Why does running a power cord behind the wall for a wall-mounted TV violate the electrical code?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The National Electrical Code (NEC) does not allow a power supply cord to be concealed in the wall, per NEC 400.12(5), which states that power cords shall not be used “where concealed by walls, floors, or ceilings or located above suspended or dropped...

Does the code require a barrier/well around the attic access hatch for blown insulation?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

We don’t know of any building code requirement for a well around the attic access hatch, likely because it is not a life-safety issue. There are code requirements, however, for keeping insulation away from soffit vents, flues, and any ceiling lighting...

Are dining room, breakfast room, and pantry receptacles required to be GFCI protected?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

They usually are, but also are not required to be. The reason why involves a National Electrical Code citation at 210.52(B)(1), that says: “In the kitchen, pantry, breakfast room, or similar area of a dwelling, the two or more 20-ampere small-appliance...

How do I find out the manufacturer of an electrical panel?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The older the panel, the harder it will be to figure out the manufacturer. Major manufacturers like Square D are easy to recognize, but obscure and defunct brands of a bygone era can be problematic. 

    A few manufacturers emboss their name...

When are the "GFCI PROTECTED" and "NO EQUIPMENT GROUND" stickers required on receptacle outlets?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A three-slot receptacle outlet can be installed as a replacement for a two-slot ungrounded receptacle outlet in an older home when there is no ground connection available, according the National Electrical Code [NEC 405.4(D)(2)(b,c)], but only if the...

What is the building code for fire resistance for exterior exit doors of a house?

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A residence is only required to have one emergency exit door, called an “egress” door. You can read about the requirements for it at our blog post How many exit doors are required for a house?, which are primarily about the size of the opening and having...

Why type of circuit breaker has a red test button?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

If it looks like the one shown above, it is an older GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) breaker from the 1980s, manufactured by Square D. The breaker takes up two slots in the panel even though it is a 120 volts. 

    Also, see our blog...

Will a sprinkler system work without a vacuum breaker (backflow preventer)?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A vacuum breaker is required when the sprinkler system is connected to the same potable water system that serves the house, which could be either municipal water or a private well. Its purpose is to prevent dirt, bits of debris, and bacteria from being...

Do I need a pan under a water heater in the garage?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC-P2801.6) states that “where a storage tank-type water heater or a hot water storage tank is installed in a location where water leakage from the tank will cause damage, the tank shall be installed...

Is the wood anchor pad for a garage door rail and torsion spring supposed to be nailed or bolted to the wall?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Nailing was acceptable years ago, as long as there was a sufficient number of nails, but manufacturers today require lag screws or bolts, with the number specified by the manufacturer. The Clopay installation manual, for example, states that “the wood...

Does a home inspector check the GFCI receptacles and breakers?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The standards of practice for both major national home inspector associations and State of Florida’s own standards all specify that the GFCIs should be checked. “Ground fault circuit interrupters” are listed as necessary to be checked on both the American...

Do microwaves require any minimum clearances around them?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Although microwaves only heat the food in them, that food heats the air surrounding it and anything nearby, and needs to be adequately dissipated. Here’s the standards that GE has for the different types of microwave ovens they offer. Other manufacturers...

A receptacle outlet is dead and I think I tripped a GFCI, but can't locate it. Where do I find the GFCI reset?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Let’s start with the era in which the house was built. Late 1970s to mid-80s homes usually have a GFCI-breaker in the electric panel, like the one shown below, and it protects all the bathroom and exterior receptacles.

    For homes built...

Can vinyl lap siding be installed diagonally?

Monday, July 8, 2019

It does not seem like such a good idea to us, but at least one manufacturer we found has a detail for installing the transition between vertical (or, in this case, semi-vertical) vinyl lap siding and horizontal. Here’s the installation detail recommeded...

What is a "backfeed" main breaker at an electric panel?

Monday, July 8, 2019

An electric panel is backfed when the main breaker is mounted in the cluster of breakers on the branch bus, instead of being separate, vertical, and above or below the branch-circuit breakers. It is essentially providing power “backwards” into the distribution...

What is a "bus stab" in an electric panel?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Most electric panels have two vertical bus bars. Each bus bar has bus stabs, also called “bus fingers” or “connector fingers,” that are bent out to receive breakers. Each one can serve two breakers, connected from left and right. In the example shown...

What is the main bonding jumper and where do it find it in an electric panel?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The main bonding jumper connects the service neutral wiring to the grounding electrode conductor(s) (GEC), and also to the service enclosure (panel box). By connecting these three components together, it eliminates any voltage potential (current) between...

Does a home inspector check and test shut-off valves?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A home inspection is primarily a visual review of a home and the inspector is required to examine the visible, or readily accessible, shut-off valves. What the inspector is not required to do is test the valves, and with good reason. Old or defective...

Does a home inspector have to be bonded?

Friday, July 5, 2019

Many states have no minimum insurance requirements for home inspectors. For the ones that do, it is usually general liability or errors and omissions insurance, or both, in amounts from $100,000 to $500,000. The only state that we know of that specifies...

Does a home inspector check for permits?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Checking the public records for building permits for a home inspection is not required by the Standards of Practice for home inspectors of the administrative law of the State of Florida DBPR, or of the two national associations, American Society of...

What does a termite mud tube look like?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Subterranean termites can be hard to detect, even when a house has a significant infestation. They become dehydrated quickly by exposure to air, so they crawl up into a house protected inside tiny tubes the workers construct from dirt, feces, and their...

What is a drum trap at a plumbing drain?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A drum trap is one of several types of plumbing traps that were once acceptable, but now prohibited. The primary problem with a drum trap is that it is not “self-scouring,” per the requirement of Florida Plumbing Code (FPC-1002.2) and a similar citation...

Why is the mini-split ductless air conditioner installed in a sunroom enclosed with acrylic plastic windows called a “dehumidifier” on the building permit?

Monday, July 1, 2019

It is likely that the sunroom was originally a screen porch that has been enclosed. Unfortunately, simply enclosing the room with clear acrylic plastic windows does not make it acceptable by the building code for air conditioning and to be considered...

Does a home inspector check doors and windows?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

How thoroughly a home inspector checks doors and windows depends on two variables: the state where the home is located and the inspector's own personal standards. As of today, 28 states have licensing requirements for home inspectors, which include...

Does a home inspector need insurance?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

It depends completely on which state the inspector is located. For example, Florida requires $300,000 of general liability, Louisiana requires $300,000 of both general liability and errors and omissions, and Georgia has no requirements. Most inspectors...

DOES A HOME INSPECTOR...?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about "DOES A HOME INSPECTOR…?":

• Does a home inspector inspect barns and other agricultural buildings on a farm? 

• Does a home inspector inspect outbuildings?

• Does...

Does a home inspector check the roof?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

What a home inspector checks on a roof depends on two variables: the state where the home is located and the inspector's own personal standards. As of today, 28 states have licensing requirements for home inspectors, which include education and experience...

What would cause a new asphalt shingle roof to have loose tab adhesion (sealant strips)?

Saturday, June 29, 2019

When the sealant strip under the leading edge of a shingle fails to adhere properly, the shingles become vulnerable to wind damage from flapping up and down or blowing off. Several warm days with direct sun on the roof are necessary for the initial...

When were smoke alarms first required to be interconnected?

Friday, June 28, 2019

The 1988 edition of the Uniform Building Code (UBC) was the first to require that hard-wired smoke alarms be interconnected. The International Residential Code (IRC) and the Florida Building Code (FBC) have required interconnection since their first...

What can I do during a hurricane to reduce the possiblity of roof damage?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The shutters are locked in place, the patio furniture has been taken in, you’ve “battened down the hatches” and the storm is here. But there is actually one more thing you can do to protect your home’s structure, and specifically the roof, while the...

What is the spacing requirement for receptacle outlets at a kitchen island counter?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

There is no spacing requirement, just a minimum of one is required. “At least one receptacle shall be installed at each island countertop space with a long dimension of 600 mm (24 inches) or greater and a short dimension of 300 mm (12 inches) or greater,”...

Where can I find the manufacturer's model name for my mobile/manufactured home?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

A HUD data plate has been required to be placed inside every mobile home manufactured since July, 1976, and there is a line near the top identified as for “Manufacturer’s Serial Number and Model Unit Designation,” and we have found that the serial number...

How can I tell the age of an Eemax tankless water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The first two numbers of the serial number of an Eemax tankless water heater are the year of manufacture. So the serial number below indicates it was produced in 2015.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Why are most pull-down attic ladders not approved by building code for installation in a garage?

Monday, June 24, 2019

The wall between an attached garage and the house living area is required to be minimum 1/2” drywall. Most garages have a ceiling secured to the bottom chord of the roof trusses or rafters, and that has to be 1/2” drywall also when the attic is continuous...

When is an access panel considered not accessible for a Florida termite (WDO) inspector?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Let’s start with a definition of “access panel,” according to the “Baseline Practices for Performing 13645 WDO Inspections,” a document prepared by members of the Florida pest control industry, University of Florida, and FDACS (Florida Department of...

What areas of the exterior of a home is a termite (WDO) inspector in Florida required to inspect?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

According to the “Baseline Practices for Performing 13645 WDO Inspections,” a document prepared by members of the Florida pest control industry, University of Florida, and FDACS (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the division...

Can gas piping be installed in a supply or return duct or plenum?

Friday, June 21, 2019

No. The International Residential Code (IRC) does not allow fuel gas piping to be "installed in or through a ducted supply, return or exhaust,” per G2415.3, and there is a similar citation in the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC).

What are the minimum access openings for a termite (WDO) inspector in Florida for a crawl space and attic, and within these spaces?

Friday, June 21, 2019

There is no specific information in the Florida Adminstrative Code regarding minimum size openings that an inspector can be expected to enter if deemed safe otherwise. But the pest control industry uses a document entitled “Baseline Practices for Performing...

Why are there sometimes damaged shingles around an area of roof shingle repair or the tie-in of a new roof?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Asphalt shingles are not waterproof. If it was possible for water to stand still on a shingle roof, it would quickly seep under the laps of the shingles. But shingles are "water resistant" because they overlap and are only used on sloped roofs; so water...

Why does the main breaker in some electric panels look like four breakers with a common toggle instead of the usual two?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The GE line of main breakers is one we know of that does this, and only for their 150-amp and 200-amp 240-volt main breakers. Square D, Cutler Hammer, and Siemens also have similar breakers. It is essentially two breakers in parallel for each of the...

What would cause a home inspector and roofing contractor to disagree on the remaining life left in a roof?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

We can think of three reasons why an inspector and roofer might disagree on the condition and remaining life of a roof:

1) It’s a subjective call, based on professional experience - We have been home inspectors since 2002, and building contractors...

When was a kitchen refrigerator receptacle outlet first required to be GFCI-protected?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The change came with the 2014 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), and it does not actually state that a refrigerator in the kitchen must be GFCI-protected. What it says is that any receptacle within 6 feet of the top edge of a sink bowl must...

Is a refrigerator receptacle outlet required to be GFCI-protected?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Although the National Electrical Code (NEC) does not require that a receptacle outlet serving a refrigerator must be GFCI-protected, it specifies certain areas where any receptacle—including for a refrigerator—must be GFCI:

1) Within 6 feet...

What causes a shingle roof to deteriorate faster and fail prematurely?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Premature deterioration of a shingle roof can be caused by the site, manufacturing defects, weather, improper installation, or inadequate maintenance. But often it results from a combination of them: 

• Manufacturing defects - Shingles that...

What causes small areas of pitting or pockmarks in an asphalt shingle roof?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Roofers call them “blisters.” They usually occur during the first couple of years after roof installation, and are caused by excessive heat under the shingles due to poor ventilation of the attic, which is a common problem in Florida. The heat expands...

How can I tell if an asphalt shingle roof manufacturer's warranty rating is 20 years, 30 years, or more?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Asphalt shingle manufacturers offer “lifetime” warranties that are usually rated from 20 to 50 years. This type of warranty only provides protection for manufacturing defects in the roof materials if they deteriorate or fail before they should, and...

Why is an asphalt shingle roof difficult to inspect when wet right after it has rained?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

An asphalt shingle roof looks newer and in better condition when wet because the variations in shading and texture of the surface caused by deterioration from the sun’s UV-light pretty much disappear. Also, a second way we age a roof is the condition...

What are the building code requirements for making a house termite resistant?

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Residential Edition of The Florida Building Code devotes a complete section, “R-318 - Protection Against Termites,” to construction details to keep termites from infesting a house. The code attacks the problem in two ways: 1) create a barrier to...

How does a three-way switch work?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The pair of three-way switches that many homes have for lighting at the top and bottom of stairs, or opposite ends of a long hallway, use an ingenious configuration of a two wires between them in a loop that electricians refer to as “travelers.” Unlike...

Is a range hood exhaust fan required in the kitchen?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A range hood is not required in the kitchen of a site-built house unless an open-top broiler is installed, according to both the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC)  and International Residential Code (IRC). However, if you do install...

Is cellulose insulation flammable?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The dictionary defines flammable as “capable of being easily ignited and burning quickly,” and cellulose insulation does not fit that definition. But it is “combusible,” which means capable of being ignited. Cellulose smolders slowly when it starts...

What devices are code approved for backflow prevention at a sprinkler (lawn irrigation) system?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Whenever a sprinkler system is connected to the same water supply as the house there is the potential for “cross contamination,” which can happen after a loss of water pressure. This presssure drop causes a vacuum in the pipes that literally sucks the...

How can a house be inspected by two different home inspectors that come up with different things to be fixed?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

When homeowners decide to get their own inspector to check out the house before they list it for sale—looking to find and fix any defects that may cause a problem after they find a buyer—it often happens that the buyer’s inspector later lists some defects...

What is the minimum number of tie-down straps for a park model trailer in Florida?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Florida Administrative Code 15C-1.0102(1) - Installation Standards for Mobile/Manufactured Homes and Park Trailers states that the set-up of park model trailer should be in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions, but have a minimum of three vertical...

How can I tell if my pool is leaking?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A pool leak can be hard to determine because water is continuously evaporating off the surface and lowering the level, especially in the summer months. But the fact that surface evaporation is the same no matter how deep the water is below it, as long...

How can I tell the size in tons of my Stylecrest Revolv heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Revolv series of HVAC systems by Stylecrest are designed specifically for mobile/manufactured homes, and the company is a division of Nortek (formerly Nordyne). You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number...

How can I tell the age of a Stylecrest Revolv heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Revolv series of HVAC systems by Stylecrest are designed specifically for mobile/manufactured homes, and the company is a division of Nortek (formerly Nordyne). The fourth and fifth characters in the serial number are the year of manufacture for...

When did the code first set a limit of one neutral wire (grounded conductor) connection per lug/set-screw in an electric panel?

Friday, June 7, 2019

The one-neutral-per-lug rule entered the National Electrical Code at the 2002 edition. Here’s how it is stated in the current edition:

408.41 Grounded Conductor Terminations. Each grounded conductor shall terminate within the panelboard in...

When were home inspectors first required to be licensed in Florida?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Although Florida passed the home inspector bill SB-2234 in 2007, it did not take effect until July 1st, 2010. The national home inspection associations howled in disapproval, citing dubious reasons why it would not benefit the citizens of the state....

WHEN IT FIRST BECAME CODE

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about when current construction standards FIRST BECAME CODE:

• What is plumbing venting? When was venting first required for plumbing drain systems?



• When did the requirement...

What is plumbing venting? When was venting first required for plumbing drain systems?

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Just about every time we call out an unvented “S-trap” in a home inspection, like the one shown above, someone says “Is that some new code thing? It probably wasn’t required when this house was built.” But actually it's been around for quite awhile.

Which are better: lead or rubber roof vent pipe flashing boots?

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

They both have advantages and disadvantages. Here’s how it breaks down:

LEAD

Pro - Lead, shown above, is the time-tested standard roof boot. It is easily malleable to wrap over the top of a vent pipe.

Con - Lead is considered...

What type of water supply and drain (DWV) pipes were commonly used in older houses?

Monday, June 3, 2019

It depends on how old the “older house” is, since the types of pipe material used have gradually shifted over the decades. And, if the house has been repiped, the material will be one of the choices that was popular at the time of repiping. We have...

What causes air leakage energy loss in a house?

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The small holes and cracks in the floors, walls, and ceilings of a house are where all the air leakage occurs. Well, duh, of course. All houses have them—some more than others—and they provide a continual air exchange route that reduces indoor air pollution. 

What is the average life expectancy of a window unit air conditioner or heat pump?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The average lifespan of a window unit air conditioner or heat pump is 5 to 8 years. Air conditioning contractors like to call them “window shakers.” They are noisy and inefficient compared to permanently installed systems, but being inexpensive to buy...

What is the average life expectancy of a ductless (mini-split) heat pump or air conditioner?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The average lifespan of a ductless (mini-split) heat  pump or air conditioner is 10 to 16 years. They are easier to retrofit in an existing home than a regular split system with ducts, especially if there is no attic available. 

    According...

What is the average life expectancy of a package unit heat pump or air conditioner?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Package units are most often used for mobile homes and site-built homes with elevated wood floors and a crawl space. The average lifespan of a package unit heat pump or air conditioner is 10 to 16 years.  

    According to the Social Security...

What is the average life expectancy of a heat pump?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

While not an exact predictor, average lifespan is still a valuable piece of information. Here’s the average lifespan for different types of air conditioners:

 Split System Heat Pump Condenser (outside unit) - 10 to 16 years
 Split System...

What is the canister thing about size of a small soda can on a refrigerant line near the heat pump or air conditioner condenser (outdoor unit)?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

It is called a "filter drier” and does exactly what the name says: it filters out small particles and removes moisture with a desiccant from the pressure line (the smaller tubing with no insulation, also called the liquid line). A filter drier is not...

What is the minimum depth below ground of the foundation of a house, for either monolithic thickened edge slab or stemwall footing?

Friday, May 31, 2019

The minimum depth is 12-inches below undisturbed ground per the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC R403.1.4) and the International Residential Code.

    This applies to perimeter footings and, in climates colder than Florida,...

What is the code requirement for ceiling (paddle) fans near or above a swimming pool?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The 2107 edition of the National Electrical Code [NEC 680.22(b)] states that outdoor ceiling fans installed above a pool or within 5-feet of the inside wall of the pool measured horizontally, must be at least 12-feet above the maximum water level of...

Can a laundry sink drain be installed without a trap under it?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A laundry sink (also called a laundry tray or tub) can be connected to a washing machine standpipe without a P-trap if the sink drain is within 30-inches of the standpipe. Also, the top of the standpipe must be above the flood rim of the sink and rise...

How can I tell the age of an old Singer air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Every time we come across an ancient Singer HVAC system we say “this has got to be the last one we will ever see." And then another Singer turns up a few months later. Eventually they will all be gone but, in the meantime, here’s the serial number code:...

Why is there a stain in the ceiling around the exhaust pipe (flue) above the gas furnace?

Monday, May 27, 2019

A circular stain around the flue above a furnace where it penetrates the ceiling can be caused by a roof leak or condensation of the hot combustion gases inside the flue. Roof leakage around the flashing is a fairly common problem. Examining the underside...

When were receptacle outlets in the crawlspace under a home first required to be GFCI?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Receptacles in crawlspaces at or below grade were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1990 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). 

    The mandate for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Protection for receptacles in wet areas...

When were receptacle outlets near a pool first required to be GFCI?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The requirement for GFCI-protection for receptacles around a pool has been modified multiple times since the initial standard in 1971:

1971 - All receptacles within 15 feet of edge of pool in any direction must be GFCI-protected, but no receptacles...

When were exterior (outdoor) receptacle outlets first required to be GFCI?

Friday, May 24, 2019

All outdoor receptacles were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1971 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Then it was limited to receptacles “with direct grade access to dwelling" in 1978, and direct grade access was further defined...

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required near a wet bar?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Countertop receptacles within 6 feet of a wet bar were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1993 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). The code mandate was later expanded to include any receptacles within 6 feet of any sink in the 2014...

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required in a laundry room?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Receptacles within 6 feet of a laundry sink were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 2005 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). The code mandate was later expanded to include any receptacles in a laundry room in the 2014 NEC.

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required near bathtubs and showers?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Although receptacles in bathrooms have been required to be GFCI-protected since th 1975 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), the requirement was extended in the 2017 NEC to include receptacles within 6 feet of the outside edge of bathtubs...

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required in balconies, decks, and porches?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The history of the GFCI-requirement for balconies, decks, and porches has been an on-again-off-again thing. All outdoor receptacles were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1971 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Then it was limited...

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required in the kitchen?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Receptacles in the kitchen were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1987 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), and initially only for counter receptacles within 6 feet of a sink. That was expanded to include all kitchen countertop receptacles...

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required in bathrooms?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Receptacles in the bathroom were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1975 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). It was extended in the 2017 NEC to include receptacles within 6 feet of the outside edge of bathtubs and showers even if...

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required in the garage?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Receptacles in the garage were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1978 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Initially, an exception was made for receptacle outlets that are not readily accessible (6 feet 8 inches or above) and receptacle...

What is the correct height for the washing machine drain standpipe or outlet box?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Manufacturers specify a height in their installation manual. Whirlpool recommends a minimum of 39” above the floor, and GE has a 30” minimum, except  that GE allows the top of the drain pipe opening to be lower if you secure the hose to the back of...

Can anything else be attached to a service mast for overhead electric service besides the service cables?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

“Only power service drop or overhead service conductors shall be attached to the service mast,” according to the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (E3604.5) and the International Residential Code, and the National Electrical Code (230.28) 

What is the definition of a "permanent foundation" for a mobile/manufactured home?

Monday, May 20, 2019

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) includes this definition of a permanent foundation in their publication Permanent Foundations Guide for Manufactured Housing, dated September 1996:

C. Definition of Permanent FoundationPermanent...

What is a "missing knockout" or "open knockout" in an electric panel box? Why is it a problem?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Knockouts are perforated circles cut into the sides, top, bottom, and back of an electric panel box that can be “knocked out” for the entry of wiring in conduit or NM-cable. A knockout that is opened but not used for wiring installation—with an NM-connector...

Why are carbon monoxide (CO) alarms required by law for homes in Florida?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The words "accidental poisoning death” conjure up pretty horrible images: toddlers getting past the child-proof latch under the kitchen sink, an unmarked container of rat poison powder mistaken for something else in the pantry. Stuff like that, followed...

Why is insulation not allowed to touch around a gas flue in the attic even if the insulation is not flammable?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

When a flue passes up through attic insulation there must be a shield/baffle that keeps it away from the flue surface at a distance specified by the flue manufacturer, which is usually one or two inches. Here’s how it is stated in the Residential Edition...

When did carbon monoxide (CO) alarms become required by law in Florida homes?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Florida Statute 553.885 requires that any new home, or addition to a home, permitted on or after July 1, 2008, that has a fossil-fuel burning heater or appliance, a fireplace, or attached garage shall have a carbon monoxide alarm installed within 10...

Can the rail for the drive chain/belt of a garage door be mounted off-center?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

We came across the unusual positioning of a garage door drive rail shown above at an inspection yesterday in The Villages and asked our go-to guy for the these questions, Ed Hoeft, of Lester’s Garage Doors, if was okay. According to Ed, "When torsion-type...

Why is it a dangerous mistake to attach a carport, porch, or room addition directly to the roof of a mobile home?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

When the roof structure of an addition is attached directly to the roof of a mobile home, failure of the addition under the uplift force of high winds will often strip off the roof of the mobile home and cause other major damage to the home. Here’s...

What is the box on the wall that says "LOAD MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS"?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The box contains a device that allows your local electric utility to remotely turn off either your water heater or heating/air-conditioning system, or both, during periods when the load on their sytem begins to reach its maximum capacity. This avoids...

What is the code required clearance in front of an electric panel?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The National Electrical Code [NEC 110.26 (A)(1)] requires a clear area for access and working in front of an electric panel that is 2.5 feet (30”) wide, 3 feet (36”) deep, and 6.5 feet (78”) high for a regular residential 120/240-volt panel. The 2.5...

When was it first required for pool pumps to have GFCI protection?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The requirement for GFCI protection of a pool pump was added at the 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Because the latest edition of the NEC is not immediately adopted in all jurisdictions, it may not have become a requirement in some...

How can I tell if my pool is no longer level?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A new in-ground pool is level or very close to it. But, as the pool ages, a small amount of settlement is normal and a pool that is several years old and 1/2” to 3/4” out-of-level is not unusual. Once the difference is more than 1” you are in the range...

What is this 120-volt duplex receptacle with four slots at top and bottom?

Monday, May 6, 2019

We found this one in a late 1950’s house that had virtually no remodeling since it was built. Although the receptacle looks like it was designed to take a 4-prong plug, it is actually an ungrounded (2-wire) quad receptacle with four sockets to plug...

How long does a pool finish last?

Monday, May 6, 2019

Pool chemistry and maintenance has a big effect on the life of the interior surface finish of a pool, so the average lifespans shown below are stated as a range instead of a single number. And, or course, there will always be a few outliers that fail...

When was pool bonding first required by code?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Stray electrical currents, or differences in electrical potential between two points, can occur between a pool, the pool equipment, and the surrounding metal objects such as nearby windows of a home. So the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that...

Does homeowners insurance in Florida include coverage for sinkhole damage?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Most homeowners insurance policies include coverage for “catastrophic” damage, which basically means that if a sinkhole swallows your house, it's uninhabitable, and is condemned by the local government…then you are covered. Anything less and you will...

At what age of the house does an insurance company require a four point inspection to issue or renew homeowners insurance?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The second largest insurance company in Florida, Citizens Insurance, requires a four-point inspection report for homes more than 30 years old. Here’s how it is stated at their website.

    Other insurance companies have different standards...

At what roof age does an insurance company require a roof inspection for a homeowners insurance polcy?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The second largest insurance company in Florida, Citizens Insurance, requires a roof inspection for shingle roofs older than 25 years, and at 50 years for tile, slate, clay, concrete, and metal roofs. The inspector must verify at least three years of...

How much remaining roof life does an insurance company require to issue or renew homeowners insurance?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The second largest insurance company in Florida, Citizens Insurance, requires that an inspector verify at least three years of remaining life in the roof. Here is how it is stated at their website.

   Some other insurance companies require...

How many tons is my Nortek heat pump or air conditioner?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How can I tell the age of a Nortek heat pump, air conditioner, or furnace from the serial number?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Nortek is the new name of the company formerly known as Nordyne. The fourth and fifth characters in the serial number are the year of manufacture for a Nortek system. So the serial number shown below on the data plate of a Nortek package heat pump indicates...

Is the deteriorated finish of a concrete pool shell only a cosmetic problem?

Saturday, May 4, 2019

We occasionally hear a realtor tell a homebuyer that a pool with a deteriorated and pock-marked finish (like in the photo above) is “just a cosmetic defect”; but, unfortunately, that is not an accurate statement. Concrete is not a waterproof barrier...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Puerto Rico?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 6,312 mobile homes in Puerto Rico, which represents 0.4% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by municipio.

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Wyoming?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 38,674 mobile homes in Wyoming, which represents 14.0% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county:

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Wisconsin?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 90,931 mobile homes in Wisconsin, which represents 3.4% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in West Virginia?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 134,178 mobile homes in West Virginia, which represents 15.0% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county,...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in the state of Washington?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 186,670 mobile homes in the state of Washington, which represents 6.1% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Virginia?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 181,909 mobile homes in Virginia, which represents 5.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Vermont?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 22,664 mobile homes in Vermont, which represents 6.8% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county.

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Utah?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 36,944 mobile homes in Utah, which represents 3.4% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the highest...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Texas?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 795,075 mobile homes in Texas, which represents 7.3% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Tennessee?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 272,708 mobile homes in Tennessee, which represents 9.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in South Dakota?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 32,717 mobile homes in South Dakota, which represents 8.3% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in South Carolina?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 375,996 mobile homes in South Carolina, which represents 16.5% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county,...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Rhode Island?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 4,905 mobile homes in Rhode Island, which represents 1.0% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Pennsylvania?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 228,843 mobile homes in Pennsylvania, which represents 4.0% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Oregon?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 135,265 mobile homes in Oregon, which represents 7.6% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Oklahoma?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 165,848 mobile homes in Oklahoma, which represents 9.6% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Ohio?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 200,183 mobile homes in Ohio, which represents 3.8% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in North Dakota?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 27,234 mobile homes in North Dakota, which represents 7.3% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in North Carolina?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 587,857 mobile homes in North Carolina, which represents 12.7% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county,...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in New York?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 193,493 mobile homes in the state of New York, which represents 2.3% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in New Mexico?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 163,987 mobile homes in New Mexico, which represents 17.5% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in New Jersey?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 32,601 mobile homes in New Jersey, which represents 0.9% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in New Hampshire?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 31,123 mobile homes in New Hampshire, which represents 4.9% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Nevada?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 63,237 mobile homes in Nevada, which represents 5.1% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Nebraska?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 26,010 mobile homes in Nebraska, which represents 3.1% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Montana?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 54,696 mobile homes in Montana, which represents 10.7% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Missouri?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 169,846 mobile homes in Missouri, which represents 6.1% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Mississippi?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 209,273 mobile homes in Mississippi, which represents 15.8% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Minnesota?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 79,269 mobile homes in Minnesota, which represents 3.3% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Michigan?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 238,789 mobile homes in Michigan, which represents 5.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Massachusetts?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 24,452 mobile homes in Massachusetts, which represents 0.8% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Maryland?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 36,318 mobile homes in Maryland, which represents 1.5% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Maine?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are  mobile homes in 61,456, which represents 8.3% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the highest...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Louisiana?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 272,171 mobile homes in Louisiana, which represents 13.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Kentucky?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 231,981 mobile homes in Kentucky, which represents 11.7% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Kansas?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 55,117 mobile homes in Kansas, which represents 4.3% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Iowa?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 50,464 mobile homes in Iowa, which represents 3.6% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the highest...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Indiana?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 136,756 mobile homes in Indiana, which represents 4.7% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Illinois?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 131,258 mobile homes in Illinois, which represents 2.4% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Idaho?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 53,556 mobile homes in Idaho, which represents 7.4% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Hawaii?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 1,099 mobile homes in Hawaii, which represents 0.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Georgia?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 376,363 mobile homes in Georgia, which represents 8.8% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Florida?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 841,439 mobile homes in Florida, which represents 8.9% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in the District of Columbia?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 485 mobile homes in District of Columbia, which represents 0.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    The state with the most mobile homes is Florida...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Delaware?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 31,086 mobile homes in Delaware, which represents 7.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau.    The state with the most mobile homes is Florida at 841,439, followed...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Connecticut?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 11,234 mobile homes in Connecticut, which represents 0.7% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Colorado?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 94,905 mobile homes in Colorado, which represents 4.0% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in California?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 519,658 mobile homes in Calfornia, which represents 3.7% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Arkansas?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 167,714 mobile homes in Arkansas, which represents 12.2% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Arizona?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 300,378 mobile homes in Arizona, which represents 10.0% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Alaska?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 14,685 mobile homes in Alaska, which represents 4.6% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with the...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in Alabama?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There are 305,749 mobile homes in Alabama, which represents 13.5% of the total housing stock in the state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a breakdown of the mobile home percentages by county, with...

STUCCO

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about STUCCO:

• Do stucco walls mean a house is concrete block?

• What causes raised white lines of residue on a block wall that are crusty and crumbling? 

• What is the...

SHINGLE ROOFS

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about SHINGLE ROOFS:

• Why is granule loss a problem for an asphalt shingle roof? 

• What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?  

• Why is premature curl of roof shingles...

METAL ROOFS

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about METAL ROOFS:

• What is the difference between galvanized and galvalume metal roofing?

• What is the average lifespan of a metal (galvalume) roof?

• Can metal roofing...

GARAGES AND CARPORTS

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about GARAGES AND CARPORTS:

• Why is a garage floor sloped?  

• What is the difference between a carport and a garage? 

• Why is my garage ceiling sagging? 

• Why...

CRACKS

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about CRACKS:

• What causes vertical cracks in fiber cement siding planks?

• What causes raised white lines of residue on a block wall that are crusty and crumbling? 

• What...

BATHROOMS

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about BATHROOMS:

• Honey, who shrunk the toilet? 

• Why is it a problem when a trap under a bathroom sink is installed backwards? 

• What are the code requirements for layout...

ATTICS

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about ATTICS:

• What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?

• Is an attic required to have a light by the building code? 

• How do I safely remove a dead...

AGING IN PLACE

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here’s links to  our blog posts about AGING IN PLACE:

• What is aging in place? 

• What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

Is a sink required to have a drain stopper?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

In the jargon of the building codes a sink is a “lavatory,” and the drain is a “waste outlet.” With that out of the way, we can investigate what the codes say about drain stoppers:

    The Residential Edition of The Florida Building Code...

How can I tell the age of an Intertherm water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The third and fourth numbers in the serial number are the year of manufacture for an Intertherm water heater. So the data plate shown above indicates it was manufactured in 1985.

    Also, see our blog posts How can I determine the age of...

What type of water supply and drain (DWV) pipes are commonly used today?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

CPVC is the most popular water supply piping, with PEX gaining market share, and PVC is the dominant drain (DWV) pipe.

Water Supply

Copper is still used, but very rarely. 

CPVC (cream-color plastic) is the most popular...

What type of water supply and drain (DWV) pipes were commonly used in the 2000s?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

CPVC was the became the most popular water supply piping, with PEX gaining a foothold in the market.

Water Supply

Copper was still used, but rarely. 

CPVC (cream-color plastic) was the most popular water supply pipe.

What is the average life expectancy of Orangeburg (bituminous fiber) pipe?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Orangeburg pipe has a life expectancy of about 50 years, but can have problems as early as 10 to 20 years out. Since it has not been installed since the early 1970s, all Orangeburg pipe still underground is near, or past, its 50-year lifespan. 

Why is Orangeburg sewer pipe a problem and how do I know if I have it?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Orangeburg was the dominant brand of “bituminous fiber pipe,” a low-cost sewer pipe for underground installation in the U.S. between 1945 and 1973. It was made from wood fiber and coal-tar pitch pressed together—and derided by its critics as a "coal-tar...

What are the most common problems with washing machine installation and maintenance?

Friday, April 26, 2019

We test a washing machine briefly in a short cycle during a home inspection to verify its basic functions are alright, but most of our inspection is visual, and here’s some of the things we typically find wrong:

Lid switch not functional...

Do I have to bring my whole house up to current building code when I do any remodeling, alterations or additions?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

No, usually you do not. The amount of code compliance necessary depends on how much you are changing or adding to the home. Florida has a specific code, called Florida Building Code - Existing Building, that defines how much updating you will have to...

Where is a 6-mil polyethylene (Visqueen) vapor retarder not required under a concrete floor slab on grade?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The required 6-mil polyethylene (or other approved) vapor retarder sheet under a concrete floor slab is necessary for the living spaces in a home because it keeps moisture from rising through the slab in wet weather and saturated soil. But the International...

How many tons is my Thermal Zone heat pump or air conditioner?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

What are the code requirements for a circuit directory and circuit identification for an electric panel?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Up until the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) in the 2017, the requirements at 408.4 were as follows:

Every circuit must be legibly identified to its specific purpose or use.
The identification must be sufficient...

How many tons is my Tempstar air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, April 22, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How can I tell the age of my Tempstar air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tempstar is manufactured by International Comfort Products, LLC, and the first two numbers in the serial number (after a single letter) are the year of manufacture. So the serial number on the data plate below indicates the unit was manufactured in...

