So I came across a rare piece of equipment the other day in a home inspection – a plastic electrical panel.

Yes, they really do exist!

I was talking to a master electrician just last week and he said he has been in the business for 32 years and has never come across one of these types of panels before.

Amazingly, this is actually the 2nd one I’ve across in my home inspection career within the last 6 months!

The manufacturer for both of the two panels I’ve witnessed was Square D – one of the most well known names in Electrical Panels in the United States. The name on the two panels is Trilliant.

This type of panel was manufactured between the years of 1990 – 1996.

Plastic electrical panels were widely adopted in Europe, however the panels were viewed with skepticism by most electricians here in the United States and as a result, were not widely adopted in any area of the country.

As a result, this panel and other types of plastic electrical panels were effectively phased out of use.
There are no known major deficiencies that are associated with this particular type of panel. However, the circuit breakers and other parts are known to be very expensive to replace.

The only know potential issue with the panel is an issue with the surge protectors that were designed for use in the panels. The surge protectors were recalled in 1995.

Also, the plastic screws are very difficult to operate and can break easily. And of course, the screws are very hard to replace. If you lose enough screws, you have an unsecured dead front cover.

At First Choice Home Inspection, we will do the research for you on every home inspection!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

I had the pleasure this past week of inspecting a 240 year old house located in Webster, NH. The home was a foreclosure and had been shut down and neglected for about 8 years.

As I went through the home, I marveled at the wonderful craftsmanship that went into the construction of the home and I thought about the generations of people that lived in the home. The home had held up very well considering the age of it.

The home even had a library with custom built bookshelves encircling the room.

One characteristic was particularly fascinating to me. All of the windows in the home were equipped with Indian Shutters. Not the modern version of this type of shutter that is often called an Indian Shutter – the actual definitive item.

These shutters were actually concealed on each side of the window and had graspable notches that could be used to pull the shutters together and effectively block the windows.

I had heard in the past that these types of shutters were a myth. But there they were – in the flesh so to speak. And every one of the shutters was functional.

What a marvel and a testament to human creativity!

Imagine a time when people felt it was necessary to install this feature in a home! It reminded me that in the past, homes were once considered fortresses as well.

At First Choice Home Inspection, we appreciate every aspect of the home!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

So with the crazy hot real estate market right now, and the dwindling inventory levels out there, it’s no surprise that people are gravitating toward older homes now as possible starter homes.

Older homes usually come with a lot of charm and interesting architectural features.
But, they also occasionally come with baggage in the form of hazardous materials and old electrical systems.

I’ve been inspecting a lot of old homes lately, and have been coming across those curious 9×9 tiles – often times hidden under new flooring.

To the general public, 9×9 tiles don’t often trigger any questions or concerns. But to a builder or an experienced home inspector, it typically stops us in our tracks.

6×6, 9×9, 12×12, and even 18×18 tiles are known to sometimes contain asbestos fibers.

In fact, if your home was constructed between 1920 and 1960, it’s fair bet that the tiles do indeed contain asbestos fibers.

So what is asbestos? Well, believe it or not it is not a man-made material as most people in my experience are convinced.

Asbestos actually occurs in nature. It’s a silicate / fibrous material that is actually mined out of the ground.

The reason asbestos has been used in construction over the years is because the material is heat-resistant. It was widely used in this past century as a fire-proofing material.

On the downside, asbestos fibers are known to be a serious health hazard. If the fibers get into the human lungs, they fester and can potentially cause cancer or other asbestos-related ailments. Our bodies can not reject the material.

For this reason, asbestos was eventually prohibited from use in modern construction. It was outlawed in the 1970s, but was used right up until the early 1980s (when the material was allowed to be sold off from hardware stores).

Asbestos is considered dangerous when the material in question is “friable,” which means the fibers can be released into the air if the material deteriorates or crumbles and then becomes airborne.

So how can the average person tell if you have asbestos tiles in your home? Well, if you can view a cross section of the tiles, you might be able to see if there are any asbestos fibers protruding out of the material.

Or, to be sure, you can bring a sample to a local testing lab (I usually recommend using Optimum Analytical and Consulting in Salem, NH). You can bag up the sample and bring it to their lab, and they will analyze it and give you the breakdown of what the material contains.

Okay, so what if you do have asbestos tiles located in your home?

So there are two ways you can deal with it. The easiest was is to simply encapsulate the tile material – typically under a new floor. This is the solution we see most often as home inspectors.

Most of the time I wouldn’t even know the tiles are present in the home until I open up a closet door and see the old tiles on the floor of the closet.

And even then, our home inspection license forbids us from positively identifying the material as containing asbestos. We have to defer to having the material tested to make an accurate determination.

Encapsulating the material is considered a safe option in most states and local municipalities. If you do chose to have the material removed, it should be done by a qualified contractor that will strictly adhere to the parameters of removing the material safely from the home.

But check the local regulations before you move forward with the removal. Be aware that the proper disposal of the material is strictly regulated as well.

At First Choice Home Inspection, our goal is to educate you about your new home!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

Please note this resource regarding exposure to Asbestos products:

So lets talk about an issue that we see in 90% of home inspections – Loose Toilets.

It sounds silly, but it’s true! We literally see this condition all the time!

So is it a big deal in the great scheme of things?


The answer is no – most of the time.

Usually, the fix is simply that the floor bolts just need to be re-tightened on each side of the toilet. This can be accomplished with just about any type of wrench, and takes mere minutes to complete.

But occasionally, we run into a situation where the condition of the toilet being loose – usually for extended periods of time without being repaired, causes the toilet to be offset from the floor connection. There is a wax ring located at the base of the toilet that provides a gasket connection for the waste water and solids to pass through.

Over many years, the wax ring can break down, which could cause leaking. But the condition of a loose toilet over time can also cause the toilet to become offset from the wax ring, which can also lead to leaking. This usually is from the simple rocking motion that people make when sitting on the toilet and/or getting up from it.

And over time you can end up with a scenario similar to the one that occurred in the pictures included here….

So I received a frantic phone call from a realtor friend of my wife who lives in Massachusetts, who suddenly noticed prominent water stains located on her kitchen ceiling.

My first question to her was, “Is there a bathroom located above the kitchen?”

The answer was yes.

So my direction to her was, “Please go upstairs and push on your toilet to see if it rocks back and forth.”

Lo and behold, the toilet was loose. In fact, it was very loose, rocking back and forth very noticeably she said!

So my next instruction was for her to tighten both of the floor bolts, which they promptly achieved.

And then I advised them to continue monitoring the kitchen ceiling, and if additional staining is noticed, at that point the wax ring under the toilet may need to be replaced.

Checking back with them a week later, they said they had not noticed any additional leaking.

But then they asked me how do they remove the stains located on the ceiling from the leak?

Well we’ll save that for the next blog!


Michael McCarty

NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316

HUD 203k Consultant # 1939