw them around in their pickups as if they were an empty beer can. Most houses were built using the old sight levels that needed to be calibrated on a regular basis. Building the foundation with with a sight level out of calibration causes the whole foundation to slope in relation to the calibration error of the level used. If the level remained in one spot during the entire time the footing elevations were set, then the entire foundation would likely slope uniformly toward the location where the level was set up. On a large foundation where the level was relocated due to sight constraints, then the foundation may have two different slopes. The other common mistake is assuming the concrete basement slab was poured level. Even if the contractor had a calibrated level (not likely) the floor slab may have dips and humps due to poor workmanship. The worst case I have come across was a slab with a 2 inch difference between the high and low points. In cases where the contractor elected to use a continuous support wall in the basement in lieu of a beam supported on columns, you will likely see the irregularities in the basement slab reflected in the upper floor elevations. In my opinion the only way you can accurately document these issues is to compare elevations taken when the foundation was built. One of the best way to detect true settlement is with a contour map of all the floor elevations. A contour map will visually help you find localized elevation differences that you can't detect by just looking at the spot elevations you took. I don't want to discourage you from performing elevation surveys, but wanted to help you better analyze the data you get.


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