How many tons is my Inter-City Products air conditioner or heat pump?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Unitary Products air conditioner or heat pump?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How can I tell the age of a Unitary Products air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

There are two different serial number formats for Unitary Products. Up until 2004, the third letter of the serial number was used to denote year of manufacture by the letter code below:

A = 1971, 1992.   B = 1972, 1993C = 1973, 1994.   D...

What causes drywall cracks in the ceilings and walls of a house?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Most drywall is installed over wood studs, but wood moves when the humidity and temperature in a house changes and drywall doesn’t. So something’s gotta give, and it’s always the drywall. This is the reason for many of the annoying small cracks in a...

How many tons is my Payne air conditioner or heat pump?

Friday, April 19, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How can I tell the age of a Payne air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Friday, April 19, 2019

The third and fourth numbers in the serial number on the data plate are the year of manufacture for Payne, so the one shown below is from 2008. This format has been used from the mid-1980s to the present.

    The more recent Payne units we...

Are soffit/eave vents required by code for attic ventilation?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Although soffit vents are not specifically mentioned as required, both the International Residential Code (IRC) and Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC-R806.2), require an attic ventilation area of at least 1/150 of the area being...

How many tons is my Heil heat pump or air conditioner?

Monday, April 15, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

Can I install a commercial (wall-mounted flushometer) toilet in my home?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Although we have done nearly 8,000 home inspections over the years, yesterday was the first time we came across a flushometer toilet in a residence. The one shown above is in a home designed by a mid-century modern architect who thought it was suitable...

Do replacement bedroom windows have to meet the current emergency egress standards of the Florida Building Code?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

No. Any repairs, alterations, or additons to a home must comply with the Florida Building Code - Existing Building, which has separate standards than the Florida Building Code that is used for new construction. It is specifically for work done on existing...

How many tons is my Grandaire air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my EcoTemp air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

Can a local building department choose to not enforce selected parts of the Florida Building Code?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

No. The Florida Building Code is a statewide code and all parts of the code must be enforced by each local building department. However, the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) can create an additional requirement, known as a local amendment....

How many tons is my Affinity air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Bard air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Cumberland air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, April 8, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Daikin air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, April 8, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

When did bathroom vent fans first become a code requirement for a bathroom without a window?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Mechanical ventilation of a bathroom with a vent fan has never been a code requirement, but it became an alternative to an openable window shortly after manufacturers started making exhaust fans. Building codes dating all the way back to the 1927 Uniform...

What is the required clearance for access and working space in front of an air handler for a furnace, heat pump, or air conditioning system?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Although an air handler is part of a home's HVAC system, it is an electric appliance. So the National Electrical Code requirement (NEC 110.26[A]) for equipment “likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing or maintenance while energized” applies,...

When did the building code begin requiring bathroom vent fans to discharge to the exterior (not the attic or crawl space)?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Although bathroom vent fans have been an acceptable alternative to a window for the required ventilation of a bathroom for many years, the requirement that it be ducted to the exterior did not come along until 2003 or 2006, depending on how you interpret...

How many tons is my Airquest air conditioner or heat pump?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How can I tell the age of an Airquest air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace from the serial number?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The first two numbers, after a single letter, in the serial number are the year of manufacture of the unit. So the data plate below indicates that the condenser was manufactured in 1993.

Airquest is aHVAC line of HVAC products that was manufactured...

Which trees are most likely to fall over on your house in a hurricane?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The most important—but often overlooked—consideration when selecting a tree to plant near your home in Florida is how resistant a particular species is to toppling over in a severe thunderstorm or hurricane. Certain popular landscape trees are more...

Why is buying an old house sometimes the best choice?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Although we have written extensively about the problems to look for when buying an older home, there are also a number of advantages:

Better location -  Older homes are often close to shopping and entertainment districts, and give you a shorter...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

Friday, March 29, 2019

The 1940s was a decade split down the middle by the end of World War 2 in 1945. Construction of new homes was slowed by the war, and then dramatically sped up when it ended by a housing shortage and surging post-war economy. The way homes were built...

How many tons is Ameristar air conditioner or heat pump?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Nordyne air conditioner or heat pump?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

What are the basic facts about sinkholes?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sinkholes occur naturally throughout central and north Florida, where a limestone layer underlies the soil and can be easily dissolved by water. They can be the kind that swallow up houses and cars, or smaller “chimney” sinkholes like the one shown...

How many tons is my York air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my International Comfort air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How quickly do I need to reduce a high radon level in my house?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Living in a house with an elevated radon level (above 4.0 pCi/L) does not automatically mean you will get lung cancer. But it increases the likelihood of getting lung cancer and, the longer you live with elevated radon, the more likely you are to have...

Why is some PVC pipe black?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The “black PVC” is actually a different chemical composition of plastic pipe called ABS, which stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. To learn more about it, see our blog post What is the difference between PVC and ABS plumbing pipe?

What causes a vertical crack in an exterior concrete block or brick wall?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Vertical cracks are rare in a concrete block or brick wall, because the mortar is usually weaker structurally and the crack will zig-zag along the mortar joints, only occasionally fracturing directly through the brick or block as it continues along....

How can I tell if a crack in a stucco wall is a structural problem and what is causing it?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

All stucco walls have cracks. They may be hairline and only noticeable on close examination, but they are there. The only time we inspect stucco that doesn’t have any cracks is shortly after the homeowner has had the walls caulked and painted. 

What causes a vertical crack in drywall?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Thin hairline cracks sometimes occur at interior drywall anywhere from a few months up to a year after completion of construction. The wood wall framing moves slightly as it dries and adjusts to the loads applied to it, allowing cracks that are barely...

How many tons is my Comfortmaker air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, March 25, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my CAC/BDP air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, March 25, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my American Standard air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, March 25, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How can I tell if there has been a flood, standing water, or water running under a mobile home?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Any standing water under a mobile home will leave floodmark debris line on the piers, like in the photo above. There can also be a ragged edge caused by water wicking up the block when the ground has been saturated under the home for a long period,...

What is a "Level 3 Alteration" according to the Florida Building Code (FBC)?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Level 3 Alterations are the highest level and “apply where the work area exceeds 50 percent of the building area,” and must comply with Chapters 7, 8, and 9 of the Florida Building Code - Existing Building.

    Level 1 Alterations are basic...

What is a "Level 2 Alteration" according to the Florida Building Code (FBC)?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Level 2 Alterations “include the reconfiguration of space, the addition or elimination of any door or window, the reconfiguration or extension of any system, or the installation of any additional equipment." Adding doors or windows at new locations,...

What is a "Level 1 Alteration" according to the Florida Building Code (FBC)?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Level 1 Alterations “include the removal and replacement or the covering of exisitng materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures using new materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures that serve the same purpose.” Replacing door or windows, without changing...

Is there a Florida law that all older homes must have smoke alarms, regardless of when they were built?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

No, everyone is not required by Florida law to have smoke alarms in their homes—even though that's an excellent idea. There has been some confusion, because a Florida statute that went into effect a few years ago requires that, when replacing any existing...

How can I tell the age of an Amana air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Amana is a nameplate of the Goodman Company. The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture, and older data plates look like the one shown below, which indicates 2002. Newer Amana data plates are identical to a Goodman data plate...

How many tons is my Amana air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Ducane air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How may tons is my Ruud air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Rheem air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Aire-Flo air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Bryant air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Arcoaiire air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Goodman air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, March 18, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Trane air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, March 18, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

How many tons is my Lennox air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, March 18, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

What repairs are required to be made after a home inspection?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A home inspector does not require anybody to fix anything after a home inspection, no matter how bad the condition of a home. The inspector lists components that are deteriorated, defective, not functional, leaking, and so forth, follwed by recommendations...

Is a ground treatment for termites required before installation of a new mobile/manufactured home?

Friday, March 15, 2019

The HUD-Code (24 CFR 3280 and 3285) and the Florida Administrative Code (Chapters 15C-1 and 15C-2), both of which cover the the manufacturing and installation standards for mobile/manufactured homes, do not require ground treatment for termites under...

Is a shower pan leak test a required part of a home inspection?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A shower pan test is not required by the Standards of Practice for home inspectors under Florida Statute 61-30.806, which states that “the inspector is not required to test shower pans, tub and shower surrounds for leakage.” Other jurisdictions may...

How many tons is my Carrier air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

You can determine the “nominal” size of your HVAC system by examining the model number on the data plate at the side of the condenser (outdoor unit). Just like the nominal size of lumber or an air conditioning filter, the exact cooling capacity may...

What is a "slab on grade" house?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A slab on grade home has the foundation and floor slab poured as one piece, with the areas where the walls supporting the roof bear on the slab being thickened from 4” to 10” or 12” deep. Steel reinforcing bars are also added. The thickened areas are...

Is knob and tube wiring illegal?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Existing knob and tube wiring is not illegal and not required to be removed by the building codes. But because of the safety issues with a wiring type that is obsolete, ungrounded, and all original installations are at least 70 years old, insurance...

When did knob and tube wiring stop being used in homes?

Monday, March 11, 2019

"Knob and tube" was the most cost-effective way to wire a home from about 1880 to the 1930s. It began gradually being phased out through the 1940s, displaced by electrical cables that bundled hot and neutral, and eventually ground, wires in a single...

Is a house required to have an attic?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

An attic is defined in the building code as “the unfinished space between the ceiling assembly and the roof assembly.” So just about any house that has a space between the ceiling and the roof has an attic, according to that definition. But most people...

What are the code requirements for the discharge piping from a Temperature-Pressure Relief (TPR) valve at a water heater?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Temperature-Pressure Relief (TPR) valves rarely go off; but, if one does, it’s a big deal. Super-hot and high-pressure water gets released to keep the tank from exploding like a bomb. So, both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential...

What is the minimum height above ground for wood floor joists and girders/beams?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The minimum clearance between the ground and the wood structural floor joists and girders is primarily for prevention of wood rot that is caused by wood being too close to the moisture in the soil. So the minimum is 18” for floor joists and 12” for...

Can a door swing out over the top of interior stairs without a landing?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC R311.7.6) require a landing at the top and bottom of stairs. The landing should be equal to the width of the stairs and also extend in the direction...

A neighbor told me that the house I want to buy once had a bad mold problem. It was not in the seller's disclosure. What should I do?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

First of all, it’s important to consider that the “helpful” neighbor may also want to buy the house, or may have a relative that wants to buy it, and is trying to fend off other potential buyers. Tenants, who are likely to be kicked out of a house after...

What does the Aqua-Rex Water Conditioner do?

Thursday, February 28, 2019

According to the manufacturer, the Aqua-Rex (shown above) emits radio waves thru antenna wires that loop around an incoming water supply pipe (shown below), and the radio waves modify the iron (Fe) molecules in the water in such a way that they attract...

What are the HUD minimum requirements for foundation footings and piers under a mobile/manufactured home?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

There are two specs, one for piers up to 36” high using single-stacked blocks, and another for piers from 36” to 67” with double-stacked blocks, per HUD CFR 3285.306, and as shown below. Piers over 67” high must be designed by a licensed engineer or...

Can the attic access opening be outside the house according to the building code?

Monday, February 25, 2019

The International Building Code (IRC) and the 2017 Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC R807.1) both state that the attic access must be “readily accessible” and also provide specs for the size of a ceiling or wall access opening. But...

What is the maximum span allowed for ridge boards?

Monday, February 25, 2019

A ridge board provides a bearing surface where pairs of rafters meet at the peak of a roof, and also helps with alignment of the rafters as they are installed. But a ridge board does not carry any load, so there is no maximum span.

    A...

How many days is a pest/termite (WDO) inspection valid?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

It is usually only good for 30 days, but depends on the lending institution’s standards. Some will accept a WDO report done 60, or even 90, days before the closing. Go to our blog post How long before closing can you have a WDO (termite) inspection...

When did the building code first require safety/tempered glass for sliding glass doors, glass shower doors, and low windows in walking areas?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Quite a while ago: International Residential Code (IRC), since inception in 2000; Florida Building Code (FBC), since inception a couple of years later; Uniform Building Code (UBC) since 1967, and Southern Standard Building Code (SSBC), at about the...

How can I tell the age of a Westinghouse heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Westinghouse is manufactured by Nortek (formerly Nordyne) and uses their serial number system. The fourth and fifth characters in the serial number are the year of manufacture on most units we have found. So the serial number shown below on the data...

What is the minimum HUD-code standard for leveling a mobile/manufactured home?

Friday, February 22, 2019

There are two requirements for the accuracy of leveling at the installation of a mobile home, per HUD-Code 24 CFR 3285.6: 

No more than 1/4” difference in level between adjacent pier supports, both frame and perimeter.
Exterior doors...

How can I tell if a window or sliding glass door is double or triple pane (insulated) glass?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Hold a flashlight up to the glass and count the reflections. It’s that simple. Tilting the light at an angle to the glass can make it easier to see the one, two, or three reflection images.

    Unfortunately, multiple-pane insulated glass...

What is the maximum height you can mount an electric panel above the floor?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

There is no maximum height specified for the panel box, but the center of the highest breaker handle in its highest position cannot be more than 6-foot 7-inches above the floor. See our blog post What is the maximum allowed height of a circuit breaker...

What is the maximum allowed height of a circuit breaker (OCPD) above the floor?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The center of the breaker handle in its highest position cannot be more than 6-foot 7-inches above the floor, per the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code [FBC E3705.7(6)], International Residential Code (IRC), and the National Electrical...

Does the Nest Protect system meet current building code standards for a combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm system?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The second generation of Nest Protect® appears to meet the standards of the Residential Edition of The Florida Building Code (FBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC), based on their compliance with required NFPA 72, UL 217, and UL 2034. The...

What is the minimum SEER that HUD requires for an air conditioner or heat pump for a mobile/manufactured home?

Monday, February 18, 2019

HUD defers to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Conservation Code for the minimum SEER rating at 24 CFR3280.714(a)(1)(i). The current minimum Energy Code SEER, from now until January 1, 2023, is 14 for package unit heat pumps and air conditioners,...

What is minimum requirement for the insulation of a mobile/manufactured home according to the HUD-code?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The HUD-code for mobile homes is primarily a “performance" code, rather than a “prescriptive" code, meaning pretty much what it sounds like: instead of specifying what to install and how to install it, the code sets performance standards that give the...

What is the code requirement for receptacle outlets in a foyer?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Foyers that are not part of a hallway and are greater than 60 square feet should have a receptacle outlet on each wall space that is 3 feet or more in width, according to the National Electrical Code [NEC 201.52(I)]. Doorways, door-side windows that...

Can a receptacle outlet be mounted face-up (horizontally) on a countertop?

Friday, February 15, 2019

No, you can’t mount a regular receptacle outlet flat on a countertop like the one shown above, per National Electrical Code [NEC 406.5 (G)], which states "Receptacle Orientation - Receptacles shall not be installed in a face-up position in or on countertop...

What is the code requirement for receptacle outlets in a closet?

Friday, February 15, 2019

Closets are not included in the list of rooms that are required to have receptacle outlets in the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC E3901.2).

    An identical list of rooms...

What is the unusual garage door opener mounted on the wall above the door and marked "Wayne Dalton"?

Monday, February 11, 2019

We saw one of these for the first time the other day, and decided to ask our garage door guru Eddie Hoeft, of Lester’s Garage Doors, about it. “It's called an “I-Drive” opener and I thought it was a great idea when it first came out about fifteen years...

Can I run an electric power cord or extension cord through the wall?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Yes, we know that there are lots of nifty articles on the web about how to make an unobtrusive wall opening and fish an electric cord through the wall. But you probably already suspect that it is unsafe, and you’re right.

Here’s what it says...

How many outdoor receptacle outlets are required for a mobile/manufactured home?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Only a minimum of one exterior receptacle outlet is required for a mobile/manufactured home, per HUD-Code 24 CFR 3280.806 (d)(8). Site-built and modular homes, on the other hand, need at least two outdoor receptacle outlets—one in front, and one in...

Is aluminum wiring allowed in a mobile/manufactured home?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Aluminum wiring is not allowed for the branch circuits, although we often see it used for the service cables to the distribution panel in the home. “Aluminum conductors, aluminum alloy conductors, and aluminum core conductors such as copper clad aluminum...

Are arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers required in mobile/manufactured homes?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

They are not required but, if installed, must meet the standards for AFCI breakers of National Electrical Code, 2005 edition, per HUD 3280.801(b). Also, see our blog post What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI)...

What are the electrical code standards for a mobile/manufactured home?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Manufactured homes must comply with Subpart I of 24 CFR Part 3280 (HUD-code) and Part II of Article 550 of the National Electrical Code (NEC), which has specific standards for manufactured homes, with following qualifiers: 

HUD follows the...

What is the minimum size of an exterior door to a mobile/manufactured home per HUD-Code?

Friday, February 8, 2019

The minimum swinging exterior door size is 28” wide by 74” high (2’-4” x 6’-2”), per HUD 24 CFR 3280.105, and an interpretive bulletin issued by HUD in 1976 explains that verifying the required dimension can be done by measuring the door itself. However,...

What is the minimum size electric service to a mobile/manufactured home?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Minimum electric service rating is 100-amps, per National Electric Code [NEC 550.32(C)], although we only see a service that small in older homes. Most newer models are 150 or 200-amps. Also, see our blog post How can I find out the size of the electric...

How do you flash skylight, chimney, and pipe vent roof penetrations on a metal roof?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The principle behind flashing on any sloped roof, and especially a metal one, is downlapping. The bottom edge of one piece of roofing overlays the upper edge of the piece below it, which overlays the upper edge of the piece below that, and so forth.

Does an attached garage that is only used for storage or as a workshop, and not for parking a car, still have to comply with building code requirements for a garage?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The building code requirements for a garage, and an attached garage in particular, have evolved over the years based on the risk of fire from the flammable fuel in a car’s gas tank, and the possibility of a fire in an attached garage quickly spreading...

How can formaldehyde gas in a house be a problem?

Friday, February 1, 2019

A big part of that distinctive “new house” smell that hits you when you walk into a newly constructed home, or recently remodeled one with fresh carpet and paint, is formaldehyde gas. It is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that is in a category of chemicals...

What is the HUD-code requirement for the manufacturer's serial number of a mobile home?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The serial number, also called the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN Number, must be stamped into the front cross-beam of the undercarriage of the mobile home, in letters a minimum of 3/8-inches high. Here’s the full text of the requirement, per...

What are the HUD-code requirements for a mobile home data plate?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

HUD requires that each manufactured home have a data plate permanently affixed inside the home, near the main electric panel or other accessible location, and able to be cleaned without damaging the information. It lists key data about the manufacture...

What is the HUD-code requirement for whole-house ventilation in a mobile home?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

HUD requires that a manufactured home have a whole-house ventilation system with a minimum capacity of 0.035 cubic feet per minute per square foot of floor area. So 1200 square foot home would require 0.035 x 1200 = 42 cfm fan capacity. But the code...

What is the HUD-code requirement for lighting in a mobile home?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The HUD minimum is that each habitable room of a manufactured home must have a window or door with a glazed area equal to 8% of floor area. Kitchens, bathrooms, toilet compartments, laundry areas, and utility rooms may have light fixtures instead of...

What is a HUD Certification Label for a mobile home?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

It is the official name that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses for what most people call the “HUD tag” or “red tag,” a 2-inch by 4-inch metal plate stamped with an identifying number that is riveted to the long side of each...

Can the condensate from an air conditioning evaporator coil at an air handler in an attic drain into a vent pipe?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

There are two reasons why the condensate drain from an air handler in the attic should not termate into a vent pipe nearby:

It’s not allowed by the building code (Residential Edition of Florida Building code P3101.3 and similar in International...

What is a "host beam" at a mobile/manufactured home?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Mobile homes are not ordinarily designed to be able to support an addition bearing on their walls. Most manufacturers do not allow it—except when the manufacturer builds a “host beam” into an area of exterior wall for support of a future site-built...

Why is there an air conditioning vent (register) outside on the ceiling of the porch?

Monday, January 28, 2019

It is most likely a fresh air intake for your heating and air conditioning system. Modern homes are so well sealed that some HVAC designers specify a return air duct at an exterior soffit or porch ceiling that allows a small amount of outside air to...

How do I set a humidistat in Florida?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The humidistat is essentially a gatekeeper installed ahead of the thermostat, which will only allow the thermostat to work when the humidity exceeds the desired percentage—and the usual setting is around 55%. If the humidity exceeds the humidistat setting,...

What is the maximum gap allowed by NEC around a flush-mounted receptacle outlet box and adjacent drywall?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The maximum allowable gap, per National Electrical Code (NEC), is 1/8-inch. See our blog post Why is an opening in the wall around the side of an electrical receptacle outlet a safety defect? for complete details.

• • • • • • • • • • • •...

What's the box that's marked "Power Save" or "Power-Saver" next to the electric panel do?

Friday, January 25, 2019

There are multiple products with similar souding names that claim to produce power savings, and the subsequent reduction in your electric bill, by using capacitors to alter the power factor of the electricity being consumed in your home. "Power factor...

What is a Durozone dial-type switch used for?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

It is an electric remote control switch to manually adjust a damper (as opposed to automatic control by a sensor) in the duct of the HVAC system that controls the amount of air flow in a duct. The switch is usually mounted near the thermostat, and may...

How can I tell the age of First Co. Aquatherm or U.S. A/C Products Combo Heater Air Handler from the serial number?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The first letter of the serial number denotes the year of manufacture, based on the listing below. The serial number may be noted on two lines, as below, or one line.

A = 1994    B = 1995     C = 1996     D = 1997     E = 1997

F...

Can the disconnect box be mounted directly on a heat pump or air conditioning condenser?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The disconnect is required to be within sight and readily accessible, according to the National Electrical Code (NEC 440.14). It can be mounted directly on the equipment, but cannot obscure the nameplate or be located on a panel designed for service...

How does the number of people living in a house affect its durability and life expectancy?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

We can only answer this question based on anecdotal evidence from our years of inspecting nearly 8,000 houses and mobile homes, because we found no professional research with specific numbers. Here’s what we know:

  Increased occupancy reduces...

What are the code requirements for installing manufactured stone on the exterior of the wood stud wall of a house?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It is called “adhered masonry veneer” at Section 1405.10 of the Florida Building Code (FBC), and the International Building Code (IBC) is similar. The water-resistive barrier and lath are the same as for stucco. But here are the specific differences...

What is concrete spalling?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Spalling is the deterioration of a concrete surface over time, with crack lines forming first, then chunks of concrete falling out as the problem advances. It is caused by moisture penetrating the layer of concrete covering the reinforcing steel in...

How can I tell the age of a Seisco water heater from the serial number?

Friday, January 18, 2019

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture, and the 3rd and 4th numbers are the week. So this water heater was produced in January of 2015.

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About Us

Friday, January 18, 2019

Richard McGarry has been a Florida-certified general contractor (#CGC-001310) since 1972, building both commercial and residential structures, and is a Florida-certified home inspector (#HI-15). He also takes annual continuing education courses offered...

Are mobile homes well built?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

All the explanations about HUD standards, storm-resistant construction, and modern manufacturing techniques are just so much “blah-blah-blah-blah-blah” until you visit a factory, watch them being built, and decide for yourself. Not all manufacturers...

When was it first required that 240-volt receptacles for a clothes dryer and range be four slot (equipment ground connection)?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The requirement for 4-slot receptacle outlets and 4-prong cord plugs began with the 1999 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), primarily affecting residential electric ranges and dryers. An older 3-slot receptacle can continue to be used when...

What is a "Florida override" of HUD mobile/manufactured home installation standards?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

it is an installation standard set by the State of Florida that exceeds the HUD standards for manufactured home installation, and is enforced only in Florida. To read more about it, see our blog post Why does Florida have mobile/manufactured home installation...

Are sinkholes happening more often?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The number of sinkholes reported in Florida has steadily increased over the last 20 years, primarily due to these side effects of a growing population and land development:

Increased withdrawal of ground water
Surface water diversion...

How do I find the main water shut off valve for my house?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

"Stuff happens,” as the saying goes, and it usually happens at the worst possible time. Trying to hunt for the main shut-off valve for the first time, while water is gushing across the floor from a broken pipe at one a.m. in the morning, can be a humiliating...

Does a modular home have a HUD tag?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

No, a modular home will not have that familiar red HUD tag on the exterior wall. Modular homes are not built under HUD supervision like a manufactured/mobile home. They are constructed to meet the local building code for their location, the same as...

Do mobile homes last?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Mobile homes are built in a factory, with climate control and a slow-motion assembly line system. This enables a manufacturer to maintain more consistent quality than most site-built homes, that are subject to the inclement weather and can’t take advantage...

How many people live in mobile/manufactured homes in America?

Monday, December 31, 2018

Approximately 22 million people live in mobile/manufactured homes in the U.S. and new mobile homes are 10% of the housing starts nowadays, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute. 

   The most recent data shows a total of 8,500,432...

Is it normal for a new shingle roof to lose granules?

Monday, December 31, 2018

You can expect some granules to appear around the discharge of gutter downspouts, or along the along the drip edge line on the ground where there are no gutters, after the first couple of rains when your roof is new. But it should be just a sprinkling,...

What is the age limit for moving a mobile home?

Monday, December 31, 2018

Some counties have a specfic age limit, ranging upward from as low as 5 years, but most don't have a maximum age. Instead, they require that the home pass an inspection for structural integrity and safety. The application for the inspection has a fee,...

Why do termite inspectors tap the wood siding and baseboard wood in a home?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Subterranean termites can be hard to detect, even when a house has a significant infestation. They become dehydrated quickly by exposure to air, so they crawl up into a house protected inside tiny tubes the workers construct from dirt, feces, and their...

Can old electrical wiring increase my electric bill?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Copper wire, with the insulation intact, can last 100 years and longer if left undisturbed and in a dry location. The age of the wiring itself does not usually cause problems, but the things that have happened to it since the home was built can make...

Is tempered/safety glass required by the building code for windows and doors?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Only glass panes that are defined by the code to be in a “hazardous location” require safety glazing, of which tempered glass is one type. See our blog post Where is safety/tempered glass required for the windows and doors of a house? to learn about...

Is a refrigerator required to have its own dedicated circuit?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Yes, but there is an exception allowed. The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires a dedicated circuit  for any major electrical appliances in a home, such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers. The NEC calls it an “individual branch circuit,”...

Why is an undersized wire between a circuit breaker and a whole-house surge protector device acceptable?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The wires connected to each breaker in an electric panel should be the right size, and specifically not too small, for the rating of the breaker. Undersize wiring may overheat when too much current is flowing through it and start a fire before the mismatched...

What do I need to know about buying a whole house surge protector?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

They are called either a “Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor (TVSS)” or "Surge Protective Device (SPD)” in technical bulletins, and here’s the important features to look for when shopping for a whole house surge protector:

UL 1449 Listed...

What is the minimum size of a mobile/manufactured home per HUD standards?

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A manufactured home must be a minimum of 400 square feet to meet the standards set by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), which has had jurisdiction over the construction of mobile homes since July 15, 1976. Other minimum HUD standards...

Can I replace a single element water heater with a double element one?

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

We rarely see single-element residential water heaters anymore, except in older mobile homes and Park Model RVs. Their only advantage is that they are usually less expensive to buy. Dual-element water heaters are rated as more energy efficient and have...

What is the minimum overhead electric service drop height/clearance to a house?

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The National Electrical Code (NEC) has multiple different minimum standards, all of which depend on what is under the wires as they run from the utility pole to the service mast on your house. Thanks to Code Check, we have an excellent graphic to make...

What is a "heat loop" at a water heater?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

It is an old-fashioned, but effective, technique of adding a loop in the pipe above the hot and cold water connections to a water heater to avoid the flow of hot water out of the tank by convection. Hot water rises and cold water falls, as everybody...

How do I tell the age of a Jacuzzi water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Jacuzzi tankless on-demand water heaters are manufactured by Rinnai and use their serial number system, with first letter of the serial number being the year and the second letter the month of manufacture.

A = 2009 or January,  B = 2010 or...

Can a water heater Temperature/Pressure Relief (TPR or T&P) valve to mounted to discharge upward?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The discharge piping for a water heater TPR valve is required to drain completely by gravity and not be trapped—which means not leaving any pockets of water in the pipe after it drains. An upward-pointing TPR valve, like in the photo above, automatically...

What are the special code requirements for installation of a gas water heater in a garage?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

There are two additional installation requirements beyond the standard ones when a gas water heater is installed in a garage, and both are intended for minimize the possibility of starting a fire in the garage by either igniting fumes from a gasoline...

PARK MODEL HOMES

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about PARK MODEL HOMES:

• Are park trailers and park model recreational vehicles required to have a data plate? 

• What is the difference between a park trailer and a park model recreational...

MODULAR HOMES

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about MODULAR HOMES:

• What are the tie down requirements for a modular home? 

• What's the difference between a manufactured home and a mobile home?

• Does a modular home...

WIND MITIGATION FORM

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about the WIND MITIGATION FORM:

• Is a wind mitigation inspection report (OIR-B1-1802) required for homeowners insurance in Florida? 

• Which building permit date is used for the Building...

What is the difference between a handrail and a guardrail?

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Although the two words are sometimes used interchangeably, they are actually different things in the building code. A guardrail is the top part of a total assembly referred to as a “guard,” which is located near the open sides of elevated walking surfaces...

What are the common problems to look for when buying one side (half) of a duplex?

Friday, December 14, 2018

Half of a duplex is essentially a single family residence attached to another single family residence, with a common wall between them. Duh…that’s obvious, but let’s go with it. So the separating wall is the component that makes a duplex different from...

Can the a garage door header bracket and torsion springs be mounted through drywall?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Because of the tremendous torque and tension on them, manufacturer’s specify that connections must be made directly to a 40 mm wood plate (2x lumber, approx 1.5” thick), or using concrete anchors to a masonry wall. Mounting through drywall is not approved....

What is the code requirement for the height and width of an access opening to the crawl space under a house?

Monday, December 10, 2018

The crawl space must have an entry opening that is a minimum of 16-inches high by 24-inches wide if it is at an exterior wall, according to the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC R408.4)....

Are light switches required to be grounded?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Light switches have been required to be grounded since the 1999 edition of the National Electrical Code. So any light switch installed since your local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction or, in other words, the building department) adopted the 1999...

Is pipe insulation flammable?

Friday, December 7, 2018

The round foam pipe insulation with a slit on one side that is used most often in residential applications is polyethylene or neoprene, both of which are classified as combustible. Some formulations of the material may self-extinguish after a flame...

What year did HUD first begin enforcing the HUD-code standards for mobile/manufactured homes?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The “National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act” was passed by Congress and enacted into law by president Gerald Ford on August 22nd, 1974. But it did not take effect and begin enforcement until June 15th, 1976. All manufactured homes...

What problems are caused by connecting copper pipe/tubing directly to galvanized steel pipe?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

When two different metals that are distant from each other on the Galvanic Scale are connected directly to each other, an electrolytic reaction called galvanic corrosion consumes the metal that is lower on the scale. Since steel is below copper on the...

Should I use a dielectric union or brass nipple to connect copper tubing and galvanized steel pipe?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The building code allows you to use either one. Here’s what it says in the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC).

     Brass is a copper/zinc alloy, so a brass nipple qualifies...

What are the code requirements for fire separation between an attached garage and the house?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

There are requirements for the walls and ceiling, door to the house, HVAC ducts, and any other garage/house penetrations. Let’s take them one at a time:

WALLS AND CEILING - The wall between an attached garage and the house living area is...

Are there sinkholes in The Villages, Florida?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Like most of Florida, sinkholes open up in The Villages due to the permeable karst underlayment that runs throughout the state. Unusually heavy rains can trigger them and four appeared after a particularly rainy week in May of this year. Two homes had...

Can I vent a water heater horizontally?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Most tank-type gas water heaters are “atmospheric vent” type, and they are required to vent vertically and above the roof of a home. Two specialized types of water heaters, direct vent and mechanical vent (also called power vent), are exempted from...

What is the code requirement for fire separation in an attic between sides of a duplex?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A 1-hour fire rating for the wall separating the units, which is usually 5/8” Type-X drywall, is required. It must extend from foundation to underside of roof sheathing. Here’s how it is specified in the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code...

When was a fire separation in the attic first required between sides of a duplex?

Monday, November 26, 2018

We know that the requirement was in the original 2002 edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC), and the three allowed exceptions have been added in the years since then. The earliest code we still have kicking around in the office is a 2006 International...

Can you connect CPVC pipe directly to a gas water heater?

Monday, November 19, 2018

CPVC water pipe is considered a combustible material—even though it will not burn unless subjected to an external flame source and, once the flame source is removed, it will not continue to burn. So, because it is rated as combustible, any CPVC pipe...

My bathroom is stinky and humid even though it has an exhaust fan. What can I do to fix it?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Each time the bathroom is used, it generates humidity and odors that need to be exhausted outside to maintain a healthy indoor environment. There are a couple of possible reasons your fan is not doing its job well enough:

   The fan is not...

How can I check to see if my bathroom exhaust fan is actually working and moving air?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

If you can hear the fan when you turn it on, but it seems like it’s always stinky and humid in there, here’s a simple test you can do to check and make sure it’s working. Close the bathroom door, tear off a strip of toilet paper about a foot long and...

When is safety glass required for windows at stairs and stair landings?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

When window glazing (glass) at stairs is located in what the building code defines as a “hazardous location,” safety glass is required. It becomes hazardous according to the code when the bottom of the glass is less than 36-inches above the walking...

How can I determine the age of a Tiny Titan water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture, so the serial number shown below indicates the water heater was manufactured in 2015. Tiny Titan is manufactured in China, and distributed in the U.S. by American Water Heater.

How can I determine the age of an Ariston water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Ariston has a rather long and complicated serial number system. Here’s how it works:

The first seven digits are the product number.
The next two digits are the product manufacture code.
The next two digits are the year of manufacture.

What is the First Hour Rating (FHR) of a water heater?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy requires that the FHR of storage water heaters be printed on the yellow EnergyGuide on the side of the water heater. The First Hour Rating is defined as “the number of gallons of hot water the heater can supply per hour,...

What is the probability of having high radon in a Florida house?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Florida Department of Health keeps statistics on the test results of all licensed radon professionals in the Florida, and you can find out the percentage of tested homes in your zip code that exceeded the 4.0 p/ci maxium set by the EPA at: http://dchpexternalapps.doh.state.fl.us/radon/default.aspx

Should I buy a house with galvanized steel water pipes?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Because galvanized steel water pipe has not been used in new residential construction since around the late 1960s, all the pipe that is still in place is past the end of its expected lifespan. Invisible internal corrosion of the pipe means leakage is...

Does the buyer or seller of a home pay for radon mitigation when the radon test comes back high?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Like everything else in a real estate transaction, it’s a negotiation. Usually the seller pays for a mitigation system when a radon test comes back over 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/l), but sometimes the cost is split between buyer and seller,...

Is it alright to disconnect the washing machine drain from the septic tank and divert it to the ground in the yard?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The washing machine drain water is classified as “gray water” because it likely to be contaminated with fecal matter from underwear or diapers that contains ecoli bacteria, so it must be drained to a septic or sewer system. Gray water is allowed, however,...

Is wood rot found on a home inspection considered serious?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Most houses than a few years old and have wood siding and/or trim will have a few spots of wood rot, most likely at the bottom of corner and door drim, and possibly on wood window sills. Small areas of wood rot can be repaired with a wood filler or...

What is the difference between gray water and black water in the plumbing code?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Here’s how the difference is defined by the Florida Building Code (FBC):

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  To learn more about septic tank systems, see these other blog posts:

•...

A light is required over a stair after how many steps/risers?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

All stairs are required to have lighting, but interior stairs with six or more risers require a switch for lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs. The riser is the vertical part of the steps and the horizontal part is called a tread. The type...

Do Park Model trailers have a HUD plate?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Most park models are built under the American National Standards Institute’s ANSI Code for Park Models, except that the 400 square foot maximum is allowed to be raised to 500 square feet, in Florida only, when the unit is built to HUD standards for...

When did the code first require electric receptacle outlets to be polarized?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Although polarized outlets and plugs were introduced in the 1880s, they were not popular at first and did not become standard until the mid-20th century. The earliest National Electric Code (NEC) that we can find that references polarized receptacles...

Can electric receptacle outlets be spaced closer than the 6-foot code requirement?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The maximum spacing between receptacles, according to the National Electric Code, has been set at 12-feet since 1956—with no point along a wall being more than 6-feet from a receptacle. This is where the often-quoted “6-foot code requirement” comes...

Why is there a water hose connected to the back of the clothes dryer?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

One of the features that some of the high-end clothes dryers offer is a “steam cycle” for wrinkle removal. A cold water supply hose connection at the back of the machine serves this cycle.  It’s a little hard to see in the photo below, but the hose...

Can a house have more than one septic tank?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Yes, and the reason a second tank and drainfield is necessary usually has nothing to do with providing additional gallons of tank capacity. Plumbing drains work by gravity, and the drain pipes need a minimum of 1/8” to 1/4” per foot of downward slope...

Where are sinkholes most likely to occur in Florida?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The “Top 10” Florida counties with the highest incidence of sinkhole activity are Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough, Marion, Pinellas, Citrus, Polk, Orange, Seminole, and Lake counties. Hernado, Pasco, and Hillborough alone account for two-thirds of all...

How does a repaired sink hole under a house affect its market value?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Houses that have had sinkhole repairs sell for around 10% less than a comparable house that has not had previous sinkhole problems. A 2016 joint study by risk management professors at Florida State University and University of South Florida pegged it...

What is the required water testing for an FHA, VA, or USDA mortgage application?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The water must be evaluated by a certified testing lab, and the sample taken according to a procedure specified by the lab. It is often referred to as a “VA package” and includes checking levels of lead and nitrates, confirming that ph is within an...

How do I get insurance if my home can't pass a 4-point inspection?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Most insurance companies require a satisfactory 4-point inspection report be submitted to them before they will insure an older home—typically more than 40 to 50 years old or so, depending on the company. The purpose of the inspection is to determine...

Is it illegal to remove the HUD tag (verification label) from a mobile/manufactured home?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

HUD has extensive specifications for the design and installation of the required “red tag” on each unit of a mobile home, which you can read about at our blog post What does the HUD tag look like and where do I find it on a mobile home?.  But there...

Do I need to have two exterior exit doors in my house?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

An exterior exit door is called an “egress” door in the building codes. Just one is the minimum requirement, and it must provide direct access from the living areas of the home to the exterior without traveling through a garage. See our blog post How...

Can PVC pipe be used for indoor plumbing?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

It depends on what you want to use it for. PVC pipe is approved by the building codes for drain, waste, and vent (DWV) pipes, but not for water distribution inside the walls of a house. To learn why, see our blog post Why can't PVC be used for water...

What are the most common problems with older houses?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

We love old houses and have owned homes from the 1930s, 1950s, and 1970s, along with remodeling homes of every vintage for clients, including 100-plus year old wood Victorians. Gainesville has homes dating back to the beginning of the twentieth-century...

Is it common for an insurance company to require an inspection?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

It has definitely become more common over the past decade for insurance companies to require an inspection report before insuring an older house.

A 4-point inspection is the most often requested. The four points are: roof, electrical, plumbing,...

Why did I get no discounts or only a small discount from my wind mitigation inspection?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

It’s frustrating for a homeowner to pay good money for a wind mitigation inspection and then be told by their insurance agent that their report will not get them any discounts—or just a few dollars a year. In some cases, you have already received discounts...

Does a home inspector check the plumbing under the floor slab?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

There are two types of plumbing pipes under the floor slab in a modern “concrete slab on grade” home: pressurized water supply pipe and unpressurized drain pipe. Any leakage of the water supply piping, even a small fracture, causes visible problems...

What is the wind mitigation inspection for homeowner's insurance?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

What your insurance agent calls a “wind letter” or “wind mitigation form” is officially known as the “Uniform Mitigation Verification Inspection Form.” The purpose of the form is to verify hurricane-resistant structural features of your home so that...

What different types of specialized home inspections can I get?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Home inspectors are generalists. We are familiar all of the components of a home and recognize the symptoms of their defects, but sometimes further evaluation by a specialist is necessary—or just a sensible part of due diligence in evaluating your potential...

What happens at a home inspection?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The first thing to know is that a home does not “pass” or “fail” an inspection. The inspector simply observes the condition of the structure and its components, along with any safety issues, then makes repair recommendations—in a report based on a non-invasive,...

What should I wear to a home inspection?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

There is no dress code for a home inspection, but the clothing you wear should definitely be comfortable and allow for the possibility of a few smudges and stains if you want to tag along with the inspector. Practical shoes are always a good idea. 

What is a roof certification letter/report?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

It’s a written assessment of the age and condition of a roof prepared by a licensed construction professional, typically a roofing contractor; but it can be done by a licensed building contractor or home inspector. The report is also sometimes called...

What are the best tips for buying a used mobile home?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Here’s our “Top 5” tips for evaluating the condition of a manufactured home you are considering buying:

Determine the level of construction quality. The better quality homes will have a longer life with fewer maintenance problems over the...

Does a modular home have a serial number?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A modular home in Florida will have a DCA (Department of Community Affairs) sticker somewhat similar to the data plate of a manufactured home, usually located in the master bedroom closet, along with a second, smaller sticker that has the Florida DCA...

What home improvements require a permit?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Years ago, when each Florida county or city adopted their own building codes, there was often a minimum of around $500, below which a permit was not required for non-structural home improvements. Those days are long gone. Here’s what the 2014 Florida...

What is the average lifespan of a water heater?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Most tank-type water heaters last 10 to 20 years, with the average age of replacement between 12 and 14 years. But there are four variables that affect the lifespan:

Quality of manufacture - As your would expect, the premium-priced water...

What are the common problems of different types of house foundations?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

There is no single, perfect foundation type. Each is chosen by the architect or builder based on a particular site’s topography and soil, along with kind of structure the foundation will support. Also, every region has a customary local foundation type....

Can I determine the year of a manufactured/mobile home from the HUD tag (red tag)?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

You cannot find out the age of a mobile home directly the HUD tag. It is not encoded in the tag number, but can be found on the data plate inside the home. If the data plate has been painted over or is missing, there’s still hope. You can submit the...

How can I reduce the risk of an expensive surprise when buying a house sight unseen?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

When time or distance constraints make it necessary to buy a house before actually setting foot inside, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of unexpected problems when you move in. Here’s our “Top 5” list and, since we are home inspectors,...

What tips do first-time homebuyers need to know to get a better home inspection?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Here’s our countdown of the “TOP 10” tips that will get you a better home inspection for your money if you are a first-time homebuyer:

Go to the websites, check their credentials, and talk to a several home inspectors before hiring one. Want...

How can I tell if the exterior walls of a house are concrete block (CBS) or wood or brick?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This question seems like a no-brainer. Concrete block houses have a stucco finish, wood frame houses are faced with siding, and brick houses are (duh!) brick. But you could be wrong if you use this common-sense approach, because concrete block houses...

What is the longest stair run allowed?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The maximum length of a run of stairs is not measured in the number of risers, treads, or length of the stringer. It is defined by the International Residential Code (IRC) and Florida Building Code (FBC) as a maximum of 12 feet of vertical height between...

What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

There’s plenty of ways to injure yourself in an attic, as we have learned first-hand from thousands of attic inspections that left a few scars as reminders. But it breaks down into three basic categories of dangers: 1) getting into and out of the attic,...

What is the building code for manufactured/mobile homes in Florida?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The first step, construction of the home in a factory is required to comply with standards established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is why mobile homes are often referred to as HUD-code homes. Although the HUD...

Which water pipes are an insurance problem and possibly uninsurable?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Galvanized steel water pipe was used extensively in residential construction from the 1950s through the late 1970s. The other problematic pipe material is polybutylene, often referred to by the acronym “PB,” and it was installed from the mid-1970s to...

Should I buy a house with a radon mitigation system?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

There are several sensible questions our customers ask when considering the purchase a home with a radon mitigation system. Here’s the top four:

 Is a mitigation system actually effective at keeping the radon level low? - Yes, it is. Radon...

Should I buy a house with a high radon level?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

If the test result comes back at 4.0 pCi/l (pico-curies per liter of air) or above, which is the where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends mitigation to lower it to a safer level, the home is sill buyable and you have several ways to...

How can I tell the age of a Coleman or Coleman-Evcon air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

There are four variations of the Coleman and Coleman-Evcon serial numbers. The first one, which was used through 1991, has the year encoded as the second two digits of the serial number. The example shown below was manufactured in 1979.

What does a home inspection include?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

There are two categories of things that are included in a basic home inspection: 1) the minimum list of items that must be inspected according to the requirements of the local governmental jurisdiction and/or the standards of the professional association...

How can I determine if a house is structurally sound?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The only way to determine that a house is in good condition structurally, without opening up walls or other invasive testing, is to look for signs of structural distress. No visual evidence of structural problems means the house is likely stable and...

What is the tempered label on glass at windows and sliding glass doors called?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

It is officially called a “glass monogram,” but usually referred to in the construction trades as the “bug.” You can learn more about how to recognize tempered glass, decoding the bug, and where tempered glass is required at our blog posts How can I...

What is a WDO inspection?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

WDO is a acronym that stands for Wood Destroying Organism. Although a WDO inspection is commonly called a “termite inspection,” it also covers several types of wood-destroying beetles and wood-decay fungi (wood rot)—all of which can damage the wood...

Who can do a home inspection in the State of Florida?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Anyone offering home inspection services after July, 2011, must be licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) before they can obtain a local business license. To read more about it, go to our blog post How can...

How can I tell how old my water heater is?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The year a water heater was manufactured is encoded in the serial number at the data plate on the side or top of the water heater. It is typically the first two or second two numbers in the sequence, or may be a letter—which requires referring to letter-code...

Does a home inspector expect the electrical system of an older house to meet current code standards?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The standard code used for residential electrical systems is the National Electrical Code (NEC). It is recognized in all 50 states, and updated every three years, Everything from minor tweaks to big changes occur each cycle. For a house built in 1974,...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s home?

Monday, October 22, 2018

While the burnt-orange shag carpeting and avocado refrigerator will be gone by the time you come upon a 1970s house for sale, several defining characteristics of the era will likely still be in place: diagonal siding, dramatic rooflines, an oversize...

Do similar problems occur in houses in the same neighborhood?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Yes, we often find the same defects recurring in a neighborhood. It doesn’t mean they are areas to avoid, just that specific conditions exist in each part of town that naturally lead to certain defects. Here’s a few examples:

 A neighborhood...

Can I do my own home inspection?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Yes, you can be your own home inspector—but we don’t think its such a good idea. There are numerous books on how to save money and do your own home inspection. They typically recommend that you get a few basic tools that are available at a hardware...

Will the home inspector help a homebuyer get the seller to reduce the price of the house?

Monday, October 22, 2018

The short answer is: no. Our job is providing an accurate, unbiased report on the condition of a home you are about to buy; and we  explain our observations, along with our opinions on conditions and defects, to you in a written report format with photos.

Why does my homeowner's insurance want a roof inspection?

Monday, October 22, 2018

The number one defense against damage to a home’s interior is a water-tight roof. As a home approaches 20-years of age or older, an insurer wants to know that a home it is issuing a policy on is protected by a roof that’s in good condition and has no...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

Monday, October 22, 2018

The 1960s was a decade of political and cultural upheaval: the civil rights movement, flower-power hippies, Vietnam War, and the Beatles are all symbols of the era. It is also often called the “Swinging Sixties” because of the dramatic shift in norms...

How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?

Monday, October 22, 2018

“Do I need a new roof?” is the first question we get asked after coming down the ladder from a roof inspection. The evidence usually is not as dramatic as in the photo above, and even a gaping hole in the ceiling with a patch of sky showing may still...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

Monday, October 22, 2018

A 1980s home looks neither new or old—but in-between. Also, unlike mid-century and ‘70s houses, there is no clearly defined retro-style for the eighties popularized in movies and design magazines yet. Although it was a prosperous time overall, a million...

Where are the places to look to find structural cracks in a house?

Monday, October 22, 2018

It may seem silly that it requires training to look for cracks in a house. A crack, especially one big enough to indicate structural problems, should jump out at you without any special education. But it doesn’t usually work that way.

...

Does a ridge board carry any load?

Monday, October 22, 2018

The only purpose of a ridge board is to provide a stable bearing surface for the tops of paired rafters to meet. It does not carry any load. The ridge board is usually just a nominal one inch or two inches wide (1x or 2x lumber) and must be tall enough...

How can I replace a missing HUD tag (HUD Certification Label) for a mobile/manufactured home?

Monday, October 22, 2018

If the red metal tag is missing, that can be a big problem. The HUD tag is often required for an appraisal, mortgage application, and sometimes even a building permit. Replacement metal HUD tags are not available, but you can get a “HUD Label Verification...

What is the average lifespan of the parts of a house?

Monday, October 22, 2018

According to the Social Security Administration, the typical 65-year old American can expect to live to the age of 83. Some will depart this world sooner, and about 10% will live to 95. Old air conditioners, along with the other replaceable components...

Why does my homeowner's insurance want a four point inspection?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Insurance company statistics show that homes more than 30-years old have more claims than newer homes. Plus the claims are often due to a deteriorated condition of older building components. So, as a loss-prevention measure, many insurance companies...

What causes cracks in the walls and floors of a house?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

There are two unavoidable consequences of the passage of time for any type of construction: 1) buildings move, and 2) materials deteriorate. It’s the architectural version of death and taxes, and the process begins even while a home is under construction....

How do I find a good contractor?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

When you are ready to do repairs or improvements to your home, the best way to find a good contractor is to ask your friends and neighbors who they have used that they were satisfied with. We can also make recommendations for you, and so can your realtor....

What does polybutylene pipe look like? Why is it a problem?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Polybutylene piping (also called “PB” in the trades) was used in residential water supply piping in Florida from 1978 to 1995. It was billed as “the pipe of the future” at first, and its low cost and easy installation made it an alternative to traditional...

What does a home inspector check in a mobile home inspection?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

More than 21 million people (nearly 8 percent of the population) live in manufactured/mobile homes in the United States. In fact, one out every six new housing starts in the country are manufactured homes. Every week we inspect several mobile homes,...

I saw a little termite damage on the baseboard. Should I be concerned?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Yes, definitely. The photo above is from an actual recent termite inspection in Gainesville. By the time that a termite colony’s galleries (the tunnels they eat through the wood) become visible as linear cratering of the surface of the wood, they can...

Why is old galvanized steel water pipe a problem for homebuyers?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Galvanized steel pipe was often used for water supply piping in homes until the early 1970s. It is rarely used today because corrosion problems limit it’s useful lifespan to between 40 and 60 years. Rust-corrosion accumulates inside the pipe and causes...

Do stains on the ceiling mean the roof is leaking?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Maybe...or maybe not. The first thing we try to determine with a ceiling stain is whether it was caused by a roof leak or some other problem, such as a leaking air conditioning condensate-water drain line in the attic. If we conclude that a roof leak...

How can I prep my house to get a better home inspection?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Everyone who has ever sold their home has one focus after they have a signed sales contract: get to the closing table quickly and pack up and move. The home inspection is usually just a speed bump on the road to closing with, at most, a couple of repairs...

Do home inspectors have to be licensed and insured?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

In Florida and almost all other states, yes they do. Copies of both our home inspection and building contractor licenses are displayed at the bottom of this blog. But, until recently, being a “licensed” home inspector was not an indication of professional...

I'm buying a concrete block house. Do I still need a termite inspection?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Termites cause an estimated $11-billion in damage to wood structures every year in the United States, which exceeds even the annual damage caused by house fires. They are prevalent here in the southeastern U.S., where warm temperatures and high humidity...

Should a homebuyer be there for the inspection?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

If you can, it’s well worth the time, because we can talk with you about both the problems and the good points of the home you’re buying. In the final report, we only review the defects. And, while we also include plenty of photos in your report, there’s...

What should I do if mold is found during a home inspection?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

If we discover what appears to be a mold-like substance during the course of the home inspection, we will refer you to a mold inspector for further evaluation. Mold inspection is now a separate, licensed occupation in the State of Florida. We will note...

PLUMBING PIPES

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about PLUMBING PIPES:

• Is black iron gas pipe code approved for exterior (outdoor) installation?

• How can I protect my pipes to keep them from bursting during a hard winter freeze...

AIR CONDITIONER OR FURNACE AGE AND SIZE

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about determining AIR CONDITIONER OR FURNACE AGE:

• How can I tell the age of an Affinity air conditioner or furnace from the serial number? 

• How many tons is my Affinity air conditioner...

SEPTIC TANK SYSTEMS

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about SEPTIC TANK SYSTEMS:

• What are the building code requirements for gray water reuse in Florida?

• What can I add to my septic tank to help it work better? 

• Why do...

WATER HEATER AGE

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about DETERMINE WATER HEATER AGE:

• How can I tell the age of an A.O. Smith water heater from the serial number? 

• How do I tell the age of an American ProLine water heater from the...

ELECTRIC RECEPTACLE OUTLETS

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about ELECTRIC RECEPTACLE OUTLETS:

 • What is the difference between what trips a GFCI (ground fault) receptacle and a circuit breaker?

• What is the code requirement for GFCI protection...

ELECTRIC PANELS

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about ELECTRIC PANELS:

• Why is there a 3-phase breaker in a single phase electric panel with only two bus bars?

• What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?  

AFCI, CAFCI, DFCI and GFCI

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about AFCI, CAFCI, DFCI, and GFCI RECEPTACLES AND CIRCUIT BREAKERS:

• Does a septic pump or sump pump require a GFCI-receptacle?

 • What is the difference between what trips a GFCI...

Is a brick house sturdier than a wood frame house?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Not really. Most brick homes in the Gainesville area are actually wood-frame homes with a brick veneer applied over the sheathed wood walls, as an alternative and upscale wall surfacing. Here’s an example below of a new home with brick facing in the...

I think I have termites. What does a termite look like?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Termites look like tiny, but plump, white ants. “Teeny tiny white gummi-bears” is another description, and they are about 3/8” long. Considering how much damage they do, termites are much smaller than you would expect. Two termites will fit side-by-side...

Does the seller have to fix all defects found by a home inspector to sell the house?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Not exactly. The real estate contract between you and the seller defines what, if any, defects that we uncover will need to be repaired. We use the word “defect” to describe anything we find that is not acceptable in the home, and that includes a wide...

What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof?

Friday, October 19, 2018

The two main things we look for are: 1) evidence of roof leaks, and 2) age and condition of the roof material. Age and condition are tied together as one item because there’s always a correlation between the two. In the absence of any other information,...

What is the difference between "composite" and regular wood siding?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Wood siding is made of solid wood, which is milled to the specifications of the  particular siding type. Composite wood siding (also sometimes referred to as fiber-board siding) is made of wood fiber pieces that are bonded with a resin-like material...

How can I improve the energy efficiency of my older home?

Friday, October 19, 2018

The number-one, do-it-yourself energy reduction device is cheap and easy to install, but definitely not glamorous. It’s caulking. Plugging those little cracks and crevices around doors, windows, and other wall penetrations to seal air leaks provides...

SINKHOLES

Friday, October 19, 2018

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about SINKHOLES:

• Why do so many more sinkholes open up after a hurricane?

• What is a chimney sinkhole?

• What are the warning signs of a sinkhole? 

• What...

What is my chance of buying a Florida home over a sinkhole?

Friday, October 19, 2018

While sinkholes are not the big problem in Alachua County that they are in Florida counties farther south—such as in Pinellas, Hernando, and Hillsborough—they do  happen occasionally throughout most of Florida. The limestone underlayment of much of...

Where is the septic tank? Are you going to inspect it?

Friday, October 19, 2018

“The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank” was the title of a book of humorous stories about suburban life in the 1970s by Erma Bombeck, a popular newspaper columnist of that era. What Erma didn’t realize is that, if there’s a bright green patch...

How does a home inspector find roof leaks? What about wet spots in the walls?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Back when we were building contractors in Key West, the #1 roofing contractor in town was a guy named Michael Chodzin. He had been doing roofing since the 1970s, and the slogan on the side of his trucks said “Chodzin Roofing - We Are Smarter Than Water.”...

What is a P-trap?

Friday, October 19, 2018

A P-trap is that U-shaped loop under each of the sinks in your home, between the vertical pipe from the bottom of the sink and the horizontal pipe that runs to the wall. It is only appears P-shaped when you turn your head sideways and is an often misunderstood...

The electric panel is marked "Trilliant" and it's all grey plastic. Is it alright?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Yes, the panel is fine. Trilliant was a trendy-looking new electric panel design that Square D, one of the largest producers of panels and breakers, introduced in the early 1990s. The equipment looks like what Apple Computer might create if they went...

What is the right size electric panel for a house?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Although most people ask about the size of their electric panel, what electricians evaluate is the size of the “service.” The service is defined in amps (short for amperes), which is a measure of electrical current-carrying capacity; in other words,...

What are the most common problems/defects found with electric receptacle outlets during a home inspection?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

We call them electrical receptacles. Some people call them wall plugs or outlets; and, yes, home inspectors do check them. Not every single one because receptacles are often behind furniture or stored items that are not readily movable; but we try to...

Does a home inspector make sure the house is up to code?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

No, not exactly. Building code compliance is a “moving target.” It changes every few years and, until the Florida Building Code was mandated to be the standard throughout the state in 2002, each county or city decided which national or regional building...

What is "knob and tube" wiring?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

One answer to this question is: knob and tube wiring is an insurance no-no. Most insurance companies will not write a new homeowner’s policy for a house with knob and tube wiring. 

   It’s also sometimes called K&T, and part of the challenge...

Why do cracks sometimes suddenly appear in walls and floors?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

While the crack you just noticed may have been opening slowly over a period of months or years, and it became big enough to catch your eye only recently, it is also possible that it appeared in a single day.

    The key word for understanding...

Why is an older water heater an insurance problem?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Here’s some statistics from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, an insurance industry research organization:

Most water heater failures occur when the water heater has reached its life expectancy and the tank begins to rust...

What are those powdery white areas on my brick walls?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The discoloration is likely “efflorescence,” which is an accumulation of minerals and salts on the surface of the brick due to repeated bouts of excess water in the material. When the brick is saturated with water, the minerals that naturally occur...

What does a home inspector check on an electric garage door?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The garage door is the largest and heaviest moving object in most homes, plus some of its components are under high tension. Improper installation, damage, or poor maintenance creates a dangerous condition that can cause serious injury or even death....

There's an old fuel oil tank underground in the yard. Is it a problem?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

If you see two pipes sticking out of the ground in the yard that look like the picture above, then an abandoned fuel oil tank lurks in the ground below. There may still be a functional fuel oil fired furnace in the Gainesville area, but we haven’t seen...

Why did my generator hookup get tagged as defective by the home inspector?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

There are several different ways to properly connect a generator to a house electrical panel for use during a power outage. All of them have one thing in common: they are configured in way that makes it impossible to have both the generator connection...

Why do some breakers in my electric panel have a "TEST" button on them?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Every breaker in an electric panel provides “over-current protection,” meaning that if too much electricity is flowing through the circuit it protects--which may cause the wiring to overheat and start a fire--the breaker trips, shutting off the electricity....

I'm buying a brand-new home from the builder. Do I still need an inspection for a new home?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

We think so. New homes have different defects than older homes. We evaluate a home that was built years ago primarily for any deterioration of its components, like the roof or air conditioning system. The focus of the inspection is to make sure that...

Does a home inspector also check for termites?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Some home inspectors, like us, are also licensed termite inspectors, and can do both the home and termite inspection. But most are not. They cannot do a termite inspection for both legal and practical reasons. A home inspector evaluates the condition...

The inspector says that a missing kickout flashing caused water damage inside the wall. What's "kickout flashing"?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

It’s a type of flashing that diverts rainwater away from wall surfaces that abut a roof. See the photo above for an example. Sometimes called “diverter flashing,” it provides excellent protection against the penetration of water into the building envelope...

Should I use bleach to clean up mold?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The use of a chemical biocide (chlorine bleach, for example) that kills organisms such as mold is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. Also, bleach does not fully penetrate porous surfaces.There may be instances, however, when...

How can I find out if all the home improvements had a building permit?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Requests to provide building permits for improvements to a home that is for sale were not standard just a few years ago. But in some areas of South Florida they are required for a real estate closing, and it’s likely that trend will eventually move...

What does the "R-Value" of home insulation mean?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

R-value is a measure of “thermal resistance.” Another way to define it would be that R-value is a measure of the ability of the insulation to resist the movement of heat across it from one side to the other. Since heating and cooling account for 50%...

Should I buy a house with structural problems?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

You can determine whether a house with structural problems is a good buy by getting answers to the following three questions: 

What is the cause of the problem?

Your home inspector can talk to you about the extent of the problem...

What causes a banging sound in the wall when I shut off the bathroom faucet?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What you experienced is called “water hammer.” When water flow is halted quickly, the water pressure has lots of energy that must be dissipated. If the water can bounce against an air cushion, pipes won’t pound. Most homes have anti-hammer devices installed...

What do those numbers on the manufacturer's stickers in new windows mean?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

They are energy performance ratings. Here’s a typical sticker you would see on a new window, with the  five performance rating numbers. Letters in blue have been added so that you can reference each rating in sequence in the explanation that follows....

What questions should you always ask before hiring a home inspector?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has prepared a list on their website, entitled “Ten Important Questions To Ask Your Home Inspector.” We have reproduced it below, along with our answers (in italics) to each of the suggested...

Should I hire an engineer to inspect the house?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

It may be a good idea to hire an engineer to look at a house you are considering buying if the home inspector turns up any issues that require an engineer’s expertise to evaluate; however, we don’t recommend that you begin your home evaluation with...

Should I buy a house that is a former marijuana grow house?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Several times a year we inspect a home in the Gainesville area that was used to cultivate marijuana. The home is usually in a rural location, but not always; and is a foreclosure, because after the growers are arrested and stopped making the mortgage...

What do home inspectors check when inspecting stairs?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We primarily do a safety inspection, looking for defects that may cause a person going up or down the stairs to trip and fall, because the statistics on stair-related injuries are so grim. About 1,400 people die in the U.S. each year as a result of...

I'm buying a '50s modern house with a "gravel" roof. Is the roof going to be a problem?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Not necessarily. Tar-and-gravel roofs, also called built-up roofs, are well suited for waterproofing the flat and low-slope roof styles that were popular during the 1950s and ‘60s. They are not as common today for two reasons: 1) low-slope roofs are...

Why is an anti-tip device now required behind the range?

Monday, October 15, 2018

It’s  also called a “range safety clip” and is primarily for child safety. The device  secures a free-standing range to the back wall or floor to avoid the possibility that a youngster sitting or standing on an open oven door will cause it to tip over...

What's the valve with the flip-up handle on the water heater for?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

It’s called at TPR valve, which is an acronym for Temperature and Pressure Release, and also sometimes referred to as a T&P valve. TPRs are designed to automatically release water in the event that pressure or temperature in the water tank exceeds safe...

Why is the inspector calling out rotten wood on my termite inspection?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The termite inspection is officially known as a “WDO” in the real estate industry, an acronym for Wood Destroying Organism. The WDO inspection process is strictly regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the inspection...

How can I prevent mold in my Florida winter home when I'm gone for the summer?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Florida’s muggy summers can cause problems in a closed-up house. Plus, oceanfront or lakefront homes, or homes in low-lying areas with heavy tree cover, can be especially humid. When the indoor relative humidity (RH) exceeds about 65 percent, mold can...

What is an "S-Trap" under my sink? Why is it a problem?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

An S-trap looks like the photo above: kind of a sideways S-loop configuration before it heads directly downward. This type of drain has been banned by the building codes for decades, because it is considered an “unvented” drain. Venting is necessary...

What is the white plastic tank inside my toilet tank?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

We came across one of these the other day and are still not entirely sure what it is. It had “Fluidmaster” stamped into the top of the plastic tank at the red arrow, so we contacted their customer service department with this photo via online chat to...

Should I buy a fixer-upper?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What adventurous young--or not so young--couple hasn’t dreamed of buying a battered fixer-upper, then using their hard work and imagination to turn it into a showplace? It really is possible to buy a downtrodden house at a great price, invest your time...

What do I need to know about buying a foreclosure?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Most foreclosure properties are sold strictly “as-is.” No repairs will be made by the lending institution holding the title. While some foreclosures are in tip-top shape, others have been unoccupied for several years and look like the photo above. Vandals...

How can I tell if there is asbestos in a house?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

When Fred Astaire sang the line “heaven rest us, I’m not asbestos” in the 1935 hit song I Won’t Dance, asbestos was a well-known wonder material on the rise in American industry. The fibrous mineral is heat and fire resistant, unaffected by most chemicals,...

There's old insulation in the attic labeled "rock wool." Is it really dangerous asbestos?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

No, rock wool is not another name for asbestos. It is a type of thermal insulation made from rocks and minerals, unrelated to asbestos. The material is also called mineral wool or slag wool, and some versions of it are actually a recycling of industrial...

How does a home inspector check the ceiling fans?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Yes, ceiling fans get a look-over and brief test as we work our way through the house. Here’s a few of the defects that we look for: 

A non-functional fan--when none of the wall switches or the pull-chains on the fan will activate it. Sometimes,...

The coils on my heat pump are coated with ice on cold mornings. What's wrong with it?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Probably nothing, as long as the ice is just a thin layer. In order to understand why the ice is forming, let’s start with the basic principle of how a heat pump works. It does not create heat; instead, it collects and moves it. In the summer, a heat...

How can I tell the difference between a manufactured home and a modular home?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A manufactured home is better known by names like mobile home, double-wide, or trailer. It is built in a factory and trucked to a homesite, just like a modular home, but that’s where the similarity ends. 

CONSTRUCTION/DELIVERY

A...

A "THIS HOME HAS BEEN WINTERIZED" notice posted in a foreclosure home means what?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Originally a winterization notice meant that an empty, unheated home’s plumbing was prepared to endure a hard winter freeze without having any burst pipes or water damage. The winterization always involves draining the water from the pressurized supply...

How can I tell if the concrete block walls of my house have vertical steel and concrete reinforcement?

Friday, October 12, 2018

If the recent devastation of older concrete block homes by Hurricane Michael has you worried about whether your block home has the vertical concrete and steel reinforcement necesary to resist a major hurricane, there are two ways to find out:

Why did so many concrete block homes collapse in Mexico Beach during Hurricane Michael?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Concrete block houses are supposed to be hurricane-proof. And yet a large swath of them were totally destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida a few days ago. “These were all block and stucco houses—gone,” the former mayor of the town,...

Why does the water have a rotten-egg smell in some empty houses?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The smell happens when you turn on a hot water faucet after the hot water heater has been sitting unused for a while. It doesn’t matter whether it has been on or off. Anaerobic bacteria, which  exist in many water systems, cause the stinky smell when...

What’s the difference between a gable and hip roof for my insurance?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A gable roof slopes inward on two sides, and the other two sides have a wall with a triangle shape at the top; whereas, a hip roof slopes in on all four sides. The photo above shows intersecting gable and hip roofs: the hip roof is in the back on the...

How can I tell if a wall is load-bearing? Which walls can I take out?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It’s always possible to remove a wall, or part of a wall, in a home. It’s just that some walls are more expensive—sometimes way more expensive—to remove than others. And the expensive walls to remove are the load-bearing ones, because some sort of structural...

Should I put some more insulation in the attic?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

This is one of our most often-asked questions during a home inspection. Several considerations go into making that decision:

What insulation does the house have in the walls and, if it’s an older house with elevated floors, under the floor?...

What is an EPDM roof?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

EPDM is an acronym for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer. It is an elastic synthetic rubber, manufactured in large sheets, for installation on flat and low-slope roofs. EPDM is typically sold in rolls 10-feet wide and up to 100-feet long, that are laid...

How far apart should the electrical receptacles be spaced?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The maximum spacing between receptacles, according to the National Electric Code, has been set at 12-feet since 1956--with no point along a wall being more than 6-feet from a receptacle. The logic behind that number is that an appliance with a standard...

What is radon? Should I be concerned about it?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Yes. Concerned, but not alarmed. Although the state of Florida has a lower than average incidence of elevated radon, an area of Alachua County, called the “Hawthorn Formation” by geologists, has a higher likelihood of elevated radon in the home. The...

Will the radon test come back sky-high in a house that has been empty and closed-up for months?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Extemely high test results, like the one shown above, do happen occasionally; but they are not the result of a closed-up house.The test results will not vary significantly from what they would be in an occupied home. There are several reasons for this:

What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Architectural shingles are a premium grade of asphalt shingle roofing. The shingles are thicker and have a distinctive, textured appearance. They are sometimes called dimensional or laminate shingles, and were introduced in the 1970s in an effort by...

Does wood chip mulch in the yard attract termites?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Contrary to what you may have heard, the answer is an emphatic “NO!” Termites are regularly found under wood mulch around Gainesville area homes, especially in yards with dense landscaping and a sprinkler system that keeps the soil moist. But there...

What does the "AFUE" rating of a furnace mean?

Monday, October 8, 2018

It’s a techno-acronym for a measurement of furnace efficiency that is monitored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and stands for Annual Furnace Utilization Efficiency. The rating is a percentage and, for example, a furnace with an 82% AFUE converts...

The fireplace doesn't have a chimney. Is that alright?

Monday, October 8, 2018

We are seeing more ventless fireplaces, also known as “duct-free” fireplaces, in Gainesville homes over the last few years. They have several advantages over a regular fireplace:

Nearly 100% energy efficiency. A traditional, ducted fireplace,...

What can I do right now to prepare my house for a hurricane?

Monday, October 8, 2018

There are a number of structural improvements you can make to your home, especially if it’s an older one, to dramatically improve it’s resistance to hurricane damage. The work takes time and money--typically thousands of dollars and the hiring of a...

What does the MERV rating number on an air conditioner filter mean?

Monday, October 8, 2018

It’s an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and the standard was created by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) in 1987. MERV rates the size of particles that the filter will trap, with higher...

How is a factory-built fireplace different from a regular fireplace?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Gathering around the fireplace on a cold evening is one of the most satisfying rituals of winter in Gainesville. Our customers are evenly divided between the more primal wood-burners--who meticulously follow the steps of the “right” way to build a fire...

Why is there a lead paint disclaimer in my real estate sales contract?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

It’s a formal notification that’s required to be part of the sales contract for homes built before 1978, advising you that there may be lead paint present, which is a known health hazard. 

   According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety...

What is a "cross connection" in a home's plumbing system?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

It’s a very bad thing. In fact, the evolution of modern plumbing is largely the history of developing safeguards to avoid it. A cross connection is a point in a faulty plumbing system where polluted water (such as sewage) can flow into the drinking...

What does a radon mitigation contractor do to lower the radon level in a home?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Radon mitigation is defined in Wikipedia as: “Any process that is used to reduce radon concentrations in the breathing zones of occupied buildings.” To understand how a radon mitigation contractor reduces radon, let’s start by reviewing what causes...

What are the common problems when a homeowner converts a garage to conditioned living space, such as a family room?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A well-executed garage conversion is the classic home improvement that can add more value to a home than it’s cost. The best ones integrate seamlessly with the original floor plan, with the loss of protected parking and storage more than compensated...

What can I do to prevent mold problems in my home?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Moisture control and ventilation are the two best mold-prevention strategies. First, stop moisture from getting in and, second, exhaust any moist air that is created in the home to the exterior right away. Most people think of water intrusion only in...

Why are shower water valves all single-handle nowadays?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Showers with separate hot and cold valves were nixed by the building codes about twenty years ago, in favor of a single-handle anti-scald valve that prevents the water temperature from rising above 120º F. The statistics on scalding injuries in the...

How do you check a toilet?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Both the tank and bowl of the toilet must be filled with water before a toilet can be tested. When the lever on the tank is pressed, it flips up a rubber stopper called a flapper, which releases the water in the tank to flow into the bowl. The water...

My water bill went way up last month. How do I look for a leak?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Your sky-high water bill could be due to either a temporary jump in water usage or a leak. To find out if it’s a leak, first shut off all your water-using fixtures in the house, including the automatic ice maker.  Take the cover off your water meter...

Is it cost-effective to replace an older, low-efficiency air conditioner system with a new high-SEER system?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Generally, from an accountant’s total-cost standpoint and allowing for the time-value of the delayed expenditure for a new system, it’s less expensive to nurse your existing a/c unit until it dies. But one other factor may tip the scales toward earlier...

What does the “SEER” rating of an air conditioner mean?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

It’s an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and expressed as a number that typically ranges between 10 and 20; which is a ratio of the cooling output during a typical cooling-season divided by the electric energy input during the same period....

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Here’s our “Top Ten” list of recurring defects we find in older mobile homes. It may seem more like a rant than a list, but most of these problems are avoidable—and we see them again and again. 

Damaged “belly wrap.” The underside of a mobile...

How can I tell if a mobile home is well constructed?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The quality--and longevity--of a mobile has a lot to do with it’s price when originally constructed. A budget model will only meet minimum HUD standards and, generally, a more expensive model will have better quality materials and construction details....

I heard that aluminum wiring is bad. How do you check for aluminum wiring?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Multi-strand aluminum wiring  is approved by building codes and regularly used for service cables (the main electric wires coming into the home’s panel) and for wiring to major appliances, such as air conditioning condensers, in the Gainesville area....

What can I do to prevent dampness and mold in my mobile home?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Moisture problems aren’t just from water seeping down from roof leaks. Moist air rises up from the ground and comes in through any openings in the floor, walls, and ceiling of a mobile home. When the wet air hits a cool surface, it condenses into water...

What walls can I remove in a mobile home?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The outside walls and the walls below the marriage-line of the two sections of a double-wide home are load bearing. Other interior walls can be removed  without creating a structural problem. A single-wide has no load bearing interior walls. However,...

What is the plastic sheet called that covers the underside of a mobile home?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

It’s called a belly wrap, belly board, or bottom board, depending on who you ask. We most often hear it called belly wrap, but HUD and manufactured home industry associations refer to it as a bottom board. It’s a moisture barrier and also helps to prevent...

The stairs feel too steep. What's the building code?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The International Building Code places restrictions on the risers (vertical piece) and treads (horizontal piece) of stairs: risers can not be more than 7-3/4” high and treads not less than 10” wide. But if a tread is less than 11” wide, then a nosing...

What is a roof cricket?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

In building construction, a cricket is a peaked roof shape constructed behind a chimney on a sloped roof, and perpendicular to the main roof, to avoid water and debris accumulation at the back of the chimney. It is also sometimes called a saddle. In...

Why can't I put a chandelier over the spa tub in my master bath? It would look wonderful!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A light fixture (luminaire) within the actual outside dimensions of a bathtub or shower and up to 8-feet above the tub rim or shower threshold is required to be rated by the manufacturer (and certified by a recognized testing lab like UL) for use in...

How much does it cost to move a mobile home?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The word “mobile” is probably not accurate when describing a home manufactured to HUD standards. “Expensive to move” would be better. Unlike a travel trailer, that can be hitched up to a tow vehicle and on the road in less than an hour, moving a mobile...

How much does a mobile home inspection cost?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Most home inspectors charge the same fee for inspecting a mobile home as a site-built home. Pricing varies from $250 to $400, with urban and resort areas often at the upper end of the range. 

   While price is a primary consideration, it’s...

How can I tell if the electric receptacle outlets are grounded?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Just because a receptacle has a ground slot (the round hole under narrow hot and neutral slots) does not mean it is grounded. Prior to the NEC code requirement in 1960 that all residential receptacles be grounded, receptacle outlets were 2-slot and...

Does an addition to a mobile home have to comply with the HUD Code?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The HUD construction standards apply to the manufacture of a mobile home up until it has been inspected and approved by an In-Plant Primary Inspection Agency (IPIA), receives a HUD sticker, and heads down the highway for delivery. After that, there...

How can I check to be sure a home inspector is licensed?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

All home inspectors in Florida have been required to be licensed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) since 2011. To confirm that an inspector you are considering hiring is licensed, go to the Florida DPBR website at www.myfloridalicense.com...

Why is there such a big gap under the doors inside a mobile home?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The gap, which is usually about one inch, is there for air circulation in older mobile homes. The open slot under the door is especially important when the air conditioning system is operating. The HVAC system in a manufactured home cannot effectively...

What's the difference between a manufactured home and a mobile home?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

There is none. Manufactured home is just a new name for the same product: a transportable home made in a factory on a steel frame with wheels, to a national building code standard established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),...

What is the stuff you paint an old mobile home metal roof with to extend its life?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Elastomeric roof coating is produced by numerous paint and roofing products manufacturers, but the best-known brand is KOOL SEAL. It’s the consistency of Elmer’s Glue in the pail and is applied with a thick-nap roller and throw-away brush. When dry,...

Does mobile home skirting have to be ventilated?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Yes, it does. Ventilation of the crawl space is just as important for a manufactured home as a site-built home, and lack of ventilation causes similar problems to both: wood rot of the floor framing, warped floor boards, and mold growth.

...

Does my home inspection report give me everything I need to evaluate the price of a house?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Your home inspector provides key information about the condition of a home’s components and necessary repairs. But it’s only part of what you need to consider. To get a handle on the actual, total cost of the house, you have to do some additional research...

What is a Park Model mobile home?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A park model is a smaller, single-wide mobile home that is classified as a recreational vehicle. Park models are designed for placement in RV parks, campgrounds, or locations where smaller trailers are allowed; but, like an RV, cannot be a living unit...

How do I recognize serious structural problems in a house?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The signs of structural distress in a house are often subtle and easy to miss unless you know what to look for. But once they are shown to you by your home inspector, you’ll wonder how in the world you overlooked them. Here’s some suggestions for giving...

Can I install a mobile home myself?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Section 320.8249, Florida Statutes (F.S.), requires that anyone who will install a mobile/manufactured home must be licensed by the Manufactured Housing Section, Division of Motorist Services, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Two main...

Why is there no bathroom electric receptacle in this old house?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Many pre-1960 homes had a bathroom light fixture over the sink mirror that also had an ungrounded (2-slot) electric receptacle on the base—like the one shown above. These combination fixtures are no longer manufactured. Sixty years ago, when the old...

Should I buy a house with strong cigarette odor?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A home with residual tobacco smoke odor is harder to sell and fetches a lower price compared to an odor-free home. If you are considering buying a home formerly occupied by a heavy smoker, be sure that the discount from market value you are getting...

What's causing those holes in the fascia?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The carpenter bee (xylocopa) bores into wood each spring to create a brooding nest, creating a perfectly round hole about about 5/8” in diameter. While some carpenter bees select the underside of tree branches to nest, others bore into the exterior...

What should I bring to the home inspection?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

We suggest bringing along some, or all, of the following items to help you get the most out of your next home inspection:

Tape Measure - For checking dimensions for furniture layouts, window treatments, and appliance locations. 
Camera...

Where do I find the VIN/serial number on a very old (pre-1976) mobile home?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

If your mobile home was built after June 15, 1976, see our other blog  post Where do I find the vehicle identification number (VIN) on a mobile home? That’s the date the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took over responsibility...

Where do I find the vehicle identification number (VIN) on a mobile home?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

There’s two ways to find the VIN number, the easy way and the hard way. Let’s start with the easy one: 

1) There is a paper sticker on the interior of all mobile homes manufactured since June of 1976, called the “data plate,” which lists...

Why are there two VIN numbers on some mobile home titles?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

There are several different situations that would keep a circuit from being reactivated after a breaker has been tripped. Here’s the three most common ones:

When a breaker has been tripped—whether it’s because of pushing the test button on...

My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

There are several different situations that would keep a circuit from being reactivated after a breaker has been tripped. Here’s the three most common ones:

When a breaker has been tripped—whether it’s because of pushing the test button on...

Should I wrap the water heater with an insulation blanket?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

To determine if adding an insulation blanket would improve the energy efficiency of your water heater, touch it. Water heaters manufactured within the last decade or so have more insulation than older models, so the shell will not feel noticeably warmer...

How do the new tamper-resistant electric outlets work?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Both of the slots in a tamper-resistant receptacle have spring-loaded shutters over them that are interconnected. Unless pressure is applied to both slots at the same time they will not open; so a child trying to stick a small object a slot will not...

Can I paint the vinyl covered wallboard in a mobile home?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Yes, you can. But, to be sure that you successfully hide the printed pattern on the wallboard and that the paint adheres securely to the wall, it’s important to take the time to clean and prime the surface first before applying your paint color.

How fireproof is a mobile home?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The fire-resistance of a mobile home depends primarily on when it was built. Homes manufactured in Florida before the national HUD standards went into effect in July of 1976 met the MHMA (Mobile Home Manufacturers Association) and State of Florida standards....

What is a D-sticker mobile home?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A “D-sticker” manufactured home is a Wind Zone III home on steroids. It has been further strengthened to to meet the wind resistance requirement of ASCE 7-88,  Exposure D—which is a standard referenced in the HUD Code. It is specifically for homes to...

Where are Wind Zone 2 and Wind Zone 3 for mobile homes located?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The three wind zones for mobile homes are noted with Roman Numerals: I, II, and III. Most of the U.S. is in Zone I, with coastal and southern, hurricane-prone areas upgraded to Zones II (rated to withstand 100-mph winds) and III (up to 110-mph winds)....

What are the tie-down requirements for a mobile home?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Because manufactured/mobile homes are lighter than site-built homes and most are also elevated above the ground on piers, they need special protection when tropical storm or hurricane winds are blowing. Florida also experiences occasional violent summer...

Why is my roof leaking?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

There are multiple possible causes of a roof leak, and a roof is more likely to leak as it gets older. But roofs don’t leak simply because they are old. There has to be an event, threshold of deterioration after which the material begins to fail, or...

What questions should I ask the home inspector during the inspection?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

To get the best home inspection possible, you have to ask questions. Lots of questions—both to let the inspector know what your specific concerns are and to clarify anything you don’t understand the first time around.

Here’s our top five...

When should I replace my smoke alarms?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Smoke alarms that are ten years old or more should be replaced. Although the alarm may sound when tested with the test button, that only indicates that the electronics are operating properly, but the internal smoke-sensor device arrives at the end of...

Why does my well pump turn on and off every time I use water?

Monday, October 1, 2018

When a well pump turns on every time a water-using fixture’s valve is opened, or if it turns on and off rapidly while the fixture is in use, that’s short cycling. It is typically caused by a water pressure tank that has lost it built-in cushion of pressurized...

Is this old home a Sears Catalog house?

Monday, October 1, 2018

About 75,000 Sears and Roebuck kit homes were built around the U.S. between 1908 and the closing of Sears home construction division in 1940. Most were constructed before the onslaught of the Great Depression in 1930. Because they were delivered by...

Is there an adapter that can be placed on a two-slot receptacle to make it safe?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Two-slot receptacles, which do not have the additional round slot for a ground connection, were standard until grounding for electric receptacles was mandated by the National Electric Code in the early 1960s. They are still considered acceptable for...

What tools do you use for a home inspection?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Okay, we admit it: we are tool geeks, and bring more equipment to a home inspection than is usually necessary. Having just the right inspection gadget helps unravel those tough-to-figure-out defect mysteries that vex us at least once a week.

Why do the floors slope in this old house?

Monday, October 1, 2018

There are three reasons for sloping (out-of-level) floors in an old house. One of them was built-in when the house was constructed and the other two have occurred over the years.

   Let’s start with the built-in slope. It’s necessary to pitch...

How can I tell if my floors are sloping?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sometimes a floor feels like it’s sloping as you walk across it, but you’re just not sure. There are several ways to verify that a floor has settled out-of-level over time in either, or both, directions in a room:

The cheapest method is to...

What is the difference between the "ON" and "AUTO" settings on my thermostat?

Monday, October 1, 2018

These two settings control the blower in your heating/air conditioning system. When “ON” is selected the blower runs continuously, even when the system is not heating or cooling. With “AUTO” selected the blower runs only when the thermostat activates...

My air conditioner won't turn on. What's wrong?

Monday, October 1, 2018

When you a/c system won’t come on you could have a serious problem requiring service by an air conditioning technician, or it could be something simple that you can fix yourself. Here’s a list of things to check first before calling a service contractor: 

How can I know if my mobile home meets HUD code?

Monday, October 1, 2018

The “National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974” became federal law on June 15, 1976, and provided the framework of what we now know as the HUD Code, a national building code for manufactured homes. It was the first,...

Does my mobile home meet wind zone 2 standards?

Monday, October 1, 2018

The way to determine which wind zone standard your home was constructed to meet is to look at manufacturer’s data plate, a paper sticker that is typically located on the wall of the master bedroom closet, inside a cabinet door in the kitchen, or near...

What does "AUX HEAT" and "EM HEAT" on my thermostat mean?

Monday, October 1, 2018

AUX HEAT means auxiliary heat and EM HEAT is emergency heat; sometimes also abbreviated as EMERG HEAT, as in the older thermostat shown above. Both settings turn on an electric resistance heat strip in a heat pump air handler, which is similar to the...

My GFCI reset button is hard to push and won't reset. What's wrong?

Monday, October 1, 2018

The most likely reason is that the receptacle is incorrectly wired. During the 1980s thru the mid-1990s GFCI-receptacles were more expensive than they are today, and home builders relied on the principle that a GFCI-receptacle placed as the first one...

What does it mean when a gas appliance (water heater, furnace, or range) has been "red tagged"?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

When the gas service to a home has been turned off by the local utility at a departing homeowner’s request or because of an unpaid bill, reactivating is not as easy as getting the electricity back on. An appointment must be made and someone has to be...

Why does the electric company want my house inspected before turning the power back on?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Levy County is one of several counties around the state that requires that, if the electric service has been shut off for more than a year, an inspector from the local building department must visit the home to verify that the electrical system is compliant...

What's the differences between a trailer, a mobile home, a manufactured home, and a modular home?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The evolution of all these words began with the surge in popularity of automobile travel in America in the 1920s, which provided the impetus for the first towed camping vehicles. They were called trailers because they “trailed” behind vacationers’ motorcars....

Do I really need a termite-WDO inspection?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

There are two reasons to get a termite-WDO inspection when you are buying a house. Either you are concerned about the possibility of termites munching away inside the walls of your new home, or it’s a required part of your real estate transaction. 

What causes wood rot on a home?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wet wood is the first requirement for wood rot to begin. The moisture content of the wood has to exceed its Fiber Saturation Point (FSP), which is typically around 30% or more water content. Next, wood decay spores, which are constantly being blown...

How do I treat wood rot that's listed in my termite-WDO report?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wood rot is called out on your termite inspection report as “wood-decay fungi.” This fungi actually eats and digests wood. The wood has to be wet or at least moist to be attacked, and spores from the fungi are constantly floating around in outdoor air,...

How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

None. Roof trusses are an engineered assembly of pieces of lumber and metal connector plates, the sum of which is much stronger than the individual parts alone. The top sloped lumber piece on which the roof sheathing plywood gets nailed is called the...

What are the most common homeowner electrical wiring mistakes?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Do-it-yourself electrical work is always obvious to a home inspector, and not just because of code violations. An electrician does things in a neat, workmanlike manner that is immediately recognizable as professional. Unfortunately, sloppy amateur electrical...

What is causing a foggy, cloudy haze on windows and sliding glass doors?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

If you have window panes that are clouded over, it’s likely that they are double-pane (insulated) and have lost the inert gas sealed between the two panes of glass. Check to make sure that the hazy film is not on the outside by cleaning the glass first....

What are the pipes on my roof?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

All the plumbing fixtures in your home need air supplied to the drain pipes for the liquid to flow properly, and the pipes poking through the roof are there to provide it. Every home is required to have at least one plumbing vent above the roof, and...

How much does a home inspection cost?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The opening words on the home page of a typical home inspection website are usually “A house is the most expensive purchase most people make in their lifetime.” Then, after a few sentences about the importance of a good inspection, the sales pitch transitions...

How can I remove water under my mobile home?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

If you have puddles or muddy ground under your mobile home, the only way to remove the water is to eliminate the reason water is flowing under the home and then give the moisture time to dissipate. Wet soil under a home is usually the result of inadequate...

What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates a circuit breaker’s life expectancy at 30 to 40 years, and it is the same for GFCI, AFCI, and standard breakers. Because a breaker is a mechanical device, a humid outdoor location or the corrosive...

What is the right electric wire size for a circuit breaker in an electric panel?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The correct size for residential wiring depends on what the wires are serving and, in the case of major appliances such as an air conditioning condenser, what size circuit breaker the manufacturer specifies for it on the data plate on the side of the...

What do termites eat?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Most people know that termites can invade inside the walls of a home and munch away at the wood, causing major structural damage. But what they are really after is the cellulose component of the wood. Cellulose is a major part of the cell wall of plants...

Do you inspect for trip hazards around the home?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

We call out any abrupt change in the level of a walking surface of a half-inch or more. A typical trip hazard is a heaved section of a concrete walkway due to tree roots or settlement. Also, sometimes a weekend warrior’s installation of a tile floor...

Is a bare bulb light in a closet alright?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bare bulb light fixtures are called “lampholders” and two dangers lurk around these light fixtures in a clothes closet. The first is a fire risk from any flammable item that contacts the hot bulb. In the photo above, taken during a recent inspection,...

How can I upgrade a wind zone 1 mobile home to wind zone 2?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

You can’t. Although it might be theoretically possible to retrofit additional reinforcement in a manufactured home structure to meet the standard for resistance to windstorm damage of wind zone 2, or even wind zone 3, the means to get it certified to...

What are the common problems you find inspecting windows?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Here’s how we look at windows: we start while examining the exterior of the house, looking for missing or damaged trim, deteriorated caulking, clouding due to lost insulating gas in double-pane windows, and bent, damaged or missing screens. We also...

What is a clean WDO?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

“WDO” stands for Wood Destroying Organism and is an acronym for the what most people know as the “termite inspection” done before purchasing a house. But the inspector must look for multiple organisms that can destroy the wood in a home—which includes...

Can you put a zone 1 mobile home in Florida?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Unfortunately, no. All of Florida up to the Georgia line is designated for Wind Zone 2, except the southern quarter of the state, which is Wind Zone 3 as shown in the map below.

   You can, however, relocate a Florida mobile home rated for...

The coolant line to the outside unit of my air conditioner is frozen. What's wrong?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

There are a number of different defects that can cause the larger of the two refrigerant lines, called the “liquid line” or “suction line," to ice over like in the photo above. Here’s three of the most common causes:

Low refrigerant gas level...

Can I remodel an old mobile home without a building permit?

Friday, September 28, 2018

It depends on two things: 1) how extensive the remodeling is, and 2) what building department jurisdiction you are in. Although the original construction of a manufactured/mobile home is solely under the rules and supervision of HUD (U.S. Department...

How can I use safety checks to limit my tenant liability for a rental house?

Friday, September 28, 2018

We have developed the following safety checklist based on our experience as both home inspectors and rental property owners, trying to keep our investment house buyers, tenants—and us—out of harm’s way. If you own an investment house, your tenants expect...

How much can I cut out of a floor joist?

Friday, September 28, 2018

The rules are the same for both floor joists and roof rafters as far how much can be removed and still maintain the structural integrity of the wood member, They are divided into the categories of notching (cutting away an area of wood at the top or...

What is the average life expectancy of a whole-house standby emergency generator?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

We are going to divide our lifespan estimate into two categories: “rated hours of running time based on regular maintenance” and “years of sitting outside in the weather.” The generator engines of residential emergency generators that use propane or...

What does "serviceable" mean in a home inspection report?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Dictionary definitions of serviceable include “fulfilling its function adequately” and “functional and durable rather than attractive.” “Serviceable condition” is often used as a generalization in inspection reports to mean that the item appears to...

Are there water lines in my attic or under the floor slab?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

We call the pipes that deliver water under pressure to the plumbing fixtures in a home “water supply piping.” In the Gainesville area, homes built after approximately 1950 have both the water supply pipes and the drain pipes installed in the ground...

What is an air conditioner for a mobile home called?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Most mobile home air conditioners are different than the “split system” air conditioners installed in site-built homes. A split system is divided into two parts: an outdoor unit (the condenser) and an indoor unit (the air handler), with refrigerant...

Do termites eat concrete?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

There are plenty of amazing urban legends out there about termites. Let’s cover six of them:

1) When termites run out of wood, they start eating the concrete in your house. 

Nope. Termites have a unique digestive system that allows...

If we already looked at the house very carefully, do we still need a home inspection?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Yes, it’s a sensible investment even if everything appeared satisfactory on your walk-through. Here’s the percentages on the outcome of a home inspection, compared to what the buyers believed  about the condition of the property before the inspection:

What is a ground wire?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The electric cable that runs to the 120-volt outlets and other fixtures in your home has three wires inside the plastic sheathing: a hot wire (the “live” wire that brings the electricity in), a neutral wire (the one that routes the electricity back...

What is a double tap at a circuit breaker?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A double tap occurs when two wires are connected to a circuit breaker that is only designed to accept one wire. It’s considered a defect for most breakers because the two wires compressed under a one-wire connector may not be securely fastened. Some,...

How do you inspect a dryer vent?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dryer vents clogged with lint are the cause of an estimated 15,000 house fires each year. They are a significant fire safety issue that is sometimes overlooked by homeowners, so both the construction and cleaning of them are checked.

   There...

What is the best way to negotiate repairs after the home inspection?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

There’s a simple answer to this question: ask your Realtor. You may be represented  by your own “buyer’s agent” and not working directly with the seller’s realtor; but also many realtors act as a “transaction agent,” meaning that they do not represent...

What is a collar tie?

Monday, September 24, 2018

A collar tie is a horizontal piece of lumber connecting two rafters near the ridge of a roof. It is typically a 2x4 or larger, but can be a 1x4, and may be on one or both sides of the rafters. Collar ties are installed to resist the separation of the...

Should a home inspection scare you?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sometimes, yes. There are definitely homes that you should be scared of: ones with major structural problems, mold infestation, or that require multiple big-ticket repairs. But most of the time a home inspection gives you a laundry list of things that...

What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?

Monday, September 24, 2018

An appraiser evaluates the market value of a home, comparing it to similar recent sales nearby, and arriving at an opinion of the reasonable price of the home in the current market, while a home inspector analyzes the condition of the home, noting defects...

How do I get rid of the sewer gas smell in my house?

Monday, September 24, 2018

You know the smell: a combination of rotten egg, a little ammonia, and just plain nasty. Low levels of sewer gas are annoying, but higher concentrations can be dangerous. There are three ways that sewer gas gets into a home. A loss of a plumbing fixture’s...

Do I have to get a larger septic tank when I build a home addition?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

It depends on whether the addition includes a bedroom. The Florida Department of Health, which regulates septic systems, specifies the minimum septic tank and drainfield size for construction of a new home based on a combination of the number of bedrooms...

What is the "50 percent rule" for the compliance of existing buildings with flood provisions of the Florida Building Code?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The threshold after which an existing building must be brought up to current flood code standards when any additions or improvements are made, which is especially important to understand in hurricane-prone coastal areas, is “significant improvement.”...

What is the purpose of the Existing Building edition of the Florida Building Code?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The code was created to “provide flexibility to permit the use of alternative approaches to achieve compliance with minimum requirements to safeguard the public health, welfare, and safety” for work done on existing buildings. It recognizes that modifications...

Should I call a plumber or septic tank contractor when my septic tank backs up into the house?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

If the backup is actually caused by an overflowing septic tank, call a septic system contractor. But the problem may be a clog in the drain pipe running to the septic tank, in which case you need a plumber. To determine which it is, locate the cleanout...

How do I determine if a water heater is gas or electric?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Look at the top of a tank-type water heater. If there is a flue (round metal tubing) rising out of the center of the top of the water heater, then it is a gas water heater. Also, an older (pre-2002) gas water heater has an access panel to the burner...

How often should I pump out the septic tank?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The standard recommendation for cleaning a septic tank is every four to five years. But it varies depending on the size of the tank and the number people in the home. Because septic tanks and drainfields are sized according to the number of bedrooms...

What does an ultraviolet air treatment system do?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

It bathes the area around it with UV-light, killing any bacteria and virus, along with some mold reduction, on the surfaces it shines on and also in the air it shines through. The technical term for it is “ultraviolet germicidal irradiation,” and it...

Why is housewrap installed on exterior walls under the siding?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Siding applied over a wood stud frame house structure is water-resistant but not waterproof. It doesn’t matter whether its wood, vinyl, or fiber-cement siding, brick, or stone: water will occasionally get behind it. Also, exterior siding materials do...

Why are window security bars dangerous?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

“Burglar bars” are effective at keeping an intruder from climbing in through a window, but they also prevent anyone from getting out in a fire. A bedroom window is the alternate route out of a home that’s on fire when the hallway and living area exits...

Why is spray foam used for attic insulation?

Friday, September 21, 2018

We are seeing spray polyurethane foam (also referred to as “SPF”) used more often for attic insulation in the last few years, especially in homes built for high energy efficiency. Because the insulation is sprayed onto the underside of the roof sheathing,...

How dangerous is old electrical wiring?

Friday, September 21, 2018

“Is the old wiring going to burn down this house?” rates as the most often asked question when we inspect a home that’s 50-years old or more. Decrepit wiring with frayed insulation is visualized as the bugaboo hiding behind the walls, ready to start...

Should I disconnect the washing machine from the septic tank to reduce the load on the system?

Friday, September 21, 2018

It’s estimated that a washing machine contributes about 22% of the liquid input to your septic tank. But, while it would seem like a good idea to get rid of nearly a quarter of the flow into the tank to help the system last longer, sending your washing...

Are brick houses hotter in Florida?

Friday, September 21, 2018

There is not a simple answer to this question because there are several different construction details that can affect the level of insulation in a brick house. The first variable is the type of construction. Although most people assume that the brick...

Are house numbers required by law on the front of a house?

Friday, September 21, 2018

The requirement to have house address numbers is almost universally required by municipal ordinances. Each city or county has a slightly different standard, but their intentions are the same: that your house numbers be clearly visible from the street...

Why are there cracks in the wallboard in a mobile home after its moved?

Friday, September 21, 2018

To understand how the walls of a mobile home interact with the frame while its traveling down the highway, you need to start with the way the steel I-beam frame is built. The beams are constructed with a carefully calculated amount of camber. They bow...

Do architectural shingles cost more than regular shingles?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Architectural shingles, also called dimensional or laminated shingles, cost about 20% to 30% more than standard 3-tab shingles. “Designer” architectural shingles—like in the photo above—can cost 35% to 50% extra or more.

   We think that...

Why is there mold around the air conditioning vents (registers)?

Friday, September 21, 2018

The louvered metal grille that directs conditioned air from a duct into the room is called a register, and mold around an air conditioning register can have several causes:

If the cold air coming out of the register is too cold compared to...

Do I need stairs at all exit doors from a mobile home?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Yes, you must provide a safe structure to walk down to the ground from every exterior door, the details of which are specified by the local building code where the home is installed. According to how many steps down it requires to get to the bottom,...

How can I tell if a house has insulation?

Friday, September 21, 2018

All homes built in Florida in the last 20 years have insulation, and the amount of required insulation has increased regularly as the Florida Energy Code has become more stringent. But as you go backward in time from the 1990s, there is no guarantee...

Is a home inspection required?

Friday, September 21, 2018

No, it is not necessary for most conventional or government-guaranteed home loans, but all lending institutions highly recommend that you get a house inspected before you buy it. In fact, HUD requires that applicants for an FHA or VA loan sign a form...

How do termites get into a concrete block house?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Termites can infest a block house from the top or bottom, depending on the species. The ones that get in from the bottom, subterranean termites, live in the soil and enter the house to consume wood, then return to their nest in the ground. Older concrete...

Are old vinyl tile floors dangerous?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Loose asbestos fibers that can float in the air and be inhaled are called “friable.” Most vinyl flooring manufactured before 1980 contains asbestos but it is embedded in the material and not friable. So the tiles are not considered dangerous as long...

What year were mobile homes required to become more storm resistant?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

All manufactured/mobile homes built after the beginning of the nationwide HUD-code in June 1976 were required to meet a single standard, no matter where the home was to be located. The HUD-code was a big improvement over the previous hodge-podge of...

What is the difference between water service pipe and water supply pipe?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Water service pipe connects at the house side of the water meter and runs across the yard to a point near where the water enters the home. There is sometimes a shut-off valve at this point, and the piping that runs inside the home distributing water...

Will a house without air conditioning pass a 4 point inspection?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Standards differ between insurance companies somewhat, but the ones we are familiar with do not require air conditioning. They do, however, require installed heating. Portable electric heaters and window air conditioners with a heating mode are not...

How do you determine if a door is left-handed or right-handed?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Here’s two different ways to figure out the “handedness” of a door. Whichever one is easier for you to remember is the one to use, but double-check yourself to be sure you get it right when you are ordering a pre-hung door.

First method:...

Which are Wind Zone 3 counties for mobile homes in Florida?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The following counties are Wind Zone 3:

Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Dade, Franklin, Gulf, Hendry, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties. All the rest are Zone 2. There are no Zone 1 counties in Florida.

What is roof pitch?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The roof “pitch” is a way to define the slope of the roof. It is expressed in inches of vertical “rise” of the roof over a horizontal “run” of twelve inches. So a “three-twelve” roof climbs three inches vertically along every twelve inches of length....

Can I do my own wind mitigation inspection?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It would be wonderful if getting a discount on your Florida windstorm insurance was as easy as taking a couple of photos and filling out a form. But the paperwork has to be completed by a Florida-licensed professional in the construction industry and...

What is wrong with an air conditioner when the air flow out of the vents is low?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The most likely cause of poor air flow is also the simplest to solve: a dirty air filter. Be sure to check your air filter first. Also, we occasionally inspect air conditioning systems that have filters installed in two locations—both behind the return...

What do you look for when inspecting vinyl siding?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Vinyl is a popular siding choice for home builders and mobile home manufacturers because the material is cheaper and easier to install than other alternatives. The bonus for homeowners is that vinyl is also low maintenance. But, like most other siding...

What is a geothermal heat pump?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

We got a call last week for a home inspection at a vandalized foreclosure. The buyer told us we weren’t going to be able to test the air conditioning system because he noticed that the outdoor unit (condenser) had been stolen. When we got to house,...

What causes cracks in a driveway?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Everyone notices cracks in their driveway. Weeds pop up and anthill mounds spill out of the crevices. Most driveway cracks are small and considered non-structural, but cracks with wider openings and heaved edges can be trip hazards and should be repaired. 

What should I look for when buying a house that is being "flipped" by an investor seller?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

“Granite counter tops and a bad roof” is our definition of a flip house. They are typically homes in poor condition that were bought cheap by an investor to renovate and resell quickly—or “flip”—for a profit. You may have seen ads for get-rich-quick...

What are the questions a home inspector won't (or shouldn't) answer?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Your home inspector provides you with important information you need to evaluate the condition of a home. But the inspection is visual and non-invasive. Unlike on those popular home improvement shows, your inspector can’t cut open a wall to see what’s...

What's the difference between a roof inspection and a roofing estimate?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

One costs you money and the other is usually free. A roof inspection is typically done at the request of an insurance company as a requirement for issuing homeowner’s insurance for an older home. Payment of a fee—around $100 to $150—is necessary. A...

What should I look for when buying a former rental house?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A rental house that needs a few repairs can be a good starter home for a first-time buyer. However, it has been our experience from inspecting numerous rentals that investors rarely sell them until they have “burned ‘em out.” No matter what story the...

What is the difference between a building inspector and a home inspector?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A building inspector works for a government agency, typically a city or county building department, and inspects both residential and commercial buildings for compliance with local codes and ordinances. This is done in conjunction with a building permit,...

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A condominium inspection is done with same attention to detail as a regular home inspection. The difference is that the exterior, attic, roof, and site—areas of the unit that the association is typically responsible for—are not included, and the cost...

Why is the chimney leaning away from the house?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

We see a leaning chimney occasionally, when the fireplace is on an exterior wall and is an older, masonry type (not manufactured). The foundation under the fireplace carries a tremendous, concentrated load due to the towering stack of bricks and the...

Should I put gutters on the house?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gutters are an excellent investment for protecting your home. They prevent two recurring problems we see in homes that don’t have them:

When the rain runs directly off the roof edge, splash-back bouncing off the ground or paved areas onto...

Why does the house have a chimney but no fireplace?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

There are several reasons why a house could have a chimney without having a fireplace. Here’s a few that we have encountered:

Early furnaces had a small, brick utility chimney, often square. It has been abandoned and the bottom part covered...

Is it still possible to do a home inspection if there's no electricity or water?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Some inspectors will evaluate a house with the utilities off, and some will not. Ideally, you should wait for the seller to turn on the utilities—or in some cases it’s the buyers responsibility—before ordering an an inspection. The only exception is...

What is a fascia and soffit?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The fascia and soffit are, respectively, the vertical and horizontal surfaces of what most people refer to as the eaves or roof overhang of a home. The upper part of the fascia at the intersection with the roof has a continuous metal “drip strip” running...

What is a three-way switch?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Most people are already familiar with three-way switches, they just don’t know what they are called. The paired switches at the top and bottom of a run of stairs, or opposite ends of a long hallway, that control the same light are three-way switches....

What is the cost difference between asphalt shingle and metal roofing?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A galvalume 5V-crimp 26-gauge metal roof with a clear finish, like in the photo above, costs about 75% to 100% more than a 20-year rated 3-tab shingle roof. Adding a paint finish, a heavier gauge of metal, a different profile of the panels, or going...

What causes low water pressure in a house?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Most garage floors have cracks in them. It’s something we see every day and they are rarely a structural defect like in the photo above. Two factors contribute to cracks opening up in a garage floor slab: shrinkage of the concrete as it cures and settlement...

How can I determine if cracks in the garage floor are a structural problem?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Most garage floors have cracks in them. It’s something we see every day and they are rarely a structural defect like in the photo above. Two factors contribute to cracks opening up in a garage floor slab: shrinkage of the concrete as it cures and settlement...

Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?

Monday, September 17, 2018

We get asked this question often, and the answer is yes...well, most of the time. The Standards of Practice of the home inspector association we belong to, InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors), do not require that the...

Is a replacement water heater required to have a pan with a drain?

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Florida Plumbing Code (507.4) and the International Plumbing Code both require a catch pan with a drain “where a storage tank-type water heater or a hot water storage tank is installed in a location where leakage from the tank will cause damage.”...

What is the difference between a plumbing fixture, a plumbing appliance, and a plumbing appurtenance?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

You likely have all three in your home. Here’s how each is defined in the Plumbing Codes.

    Examples of a plumbing fixture would be a sink, toilet, and bathtub.

    Examples of a plumbing appliance would be washing machine, dishwasher,...

What are the clearance requirements for an overhead electric service drop that is directly over or near a swimming pool?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) specify that an overhead service drop crossing directly above a pool, or above an area measured horizontally within 10-feet of the edge of one,...

How do devious sellers try to fool the home inspector?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Just a small minority of home sellers try to conceal their home’s defects from an inspector. Sometimes they are successful, often they are not, and occasionally their attempts at deception are comical. Here’s our “Top 10” list of devious seller’s tactics:...

How much does it cost to replace the plumbing pipe in a house?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

“The price can vary a lot according to the size and type of construction of a particular house, but the average price for repiping is around $6000,” according to James Freeman, of J.W. Freeman Plumbing, in Gainesville, Florida. That’s for repiping a...

How can I tell the age of a State Industries water heater from the serial number?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number of a State Industries water heater are the year of manufacture. Newer State water heaters, like the one shown below from 2013 also list the “BUILD DATE” below the serial number so there’s no interpretation...

How difficult is it to change a window to french doors or a sliding glass door?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

What kind of wall do you have? Your type of wall construction is the primary factor in how difficult it will be to put a door at a current window location. The two most common types of walls are wood stud frame and concrete block. Wood is much easier...

What is that big thing in the toilet tank?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

It’s a Sloan “Flushmate.” The device uses water pressure from the pipe serving the toilet—instead of gravity—to provide a pressurized surge of water to the toilet flush. Standard toilet flush systems utilize the minimal water pressure provided by the...

Can an electric panel be mounted sideways-horizontally?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The NEC (National Electric Code) does allow an electric panel to be mounted horizontally, but only if vertical mounting is not possible due to space limitations or otherwise impractical (NEC 240.33). Unfortunately, a second code requirement is that...

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

It’s amazing how fast a house starts deteriorating when it has been abandoned. A vacant house fares better when the electricity and air conditioning is still on, but shares some of the same problems that plague abandoned homes. Here’s what we look for...

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

We find more houses that have been moved to a new location in rural areas, likely because the logistics of moving a house in the country is simpler. Occasionally, we have to a advise the buyers that they may be purchasing a relocated house, because...

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Evaluating a rural property is pretty much the same for a home inspector as a suburban one, with the exception that a rural house has a well and septic system instead of municipal water and sewer. But there are a number of points that you need to check...

What is the average life expectancy of a TPO (Thermoplastic PolyOlefin) roof?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The average lifespan of a TPO (Thermoplastic PolyOlefin) roof is about 20 years, which is similar to other single-ply roof membranes such as EPDM (Ethylene Propene Diene Monomer) and PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride). The roof life can be shortened to 10 years...

How do I tell the age of a Whirlpool water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Whirlpool water heaters are manufactured by Craftmaster, and their coding system is that the first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture. So the serial number of the water heater data plate in the photo below (circled in red)...

How do I tell the age of a Maytag water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Maytag water heaters are manufactured by State Industries, and their coding system is that the first two numbers of the serial number (after a single letter) are the year of manufacture. So the serial number of the water heater data plate in the photo...

What does the HUD tag look like and where do I find it on a mobile home?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The HUD tag is a 2 inch by 4 inch red metal plate riveted to the exterior wall of each section of mobile home. Some folks call it a “HUD Label,” others say  “red tag,” and the official name used by HUD itself is “Certification Label.” Although the HUD...

How do I tell the age of a Rheem water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The third and fourth numbers in the serial number, usually after several letters, is the year of manufacture of a Rheem water heater. So the manufacturer’s data plate below indicates that it was made in 2001.

    Newer Rheem water heaters,...

How do I tell the age of a Bradford White water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bradford White uses a 20-letter code for the year of manufacture of their water heaters. The first letter of the serial number is the one to use. The letters I, O, Q, R, U and V are excluded. Because the letter code recycles every 20 years “A,” for...

What are the best home inspection tips for homebuyers?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Here’s our “Top 10” tips for evaluating the condition of a home you are considering buying. Nine of them are things you can look for during a casual walk-through and don’t require any tools. The tenth is a tip to ensure you get the most value from your...

How do I tell the age of a Lochinvar water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lochinvar uses a 20-letter code for the year of manufacture of their water heaters. The first letter of the serial number is the one to use. The letters I, O, Q, R, U and V are excluded. Because the letter code recycles every 20 years “A,” for example,...

How do I tell the age of a Reliance water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The first two numbers (after a single letter) of the serial number are the year of manufacture of Reliance water heaters. So the water heater with the data plate shown below is from 1995.

    Also, see our blog posts How can I determine the...

How do I tell the age of a Ruud water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The third and fourth numbers in the serial number, usually after several letters, is the year of manufacture of a Ruud water heater. So the manufacturer’s data plate below indicates that it was made in 1985.

    Newer Ruud water heaters,...

How do I tell the age of a GE water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

GE water heaters are manufactured by Rheem and use their date coding system, which is that the third and fourth numbers (after several letters) in the serial number are the year of manufacture. So the manufacturer’s data plate below indicates that the...

What is the minimum pitch/slope of an asphalt shingle roof?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Manufacturers of asphalt shingles recommend a pitch of 4/12 or more, but the absolute minimum pitch is 2/12. Pitch is measured in inches of vertical rise of the roof over one foot (12 inches) of horizontal run. So a 4/12 pitch roof rises 4 inches for...

How do I tell the age of a Kenmore water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The first two numbers in the serial number of a Kenmore water heater are the year of manufacture. There may, or may not, be a single letter before the first two numbers. The first data plate shown below indicates the water heater was manufactured in...

How do I tell the age of an Envi-Ro-Temp water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture for an Envi-Ro-Temp water heater. So the data plate shown below indicates that the water heater was manufactured in 1998. Be sure to not confuse the product number with the serial...

Can I use Tyvek as a belly wrap replacement for a mobile home?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

That does not sound like a good idea. The belly wrap (also called belly board) that covers the entire bottom of a mobile home is typically polyethylene sheeting, which is a MOISTURE VAPOR BARRIER. It is installed to keep the moisture in the soil under...

What is the difference between "serviceable" and "satisfactory" in a home inspection report?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Not much. Both terms mean the home inspector did not have any defects to report for the building component in question. Neither word should be understood to mean that something is in perfect, like-new condition; just that the component appeared to be...

My air conditioner won't come on after changing the air filter. What's wrong?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

If your central HVAC system utilizes a combination of electricity for cooling and natural gas for heating, and also has a filter below the bottom front panel of the indoor unit (furnace/air handler), then the problem is likely a small safety switch....

Why do my dormer windows leak?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Although dormer windows have walls and a roof, just like the main structure of the house below them, they are a roof penetration—the same as a skylight, chimney, or plumbing vent pipe. Once you understand this, along with the fact that all sides of...

How do I tell the age of a Premier Plus water heater heater from the serial number?

Monday, September 10, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture for an Premier Plus water heater. So the data plate shown below indicates that the water heater was manufactured in 2005. Be sure to not confuse the product number with the serial...

Why do roof edges start leaking?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The two areas where a roof is most likely to start leaking are at roof penetrations and the outside edges. Both have exposed ends of the roofing material and contain flashings as a transition to the adjacent building component. The area called the “field”—the...

How do I tell the age of a Jackson water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The few Jackson water heaters we have come across (they are no longer being manufactured) do not encode the date of manufacture in the serial number. It appears at the address line at top of the data plate. The data plate pictured below indicates that...

My bathroom electric receptacle/outlet is dead and there are no tripped breakers in the electric panel. What's wrong?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

It could be any one of a number of problems, but the most likely one is that a GFCI-receptacle has tripped at another location in the home. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter and a GFCI-receptacle has two push-buttons between the top and...

Can you move an older mobile home in Florida?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Each county in Florida has slightly different standards for allowing an older mobile home into their territory, but they all have the same attitude: mobile homes in poor condition are not welcome to cross the county line. Here’s the application form...

How do I tell the age of an American ProLine water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture of American ProLine water heaters. So the water heater with the data plate shown below is from 2000. 

    Also, see our blog posts How can I determine the age of a water...

What is the minimum pitch/slope for a metal roof?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The minimum pitch for metal roofing varies depending on the profile of the metal. Profile, in the context of metal roofing, means the shape that the sheet of metal is bent into to form the panels. The pitch is measured in inches of vertical rise per...

Does a home inspector test all the windows and doors in a home?

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The State of Florida’s standard for inspecting windows and doors for a home inspection (61-30.807 Standards of Practice, Interior Components) states that “when inspecting doors and windows, the inspector may inspect a representative number of doors...

How do I upgrade a park model to meet HUD Code for entry into a mobile/manufactured home park?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Park model is a newer name for what was formerly called a park trailer. Park models are manufactured under the American National Standards Institute’s ANSI119.5 Park Model Recreational Vehicle (PMRV) standard, whereas mobile/manufactured homes must...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Fabulous ‘50s

Homes of each era are reflections of the attitudes, technology, and aspirations of their time, and the consumer trends of the decade shaped the unique characteristics of the 1950s home. The end of World War II and return...

What does "lack of tab adhesion" in an asphalt shingle roof mean?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Asphalt shingles are nailed to the roof sheathing below along the top edge of each strip of shingles, which is covered up by the row of shingles above it. But the exposed bottom edge of the shingles has adhesive strips that secures them in place and...

What is a "missing twistout" at an electric panel?

Monday, September 3, 2018

The metal plate screwed to the front of an electric panel is called a deadfront. While you may be used to seeing it in your home with circuit breakers arranged in two rows protruding through an opening in the plate, the panel is manufactured as a solid...

What is an "open junction box"?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Most people assume that the numerous safety requirements of the NEC (National Electric Code) are for avoiding electrical shock or, even worse, electrocution. But, while many code requirements address this potential problem, the primary purpose of the...

How can trees damage a house?

Friday, August 31, 2018

The right types of trees strategically placed around a home provide numerous benefits beyond just shade and curb appeal. They hold the soil in place on a sloping site, provide a windbreak, and a habitat for birds and other backyard wildlife. Plus, some...

Is an ungrounded electric receptacle outlet dangerous?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Most homes built mid-century and earlier have two-slot receptacles, like the one in the photo above. The third, round slot that we are used to seeing today, and which has been required by the building code since the early 1960s for connecting a grounded...

How do I get my home ready for a four point inspection for insurance?

Friday, August 31, 2018

To understand how to prepare for a four point insurance inspection, let’s start with why the insurance company is requesting one: older houses statistically have more insurance claims. Many of the claims are related to the deteriorated condition of...

How much does it cost to rewire a house?

Friday, August 31, 2018

If your home is 50 years old or more, it’s time to consider rewiring, and the first step is to have the condition of your electric system evaluated by a professional electrician. Signs that you need an electrical upgrade include:

 Obsolete...

What is roof flashing?

Friday, August 31, 2018

If a roof is leaking, it is likely that the leak is at a flashing. Flashing is any material that is used as a transition between roofing and another surface or at a roof penetration, or at a change in plane of the roofing itself. It is usually aluminum...

How is it possible to provide both GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and CAFCI (Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection for kitchen and laundry circuits?

Friday, August 31, 2018

The National Electric Code (NEC) has required both GFCI and CAFCI protection for laundry and kitchen circuits in a residence since the 2014 edition of the code. There are two ways you can do it:

Install a Dual Functional Circuit Interrupter...

What is the allowable load in psf (pounds per square foot) for mounting solar panels or other equipment on the roof of a mobile/manufactured home?

Friday, August 31, 2018

The live load in psf is noted on the HUD data plate of each mobile home manufactured since 1976. There are three zones: North, Middle, and South. All of Florida is in the South zone, as shown in the roof load map of a Florida mobile home data plate...

What is the gooey stuff on some of the wire connections in the electric panel?

Friday, August 31, 2018

It’s anti-oxidant paste and is necessary at the connection of stranded aluminum wires to the lugs in an electric panel—as in the photo above—and also at any circuit breakers connected to stranded aluminum wires. Oxidation occurs over time at the unprotected...

Do any pre-1960 houses have aluminum wiring?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

No, we have never seen any aluminum wire in pre-1960 homes. Although it has been used since the early twentieth century by utility companies for electrical transmission in high-voltage power grids, copper wire has long been the standard for residential...

Why is creosote buildup in a chimney dangerous?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Creosote accumulates in a chimney flue because the surface is somewhat cooler than hot gas rising up through it, so condensation forms on the surface. The condensation catches some of the fire’s combustion byproducts, such as smoke, tar fog, hydrocarbons,...

What is a pit set mobile home?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

When a manufactured home is installed very close to ground level, making it look more like a site-built home, it has a “pit set” foundation. Because access to the bottom structure of the mobile home is necessary for maintenance and ventilation, a shallow...

Why are my ceiling fan blades drooping?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

It’s likely because you have an indoor fan that is installed at at damp, outdoor location like a screen porch. Because indoor fan blades typically are a composite wood product that will not withstand the changes in humidity on a covered porch, they...

What is the difference between PVC and ABS plumbing pipe?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The most obvious difference between them is that PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is white plastic and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is black plastic. Both are approved by the major national building codes for use as DWV (drain-waste-vent) pipe in the...

How do you know it's a dead person's house?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Once every few weeks we open the front door of a house at the beginning of an inspection, pause, and one of us whispers “Well, this is definitely a dead person’s house.” Why we whisper I don’t know, because we are often the only people in the house,...

What is the difference between a home inspection and a final walkthrough inspection?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Both the home inspection and final walkthrough are important parts of a real estate transaction, but they are sometimes confused with each other. A home inspection is conducted by a licensed professional inspector shortly after a sale contract is signed...

What can I learn from talking with the seller?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Quite a lot, especially if you plan your questions in advance, based on the seller’s disclosure paperwork and any concerns you have about the home. Most states require the seller to disclose any known defects that affect the value of the property on...

Do home inspectors lift up the carpet to look for cracks in the floor?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A home inspection is a visual, non-invasive evaluation of a property. So pulling up installed broadloom carpet is beyond the scope of an inspection, because the carpet is stretched over the area of the room to carpet tack strips at the perimeter and...

What do you inspect in the crawl space under a house?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The first question we get asked when arriving to inspect an older home is “Are you going to go in the crawl space?” And our answer is “Yes, we will get in there if it is accessible and has no safety hazards.”

    In order to be accessible,...

What is the average lifespan of a regular (3-tab) shingle roof?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The expected lifespan of a 3-tab asphalt shingle roof, often called a 20-year shingle roof, is 15 to 18 years in Florida. Why does a roof shingle with a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty typically last less than 20 years? Because the warranty is against...

What are those metal boxes on the roof?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Most of them are for ventilation. The largest boxes are attic vents and work in combination with vent openings in the soffit (underside of roof overhang) to utilize the natural convection flow of rising hot air, which is pulled in through the soffit...

What is the average lifespan of an architectural (dimensional) shingle roof?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The expected lifespan of an architectural asphalt shingle roof, often called a dimensional shingle roof, is 24 to 30 years in Florida.  Architectural shingles start with a heavier mat base than a standard 3-tab shingle, typically fiberglass that has...

What is the average lifespan of a metal (galvalume) roof?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The expected lifespan of a metal roof is 30 to 45 years in Florida. The most common metal roof material we see in this area is galvalume, which is a steel sheet with an electrolytically-applied coating of a combination of zinc and aluminum to extend...

What is the average lifespan of a modified bitumen roof?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The expected lifespan of a modified bitumen roof, often called a “modified bit” roof, is 10 to 16 years in Florida. The material is used for roofs with a low slope or nearly flat. It is a roll roofing that is applied with liquid mastic and has a surface...

What is the average lifespan of a built-up and gravel roof?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The expected lifespan of a built-up and gravel roof, often called just a “gravel roof,” is 20 to 30 years in Florida. The material is used for roofs with a very low slope to nearly flat. The roof is literally “built up,” like prepping a pan of lasagna,...

Should I buy a foreclosure house if the bank refuses to turn on the utilities (electric, water, gas)?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

When the lending institution refuses to turn on the utilities for an inspection of a foreclosure property, the house is usually in poor condition and being sold as-is at an enticing, bargain-basement price. Because you can’t test the plumbing, HVAC,...

The house has asbestos siding. What should I do?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Asbestos cement siding is probably the longest-life, lowest-maintenance siding around. It was widely used on houses from the 1940s thru the 1960s, and is still found in many of the older Gainesville neighborhoods around the university and downtown....

Should I buy a house with asbestos siding?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

While asbestos-cement siding that is 50-years old or more is often still in good condition due to the longevity of the material, there are two issues you inherit when you buy a house with this material:

Some insurance companies will not insure...

Should I add a plastic sheet vapor barrier on the ground under my mobile home?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Moist ground and standing water under a mobile home generate water vapor that accumulates in the crawlspace and can rise up into the home, slowly damaging the structure over time. The single most important part of installing a home to avoid moisture...

Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

If your home inspector climbs back down the ladder after examining the roof and tells you that it needs to be replaced, you don’t have to move on and start looking at other houses. “There are basically three options: get the seller to pay for a new...

Should I buy a house with an old roof?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

To evaluate a house with an old roof, ask the following questions: 

Does the roof have 5 years or more of life left? If your home inspector determines that it does not, then it may be difficult to get insurance, even if there are no active...

What is the average lifespan of a concrete tile roof?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The life expectancy of a concrete tile roof is 35 to 50 years. Although the tile is rated by manufacturers as a having a 50-year life or more, it is primarily a protective covering for the asphalt-based roofing layer below it—typically 30-pound felt...

How far apart should electric receptacles be spaced in a bathroom?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The minimum requirement is one receptacle within three feet of each sink on an adjacent wall, or inside or on the face of the sink cabinet not more than 12 inches below countertop. Additional receptacles are not required, but no receptacle can be placed...

Does a gravel roof need maintenance?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A gravel roof, also called a tar and gravel roof or built-up and gravel roof, needs regular maintenance to extend its  lifespan. We recommend that at least once a year the following two minor upkeep projects be undertaken:

Keep an even and...

How do I get the hip roof discount for my homeowners windstorm insurance?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A hip roof slopes inward on all sides, like in the photo above and the first photo below. The other roof shapes most often used in home construction include a gable (which slopes inward on two sides and has a triangular-shaped “gable end” wall at the...

Should I give a copy of the home inspection report to the bank or insurance company?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Not if there is any way you can avoid it. And definitely do not bring up the fact that you have had a home inspection or volunteer to send them a report. A comprehensive home inspection report is simply more information than is necessary for an underwriter...

Is a 7 feet a normal height for a wall/ceiling in a mobile home?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Yes, the lower-priced models of some mobile home manufacturers are built with a seven-foot height from floor to ceiling at the front and back walls. Because the interior has a cathedral ceiling, the ceiling is another foot or more higher at the center...

Does a single-wide mobile home have interior bearing walls?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Single-wide mobile homes have lightweight wood trusses that span between the two long walls of the home. The exploded diagram above shows an older  style of roof construction. Newer homes have a different truss shape, but still also only bear on the...

How can I find out the age of a roof?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

There are four ways to determine the age of a roof of a home your are considering buying or already own:

Find out the date of the building permit. This the most accurate way to age a roof, but not all jurisdictions require building permits...

What is the difference between a heat pump and a cooling air conditioner?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A cooling air conditioner, sometimes also called a “straight cool” or “standard” air conditioner, has only one function: utilizing the circular flow of a refrigerant gas to take the heat from inside a home and move it outside—which results in cooling...

What is the minimum SEER rating for a new air conditioner?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The new minimum standard, effective January 1, 2015, is 14 SEER for both heat pumps and cooling air conditioners. One exception: straight cool air conditioners in the Northern region of the U.S. will remain at minimum 13 SEER. 

    The last...

What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Attic pull-down ladders, also called folding stairs, come with installation instructions stamped on the frame or inside of the cover panel, which specify exactly what size fasteners are required to secure the ladder frame to the well opening, how many,...

What is an egress window?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Egress is “a way out,” and an egress window in the building code is defined as a required alternate route out of the home in an emergency, typically a fire. All sleeping rooms must have a window of adequate size opening for a person to get out and a...

What are the requirements for a room to be classified as a bedroom?

Monday, August 20, 2018

For the purpose of a real estate transaction—but not the building code—it is generally accepted that a room must have a closet to be defined as a bedroom. If there’s no closet, then it is a den, library, bonus room, man cave, or any other innovative...

How can I tell the difference between a fixer-upper with potential and a money pit?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Here’s our 7 rules for weeding out the fixer-upper money pits from the ones that offer solid upside potential:

Separate “dirty and dismal looking” from the real problems - This is not always easy. A moderately soiled carpet can often be cleaned...

How do I tell the age of a Magic Chef or Armstrong furnace or air conditioner from the serial number?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Although the Magic Chef nameplate was only in production during the 1980s and 90s, many furnaces were installed around the Gainesville area, especially in apartment/condos and mobile homes. The 8th digit of the serial number, which will be a letter...

What is backdrafting at a gas water heater?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Water heater manufacturers use a gap between the top of the water heater flue and the vent connector pipe above it to pull additional air into the upward flow of combustion air to help it exit more efficiently. There is a tapered cone-shape above the...

Why is the floor tile cracked in my mobile home?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Without actually examining the tile and floor underlayment, we can’t tell you for sure what is causing the problem, but the floor sheathing in a mobile home is not designed to accept ceramic floor tile over it unless it was originally installed at the...

Why is there a flexible accordion pipe under the sink?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Although the flexible, accordion-shaped pipe shown in the photo above is sold in home improvement and hardware stores, it is not approved for installation by plumbing codes, which require that any waste pipe fitting have a smooth interior surface that...

How do I tell the age of a Fedders furnace or air conditioner from the serial number?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The second letter of the serial number indicates the year of manufacture (from 1966 to 1977): 

A = 1966    B = 1967   C = 1968    

D = 1969   E = 1970   F = 1971

G = 1972   H = 1973   I = (not used)

J = 1974...

How high above the floor do electric outlets/receptacles in a garage have to be?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

We don’t know of any building or electrical code requirement for a minimum height of electric receptacles above the floor of a garage. There is, however, a minimum height for any ignition source in a gas appliance like a water heater in a garage of...

What is reversed polarity at an outlet/receptacle? Why is it dangerous?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Reversed polarity is when the hot and neutral connections at a receptacle are wired “backwards.” Home wiring is color-coded, and the black wire is “hot,” meaning that it is electrically charged or, as it is sometimes called, the “live” wire. It’s the...

What is the maximum length for a clothes dryer vent?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The building code has formulas for determining the maximum length of a dryer vent, however the flexible transitional duct that connects to it behind the dryer does not count. The code also defers to manufacturer’s specifications, which exceed the length...

What are the most common problems when a homeowner encloses a porch without a building permit?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Most porches are not built to be ready for enclosure in the future. Also, because a homeowner—or the handyman hired to do the work—is not always familiar with the building codes and the life-safety design standards that are important for any residential...

How can I tell what type of plumbing pipe I have?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Identifying all the different types of pipe in your home requires a little detective work, because most homes are originally built with multiple pipe materials: one for water and a second type—or sometimes a combination of two types—for drain pipes. 

How does a hydronic heating system work?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The principle of hydronic heat is simple. A hot liquid, usually water, is circulated continuously through piping to transfer heat to the air of a home. A sophisticated system that utilizes zig-zag loops of plastic tubing running under the floor to make...

What is the difference between a regular water heater and a power vent water heater?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The most common gas water heater is technically called an “atmospheric vent” type. Because warm air rises, the hot gases created by combustion are pulled by natural convection up a vertical metal flue through the roof to the outside. It’s a tried-and-true,...

What is the difference between a regular water heater and a direct vent water heater?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The most common gas water heater is technically called an “atmospheric vent” type. Because warm air rises, the hot gases created by combustion are pulled by natural convection up a vertical metal flue through the roof to the outside. The air around...

Are carbon monoxide alarms required to be installed in homes in Florida?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Florida Statute 553.885 states that any new home, or addition to a home, permitted on or after July 1, 2008, that has a fossil-fuel burning heater or appliance, a fireplace, or attached garage shall have a carbon monoxide alarm installed within 10 feet...

Where are smoke alarms required to be located?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Here is the current requirement for smoke alarm placement:

 Hard-wired smoke alarm in each hall or access room to bedrooms
 And every bedroom
 And at least one on each floor of a multi-level home
 And must be interconnected...

Why is it important that a mobile home stay level throughout its lifetime?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A manufactured home is leveled by the licensed installer when it is initially set, but here are a few of the reasons that a it can slip out of level over time:

Initial settlement after placement of the home during the first year as the ground...

What is a TPO roof?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

TPO is an acronym for Thermoplastic PolyOlefin. It is single-ply membrane roof, and in the same category as EPDM (Ethylene Propene Diene Monomer) and PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride). TPO is installed in large, flexible sheets that can be heat-welded at seams....

How far above a kitchen countertop do electrical outlets have to be?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

There is no minimum height requirement, but there is a maximum: kitchen countertop receptacles cannot be more than 20-inches above the counter, per National Electrical Code [NEC 210.52(C)(5)]. Also, they should not be installed horizontally on the counter...

If all the plumbing drains have water in them and you can still smell sewer gas, what's causing the problem?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

That dip in the drain pipe under the plumbing fixtures, called a “P-trap,” is your first line of defense against sewer gas seeping up into your home from the drain. The pool of water it holds is a simple, effective seal. But there are a few other ways...

Why does the bedroom have a light switch but there is no light in the ceiling?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

All habitable rooms of a home are required to have switched lighting near the entry door. You need to be able to turn on a light when you enter a dark room to avoid a fall or bumping into furniture. But the building code allows that the switch can be...

Does wood rot spread? Is it contagious?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Wood rot is definitely contagious under certain conditions. But, once you understand that wood rot is a type of fungus—along with the mechanism that the fungus uses to spread and the conditions necessary for it to infect an area of wood—then your diligent...

How does a home inspector evaluate wood rot?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A wood rot inspection begins with a visual scan of wood surfaces, looking for any discoloration, sunken areas, and locations of previous repairs. The inspector uses a probing device, such as screwdriver or knife, to locate soft spots in the wood surface...

How can I determine the age of a water heater if the serial number is missing or decoding it is impossible?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

When the serial number is not legible, completely missing, or you can’t figure out how to tease the year of manufacture out of the number-letter sequence, you have one more option that can help you determine approximately how old it is: the year of...

What is a saddle valve?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A saddle valve is an easy way for a homeowner or handyman with no pipefitting experience to add a small water line to an existing pipe. It is a low-flow device and often used to run water to a refrigerator ice maker. The valve clamps around a water...

How much venting is required for mobile home skirting?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The standard prescription for ventilation is one square inch of ventilation opening for every square foot of floor space of the home. Skirting with built-in ventilation holes is available or you can install solid decorative skirting, such as simulated...

How do you test a shower pan for leaks?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It’s a common misconception that the tile and grout on the floor of a bathroom shower are a waterproofing barrier, and that cracked or loose grout can cause leakage. Actually, tile is installed as a decorative and wear-resistant surface for the real...

Do termites eat pressure treated wood?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Yes, but only in an outdoor and wet environment after years of exposure. Wood that is treated under pressure with chemicals to resist rot is also required to be termite resistant—but it is not permanently termite-proof. There are two ways that termites...

How far apart should kitchen counter receptacles be spaced?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Homes built during the 1950s had one, or maybe two, electric outlets at the kitchen counter. And that was sufficient before the explosion in countertop food prep appliances. But the average homeowner today has a couple of electric appliances on the...

How can I figure out what a mystery wall switch does?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

When you first move into a new home, there always seems to be at least one wall switch that’s a puzzle. What is it connected to? Here’s eight  pointers to help determine what circuit the switch serves:

A switch in the room under an attic...

What is a grinder pump?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Plumbing drainage systems are designed and installed based on a simple principle: gravity causes water to flow downhill. The pipes from each plumbing fixture in a home that run to the municipal sewer line or backyard septic tank slope downward at an...

What is a "cool roof"?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

“Cool roof” is a designation for roofing material that significantly reduces the amount of heat transferred through the roof and into the home in two ways:

 Solar reflectance - Bouncing the sun’s heat back off the roof.
 Thermal emittance...

What can I do to make my water heater last longer?

Monday, August 13, 2018

A tank-type water heater is a simple, sturdy appliance. It has no moving parts or sophisticated electronics, and many homeowners just ignore their water heater until there’s a problem. But that’s a mistake, because a little regular maintenance will...

Should the seller be at the home inspection?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Homeowners often use what seems like a logical reason to stick around for the inspection: they can answer any questions that the buyer or the inspector might have, since they know the place better than anyone else. Unfortunately, though, it is never...

What is a TX valve or TXV for an air conditioner or heat pump system?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Both are abbreviations for a Themal Expansion Valve, which controls the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator coils of the interior unit (air handler) of your heat pump or air conditioning system. You are more likely to see a note scrawled on the...

How do I tell the age of a Rinnai water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

There are two different formats for a Rinnai serial number. The first one was used until mid-2009, with an example shown below. The first two digits are the year and the second two digits are the month of manufacture. The manufacture date may also be...

How do I tell the age of a Noritz water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The first four digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture and fifth and sixth digits are the month. So the date of manufacture for the Noritz water heater data plate shown below is June of 2006. 



• • • • • • • • •...

What is the difference between an FHA inspection and a home inspection?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Before the Federal Housing Administration guarantees a home loan they want to be sure that the property is structurally sound, safe, and meets their minimum property standards for livability. So they train and certify local independent real estate appraisers...

What is the little tank on top of the water heater for?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

It’s a water heater expansion tank, designed to reduce the changes in water pressure due to the expansion and contraction of the volume of water as it heats and cools in a closed system. This can create dangerously high fluctuations in pressure that...

What does the new Florida smoke alarm law require?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Effective January 1st, 2015, when you replace a battery-powered smoke alarm in your home, or install a new one, it must be powered by a non-removable and non-replaceable battery with at least a 10-year rated life. This type of alarm has been on the...

What can I do to avoid kitchen accidents and injuries?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Today’s kitchen is no longer mom’s workplace tucked away at the back of the house. Floor plans now tie the kitchen, dining and living areas into an visually linked space, and it’s not unusual for the whole family, pets and friends to be in the kitchen...

How can I check my garage door to make sure it is safe?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A garage door is the largest and heaviest moving object in the house and can be a threat to children and pets. Todays roll up doors are mandated to have several safety features and here is a short list of items you can check yourself:

 Measure...

What do I need to know about building an addition to a mobile home?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Here’s our list of things to consider before starting an addition to a manufactured home:

There are two types of additions to a manufactured home. Decks, covered decks, screen porches and carports are examples of the first category, that...

Do I need to test for radon when buying a condominium?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Because a condominium is a legal form of ownership, not a type of home structure, there is not a simple “yes or no” answer to this question. Radon testing is recommended by the EPA for “all homes below the third floor.” This is because radon gas comes...

Why are pool pumps now required to be variable speed?

Friday, August 10, 2018

New or replacement pool pumps of one horsepower or more have been mandated by a Florida State Statute since 2012 to be variable or two speed type. No more single speed pumps are allowed, and the reason is energy efficiency. Being able to adjust the...

Do I need a building permit for a backyard shed?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Regulations vary according to local ordinances. Many jurisdictions require a building permit for any shed, no matter what the size, and prefab kits are not exempt. However, it is worthwhile to check with your local building department first. In the...

How can you tell if a mobile home is a doublewide or singlewide?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Mobile home sections are manufactured in widths from 12 to 16 feet wide. If the dimension of the short side is between 12 and 16 feet, it is a singlewide, and 24 to 32 feet means you are looking at a doublewide. You could, of course, look under the...

How can I make my roof last longer?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Examining your roof and doing minor maintenance regularly is the key to extending the life of a roof. Here’s six suggestions for asphalt shingle roofing, most of which apply to other roof types too:

Take a look your roof twice a year from...

What causes black soot buildup on my gas fireplace logs?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Vented gas fireplace logs will usually have a bit of soot on them because it is a factor of the combustion process, but it is not be the norm for a non-vented fireplace. Excessive sooting can be the result, or combination of, any of three different...

What is the difference between the SEER and EER rating of an air conditioner?

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is an evaluation of the energy usage over a typical cooling season, based on a constant indoor temperature of 80º F and varying outdoor temperature of between 65º and 104º F. It is a ratio of output cooling...

What does pH mean in a well water test and how does it affect water quality?

Friday, August 10, 2018

It is a measure of where, in the range of acid to alkaline, the water falls. Neutral water is 7.0 pH. Below 7.0 is acid and, conversely, as the number rises above 7.0 the water becomes progressively more alkaline. The term “pH” was originated by Soren...

Why is my water heater making strange (rumbling, gurgling, knocking or banging) noises?

Friday, August 10, 2018

We have even heard it called a burping sound. Fixing the problem is as simple as draining the sediment/mineral buildup from the tank, which is the cause of the problem and also the purpose of a small faucet at the bottom of the tank. When there is a...

What is a "ton" of air conditioning?

Friday, August 10, 2018

It is a measurement of capacity that equals the cooling accomplished by melting one ton of ice per day, and is a holdover from the era when refrigeration was transitioning from stored natural ice to mechanical refrigeration. But the ton is still used...

What is the "temperature differential" or "temperature split" of an air conditioning system?

Friday, August 10, 2018

It is the difference between the temperature of the air going into an air conditioner and the temperature of the air coming out, and is also called the “delta T” by HVAC professionals. A temperature split is usually determined using a probe thermometer...

Is it alright to close the air conditioning vents in unused rooms?

Friday, August 10, 2018

While it would seem sensible to close the air vents (supply registers) in unused rooms to save a little on your heating/cooling cost each month, it doesn’t work out that way. Here’s four reasons why:

Let’s start with the fact that a well-designed...

What is the switch on the wall with two pushbuttons?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

It may look like a switch, but it is actually a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) device that provides shock protection for a remote appliance or receptacles, and is called “dead front GFCI”. We most often see used for protection of a bathroom...

What type of white plastic pipe has the marking CP-112-P in red letters?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

It is PVC and made by Charlotte Pipe. The pipe is rated for drinking water, but not for use inside a home or to transport hot water. So it should not be used for the discharge piping from the Temperature-and-Pressure Relief (TPR) valve at a water heater.

Can I make a trap under the sink from straight pipe and 90º elbows?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A plumbing trap is designed to always maintain a small pool of water that seals the drain pipe against sewer gas rising up into a home. But even a standard U-shaped trap tends to get clogged occasionally, and the slip fittings make it easy enough to...

What are the black metal things marked GMX800 that are clamped around the hot and cold pipes above the water heater?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

They are magnets produced by GMX International, of Chino, California, that act as a “magnetic fluid conditioner for hard water,” and marketed by the company as an alternative to installing a regular water softener system. The reviews by homeowners on...

Why is my air conditioner running constantly?

Monday, August 6, 2018

There are three likely reasons. The first two are simple and the last one is more complicated and expensive. Hopefully, your problem is #1 or #2:

Check the fan setting on your thermostat. There are two settings, “AUTO” and “ON.” The ON setting...

Why are there score line grooves in the concrete floor of the garage?

Monday, August 6, 2018

They are called “contraction joints.” Concrete shrinks a little as it cures and hairline shrinkage cracks are unavoidable, especially in large slabs. While the cracks are unsightly, they do not affect the structural integrity of the slab.

...

What are those strange looking wall switches in houses from the 1950s and 1960s?

Monday, August 6, 2018

They are low voltage switches. The ones in the photo above were made by Remcon and have a retro-futuristic look reminiscent of the Jetsons TV cartoon show of the same era. Similar low voltage switches were also made by GE, Bryant, Sierra, and Touch...

What is the right MERV number for my air conditioning filter?

Monday, August 6, 2018

MERV is an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and the standard was created by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) in 1987. MERV rates the size of particles that the filter will trap, with higher...

Should I move my air conditioner into the attic?

Monday, August 6, 2018

The only reason for putting the air handler (indoor unit) of an air conditioner in an attic is to free up usable floor space in the living area of the home. But the additional square footage comes at a cost. Here are four reasons why it is actually...

My air conditioner outside unit (condenser) won't start and is making a humming noise. What's wrong?

Monday, August 6, 2018

The most likely problem is a capacitor that has gone bad. The electric motor which compresses the refrigerant flowing through your system requires an extra surge of electricity to start-up. A “starting capacitor” is a small metal cylinder that accumulates...

What are the requirements for bathroom ventilation?

Monday, August 6, 2018

A switched exhaust fan that is rated at a minimum of 50 cfm (cubic feet per minute) or a continuous fan that produces 20 cfm or more is necessary to meet IRC (International Residential Code) requirements. Although the continuous fan is an option, we...

What are the roof sheathing requirements for a roof replacement in Florida?

Monday, August 6, 2018

When you replace a roof on a home that was built before the implementation of the statewide Florida Building Code on March 1, 2002, the nailing of the roof sheathing (decking) must be brought up to current standards for hurricane resistance as part...

What are the code requirements for an outdoor dryer vent cover?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

It’s called a “duct termination” in the “Clothes Dryer Exhaust” section of the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC). Here’s what is specified:

Termination of the exhaust duct...

How far apart should electric receptacle outlets be placed in a garage?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

There is no spacing requirement. A minimum of one general purpose receptacle is required in a garage, in addition to any for specific equipment such as a garage door opener.

   But the minimum requirement is not sufficient for most do-it-yourselfers,...

Why is the circuit breaker stuck in the middle?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Circuit breakers have three positions: ON, OFF, and TRIPPED. The ON position is towards the inside or top of the panel, and OFF is towards the outside or bottom of the panel. The middle position means the breaker has tripped due to an overcurrent problem—too...

Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The traditional metal roof types, such as 5V-crimp (shown above) and corrugated, are rated by the manufacturers for use down to a 3/12 pitch—three inches of vertical “rise” for every foot of horizontal “run.” Because of the shallow height of the undulating...

Why is a single step dangerous in a house?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A single step up or down in a home may be familiar to the homeowner, but is often a surprise to a visitor. When there is just one step, it often lacks the visual cues that stairs provide, such as a railing and clearly defined, significant change in...

What is a lock device on a circuit breaker for?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The National Electric Code (NEC 422.30) requires that an installed electric appliance be able to be shut off by the a person servicing it and that the shut-off device either be within sight of the appliance, or lockable if not within sight—in other...

What are the most common installation mistakes with water heater replacement?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

When professional plumbers replace a water heater they know exactly how to do a safe, workmanlike installation. Plus, because it requires a building permit and final inspection by a municipal inspector, you are pretty well assured that the final product...

What is the minimum ceiling height for rooms in a house?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Minimum ceiling heights are defined by the building codes for “habitable rooms.” This means rooms intended to be occupied, as opposed to storage spaces, and the minimum height is seven feet. However, there are exceptions allowed, along with qualifiers: 

What is a termite shield?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

It is a piece of sheet metal—typically galvanized steel, copper or aluminum— that is installed between the stem wall or piers of a home’s foundation and the wood framing members sitting on top, to serve two purposes:

Deters termites from...

What is the average lifespan of a wood deck?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The life expectancy of a wood deck is 10 to 15 years, perhaps up to 20 years, with maintenance and coating with a weatherproofing sealer every few years. Deck boards are usually the first component to go bad and, for a while, you can replace an occasional...

What are the dark lines running parallel to shingles on my roof?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

If it looks like the photo above, then your shingle roof has lost its tab adhesion at the leading edge and is flapping up in high winds. The dark line is a crease created when the shingles repeatedly hinge up under wind pressure. 

    Shown...

Can a bathroom exhaust fan dump air (discharge/terminate) in the attic?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Both the International Residential Code (IRC M1501.1) and Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) are very specific: the air must be discharged to the outdoors, and vent termination into an attic, ridge vent or crawl space is excluded.

What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Building a wood deck off the back of a home is the classic weekend-warrior project. They look easy to build, so many homeowners feel comfortable putting together a backyard deck with some nails, lumber, and a little common sense. But the figure-it-out-as-you-go...

When is a railing required for the edge of a deck or porch?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Any open-sided walking surface more than 30-inches above any point within 36-inches away from it requires a guardrail that has a minimum height of 36-inches. The openings in the railing pickets should not allow a 4-inch sphere to pass through.

What is an air conditioning heat recovery system?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

An air conditioning or heat pump system cools your house during the warm months of the year by absorbing the heat from the interior and transferring it outside. If you put your hand over the top of a condenser (outside unit) while it is operating, you...

What is that pipe sticking out of the ground in the yard?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Without being there, we can’t tell you for sure. But there’s plenty of possibilities—most of them indicative of something that was formerly at that location but now gone. Here’s eight we know of: 

Electrical conduit - If there was once an...

What are the minimum clearances around a toilet?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Here’s the three standards for clearances around a toilet according to the International Residential Code [IRC P2705.1(5) and R305.1(2)]:

Minimum of 15-inches from centerline of toilet to adjacent side wall or plumbing fixture at side. So...

What does the HSPF of a heat pump system mean?

Friday, August 3, 2018

HSPF stands for Heating Season Performance Factor. It is the ratio of BTU heat output over a heating season to the watt-hours of electricity used, and is the standard measure of energy efficiency for heat pump in heating mode.. 

    Just...

What is the lighting requirement for stairs?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Stair safety is a serious concern because the statistics on stair-related injuries are so grim. About 1,400 people die in the U.S. each year as a result of a fall from a stair, and just under a million people are hospitalized yearly due to stair falls--over...

Why does my concrete floor slab sweat and get slippery?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

There are three possible causes of a sweating concrete slab we know of:

Missing or damaged vapor barrier under floor slab - The building code requires that a sheet of 6-mil polypropylene (often referred to by the brand name “Visqueen” by...

How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

You are allowed to put one additional layer of roofing over an existing roof, which is called a “reroof”; but, once there are two layers of roof, you must strip off both layers down to the deck the next time you need a roof, which is a “roof replacement.”...

When should I switch the thermostat to "EMERGENCY HEAT" for my heat pump air conditioner?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Don’t do it! The only reason to set your thermostat on emergency heat is if the regular heat is not functional. A heat pump is essentially a reverse cycle air conditioner, switching  the flow of the refrigerant backwards on cold days to absorb outside...

Should I refinish-resurface my pool with paint or plaster?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

We recommend going with a marcite plaster-type finish, which is also available with embedded pebbles or granite. Maybe if you are getting ready to sell your home soon, paint might be an option. It costs half as much as plaster, but also lasts half as...

How can I tell when it's time to paint the house?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

“If you have a concrete block home, it’s easy to tell when when it is ready for repainting,” according to Frank “Buddy” Nappy, of Buddy’s Painting in Gainesville, Florida. “Rub your hand across the surface of the wall and, if powdered paint comes off...

Will the electric company trim branches rubbing against the overhead service lines to my house?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A tree with branches touching the overhead electric service wires—the ones that run from the power pole at the corner of your property to a mast on the roof of your home and down to the electric meter—can become electrified when the motion of the tree...

How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

It’s easy: look for it in the front yard. The roofer is required to post a copy of the permit in plain sight from the street, and it’s usually in a clear plastic sleeve nailed to the trunk of a tree or a “job box” on a post. 

   Verifying...

What are the most common plumbing problems with older houses?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

There are three categories of plumbing problems we find in older homes:1) Pipe material that has been determined to be prone to failure and no longer used, 2) Pipe material and fixtures that are at the end of their serviceable lifespan, and 3) Defective...

What is the average lifespan of an air conditioner?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

While not an exact predictor, average lifespan is still a valuable piece of information. Here’s the average lifespan for different types of air conditioners:

 Split System Condensers (outside unit) - 10 to 16 years
 Split System Air...

Why are rubber washing machine hoses a safety risk?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The rubber hoses that come packed in the tub of a new washing machine are a serious concern for insurance companies due to their high rate of failure and the flood remediation cost after they burst. Here’s a few statistics from a 2012 report by the...

Why does the air conditioner condensate drain line need a trap in it?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

As the air conditioner cools your home, humidity in the air condenses into water on the surfaces of the evaporator coil of your air handler (air conditioner indoor unit). The water drips down into a trough that drains into a drain line to the ground...

Can more than one neutral or ground wire be terminated under the same lug/set-screw in an electric panel?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Each neutral (white, grounded conductor) wire should be secured separately under its own lug/set-screw terminal in an electric panel, per National electrical Code (NEC 408.41). Also, a neutral and equipment ground (bare or green) wire cannot share a...

What is the difference between plywood and OSB?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Here’s the big question we get asked regularly when we come out of an attic: “Is my roofing sheathing plywood or OSB?” Everyone seems to have a friend that has told them that one is good and the other is bad—or, at least, not as good. OSB (which is...

What is a D-sticker mobile home?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A “D-sticker” manufactured home is a Wind Zone III home on steroids. It has been further strengthened to to meet the wind resistance requirement of ASCE 7-88,  Exposure D—which is a standard referenced in the HUD Code. It is specifically for homes to...

Who is the manufacturer of those "bad" electric panels?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The brand is Federal Pacific, and the company went out of business in the 1980s, largely due to lawsuits regarding their “Stab-Lok” line of panels. The breakers in these panels failed to trip consistently when overloaded or short-circuited, causing...

Why are Zinsco and Sylvania-Zinsco electric panels a problem?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Zinsco panels, like the one shown above, use a clip-on connection between the breakers and aluminum bus bar. They have a higher than usual rate of failure, due most often to loosening of the connection between bus bar and breaker. When this happens,...

What is the best air conditioner for a mobile home?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

There are four basic types of air conditioners that can be installed in a mobile home, and each has its own advantages. Here’s the choices:

Package - A “package unit” puts everything in one big box and is the most popular air conditioner...

What size air conditioner is right for my mobile home?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Most mobile homes have a “package” HVAC system for heating and cooling. The entire system (condenser, air handler, evaporator coils) is contained in one large box installed up against or near the skirting of the home. Package units are rated in tons...

What is the standard size air conditioner for a double-wide mobile home?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

There are two variables that affect the size system necessary to adequately cool a manufactured home. The first is the amount of insulation in the walls, floor and ceiling of home. Because older homes have less insulation, they will require more BTUs...

What is the standard size air conditioner for a single-wide mobile home?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

There are two variables that affect the size system necessary to adequately cool a manufactured home. The first is the amount of insulation in the walls, floor and ceiling of home. Because older homes have less insulation, they will require more BTUs...

What is the average life expectancy of a house?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Because all of the components of a site-built residence can be repaired or replaced, there is no average lifespan for a house. It can last indefinitely if maintenance and replacement are done as needed.   But each component of a house has its own life...

What is the life expectancy of a modular home?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Although a modular home is built in a factory and transported to the homesite like a mobile/manufactured home, it is different in two important ways: 1) a modular home is manufactured to the essentially the same building code and using the same materials...

What's that powdery crust on the pipe connections at the water heater?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The rusty crust is galvanic corrosion, an electrochemical disintegration that happens when two different metals are in contact with each other while also in contact with an electrically conductive liquid, typically water. One metal, the less “noble”...

What is a dielectric union?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

When copper and steel pipes are connected, which happens often at the fittings near a water heater, an electrolytic reaction begins. Water is the electrolyte, and the combination of two metals and water essentially becomes a battery. It happens slowly...

What is the SEER of my old air conditioner?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The chart below traces the history of the average SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) for residential air conditioners dating back to the 1980s. During each era there were also “high efficiency” models, often proudly announced by a fancy medallion...

How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

There are seven different ways you can determine either the exact or approximate SEER of your heat pump or air conditioning system. Let’s start with the easy, simple ways to get an exact number, and work down to other methods that will provide an approximate...

Should I remove an old whole house fan or keep it?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Today it seems like air conditioning has always been around. But in 1965 only 10% of American homes had an air conditioner and, around Florida and most of the Sunbelt, it was often only a single window-unit in the living room or master bedroom. 

Can wiremold be used at an exterior location?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Wiremold   is a popular brand of “surface metal raceway” manufactured by Legrand. The company states on the packaging that it is only rated for interior and dry locations. Also, the NEC (National Electrical Code) rates surface metal raceways for dry...

What is the difference between galvanized and galvalume metal roofing?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Both types of metal roof panel are a sheet of steel with a rust-resistant coating. For many years the standard coating technique was galvanization, which is a hot dip in molten zinc. The zinc bonds with the steel and forms a distinct crystalline surface...

What is a heat pump water heater?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

When we opened a door from the kitchen and stepped into the garage during a home inspection on a hot July afternoon recently, it was almost as cool as the rest of the house. Yet the garage was not air conditioned. This was a little puzzling, until we...

What is the life expectancy of electrical wiring in a house?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Copper wire should last 100 years or more, but the insulation around it will deteriorate sooner and is the determining factor in lifespan. Each era of electrical wiring has a different expected life, and he earliest type still around in a few older...

What is the average life expectancy of stucco?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Stucco over concrete block has an estimated lifespan of 60 to 80 years or more, and stucco over a backer board or metal lath on a wood frame wall should last 50 to 60 years. But both estimates are based on doing three maintenance projects regularly:...

What is the average life expectancy of plywood siding?

Friday, July 27, 2018

It’s difficult to assign a lifespan estimate to any wood product with an exterior exposure to rainy weather and humidity, because a protective paint coating that seals out moisture must be vigilantly maintained. If not, wood-rot fungal growth begins...

Are a range and refrigerator required kitchen appliances for a house to pass FHA inspection?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Free-standing appliances, such as a range or refrigerator, are not required for an FHA mortgage. But any built-in appliances that have been removed or not yet installed must be in place. So, if the built-in cooktop and oven in the kitchen above was...

What are the common problems to look for when the plumbing has been replaced in a house?

Friday, July 27, 2018

When a realtor tells us that “the plumbing has been replaced” in a house we are about to inspect, we try to determine what percentage of the plumbing was actually replaced. It is almost never 100%. Plumbing replacement in a house between 40 and 60 years...

How can adding wood paneling or a wainscot create an electrical safety hazard?

Friday, July 27, 2018

The primary purpose of the electrical box in which wall receptacles are mounted is to contain any arcing or sparking that might happen at the wire connections at the side or back or the receptacle. When combined with a cover plate, a fire-resistant...

What is the difference between prescriptive and performance building codes?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Most building code provisions are “prescriptive,” meaning that they lay out a recipe for the work, with specifications for both the material and installation. For example, a prescriptive code for roof sheathing nailing states that the plywood must be...

How do I upgrade my old (pre-1976) mobile home to meet HUD standards?

Friday, July 27, 2018

The “National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974” became federal law on June 15, 1976, and provided the framework of what we now know as the HUD Code, a national building code for manufactured/mobile homes. It was the...

What is the average life expectancy of copper pipe?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Copper water supply pipe should last 50 to 70 years, and possibly longer. Unfortunately, “aggressive” acidic water or soil can cause pitting-type corrosion and shorten the lifespan to 20 years or less. Also, other combinations of alkaline ph, hardness,...

What is the average life expectancy of wood siding?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Wood siding should last 20 to 40 years, and possibly longer with meticulous maintenance. Here are four variables that will increase or decrease the life of your wood siding compared to the average:

Type of wood - Wood decay fungi, commonly...

When were the first double-wide mobile homes manufactured?

Friday, July 27, 2018

It depends on how you define a double-wide mobile home. The “Dubl-Wide” was manufactured in 1961 by the Roadliner Company, and it boasted a double width in 8, 9, and 10-foot increments. But the mobile home was what would be called a “pop-out” today:...

Why is a double cylinder deadbolt lock on an exterior door a safety hazard?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Getting out of your house quickly at the first sign of a fire is important. One way that the building codes try to make sure that there are no obstacles that would trap you in the house is requiring keyless operation from the interior of any doors to...

Does it cost more to roof a hip roof than a gable roof?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Yes, it costs more to frame a hip roof, more to sheath it, and more to install the roofing. The additional cost is mostly in labor, due to the hip ridges that run to the corners of the roof. The surfaces of a gable roof are simple rectangles, but a...

What is a false ground, bootleg ground, or cheated ground receptacle?

Friday, July 27, 2018

One of the problems that comes with owning with an older home is that the three-prong cords on many modern electrical devices will not plug into pre-1960 two-slot receptacles. One way to deal with it is to use an “adapter” like the one shown above,...

What is the steepest residential stair allowed?

Friday, July 27, 2018

The International Residential Code sets the maximum riser (vertical part) of a stair at 7-3/4” and the minimum tread (horizontal part) at 10”. Put them together, and that makes the steepest stair allowed. However, when a tread is less than 11” it must...

Why is my double-wide considered a HUD home?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Some people call them a “HUD home” and others use the term “HUD-Code” home. That’s because, since 1976, the construction of mobile/manufactured homes has been under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development....

Is it acceptable for an air conditioning condensate drain line to terminate under the house?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Letting the condensate water created by your air conditioning system drain under the house is convenient for a mobile home with a split-system air conditioner and an older home with elevated floors over a crawl space. But it causes two problems:

What is a jump duct?

Friday, July 27, 2018

In order to understand what a jump duct is and what it does, we first have to cover a basic principle of heating and air conditioning: when a register (ceiling vent) in each room to delivers air, there has to be a way for air to flow out of the room...

What is the purpose of the vent grille over the bedroom door?

Friday, July 27, 2018

It’s called a transfer grille and provides an opening from the bedroom to the hallway for air to return back to the air conditioning air handler or furnace when the supply register (vent) in the ceiling of the bedroom is blowing conditioned air into...

Should I use my realtor's home inspector or choose one myself?

Friday, July 27, 2018

“If you were charged with a crime, would you ask the prosecutor who to hire for a defense attorney?” That’s the way one long-time home inspector we know sees this issue. “And, you know, sometimes real estate is a crime,” he always adds.

...

Should I have a return air vent in the master bedroom?

Friday, July 27, 2018

A single return air register (vent) was once the standard for residential construction, and it was typically located in the hallway to the bedrooms. But new homes are different from ones built in the 1970s or earlier in two ways: they average about...

Can a home inspector do repairs to a house after doing the inspection?

Friday, July 27, 2018

While it is considered a conflict of interest by all the national home inspector associations for an inspector to offer to repair the defects found during the inspection, and not allowed under the ethical standards that their members are required to...

Should I use a contractor or a home inspector to inspect a house I'm buying?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Building contractors and home inspectors bring different skills and experience to the process of evaluating a property for a homebuyer. Because contractors have a background in building homes from the ground up, it gives them a kind of x-ray vision...

Should I get a home inspection before signing a contract to buy the house?

Friday, July 27, 2018

We occasionally get a request to do a home inspection for a buyer before they have a purchase contract. It is usually on a for-sale-by-owner property, because sellers that are represented by a realtor are routinely advised not to allow any inspections...

What is Z flashing?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Although commonly called “Z” flashing, the Z has squared corners and it could as easily have been named “stair-step flashing.” We see it most often used at the horizontal joint between two sheets of plywood exterior siding, to provide protection from...

What is an H-clip?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Manufacturers label them “panel edge clips,” but they are called H-clips in the construction trade because of their shape. An H-clip creates a connection point, along with a necessary 1/8” gap for expansion/contraction, between two sheets of plywood...

What are the most common electrical defects found in a home inspection?

Friday, July 27, 2018

The electrical system in a home is about as good as it will ever be on the day the first owner moves in. This is because the local building department requires that a licensed electrical contractor be hired for the wiring of a new house. The professional...

What is an open electrical splice?

Friday, July 27, 2018

The connection of two or more wires is called a “splice,” and an “open splice” is when it is not contained inside a box. When electrical wire connections come apart, the sparking and heat from the electricity jumping between loosened wires can easily...

Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?

Friday, July 27, 2018

When the wiring in a house is overloaded with too many appliances drawing current, it overheats and can start a fire in the walls or attic. Old electric panels with round, glass screw-in type fuses use a simple, dependable technology to avoid that problem:...

What makes a house fail the home inspection?

Friday, July 27, 2018

It’s not like school, where you have to get a test score above a preset number to pass the exam. The pass/fail point is based entirely on the homebuyer’s expectations. Most realtors prepare their buyers by alerting them to the fact that the home inspector...

Why can't PVC be used for water pipe inside a house?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Florida Building Code (FBC) do not have PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe on their list of approved water distribution pipe. The building codes make a distinction between water “service” pipe, which...

Where can I file a complaint about a mobile home park owner?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Complaints in Florida are handled by the Florida Department of Buiness and Professional Regulation (DBPR), Division of Florida Condominums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes. You can download a complaint form and info for filing the complaint from their...

What is the average life expectancy of PVC pipe?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The expected lifespan of PVC pipe is 50 to 70 years, although some data provided by plastic pipe manufacturers indicates a possible 100+ year life for the material. Since it has only been in widespread use in the United States since about 1970, the...

Will closing doors reduce my heating and cooling costs?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Although common sense tells you that shutting the door and closing the vents at an unused room reduces the heating/cooling cost for your home, it doesn’t actually work out that way. Here’s five reasons why: 

Your home’s HVAC system only functions...

What is fiber reinforced concrete?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

When a homeowner discovers cracks in their floor slab just a few months after moving into their brand-new home, the builder gets an irate phone call. Usually the cracks are small and the result of the concrete shrinkage as it sets up. It’s normal and...

What is an auto vent, air admittance valve, or check vent?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

This device goes by a number of different names, including Studor® vent, in-line vent and mechanical vent. It is designed to open and admit air into a sink drain line when there is negative pressure (suction) in the pipe, which allows the drain to flow...

How much will I save on my utility bill if I get a new higher SEER air conditioner?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Figuring out the percentage reduction of your electric bill for a new air conditioner is fairly simple. Subtract the SEER of your current unit from the SEER of a system you are considering buying, and then divide that number by the SEER of the new system....

What is the difference between a toe nail, clip, single wrap, and double wrap for the wind mitigation form?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The reduction on the windstorm portion of your homeowner’s insurance that is allowed for a strong roof-to-wall attachment averages 35%, and is the largest discount for many homeowners. It is exceeded only by the discount for a hip roof (sloped on all...

How can I determine the age of a Stiebel Eltron water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Look at the middle cluster of four digits in the serial number. Add 25 to the first two digits for the year of manufacture, and subtract 25 from the second two digits for the week. So the heat pump water heater with the serial number shown below was...

When did the first Florida Building Code (FBC) begin and become effective?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The law creating the Florida Building Code was enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1998 and became effective on March 1, 2002. Here’s how the Florida Building Commission explains why the motivation for the first state-wide building code was Hurricane...

Why is there a GFCI breaker in the electric panel for the bathroom shower light and exhaust fan?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Although there is no citation in the National Electrical Code (NEC) requiring Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protection for shower lights and bathroom exhaust fans, many manufacturers specify that they be GFCI-protected as part of their installation...

What is a "continuous load path"?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Most people think of the structural failure of a house as collapse. But falling down is only one way a structure can fail, and gravity is not always the culprit. A building can also fail upwards, when a hurricane creates a pressure imbalance that literally...

Can a pool with green, cloudy water be inspected?

Monday, July 23, 2018

“It depends on how bad it is,” according to Dean Muggeo, of Dino’s Pool Service, in Gainesville, Florida. “We can do a limited inspection of the pool equipment and what is visible of the pool shell on any pool. But, to do a complete inspection, the...

What does it mean when a wire is "overstripped" at a circuit breaker?

Monday, July 23, 2018

When a wire is connected to a circuit breaker in an electric panel, the insulation should only be stripped back enough so that, when it is fully inserted in the breaker, no insulation is under the setscrew terminal and no bare wire extends past the...

Should I only hire an inspector that is a member of a national association like ASHI or InterNACHI?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

When we get a call about doing a home inspection, the customer sometimes starts off the conversation with “my realtor said I should only hire an ASHI inspector” or “I’m so glad I found you on the InterNACHI website.” They know that being sure the home...

What is the difference between "grounded" and "grounding" electrical conductors?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

These are terms used in the NEC (National Electrical Code) and technical manuals. The “grounding” conductor is a wire that provides a safe route for electricity that has left its intended route through an appliance and has energized a component that...

Should I buy a house that has had foundation repair?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Any foundation repair should be listed on the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement, because it meets the requirements for disclosure of affecting the value of the house and not being readily discernible by a buyer. We do home inspections in an area...

How do you determine when the house was built?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Checking the year listed by the county property appraiser is how the age of a house is usually found. But things can get complicated. There are two dates listed: actual year built and effective year built. The first, “actual year built” is when the...

What is the difference between actual and effective year built?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Alachua County Property Appraiser’s Office provides this definition of “actual year built”: 

The year that a building on the property was originally constructed. The year 1900 is used when no year of construction is on file.

What determines the year of a house?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

When the construction of a home is completed and all the final inspections are done, the local building department issues a Certificate of Occupancy, also called a “C.O.” in the building trades, which literally means that it is now allowed to be occupied....

What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) and an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The CAFCI is a new version of the older ACFI breaker. Both trip like a standard circuit breaker when the circuit is overloaded with too much current or there is a short circuit, and the AFCI also trips when there is parallel arcing (hot-to-neutral or...

How I can tell if a receptacle outlet is tamper resistant?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

It’s not that unusual for us to inspect a newer home that is occupied by a family with young children, and find that they have installed plastic safety caps over all the plugs that the kids can reach, but don’t realize that they already have tamper...

Is painted bathroom tile acceptable?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

We do not define painted bathroom tile as a defect unless it has areas that are peeling, bubbling, or flaking off. However, we do call it to the homebuyer’s attention for two reasons: 1) it is often not noticed that the original tile has been painted...

What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A circuit breaker that provides both Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) and  Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) is called a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter DFCI). The 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC) has mandated both AFCI and...

Will a GFCI receptacle that is not grounded still function properly?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The purpose of a GFCI receptacle is to trip when it senses that any electric current has leaked from the intended circuit, which may be causing someone to be shocked, and quickly to cut off the current to avoid possible electrocution. GFCI protection...

Does a home inspector remove the electric panel cover plate and examine the inside of the panel?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

When we first started doing home inspections about fifteen years ago, we would occasionally find a homeowner that was surprised when we opened their electric panel to check the wiring. “The last home inspector we had didn’t open the panel,” was the...

What is a "cosmetic" defect in a home inspection?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Defining what is a “cosmetic” defect, and what is not, can be a point of disagreement between buyer and seller after a home inspection, primarily because sellers are not required to fix cosmetic defects (according to the FARBAR contract used in Florida...

How can I tell the age of a Bard heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Bard is the best-known brand of wall-mounted package units in our area. In fact, sometimes we hear contractors say “Bard unit” as a generic term for any wall-mounted package air conditioner. They are most often used for small to mid-size commercial...

How can I tell the age of a Lennox heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The second two digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture for Lennox units. This unit was manufactured in 2010.

    Also, see our blog posts How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner? and Why is my air conditioner not...

Is a ridge board/beam required for a roof framed with rafters?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Yes, either a ridge board or a ridge beam is necessary, and required by the building code, where roof rafters meet at the the center of their span. The difference between them is that a ridge beam is a structural member that bears half of the live and...

Why is there a wall switch next to the furnace or indoor unit of the air conditioner in the garage?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The furnace or air handler (indoor unit of an air conditioner) is required to have a way to disconnect the electricity to it within sight, so that a service technician can safely service the system without someone in another room inadvertently turning...

Why is the European-style bottle trap not approved by the plumbing codes in the U.S.?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A bottle trap is also called a “decorative lavatory trap”, and it is designed to be installed for sinks where the plumbing below the sink is visible. It can be coordinated with a specific high-style finish, such as weathered copper or oil-rubbed bronze,...

Where are the funny home inspection pictures?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

People love to see them. They are irresistible, like cat videos and parkour stunts gone bad. We don’t publish them, although we have seen our share of kiddie pools in the attic to catch roof leaks and amazingly ingenious repairs made from coffee cans,...

What are the most common defects with over-the-range microwaves?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Because we work in a college town (Go Gators!) and inspect a lot of student condominiums near campus, the over-the-range microwave receives close attention. It is a student’s second most-used food prep appliance—after the phone for ordering pizza. Microwaves...

Should I follow the inspector around during the inspection?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

It all depends on the particular inspector and how they prefer to work. Some inspectors enjoy keeping up a running conversation while examining the house, others want to do the complete inspection and then talk with the customer about their findings...

How can I tell the age of a Bryant heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The second two digits of the serial number is the year of manufacture of a Bryant heat pump or air conditioner. This condenser was manufactured in 2009.

    Also, see our blog posts How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner? and Why...

How can I tell the age of a Goodman heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The first two digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture for a Goodman heat pump or air conditioner. This unit was manufactured in 2013.

    Also, see our blog posts How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner? and Why...

If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Insurance is the main reason. A roof that shows signs of deterioration—like lack of tab adhesion, curling at the edges, areas of damage, or granule loss—will fail during any significant windstorm event, such as a severe thunderstorm or a hurricane.

How can I tell the age of a Carrier heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The second two digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture of a Carrier heat pump or air conditioner. This unit was manufactured in 2002.

    For units from the late 1960s thru the late 1980s, there is a different serial number...

What should I do about a tree with roots running under my house?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The one thing you should not do is cut off multiple lateral roots on one side of the tree when trying to eliminate roots running under a house. Roots radiate outward from the trunk in all directions, which makes the tree stable in high winds in the...

What causes a lump or dip in the roof?

Friday, July 20, 2018

A sunken or buckled area in the roof is most easily visible when looking up the slope of the roof from the ground. Here’s four common causes:

Roof leak - Leakage of the roofing that has caused rot and partial collapse of the sheathing in...

Can a mobile/manufactured home have a high radon problem?

Friday, July 20, 2018

This is what the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has to say about mobile homes and radon: “Unless these buildings are set up on piers without any skirting placed around them, interior vacuums can cause radon to enter these types...

What are the most common problems with wood roof trusses?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Prior to the mid-1960s, a roof structure was framed at the homesite using dimensional lumber, cut diagonally at the ends to size, notched at the bearing points, and then carefully secured along a ridge board or ridge beam at the center of the span....

How do I determine the age of a Trane or American Standard heat pump or air conditioner?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Unlike other manufacturers that encode the year of manufacture in their serial number, these two brands print it clearly, usually in the upper right of the data plate. Older Trane units have a metal plate that is stamped with their information and,...

What are the green plastic discs in the ground around the house?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Those round green things are covers for a bait system used to control subterranean termites. Attached below them are canisters about 2-inches across and 12-inches deep with openings into the soil. Termites enter the canisters to find small strips of...

What are the most common problems with wall/window air conditioners?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Window air conditioners that are readily removable are not considered permanently installed appliances, and we don’t inspect them unless they are confirmed as part of the sale of the property. Wall air conditioners are permanently installed and we check...

What are the HUD requirements for selling a remodeled or renovated mobile home?

Friday, July 20, 2018

HUD has jurisdiction over manufactured/mobile homes when they are built in the factory. It also has minimum standards for installation at the homesite. But, after the first homeowner has moved in, HUD is out of the picture. Local building codes and...

What is the average life expectancy of CPVC pipe?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) pipe is a thermoplastic created by the chlorination of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin. It has been available since the mid-1960s, and has an estimated lifespan of 50 to 70 years. Because it a more recent product,...

What is an FVIR water heater?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Gas fired water heaters were required for many years to be elevated a minimum of 18-inches above the floor when installed in a garage, because of the possibility of the flame at the base of the water heater igniting gasoline vapors from a car parked...

Why are expired building permits a problem for both the seller and buyer of a home?

Friday, July 20, 2018

When a homeowner or contractor receives a building permit for a home improvement, the time allowed for completion of the work by the local building department is typically six months. The permit expires if the necessary intermediate inspections, and...

What are the different roof deck attachment discount categories for a wind mitigation inspection?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Because the pressure difference between the inside and outside of a home during a hurricane creates negative air pressure so strong that it can literally suck the roof sheathing off the trusses or rafters, securely attached roof sheathing is important...

Which building permit date is used for the Building Code section of the wind mitigation form?

Friday, July 20, 2018

There are always multiple dates listed on a building permit, but the date that determines which building code edition that the home must comply with is the date of application for the permit—not the date the permit was issued—so it is the one used for...

What is the difference between a subterranean termite and a drywood termite?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Not always, because this treatment is used only for Drywood Termites. If the evidence or damage outlined on your WDO (Wood Destroying Organisms) report indicates Subterranean Termites, other treatments will be recommended. Shed wings, small egg shaped...

What is the difference between a single element and dual element electric water heater?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Most tank electric water heaters of 30 gallons or more are dual element, meaning that they have a top and bottom heating element at the side of the tank. Some older mobile homes have a single heating element for a 20 or 30 gallon water heaters, but...

Do I have to tent the house if I have termites?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Not always, because this treatment is used only for Drywood Termites. If the evidence or damage outlined on your WDO (Wood Destroying Organisms) report indicates Subterranean Termites, other treatments will be recommended. Shed wings, small egg shaped...

Can a mobile/manufactured home get termites?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Both Subterranean and Drywood Termites can infest a mobile home. It is also possible for a termite inspector to document an assortment of wood boring beetles (which are mandatory to report on with the Florida DACS 13645 WDO form) in a mobile home. 

What is the difference between roofing felt and synthetic underlayment?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Because most roof coverings are not really waterproof, and would be more accurately described as a surface that sheds water due to a downward slope and the down-lapping of overlapping panels, a secondary roof membrane for backup protection is required...

What are the limitations on homesites where a mobile/manufactured home can be located?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

There are two levels of possible restrictions for locating a mobile home on a particular site that is not inside a mobile home park. The first is the local zoning for the land. Because of the bad name that mobile homes acquired in the past, many counties...

What does a home inspector look for when examining a mobile home crawl space?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The #1 question we get asked when starting a mobile home inspection is: "Are you going to go under it?" The answer is yes, because the crawlspace is an important part of the home inspection.

    A quick look at the site can give us clues...

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Under Florida law, as in many other states, a seller of a residential property has an obligation to disclose to the buyer all known facts that materially affect the value of the property being sold and are not readily observable. The Florida Association...

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

If you are concerned about unknowingly buying a house over a sinkhole and getting stuck with a huge problem, you are not alone. Florida has the distinction of having more sinkholes than any other state in the nation and, although the Tampa Bay area...

What are the warning signs of a sinkhole?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Here’s the top seven sinkhole warning signs:

Freshly exposed vertical surfaces at ground level - Because houses and fences are normally painted down to the ground level, areas of unpainted surface near the ground that were not previously...

What causes sinkholes?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The rock layer under the entire state of Florida is a limestone, called “karst,” which was deposited by the plants and animals of an ancient sea that covered our peninsula for an estimated 60-million years. In more recent geologic time, the sea receded...

Does bleach kill mold?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

“Bleach doesn’t kill mold, it just annoys it,” according to one mold remediation contractor we know. Actually, chlorine bleach can kill mold on a non-porous surface like glass or metal; but, because it is a plant-like growth with a root system that...

Why is a popped nail in a shingle roof a problem? How do I fix it?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A popped nail looks like a wrinkle in a line of shingles when you look up the roof, as in the photo above that has them at multiple locations. The wrinkles typically occur somewhere in the middle of the front edge of a shingle. Some roofers call the...

How do I look for and find mold in my mobile home?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

If your nose keeps catching a whiff of a musty smell around your manufactured home but you can’t track it down, the way to find out what’s causing the odor is to think like a mold spore. There are literally millions of spores floating in the air inside...

What is the difference between the electric service to a mobile home and a site built home?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A site built home has electric service that runs directly to the home, either overhead or underground, with an electric meter typically on an exterior wall, and the service equipment (also called the main service panel) nearby or somewhere inside the...

What is engineered wood siding?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

It is the newest generation of what used to be called composite wood siding. Engineered wood is made from chips of wood that are compressed with a water-resistant glue into both planks and panels for exterior siding. It is a similar material to OSB...

Should I be suspicious about a concrete block house covered with siding?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The first question one of our home inspection customers asks when we tell them that a house is built with concrete block that has been sided over with some other material is “Well, how do you know that?” The thickness of the exterior wall and position...

Can an electric panel be located over stairs?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The purpose of the National Electric Code restrictions on the location of a panelboard is the safety of a person opening the panel for service. To safely remove the dead front (cover plate of the panel) and work inside requires a stable surface to stand...

How energy efficient is a mobile home?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The statistics are not wonderful: heating and cooling an older, pre-1976 mobile home can cost twice as much as a site-built home of a comparable size and age. Energy efficiency of manufactured homes has improved over the years, but the minimum standards...

How can I make my mobile home more energy efficient?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The energy efficiency standards that HUD requires manufactured homes to meet have been ratcheted up several times over the years, but are still less than those for site-built homes. An analysis by the DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) in 2010 determined...

What are the ventilation requirements for bathrooms and kitchens in mobile homes?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Each time the kitchen and bathroom are used, they generate humidity and odors that need to be exhausted outside to maintain a healthy indoor environment. HUD did not require mechanical ventilation of kitchens and baths until the 1994 update of the HUD-code,...

How do I tell the age of a Grandaire air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The fourth and fifth digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture. The data plate shown below, with the serial number GS3001002827, indicates that the unit was manufactured in 2000. 

    Also, see our blog posts How many tons is...

Are roof trusses better than roof rafters (stick framing)?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wood trusses have been the standard for residential roof construction for many years now. Although they may cost more than the lumber for rafters when used for shorter spans, trusses save a tremendous amount of onsite labor, so the final cost of materials...

What are the pros and cons of aluminum siding?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

We rarely see aluminum siding anymore. It first came on the market after World War II as an alternative to wood siding, and continued to be in demand for less-expensive new homes and as an improvement for older homes through the 1970s. During the height...

Why are some rooms colder or warmer than others?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

When an air conditioning system is supplying just the right amount of cooled air to each room in a home so that an even temperature is maintained throughout the home, the system is called “balanced” by HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning)...

How can I fix rooms that are too warm or too cold in my mobile home?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A long list of defects can cause uneven heating or cooling in any home. Problems such as a dirty filter, leaking ducts, loose duct connection at registers (vents), closed registers, or a poorly designed system can all cause an unbalanced air delivery....

What is the right price for a used mobile home?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

You can get a rough idea of how much a used mobile home is worth by using an online service like NADA Guides and pay $20 or $50, depending on the level of detail you want. Go to http://www.nadaguides.com/Manufactured-Homes to get started. But, ultimately,...

How can I tell the age of a Kelvinator air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The fourth and fifth digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture. The data plate below indicates that the unit was manufactured in 2010.

    Also, see our blog posts How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner? and Why is...

Which one is better for a home heating system: electric or natural gas?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

If you define better as being the least expensive, then natural gas is best in many areas of the country. But variables like the price of electricity, availability of natural gas in your neighborhood, personal preference, and cost of the equipment can...

What does ANSI 297.1 on glass mean?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

It is the number of the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard for safety glass. Since it is updated every few years, the standard number is usually followed by the year of the revision that it meets, which also means that the glass was...

Does a recent termite company inspection sticker mean there are no termites?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

When you reach into the pocket of a new pair of jeans and find a slip of paper that says “INSPECTED BY #27,” it means that they were checked for defects and found to be satisfactory before leaving the factory. But the sticker for an inspection by a...

Do home inspectors test the appliances?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Florida State Statute regarding home inspection standards for interior components (61-30.807) requires that inspectors test appliances. Here’s what it says:

“The inspector shall inspect household appliances to determine whether the appliances...

Why does the laminate wood floor move when I walk across it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Most laminate flooring materials do not attach to the floor slab or wood sub-flooring. They are designed to be “float” over the floor and have either a pad attached to their underside or sections of padding are fitted across the floor before the laminate...

How can I identify what kind of wood flooring I am looking at?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Just because it looks like wood doesn’t mean that it is. Today’s designers are very good at creating tile, laminates and vinyl to look convincingly like wood. If you are a homebuyer that wants to know, ask your realtor to find out from the seller what...

Is a three-light tester dependable for checking receptacle outlets for wiring problems?

Monday, July 16, 2018

We have used those little three-light testers to check the wiring at wall receptacles for years, but switched to a ground impedance electronic tester lately due to the occasional bad readings that happen with a three-light tester. They are accurate...

Is a catch pan and drain piping required for a replacement water heater?

Monday, July 16, 2018

If the water heater being replaced does not have a drain from the catch pan under it, the replacement is not required to have one either. The 2017 edition of the Florida Building Code, Residential Edition (FBC P2801.6.1), states that “where a pan drain...

How can I tell if a house has a radon mitigation system?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Because radon mitigation systems can be installed multiple different ways and some installations are concealed at the interior rooms of a house, a home may have a passive or active radon mitigation system that is not visible during an examination of...

What would cause half of a double-wide mobile home to lose electric power?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

There is a cross-over connection of the wiring between the two halves of a double-wide, and it can be snap-together, male-female connections or a junction box with standard wire nut connections. The connections are usually at the marriage line near...

Is a house required to have outdoor electric receptacle outlets?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A minimum of one outdoor receptacle was first required for new homes by the 1971 NEC (National Electric Code), although they were already being installed much earlier due to consumer demand. The 2005 edition of the NEC upped the ante to two receptacles,...

How can checking the fireplace damper reduce energy bills year-round?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fireplaces are cozy and romantic, although not energy efficient: only 10% to 15% of the heat generated actually enters the room and the rest goes up the chimney. But warming your feet in front of a roaring fire on a winter night and the satisfying sound...

What are the requirements for installing a gas appliance connector?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A flexible gas appliance connector is the ribbed, flexible pipe that is part of a gas appliance connection kit, and it is the last leg of the gas piping to the appliance. Here are the key requirements of both the building code and manufacturers regarding...

What is an escutcheon plate?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

An escutcheon plate is the disc around a plumbing pipe at the wall penetration that seals the wall opening. The photo above shows a chrome escutcheon plate where the water supply pipe for a toilet enters the wall. You will also find escutcheon plates...

What are the code requirements for NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable or Romex®) in an attic?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

We often find damaged NM-cable in attics, especially where the cables are running near or across the scuttle opening, and here’s several ways that it happens:

A homeowner pops up the access panel, sticks their head only barely into the attic,...

What does roach poop (fecal pellets) look like?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Roach fecal pellets have a cylindrical to roundish shape, slightly coarse surface, and are black to dark brown. The feces vary from specks to small pellets, depending to the size of the roaches. 

While you may only see a few scattered pellets...

Why is sunlight exposure bad for PVC pipe?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight causes degradation of the plastic composition of PVC pipe over time and, although it produces discoloration, the main problem is reduction in the impact resistance of the pipe. Instead of flexing under an impact,...

When do termites swarm in Florida?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

There are two types of termites that can damage your home: subterranean and drywood. Subterranean termites live in the soil, are water-dependent, and build mud tubes up into the structure. The are the more aggressively destructive than drywoods and...

Are wall light switches required be "up" for "on" and "down" for "off"?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The building codes have requirements for where a light switch must be installed, but we know of no code citation that says a light switch must be installed so that the “up” position of the toggle energizes the circuit. However, it is customary to do...

What is the loose wire sticking out of the ground under the gas meter for?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Although the wire might be mistaken for a loose ground wire connection, it’s actually a “tracer wire” that is installed next to the gas pipe when it is run underground from the gas main at the street to a house. Because many gas pipes today are plastic...

Why do realtors call some home inspectors "deal killers"?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Realtors label a home inspector as a “deal killer” when they feel that the inspector has unfairly exaggerated the defects in a house, frightened the buyers, and caused them to cancel the contract. Home inspectors like to say that “I didn’t kill the...

Why would a well need to have a chlorinator/dechlorinator system?

Friday, July 13, 2018

If you open the door to a well shed and see a single plastic bin with a control panel on top, or a plastic bin and a slender metal pressure tank next to it with a control panel on top, you are probably looking at a water softener system. There will...

What size generator do I need to run my submersible well pump?

Friday, July 13, 2018

The amperage rating of the pump motor times the voltage would be the wattage that the pump needs once it has started up. But an electric motor needs an initial surge of power to overcome inertia, called the “startup wattage,” and that larger number...

How can I change a 240V circuit to a 120V circuit?

Friday, July 13, 2018

We usually get asked this question by someone who is switching from an electric range to gas. They need a 120V outlet behind the new gas range where the now-useless 240V electric range outlet is, to power the control panel and igniters for the burners,...

Are open stair risers acceptable?

Friday, July 13, 2018

A riser is the vertical part of a stair run that is above and below the treads that you walk on. The International Residential Code (IRC) allows open risers as long as “the opening between the treads does not permit the passage of a 4-inch diameter...

Can old electrical wiring go bad inside a wall?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Although the cable sheathing and insulation on wiring eventually deteriorates, it takes a long time. The wiring that is currently manufactured is estimated to have an 80 to 100 year lifespan. Original wiring in pre-1940 homes that is knob-and-tube type...

What could cause an extremely high electric bill?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Most of us use a lot of electricity and, nationally, the usage increases a few percent each year in spite of energy-efficient lightbulbs and appliances. Americans just keep getting more gadgets and appliances. Much has been written about ways to cut...

Why does an air conditioner condenser unit need to be level?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Refrigerant travels with the lubricating oil through an a/c system. When the condenser is out-of-level, the oil can separate and the compressor may operate without adequate lubrication. Most manufacturer installation manuals specify that the unit be...

What can I do to prevent roof leaks?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

You can make a roof more leakproof at three stages in the life of your home. The first opportunity comes when designing and building a new house. Later, roof replacement and then the maintenance in-between replacements offer two more chances to enhance...

Do granite countertops emit radon?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

While some granite countertops have been found to emit trace amounts of radon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that there isn’t enough evidence to indicate that they increase radon above the normal, existing level in a home,...

How can extension cords become dangerous?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Although extension cords are not hazardous when utilized within the limitations of their design, they are only meant for short-term use and most have a small wire size that has limited current-carrying capacity. But extension cords often get used for...

What is a luminaire?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A luminaire is what an installed electric light fixture is called in the building code and electrical textbooks. The dictionary definition is “a complete electric light unit; used especially in technical texts.” It is an early 20th century word of French...

What problems does having too many electric receptacle outlets on a single circuit cause?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Older houses are especially prone to having too many outlets on one circuit, usually because of adding more outlets and lights for a home addition or conversion of a garage to living space without running new circuits to the panel. Overloading branch...

How can I find out the size of the electric service to a house?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

You can get a clue as to the size of the electric service before you even set foot inside a home by looking at the electric meter outside. A home with the meter glass dome mounted on a square metal base probably has 100 amp. service, and a newer 125...

What causes paint to peel prematurely on the exterior of a house?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

All exterior paint peels eventually, and it is a clear signal that you are overdue for repainting. The only exception is paint on stucco, which tends to deteriorate by oxidation powdering as it ages, unless there is a buildup of multiple layers of paint....

What does a home inspector mean by calling something "not readily accessible"?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Florida Home Inspection Statute’s Standards of Practice (61-30.801), which defines what is required to be examined during a home inspection, states that “the inspector shall inspect readily accessible, installed systems and components of homes listed...

What is a conduit body or condulet?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A conduit body is a fitting that is usually a box or pipe shape that is used to connect sections of conduit. It has a removable cover plate to provide access to make it easier to pull electrical cables or wires around corners. They come in an “L” shape...

What are a homebuyer's options when the radon test comes back high (4.0 pico-curies/liter or more)?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

You have several alternatives when your radon test results are at or above the 4.0 pico-curies/liter line where the Environmental Protection Agency recommends remediation. Here’s our list, with the first one being the easiest:

Retest - Radon...

Should homeowners get a pre-listing radon test before selling their home?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind cigarette smoking, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that every homeowner test for the possibility of dangerously high levels of radon in their home. But, what if you have...

Should a smoke alarm be installed in the kitchen?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

It’s not a good idea. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which develops the codes that are followed nationally for fire prevention in building construction states that “the installation of smoke alarms in kitchens, unfinished attics, or...

I can't find a local home inspector. What should I do?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In any well-populated area, an internet search for “home inspector” plus the name of your city and state should turn up a sizable list of inspectors to choose from. But, if you are in a rural area, it can difficult to find one on the internet. Also,...

For how many years does an old radon test result remain valid?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have a regulation specifying how long a radon test result remains acceptable to use, they do recommend testing every two years. So a radon test more than two years old may not be accurate....

Where does radon come from?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Radon (atomic number: 86, symbol: Rn) is a radioactive gas that is produced by the decay of radium (atomic number: 88, symbol: Ra), and radium is itself created by the breakdown of uranium (atomic number: 92, symbol: U). Since uranium deposits are in...

What does freeze damaged brick look like?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Freeze damage occurs in brick because of a combination of excessively wet brick and freezing temperature. A number of conditions have been cited as contributing to the potential for damage, such as under-firing of the brick, a rapid freeze/thaw cycle,...

How do I recognize structural problems in a retaining wall?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

When we show homebuyers structural defects—and sometimes outright structural failure—of a retaining wall during a home inspection, they are often quite surprised. It’s not something they look at when examining a house to purchase. Retaining walls are...

Why is it bad to have a clothes dryer vent near an air conditioning condenser (outdoor unit)?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Most air conditioning condensers dissipate the heat that the system absorbs in the process of cooling a home with a large fan mounted under a grille at the top of the condenser (outdoor unit) that sucks air through the closely-spaced fins in the condenser...

How many electrical receptacles (outlets) are required in a hallway?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The International Residential Code (IRC) only requires an electric receptacle in a hallway that is 10 feet or longer, and only one is required. Longer halls do not require any additional receptacles. That does not mean that you can’t put a receptacle...

Does Florida have radon?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced by radium deposits, which are in the soil everywhere on earth, usually in a small amount. So a little radon gas is in the air we breathe every day. Most of Florida has minor amounts of radium in the soil and,...

What happens when you press the "TEST" button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

All circuit breakers provide “overcurrent protection.” This means that, if current in excess of the breaker’s rating in amps is flowing through the circuit, the breaker will trip and disconnect the circuit to avoid overheating the wiring or equipment...

Can you live in a house while the plumbing is being replaced?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Whether you can live in your home while the plumbing is being replaced depends on three factors: 1) the type of plumbing being replaced, 2) how extensive the replacement work is, and 3) your tolerance for noise and dust in your home.

Type...

Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Polarized electrical cord plugs are designed so that they can only fit into a socket/outlet one way. One of the two vertical prongs is slightly taller than the other, with a corresponding tall and short slot in the outlet, which makes it impossible...

Is a hot water faucet handle required to be on the left?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Yes, the building code requires “hot” to be on the left as you face the water outlet (spigot). This means that if a faucet is on the side of a bathtub, like in the photo below, the hot water valve must be on the left when viewed from inside the tub,...

There's cracks running along the home's concrete tie beam. What's wrong?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

You likely have concrete “spalling,” which is caused by moisture penetrating the layer of concrete covering the reinforcing steel in the beam, column, or foundation pier. Over time, the steel begins to rust inside the beam and, because rust is slow...

What would cause long horizontal lines of brick mortar to fall out?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Although there are a number of different defects that can cause brick mortar joints to fall out, if only the horizontal mortar joints are dropping and not every horizontal joint is having the problem, it is likely due to corrosion of brick “ladder”...

What is "Ocala" block?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ocala block was a popular choice for building homes in mid-20th century Gainesville and around Florida. It’s made of solid concrete, looks like an oversize brick, and has a defining characteristic that limestone was used as an aggregate in the concrete...

Why does painting an electric receptacle (outlet) make it unsafe?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The electric receptacle shown above was in a home where all the receptacles had been painted over several times. This one was the worst—with the bottom half of the outlet completely closed over with paint—but most of the others in the home were nearly...

What are the symptoms of radon poisoning?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

This is a difficult question to answer because radon does not fit the common definition of “poison.” When you think of poison, most people expect it to be a substance that causes immediate sickness or death upon exposure, like cyanide, or one that results...

Where can I buy a new mobile home that is only a shell, so I can finish the interior myself?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A finish-it-yourself home was easy to find at Jim Walter Homes for many years, beginning in the 1950s. You provided the lot and could choose what phase of completion you wanted, from only the exterior walls and roof, with an empty interior, all the...

Does an electric water heater require a disconnect?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When someone is repairing an electric water heater, they need to be assured that the electricity stays off while they are handling wiring and connections that could shock or kill if the circuit were to suddenly become “live.” So the building code addresses...

What color should the flame be in a natural gas furnace?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A natural gas flame should be blue, which indicates proper combustion. Long streaks of yellow or orange through the flame means the furnace needs adjustment or cleaning by a professional service technician. The burners shown below are an example of...

Can a dishwasher be wired to a kitchen counter small appliance receptacle circuit?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The kitchen small appliance circuits are allowed to only serve countertop and wall receptacles in kitchen, dining room and pantry, except that they can also be used for a refrigerator receptacle. However, the refrigerator may also be on a separate circuit...

Does a tankless water heater in an attic require a drain pan?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Every major manufacturer of tankless water heaters specifies that a catch pan and drain piping be installed under the unit if leakage would cause damage to the immediate area, and that is certainly the case when one is installed in an attic. Also, the...

When was the three-slot (grounding) outlet/receptacle first required?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The National Electric Code (NEC), which specifies the standards for electrical installations, is dedicated to safety and fire prevention. Every three years the code is revised and updated, and the 1962 edition of the code was the first to require that...

What is tinned copper wiring?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Older electrical wire insulation was made from natural gum rubber that was “vulcanized” by the addition of sulfur or other curing agents to harden it and make it more durable. These curing agents were found to corrode the copper, so manufacturers coated...

When was the current receptacle/outlet spacing of 12-feet first required?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The requirement that any point along the floor line of the interior walls of a home be no more 6-feet from a receptacle (12-feet apart max) dates back to the 1959 edition of the National Electric Code (NEC).  The minimum standards for kitchen and exterior...

Why are old electrical components not always "grandfathered" as acceptable by home inspectors?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Some parts of an old house can be admired for their craftsmanship of an earlier era and patina of age, but the electrical system is not one of them.  While home inspectors do not expect a mid-20th century or earlier home to be compliant with the current...

What is the voltage rating of a house electrical system?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Although people commonly refer to the voltages as “110” and “220” for household current, that was actually just the original voltage for early alternating current systems. The two “hot” (ungrounded) wires serving the first  systems were 110-volts each...

Does a roof with multiple layers of shingles last longer?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

While putting a new shingle roof over an older one seems to make sense because it might provide an extra of protection from the elements, a multiple-layer shingle roof actually creates more problems than benefits. The bottom layer (or layers) continue...

Can vinyl siding be painted?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Vinyl siding color lasts for the lifetime of the material according to manufacturers, with a little fading over the years. But homeowners that want to refresh their house exterior with a color change can paint the siding—after careful cleaning of the...

When was the "maximum of six switches or breakers" first required for the main disconnect in a house electrical system?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Every residential electric service needs a “main disconnect,” which is usually a single breaker, set apart at the top of the panel from the cluster of distribution breakers below. But a main disconnect does not have to be a single breaker. The National...

Can the return air be in the same room as the gas furnace?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A return air register located in the same room as the furnace can disrupt the flow of air for combustion to the burners, and even suck combustion gases into the return air duct. So it is not a good idea. The problems caused by air being sucked away...

Is a shut off valve in-line on a supply line to a plumbing fixture acceptable?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

“I don’t like inline shut off valves,” says our plumber friend James Freeman, “because if the supply line leaks before the valve you have to shut down the water to the whole house until it gets repaired.” We agree with James and, because a supply line...

What is the minimum height for an exterior receptacle outlet?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The National Electric Code (NEC) now requires a minimum of two exterior receptacles for a home, located at the front and back, and they must be GFCI-protected for shock prevention and have an in-use or weatherproof cover. The required receptacles cannot...

When does the ban on R-22 air conditioning refrigerant take effect?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered a gradual phase-out of R-22 refrigerant that began in 2010. It is not an outright ban now, but the EPA is tightening restrictions on its manufacture and use over the next 14 years, until a total...

How can I tell the age of a Guardian air conditioner from the serial number?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Guardian heat pumps and air conditioners are manufactured by Unitary Products Group, and the first two numbers that appear in the serial number (located at the 2nd and 4th position in the alphanumeric sequence) indicate the year of manufacture. So the...

Is a wind mitigation inspection report (OIR-B1-1802) required for homeowners insurance in Florida?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Florida homeowners pay an average of 20% too much for the windstorm portion of their policy, according to insurance industry experts, if they have not submitted a wind mitigation inspection report to their insurer. Florida Statute 627.711 (1), shown...

Why is my garage ceiling sagging?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Long-term high moisture is the cause of most sagging garage ceilings we have seen over the years. Yes, sometimes the sag is because the homeowner stacked boxes directly on the drywall in the attic or accidentally stepped off the bottom truss chord when...

Is the 4-point insurance inspection strictly pass or fail?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Not exactly. The report is a questionnaire form created by the insurance company that is filled out by a home inspector and submitted, along with photo documentation, to be reviewed by a company underwriter. Some insurers require that their own form...

How can I tell the difference between a renovation project house and a tear-down?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Two factors come into play when you consider buying a bargain house in rough shape. One, obviously, is the condition of the house and the cost of renovation. A good home inspector will help you see where the house sits on the scale from “pretty bad”...

Does a septic tank have to be re-certified if a house has been vacant for a while?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

We got different answers when asking this question at county health departments in our area. One health department representative stated that as long as the original installation was permitted and inspected by the Florida Department of Health and it...

Does a home inspector remove receptacle outlet cover plates?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Because an inspection is primarily visual, inspectors are not required to disassemble most components they examine, or troubleshoot any defects they find to determine the cause when is not obvious. The electric panel is one exception. A panel must be...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A fresh coat of paint and tidy landscaping can make a 1990s home look younger than it’s age. The exterior style of the era is not much different from newer homes, and they typically lag only slightly behind the millennial design trends in floor plans,...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a mobile home that is older than 40 years?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

June 15th, 1976, is the date to remember. It was when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “HUD-Code” standards for manufactured homes took effect across America. That month is a dividing line in time between an era when there were...

Why do the lights dim when the air conditioner starts up?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The compressor in the outdoor unit of a central air conditioner requires a brief, big surge of electricity to start it moving each time the system cycles on. The burst needed to get it going is called the LRA, an acronym for “Locked Rotor Amperage.”...

How can I tell the age of a Xenon air conditioner from the serial number?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Xenon heating and air conditioning systems are manufactured by the Goodman Company and use the same serial number system as other Goodman products: the first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture. So the Serial No. 0810023290...

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The requirement for GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection for receptacle outlets was phased in over the years by the NEC (National Electrical Code), beginning with the 1971 edition. The NEC is updated with a new edition every three years...

What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

All circuit breakers in an electric panel provide overcurrent protection for the circuits they serve. If too much electricity is flowing, beyond the capacity of the wiring, they cut off the circuit. But GFCI and AFCI circuits each provide additional...

What causes flickering or blinking lights in a house?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Let’s start with the simplest problems and their solutions first, then ramp up to more complicated issues:

A single light blinking - This most likely causes are a bulb that is loose in the socket, a defective bulb, or a deteriorated connection...

How many mobile/manufactured homes are there in the United States?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

There are 8,500,432 mobile/manufactured homes in the U.S., according to the 2017 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is 6.2% of the total housing stock in the country. That’s down slightly from 8,779,228 in 2000, which was 7.6%...

Who can clean up mold found during a home inspection in Florida?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Anyone can clean up mold when the total area is less than 10 square feet. Compliance with the Florida Statue regarding mold remediation is necessary for larger areas. Remediation is defined as “the act of remedying something, in particular of reversing...

Can I convert a shipping container into a HUD-code manufactured/mobile home?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A home that meets HUD-Code standards and has the red HUD-tag attached to it has one big advantage: it can be installed anywhere in the country where local zoning codes allow manufactured homes. The county or municipal building department has only limited...

How can I tell if an air conditioner uses R-22 or R-410A refrigerant?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

You can find what type of refrigerant the system uses by examining the fine print on the manufacturer’s data plate, on the side of either the condenser (outside unit) or air handler (inside unit). Some manufacturers make it easier for you by putting...

Does an inspector have to find live termites to recommend treatment of the home?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Finding live termites is just one way to confirm the presence of termites in a house. The Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (FDACS) regulates termite inspection in Florida, and they require that a WDO/termite inspection report be written...

How do I know if my WDO/termite report is "clear"?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Most inspectors call a WDO/termite report that finds no visual evidence of wood-destroying organisms “clear.” Others say “clean” but, either way, you might struggle to find out whether you got a good report if you are not familiar with the state-mandated...

If termite damage appears to be old, does that mean that termites may no longer be present?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

One of the questions that realtors sometimes ask us when we find termite damage in a home is:  “Does it look like old damage?” The implication, of course, is that possibly the termites are long gone and there’s nothing to worry about.  Unfortunately,...

What is the height requirement for an electric receptacle outlet?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

There is no minimum or maximum height requirement for a wall receptacle outlet specified in the National Electrical Code (NEC). Wall receptacles are usually placed between one foot to 18-inches above the floor, but the height is often adjusted higher...

Where are GFCI receptacle outlets required by NEC?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

This listing of required locations where receptacles must be GFCI-protected is based on the 2017 NEC (National Electrical Code). The code is updated every three years and, because some jurisdictions take several years to adopt the most recent edition,...

What is "low-E" window glass?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

When sunlight strikes an object, part of the energy is reflected and the rest of it is absorbed/emitted. Asphalt paving is an example of a material with low reflectance and high emittance. At the other extreme, aluminum foil has extremely high reflectance...

Why is my air conditioner not cooling enough?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

If your thermostat is set at 74º, but the temperature won’t go below 79º, here is our “Top 10” checklist of problems that could cause the a/c system to not cool enough to reach the thermostat setting: 

Dirty air filter - Yes, really. This...

Why is bundled wiring in an electric panel a defect?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Neat and organized wiring is one of the ways you can tell that an electric panel was wired by a professional electrician. Wires from breakers on the right side of the panel exit the box on the same side. They don’t cross over the service cables or run...

How can I locate my septic tank?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

You can narrow your search down by starting with four places where the septic tank is NOT located:

It will not be directly next to the house because the tank is required to be a minimum of 5 feet away.
If your drinking water is provided...

What are the pros and cons of vinyl liner vs fiberglas vs concrete in-ground pools?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Each type of construction has both advantages and disadvantages to consider when you decide to make your backyard pool-party ready. Most contractors specialize in one type and are well-versed in the best features of their favored construction method....

Do I need a home inspection to get insurance?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Let’s start with three definitions:

Home inspection - A complete evaluation of a home and all its components, usually prepared for a home buyer during the inspection period of the sales contract.
Four point inspection - A limited inspection...

Who should pay for the home inspection?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

According to Florida’s standard FARBAR real estate sales contract, the buyer is responsible to pay for any inspections deemed necessary. This would include a general home inspection and any of the numerous specialty inspections, such as WDO (termite),...

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

At the beginning of a home inspection in Cedar Key a few years ago, the seller, an older woman, met us at the front door with an imperious gaze. “I want you to know that there were only three things wrong with this house,” she stated, before even introducing...

What are the building code requirements for a door from the garage to the house?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, paint thinner, degreaser, and other solvents, are often stored in a garage. A car in the garage can leak gasoline onto the floor, and the gas itself or its vapor is easily ignitable by a spark. Also, the carbon monoxide...

What is a return air plenum for a furnace or air conditioning system?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The box that collects the returning air from one or more return air ducts at the inlet side of a furnace or air conditioner is the return air plenum. It acts as a manifold and is usually, but not always, at the bottom of the unit.

    Sometimes...

When is an auxiliary drain pan required under an air conditioner indoor unit (air handler)?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The evaporator coil unit in an air handler dehumidifies the air because of condensation that forms on its chilled fins. The water drips down into a collecting trough that has a drain line on the side and funnels it down to the ground outside. But there...

Why is a backflow preventer required on lawn sprinkler systems?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Homes that use the same water source for their potable/drinking water and for a landscape sprinkler system have the potential for a backflow of contaminated water when there is a loss of pressure in the system. It doesn’t matter whether it is municipal...

What causes sweating (condensation) on the inside of windows in the winter?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The science behind the problem is fairly simple. Warm air expands and can hold more humidity (moisture) than cool air, but when it comes in contact with window glass that is significantly colder than the air, the surface chills and shrinks the air volume....

Why are some electric receptacle outlets upside down (ground slot up) in a house?

Monday, July 9, 2018

While it is standard to have the ground slot on the bottom, there is no code requirement for it. There are three possible reasons for an upside down receptacle:

Some electricians install a receptacle that is controlled by a switch upside...

Where do I find the water heater in a mobile home?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Almost all mobile home manufacturers put the water heater in a compartment with an access panel secured with screws. Older mobile homes have the access panel on an outside wall, usually next to a bathroom or kitchen window. Also, there is often an on/off...

Why is undersize electric wiring in a house dangerous?

Monday, July 9, 2018

You might be scared of electrocution from faulty wiring, but the big hazard is actually fire. The first edition of the National Electric Code (NEC) was published in 1897 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a group of insurance firms,...

Why is a fuse box/panel an insurance problem for homebuyers?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Fuse panels were replaced by circuit breakers for new home construction in the mid-1950s, which makes any fuse panel still in place at least 60 years old. Insurance companies that write homeowner’s insurance want to get a 4-point inspection report for...

What is a "backstab" receptacle outlet?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Backstab receptacles use a spring-metal gripper behind holes in the back of the receptacle to secure the hot and neutral wires when installing a receptacle. You just stab the stripped wire end into the hole and the connection is done. Because they eliminate...

How do HUD-code mobile/manufactured home standards compare to the IRC building code for site-built homes?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The HUD-code standards are similar, but not equal, to the International Residential Code (IRC) that is used for most site-built homes. In some ways it could be argued that it is like comparing proverbial apples to oranges. Here are four key differences...

How is Citizens Property Insurance different from other Florida homeowners insurance companies?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Citizens Insurance is a not-for-profit “insurer of last resort” for Florida homeowners.  It was created by the Florida Legislature in 2002 and quickly became the largest insurer in Florida. The impetus for its creation was the devastation and $26.5...

Why is a carpeted bathroom a bad idea?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Wall-to-wall carpet in the bathroom was a hot design trend in 1970s. It was often a shag texture and next to a sunken bathtub. Together, they were a fashion-forward emblem of the era. 

    While sunken tubs slipped out of vogue long ago,...

Why is the garage so hot in the summer?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The heated and cooled areas of house, which are also called “conditioned living space” or simply “living area,” are required to be insulated to meet the Florida Energy Code standards. Because the garage, along with any open or screened porches, are...

Why is my stucco cracking?

Monday, July 9, 2018

There are three types of stucco finish walls on Florida homes: stucco on concrete block, Exterior Insulated Finishing System or EIFS (also called synthetic stucco), and stucco on wood frame construction. Stucco over concrete block has limited problems...

Why is vermiculite attic insulation a problem for both buyers and sellers of a home?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The presence of vermiculite insulation in the attic is considered “a material fact affecting the value of the home,” according the the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust. In other words, it devalues a home. This is because it has been determined to be...

What electrical hazards does a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) NOT protect against?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an important safety device required for electrical circuits in wet areas of a home. GFCIs protect against an electrical shock by tripping within a fraction of a second whenever 6 milliamps or more of the...

Why do some wires in an electric panel have tape wrapped around them near their connections?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The different wires in an electric panel are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) to be color-coded according to their type. Ground wires (grounding conductors) have either a green insulation jacket or they are bare wires. Neutral wires (grounded...

Why is using a stud cavity or joist space as a return air duct a bad idea?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Building cavities that are framed with wood studs and drywall for the purpose of creating a shaft running up to the attic that connects to a return air duct are not as popular as they were years ago, and for good reason: they leak and are difficult...

What does CBS mean in house construction?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

If you are not talking about television, then it stands for Concrete Block Structure, and means the exterior structural walls are concrete blocks that are 8” high by 8” wide by 16” long. There are other sizes available, but 8x8x16 blocks are standard....

What do the ABS, PVC, CPVC, PB, and PEX plumbing pipe names mean?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

They are all plastic pipes, and the names are acronyms (abbreviations formed from the first letters of other words) for the rather long technical name of their chemical compositions—except for the last one, which is just sort of an acronym:

Can a bedroom door open into a garage?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Unless you are Bruce Wayne and need fast midnight access to the Batmobile for Gotham City emergencies, we are not sure what purpose a direct door from a bedroom to the garage would serve. But we do occasionally see them, and they are usually part of...

Are plastic pipes (PVC, CPVC, and PEX) safe for drinking water?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

People are taking a second look at the water pipes in their home after the health crisis in Flint, Michigan. Most of the pipes installed in new homes for the past twenty years have been plastic, which does not have the potential to leach lead into the...

How can I tell the age of a Ducane air conditioner from the serial number?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ducane has two formats. They both have 10 digits, but the one you are most likely to encounter will start with four numbers and then a letter. The third and fourth numbers are the year of manufacture, so the the condenser unit with the serial number...

Can I leave a gas water heater in place when remodeling a garage into a family room or bedroom?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

There are two issues to deal with if you want to leave the water heater where it is when remodeling a garage into living space for your home:

Supplying air for combustion - Once the room becomes an indoor space, the calculation to allow it...

Can I remove a 240-volt range receptacle and hard-wire the range?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The National Electrical Code (NEC) specifies that listed and labeled equipment, such as a range, should only be installed per the manufacturer’s instructions (NEC 110.3(B)). So you must wire it according to whatever the manufacturer’s installation manual...

What is the color code for NM cable (Romex®) sheathing?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The type of NM cable approved for indoor (dry location) use is NMB cable, and a color code for the plastic cable sheathing has been an industry standard since about 2001:

White - #14 AWG  (rated for maximum 15 amps)

Yellow - #12...

What does "listed and labeled" mean for an electrical component?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The words “listed” and “labeled” are repeated often in the National Electrical Code (NEC), and refer to devices or appliances that are designed and manufactured in accordance with the requirements of a “listing agency,” also called a Nationally Recognized...

Why does it take so long to cool a house when an air conditioner has been off for a while?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

When homebuyers ask us why the air conditioner doesn’t seem to be working so well after we turn it on for the first time in months to inspect a foreclosure house, the a/c is often working just fine. But it has three types of heat to overcome after startup:

What does it mean when I find buried yellow "CAUTION" tape when digging a hole in the yard?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The tape is a warning that an underground electric cable that delivers power to the home, called the “service lateral,” runs underneath it. No circuit breaker protects the cable, and a short caused by a shovel piercing the cable and connecting service...

Can a washer or dryer be located in front of an electric panel?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Nothing is allowed to be installed in a working space 2’-6” wide by 3’-0” deep by 6’-6” high in front of an electric panel. That includes a washer, dryer, water heater, pool equipment, water treatment equipment, shelving or a counter. The panel does...

What are the rules for cutting, notching, or boring holes in an engineered wood truss?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Manufacturers build wood trusses with tight engineering to take advantage of the metal connectors and the triangulation that transfers loads around the webs. As a result, there is no room in the design for removing any part of a truss. Here’s what the...

How can tell the age of a Daikin air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture for a Daikin air conditioner or heat pump, so the serial number shown below indicates the unit was manufactured in 2015.

    Some units will have the date of manufacture...

What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

NM-cables must be securely fastened where they enter an electric panel, so that tugging on a cable from outside the box will not pull wires loose from their terminations inside.  This is usually accomplished by installation of an NM-connector at the...

How far away should a sink be from an electric panel?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

There is no specific code requirement for the minimum distance from a plumbing fixture to an electric panel, but nothing is allowed to be installed in a working space 2’-6” wide by 3’-0” deep by 6’-6” high in front of an electric panel. The panel does...

What is the maximum gap allowed at a recessed electric panel box (flush mount) between the front of the box and the wall surrounding it?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

No gap is allowed between the front of a panel box and the wall surface that the dead front of a recessed panel will sit against in a regular wood stud (combustible) wall structure, but a 1/4” gap is acceptable in a noncombustible (steel stud or concrete)...

Should I buy a house with a crawl space?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

New houses are still constructed with an elevated wood floor over a crawl space in other parts of the country, but here in North Florida homes built after the 1950s have a concrete floor slab on the ground or a concrete slab on fill dirt in a stem wall....

What type water supply and drain (DWV) pipes were commonly used for 1950s residential plumbing?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Water Supply

Galvanized steel was the most popular water pipe during the 1950s.

Copper was also regularly used for water pipe.

Drain (DWV)

Copper was used for smaller diameter (up to about 3”) DWV pipes.

What type water supply and drain (DWV) pipes were commonly used for 1960s residential plumbing?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Water Supply

Galvanized steel was the most common water pipe during the 1960s.

Copper was also regularly used for water pipe.

Drain (DWV)

Copper was used for smaller diameter (up to about 3”) DWV pipes.

Should I seal the washing machine drain hose to the standpipe?

Friday, July 6, 2018

A standpipe is the drain pipe behind a washing machine that rises about three feet above the floor. It may only be visible as a hole in a washing machine faucet box in the wall of newer homes. Although it seems to make sense to seal the connection between...

What type water supply and drain (DWV) pipes were commonly used for 1970s residential plumbing?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The 1970s was a transitional period between metal and plastic piping. Although PVC and ABS pipe had been available for years, they became common by the end of the decade for drain (DWV) piping. Copper also overtook galvanized as the preferred water...

What is the average life expectancy of cast iron pipe?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The average lifespan of cast iron drain/sewer pipe is 50 to 65 years. It is easily recognized by the thickened female “hub” at each pipe segment connection. Rust eventually eats through cast iron, primarily from the inside out, as shown in the photo...

What is the average life expectancy of galvanized steel pipe?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The average lifespan of galvanized steel water supply pipe is 40 to 60 years. Corrosion is the culprit that shortens its serviceable life, and the pipe literally rusts from the inside out. Loose rust particles collect behind faucets and reduce water...

What is the right humidity level in a mobile home?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The important numbers to remember are sixty and fifty. Humidity over 60% allows mold growth to begin on surfaces in your home. The recommended maximum humidity level for a healthy indoor environment is 50% or under, and that’s where you really want...

What is the average life expectancy of ABS pipe

Friday, July 6, 2018

The expected lifespan of ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) pipe is 50 to 70 years. This black plastic drain (DWV) pipe has only been in widespread use in the United States since the 1970s, so the material is too young for a more accurate determination,...

What type water supply and drain (DWV) pipes were commonly used for 1980s residential plumbing?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The big news of the 1980s was two new plastic water supply pipes, CPVC and PB, but copper continued to be the preferred water pipe.

Water Supply

Copper was most common pipe.

CPVC (cream-color plastic) was introduced...

What type water supply and drain (DWV) pipes were commonly used for 1990s residential plumbing?

Friday, July 6, 2018

CPVC surged in popularity in the ‘90s, while PB pipe was taken off the market in the middle of the decade due leakage problems

Water Supply

Copper was still used, but in decline. Acidic water or soil found to cause pitting in some...

What is the average life expectancy of PEX pipe?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The estimated lifespan of PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene) pipe is 40 years. Although it has been on the market for many years and primarily used for hydronic heating, PEX has become much more popular for water supply piping within the last decade. It...

How can I make my mobile home look more like a house?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Clever builders can install a manufactured/mobile home so that it looks almost identical to site-built. But the elaborate work that goes into setting the home in a pit so that the floor is closer to the ground to mimic the level of a regular house,...

How can I tell if a house is connected to a septic tank system or sewer?

Friday, July 6, 2018

It’s important to know for sure where everything goes when you flush the toilet in a house you are considering buying. The realtor or seller will usually provide you with a clear answer but, if their description is a little hazy or the home is a foreclosure...

What is the purpose of the gravel on a flat tar roof?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Gravel provides shade to the top layer of asphalt tar, protecting it from the ultraviolet rays in sunlight. UV rays speed up asphalt deterioration and cracking when the asphalt is directly exposed to sunlight. Next time you are close-up to an asphalt...

Are openable windows required to have screens? Will windows with no screens pass a home inspection?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The International Residential Code (IRC) does not have a requirement for window screens, but many county and municipal housing codes in Florida do require them. In some cases, the local codes make an exception for homes with air conditioning. Also,...

What does it mean when a water heater Temperature/Pressure Relief (TPR) discharge pipe is "trapped"?

Friday, July 6, 2018

A common defect we find when a water heater has been replaced by someone other than a professional plumber is that the TPR valve discharge pipe has been trapped, which is not allowed by the building code. Recently we had a homeowner ask us why we were...

What are the Florida Building Code energy code requirements for installing an air handler in the attic?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

You may have seen a sticker like the one shown below on the front of an electric panel in a newer home. Posting of the warning sticker is one of four requirements by the Energy Code section of the Florida Building Code (FBC 403.3.6) for air handler...

Why do home inspectors get so picky about calling out minor electrical safety defects?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The big disaster that can result from improper installation of electrical wiring is fire, or explosion followed by fire. Then there’s also electrocution, a terrible way to die. America’s first electrical safety code was published back in 1897 by the...

What is the difference between water pipe and sewage (waste) pipe?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

All plumbing pipe must be tested before being certified/rated for its intended use by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and accepted by the building codes. Pipe that is rated for potable water must be designed to be used under pressure and not...

What is the minimum size of habitable rooms in a house according to the building code?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Every residential dwelling must have one habitable room that is at least 120 square feet, which is usually the living area of the home. Other habitable rooms must be a minimum of 70 square feet, with one wall not less than seven feet in length. Although...

Are homes in Florida required to have termite protection?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The only time that the Florida Building Code (FBC) requires the application of termite protection is at the construction of a new home or an addition to an existing home that expands the footprint. That requirement was instituted by the first FBC edition...

Does a half bathroom (no shower or tub) require an exhaust fan?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Florida Building Code (R303.3) specifies that any “bathrooms, water closet compartments, or other similar rooms” require either a window or exhaust fan for ventilation, and a half bath fits into that definition. So, yes, a half bath requires an...

How many exterior exit doors are required for a house?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

An exterior exit door is called an “egress” door in the building codes. A minimum of one exit door is required, and it should provide direct access from the living areas of the home to the exterior without traveling through a garage. Shown below is...

How many exterior exit doors are required for a mobile/manufactured home?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Although a site-built home is required to have only one exit door, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has  jurisdiction over manufactured homes and specifies a minimum of two exit doors (24 CFR 3280.105). The doors must be located...

Can you do a home inspection in the rain?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

When the sky darkens and rain pours down just before a scheduled home inspection, or even if thunderstorms only threaten, our customer or their realtor will sometimes call to see if we can still do the inspection. The answer is almost always yes. 

Can NM-cable (Romex®) be used to make a cord and plug to connect an appliance?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The answer is no, and the principle behind it is simple: the electrical cords that manufacturers use for appliances, like the one shown above, have multiple strands in each wire that will flex repeatedly without breaking, but an NM-cable wire has a...

What are the problems to look for when buying a homeowner remodeled house?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

America has always been a do-it-yourself nation and proud of it. HGTV and the DIY Network, plus thousands of YouTube videos, reach millions of home improvement weekend warriors that desire a bigger, more glamorous home without spending big bucks. 

What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Florida Building Code (FBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) both require a minimum of one attic access opening for homes with combustible (such as wood) roof construction if the attic space meets these two criteria:

Attic area...

What is a chimney sinkhole?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A chimney sinkhole is a deep and narrow vertical hole in the ground that is chimney-like and leads directly down to the aquifer. The absence of gradually sloping sides makes them especially dangerous, since falling into one is like falling down a chimney...

How can I tell the age of a Thermal Zone air conditioner from the serial number?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The third and fourth numbers after the single letter in the serial number indicate the year of manufacture. It is also noted in the upper right of the manufacturer’s data plate, and the one shown below indicates the unit was manufactured in 2014.

Is a furnace allowed in a bedroom, bathroom, or an adjoining closet?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Bedrooms and bathrooms have two things in common: they are both typically smaller rooms and often occupied for an extended period of time with the door closed. A furnace malfunction can cause a deadly carbon monoxide (CO) buildup; so the Florida Building...

What are simple ways to find the cause of a ceiling stain?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Figuring out what caused that stain you noticed in your ceiling starts with dividing the possible culprits into two categories: roof and attic. Although liquid sometimes migrates sideways before dropping onto the ceiling, it doesn’t happen that way...

How do you accurately find a broken water pipe leak under the floor slab?

Monday, July 2, 2018

Here’s 5 signs that you might have a water pipe leak under the floor slab:

The small triangular spinner in the dial of your water meter that indicates water flow does not stop slowly spinning, even with everything (including the ice maker)...

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection?

Monday, July 2, 2018

Once you and the seller have finished negotiations and signed a residential sales contract, the clock starts ticking on the inspection period. It can be as short as a few days or up to several weeks, but the time flies by fast. If you don’t want regrets...

Can you get a useful mobile home inspection with no electric power or water?

Monday, July 2, 2018

This is a question we were asked more often during the “Great Recession” of the last decade. Mobile home owners were especially hard-hit by the collapse of home values and giant wave of foreclosures. They sometimes stripped their homes of appliances,...

What does a circuit breaker with a yellow or white test button indicate?

Monday, July 2, 2018

If the breaker is made by Square D, which is the most popular brand of panels and breakers in the U.S., then the yellow test button indicates that it is a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) breaker and a white button means the breaker is an CAFCI...

What is the minimum height of a ceiling fan above the floor?

Monday, July 2, 2018

A minimum safe height for ceiling fan blades is not listed in either the National Electrical Code (NEC) and the International Residential Code (IRC). But fan manufacturers like as Hunter Fan Company, along with the EPA EnergyStar program, specify not...

Why is there water in my water heater drain pan?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

We can think of six different reasons why water would be in the pan under your water heater:

The TPR valve (Temperature and Pressure Relief) is leaking. It’ s the device on the top or side of the water heater with a small flip-up arm that...

When is a water heater drain pan required?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

According to the International Residential Code (IRC) and Florida Building Code (FBC) at section P2801.5, a drain pan is required for a water heater in any of these areas of a home:

 Any level above the ground floor,
 Or in attics or...

What is an indirect waste receptor?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The defining characteristic of an indirect waste flow receptor is a space, called an “air gap,” between the end of the pipe flowing into it and the receptor. The minimum air gap specified is usually twice the diameter of the incoming pipe, but a minimum...

How can not testing for radon be an expensive mistake for homebuyers?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

There’s plenty of scientific data about the relation between high levels of radon in a home and increased risk of lung cancer. But some people don’t believe it. Others think the science is basically good but the level that the EPA has set that requires...

Does a home inspector give cost estimates for repairs?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Providing a cost estimate for repairing defects found during a home inspection is not required by the Florida’s Standards of Practice (61-30.801) for home inspectors, determined by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Most inspectors...

What is the average life expectancy of windows?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Here’s our estimate of average life expectancy for several types of windows:

 Aluminum - 20 to 30 years
 Fiberglass - 20 to 40 years
 Insulated (double pane) - 10 to 20 years
 Skylights - 10 to 20 years
 Vinyl  - 20 to...

What is the minimum slope for a clay or concrete tile roof?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The International Residential Code (IRC) specifies a minimum 4/12 pitch (4 inches of vertical rise for every 12 inches of horizontal run) for a clay or concrete tile roof, except that a pitch as low as 2-1/2/12 is allowed when two layers of underlayment...

What is a roofing boot?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A roof boot is also called a plumbing vent boot, pipe boot, or pipe flashing. It is a preformed flashing installed to waterproof pipe penetrations of a roof, like plumbing vent pipes and electrical service mast pipes. The most common type is made from...

Can a doorbell transformer be installed inside an electric panel?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The National Electrical Code (NEC 725.136A) specifically excludes any low voltage wiring from being installed in an electric panel, raceway, or box used for high voltage (120/240V) circuits. Electricians know better, but we regularly find homeowner-installed...

What is a reliable way to tell if the electrical service is 3 phase or single phase?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Residential electrical service is single phase (3-wires, 240V) more than 99% of the time. But there is that rare exception to watch out for. If the house is from the mid-20th century, it may still have a type of three phase service called “high-leg...

What is three phase electric service?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Three phase is the way power is generated and transported over long distances by electric utilities. It is also the type of service to large commercial and industrial buildings. Three phase is converted to single phase (split-phase) by residential transformers,...

Can infrared thermal imaging find mold behind a wall?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

No, not exactly. It does not “see” mold. Thermal imaging using an infrared camera is very good at scanning areas of wall surface for moisture that is not detectible visually. Because the wetness in the wall begins evaporating as soon as it is deposited,...

Does a tankless water heater require a pressure relief valve?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Whether or not a tankless water heater is required to have a pressure relief valve depends on what the manufacturer states in the installation manual. The manual for Titan electric water heaters, for example, does not require a pressure relief valve,...

What is the difference between a UL rating for dry, damp, and wet locations?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Unless the Underwriters Laboratories “UL” label on an electrical fixture has a statement on it that the fixture is “suitable for” or “rated for” a damp or wet location, then it is only approved to be installed in a dry location. Here’s the difference...

What is the danger of radon in well water?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Radon occurs at a much higher level in water than air. It is measured in pico-curies of radiation per liter of volume, which is abbreviated as pCi/L. While the maximum acceptable level of radon in air is pegged at 4 pCi/L in the United States, the upper...

Should I test my well water for arsenic?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

According to the Florida Department of Health, the areas where arsenic is frequently found in Florida are along the west coast, from Dixie County south to Hillsborough County, and the western half of Polk County. Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and...

How often should a well be disinfected?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Whenever a home has been unoccupied for an extended period of time we recommend disinfecting the well, especially if the electricity has been turned off at any time during that period. This is a situation we see often in country houses and mobile homes...

How can I make sure my house doesn't fail the home inspection?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Home inspectors don’t make a home fail the inspection, but a homebuyer struggling through a long list of defects in the inspection report will do it. Although no home is perfect with zero issues to write up, the fewer things your inspector lists on...

Why is a pet door from a house to the garage a fire hazard?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The garage is recognized by fire officials and the building code as a place where plenty of house fires get started. Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, paint thinner, degreaser, and other solvents, are often stored in a garage. A car in the garage...

Why is pressure washing double pane windows an expensive mistake?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Double pane windows provide insulation with an inert gas that the manufacturer seals into the space between the panes. It is usually argon or krypton, both of which are better insulators that air. 

    All insulated windows lose their gas...

Is PEX pipe freeze resistant?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The answer to this question depends on what you mean by “freeze resistant.” PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is unique in its ability to expand when water freezes inside it and resilient to shrink back to its original size after the water thaws, avoiding...

How much is the ground required to slope away from a house?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The minimum drainage slope of the ground around a home is 6 inches of drop in the first 10 feet away from the home, according to the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Florida Building Code (FBC - M401.3), and this applies to all sides of...

What is the difference between roll roofing and modified bitumen?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Big difference. Roll roofing is a lightweight, budget roofing material, available in 36” wide rolls, containing 100 square feet (also called a “square” by roofers) per roll. Average lifespan is about 6 to 10 years, and it is usually face-nailed in place,...

Do home inspectors inspect outbuildings?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The State of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR 61-30.810(3)(d)) standards for home inspection, effective October 22, 2013, states that home inspectors are not required to inspect outbuildings. The Standards of Practice...

Can PEX pipe be installed outside?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) pipe should not be installed outside for two reasons: 1) it is not rated by manufacturers for exterior exposure, and 2) the pipe degrades with sunlight exposure. The installation manual for Zurn® PEX pipe states that...

What is the minimum clearance of overhead electric service drop wires above a house roof?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The National Electric Code (NEC 230.24(A)) requires that overhead service wires (conductors) be a minimum of 8 feet above a roof, including for a minimum 3 feet in all directions from the edge of the roof, but then provides four allowable exceptions....

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Here’s our list of five possible reasons why you cannot find an attic access in the house:

Attics that are small (less than 30 square feet of area) or under a low-slope roof that does not have a minimum of 30 inches of clear opening height...

Should a front door open in or out?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Most front entry doors in our area swing inward, and the justification for it used to be that outswing doors are unsafe because their hinge pins are exposed outside, where they are easily popped out by a burglar to get into the house. But that argument...

Can a homebuyer do their own radon test for a real estate transaction with a self-test kit?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Yes, you can do the test yourself using two small canisters that you open and leave in the house for a minimum of four days, and costs about half of the average fee for a professional test. The results are as accurate as one done by a licensed radon...

Does a wire nut connection need to be wrapped with electrical tape?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

They are called wire nuts in the electrical trade, but the official name is “twist-on wire connector.” Wire connections were soldered together before they were invented and needed to be wrapped with tape to insulate the connection, but that era is long...

What is the 3-2-10 rule for masonry chimneys?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

It’s a basic standard for chimney construction which states that the chimney should extend 3 feet above the roof penetration on the shortest side, and the top of the chimney must be at least 2 feet above any part of the house structure within 10 feet....

What are the pipes sticking out near my water valves?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

If it looks something like the copper-color cylinder shown above, then you have a “water hammer arrestor” installed to keep the pipes from making a banging sound when the water is shut off. You might see one at the washing machine faucet box or under...

How do I identify a combination AFCI (CAFCI) circuit breaker?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Combination AFCI breakers have a TEST button on the breaker. But so do GFCI breakers, so the challenge becomes determining whether you are looking at an CAFCI or GFCI breaker. Breakers manufactured by General Electric, Siemens, and Eaton/Cutler Hammer...

What is the difference between a manufactured/mobile home water heater and a regular water heater?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Every major water heater manufacturer has models of water heaters specifically designed for mobile homes. State Water Heaters, for example, has the “Scout” line approved for mobile homes. Water heaters that meet HUD standards have the following characteristics:

How do termites infest a house and remain hidden while doing major damage?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Termites have a vulnerability that works to their advantage to conceal themselves while munching on the wood in your home. They are soft-bodied and require a moist environment to survive. A termite will dry out and die within minutes when exposed to...

Why is it a mistake to replace a roof and not replace its flashings?

Friday, June 29, 2018

We occasionally come across a roof that was replaced shortly before a house was put on the market, but the flashings from the old roof were left in place. It looks good from the ground, but the old flashings are likely to fail before the end of the...

What is a flag lot?

Friday, June 29, 2018

A flag lot is a property located behind another another property, with an access strip of land to get back to it from a public street. The access strip is the “flagpole” and the lot is the “flag.”

    Two types are shown above, and the left...

Does pushing the test button on a smoke alarm test the smoke sensor device inside?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Using the test button on the smoke alarms around your home regularly to verify that they are functional is recommended by alarm manufacturers. The test button checks two parts of the system: it verifies that the alarm is receiving adequate electrical...

Does a fluorescent light in a clothes closet require a cover lens?

Friday, June 29, 2018

A cover lens is certainly a good idea, because it will provide protection against accidentally shattering a bulb overhead while moving things around in the closet, however it is not required for either a surface-mount or flush fluorescent light in a...

What is a ductless mini-split air conditioner?

Friday, June 29, 2018

The most common type of heating and air conditioning system in the U.S. is a “central split-system,” which has two parts: an outdoor condenser unit and an indoor air handler. The air handler is at a central location in the home and distributes conditioned...

What is an "RP" sticker for a mobile home?

Friday, June 29, 2018

If your mobile home is permanently secured to the ground and you own both the home and the land, then Florida Law requires that you declare it as real property for taxation. To do this, you first go to the local Property Appraiser’s office, where the...

What are the pros and cons of concrete block versus wood frame construction?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Florida homeowners tend to have a definite opinion about what is the best wall construction material, and it is often the same type as the home they grew up in. Concrete block has more boosters in South Florida, while wood frame is ahead in Central...

How was it determined that between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year are caused by radon?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Here’s the thing to know: lung cancer deaths caused by radon gas are not reported by physicians and tallied by a government agency each year to arrive at those numbers, because it cannot be verified that a particular lung cancer death was the direct...

What is a FanRecycler and AirCycler?

Friday, June 29, 2018

AirCycler® is a newer version of FanRecycler®, and both are systems that improve indoor air quality by activating the fan/blower in a furnace or air handler to periodically either circulate the indoor air or introduce outside air into a home. The control...

What is a sediment trap or dirt leg?

Friday, June 29, 2018

A sediment trap is a T-shaped pipe configuration designed to catch any debris in a gas line before it goes into the appliance. It is called a “dirt leg” in the plumbing trades and is required by both the Florida Building Code (FBC) and International...

What is the building code definition of a manufactured home?

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Florida Building Code (FBC) provides the following definition of a manufactured home, with the last sentence stating that “a mobile home shall be considered a manufactured home.”

Although the FBC defines what constitutes a manufactured...

What is a the HUD definition of a manufactured home?

Friday, June 29, 2018

While this might seem like a simple question, the answer is complicated by the fact that many people use the words trailer, mobile home, manufactured home, and modular home interchangeably. But they are not all the same.

    Let’s sort it...

How can I determine the age of a Mitsubishi Ductless Mini-Split heat pump from the serial number?

Friday, June 29, 2018

There are apparently several different serial number formats, but the only one we have seen is for the units made in Thailand, which are easily identified by the “T” at the end of the number. The first digit of the serial number is the last digit of...

What are roofing purlins and battens?

Friday, June 29, 2018

The two words are often used interchangeably and both are long strips, usually wood, used for the attachment of roofing material. But a “purlin” is applied directly onto the roof rafters, running perpendicular between them, while a “batten” is nailed...

What is a "square" of roofing?

Friday, June 29, 2018

It is a roofer’s term for 100 square feet of roof surface. When you get a price for a new roof, the contractor may say something like “the roof is about 28 squares and will be $8,000.” The area of roofing that is quoted in squares will be much more...

Is a hot water faucet required at a washing machine?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Laundry gurus on the internet disagree about whether hot water gets clothes cleaner. Some say that the new detergents work just fine in cold water, while others insist that “the hotter the water, the more effective the detergent will be.” We are not...

Is a high iron level in well water a health hazard?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Health have a maximum of 3 milligrams of iron per liter (3 mg/L) as the standard for potable water, but it has more to do with drinkability and taste than any health concern....

How can I tell if a window or glass door is safety glass?

Friday, June 29, 2018

A comic response you might get from a glass contractor if you ask that question is: “Whack it with a hammer. If it shatters in hundreds of tiny pieces, then it was safety glass!” Actually, that would identify it as tempered glass, which is one type...

Where is safety/tempered glass required for windows and doors of a house?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Here’s how the Florida Building Code (FBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) define which windows of a home are in a “hazardous location” that requires safety/tempered glass:

    The key thing to remember about this standard is that...

What is the life expectancy of a mobile home?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Today’s manufactured homes have a life expectancy of 30 to 55 years, depending on the level of maintenance, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A study by the Manufactured Housing Institute, a manufacturer’s association,...

What is a split bus electric panel?

Friday, June 29, 2018

A split bus panel can be a little puzzling when you first encounter one because, unlike today’s main panels, there is no single main disconnect breaker at the center of the top of the panel. We see them in homes that were built from the early 1950s...

What's the average lifespan of a roof?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The life expectancy of a roof varies between different roof materials. Here’s the averages:

Asphalt Shingles, 3-tab - 15 to 18 years

Asphalt Shingles, Architectural - 24 to 30 years

Galvalume (metal) - 30 to 45 years

How do I find out how old a mobile home is and who manufactured it?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

“Who made this mobile home? And how old is it?” These are the first questions we get asked at manufactured home inspections. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that a manufacturer place a large information sticker, called...

Where do I find the vehicle identification number (VIN) on a mobile home?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

There’s two ways to find the VIN number, the easy way and the hard way. Let’s start with the easy one: 

1) There is a paper sticker on the interior of all mobile homes manufactured since June of 1976, called the “data plate,” which lists...

Should I buy an older mobile home and remodel it?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mobile homes more than 20-years old often sell at a steep discount to their original price. So buying an older home and remodeling it—instead of paying the full sticker price for a new one—can be appealing. But here’s ten factors to consider when evaluating...

My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

There are several different situations that would keep a circuit from being reactivated after a breaker has been tripped. Here’s the three most common ones:

When a breaker has been tripped—whether it’s because of pushing the test button on...

Why do water heaters have a sacrificial anode?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Here’s the short answer: to reduce the rate of corrosion on the interior surfaces of the water heater tank and thereby extend its life. All tanks eventually corrode through and leak, but a sacrificial anode slows the pace of the corrosion. Premium water...

Does a homeowner need a permit to drill a water well on their property in Florida

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A patchwork of water management districts has jurisdiction over well drilling in Florida. But, within each multi-county water management district, some counties have an overlay of their own regulations and it can get complicated. 

    Here...

Can a Florida licensed contractor do home inspections without having a home inspector license?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The State of Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) issued a ruling on May 15, 2012 in response to a petition for clarification by a  Florida licensed contractor as to whether home inspection was within the scope of licensing for Division...

Are there any minimum inspection standards that a Florida licensed home inspector must meet?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Shown below is the State of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) standards for home inspection, effective October 22, 2013. But you also might it interesting to read our blog post Can a Florida licensed contractor do home...

What causes the surface of old bricks to erode away into sandy powder?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The severely eroded bricks on this pier under a 90-year old house in Gainesville look like they have been sand blasted, but the culprit is actually a phenomenon called “rising damp.” Moisture rises up from the ground through porous building materials...

What is the life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof is 30 to 50 years. It will last longer with luck and diligent maintenance, and we saw one roof a few years ago that was just beginning to fail at 60 years old. The roof shown in the photos above...

Is a gas log lighter dangerous?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

“Gas log lighter” and “gas log” have similar names but the only thing they have in common is that they are both intended for use in a fireplace. A gas log lighter is sometimes simply called a log lighter. It is installed under the grate in a wood-burning...

How can I tell if a diagonal crack in drywall at the corner of a window or door indicates a structural problem?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Behind the drywall in most homes is wood stud framing. The studs have a higher moisture content when initially installed, which gradually drops over the first few years after construction as the wood dries out. There are also seasonal changes in outdoor...

What causes a horizontal crack in a block or brick wall?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The horizontal cracks we see most often are near the ground level of concrete block stem-wall type construction. They are caused by rotation of the footing below ground, due to soil movement or a defect in the bearing below it. The wall usually turns...

Why is the concrete window sill cracking?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The exterior window sills in concrete block homes are often precast in a factory and set in place by masons when the blocks are laid. Steel reinforcing bars are cast into the center of the sill to strengthen it. Concrete has high compression strength...

What causes stair-step cracks in a block or brick wall?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A stair-step crack is a diagonal crack but, since mortar is usually not as strong as concrete block or brick, the crack migrates to the mortar joints as it zigzags along a path of least resistance. Sometimes a stair-step crack will mostly follow the...

Can a home surge protector be installed loose in the bottom of an electric panel box?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A surge protector is electrical distribution equipment, so it is allowed to be installed inside a panel. Occasionally we see them sitting loose in the bottom of a panel or leaning against the inside of the box; but manufacturers design them for installation...

Why would a home have natural gas appliances but no gas meter?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

When a house has been vacant and the gas turned off for an extended period of time, the gas utility removes the meter. You can usually find a pipe sticking out of the ground near one of the exterior walls of the house, like in the photo above, that...

What is the building code requirement for receptacle outlets at stairs and stair landings?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Florida Building Code (FBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) have requirements for installation of receptacle outlets in the following rooms of a house:

    Stairs and stair landings are not on the list. Hallways and foyers have...

My spa tub stopped working. What's wrong?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

People also call them Jacuzzi® or jetted tubs but, when they stop working, it’s usually because one of the two electrical safety devices that protect the pump motor has tripped. You have probably already checked the circuit breaker in the panel. In...

Why do I have to hold down the button to close the garage door?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

You are overriding the infrared beam sensor when you hold down the wall button continuously while the garage door is closing; so, if you have to do this to close the door, it means the sensor is malfunctioning. Any transmitter, like a handheld “clicker”...

How can I tell the age of a Navien tankless water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Look for the number between two letters in the middle of the serial number. For example, the “14” between “C” and “X” in the data tag shown below indicates the water heater was manufactured in 2014.    A older serial number system specifies the year...

Can a bare bulb "lampholder" light fixture be installed outdoors?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Most people don’t know that those inexpensive porcelain or plastic light fixtures for a bare bulb are called lampholders. We occasionally see them used as an exterior light fixture, like in the photo above, but there are three reasons why exterior installation...

What is the difference between a carport and a garage?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Most people would define a garage as a completely enclosed room with a garage door for parking a car out of the weather, while a carport is a roofed-over parking space with open sides. When a carport is attached to a house, it usually has two or three...

How can I tell the age of a US Craftmaster water heater from the serial number?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture for a US Craftmaster water heater, so the data plate below indicates it was manufactured in 2013.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •...

What is the maximum recommended height above the floor for an above-the-range microwave?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association) recommends that the bottom of the microwave be no more than 54 inches above the floor, which allows 18 inches clearance above the typical range/counter height of 36 inches. Otherwise, a shorter person...

Why is the attic painted silver?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

There are two likely reasons for attic roof sheathing that is painted silver. If the paint is a dull silver color, there was a fire in the attic or in the house below and the paint is used to seal the smoke particles to the wood. Silver paint is also...

Why is a strain relief clamp necessary for the cord connection to some electric appliances?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Appliances like a kitchen disposal and water heater do not come with a power cord installed by the manufacturer because they can be either hard-wired through conduit to an electrical box or utilize a power cord to connect to a receptacle. Clothes dryers...

Does a tankless gas water heater still work with no electricity during a power outage?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tankless gas water heaters provide “endless hot water” and are energy efficient, but you will not have hot water during a power outage because the circuit board that controls its on/off cycles and the spark igniter require 120-volt household electricity....

Which plumbing fixtures require water shut off valves in a home?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The code requires a shutoff valve on each supply pipe to each fixture. Here’s how it is stated at P2903.9.3 of the 2017 Residenital Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the International Residential Code (FBC).

    Earlier editions...

What are the common problems with attic insulation?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Homebuyers today are concerned about rising energy costs and always want to know about the level of insulation in a house. One of the first questions they ask us at the beginning of a home inspection is “Are you going to look at the insulation in the...

When is a nosing required on a stair tread?

Monday, June 25, 2018

It’s really simple: when the tread is less than 11 inches deep, you have to add a nosing to extend it slightly past the front face of the riser below it, which allows enough additional surface to solidly plant most of your foot on the stair. If the...

Can you add circuit breakers by different manufacturers to an electric panel if they fit?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The fact that a brand of breaker that does not match the panel manufacturer will snap into place on the bus bar does not mean that it is alright to use it. The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires any electrical component to be “listed and labeled”...

What is a galvanized nipple?

Monday, June 25, 2018

A galvanized nipple is often used in water supply piping as the last, short section of pipe that penetrates the wall for attachment of a shut-off valve for a plumbing fixture. It has male threads at both ends. The photo above shows a galvanized nipple...

What is the raised metal plate on the floor under the garage door?

Monday, June 25, 2018

It is a sensor for a home security system that operates similarly to the sensor at windows, with an adjacent magnet aligned over it on the door. When the door opens and the magnet moves away from the sensor, it sends a signal the control panel. The...

Why is my bathroom vent fan not exhausting enough air?

Monday, June 25, 2018

If it seems like it takes forever for your vent fan to clear out the steam or smells from the bathroom, here’s our list of a five possible scenarios that would cause the problem:

Sometimes a vent fan has been installed with no duct to the...

Why do new homes have more moisture and mold problems than older houses?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: this is not a home inspector’s rant about how the old ways of building a house were better and “they don’t build ‘em like they used to.” It’s about how building technology advances that have made homes more...

How do I safely clean up rodent (rat, mouse or squirrel) urine and droppings in attic insulation?

Monday, June 25, 2018

After your observe the ugly evidence that rodents are living in the attic, your first step is to locate where they are getting in and close those entryways. Then trap them in the attic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends to continue...

How do I safely remove a dead rodent (rat, mouse or squirrel) from the attic?

Monday, June 25, 2018

It’s important to follow a safe process when removing a dead rodent from the attic because of the possibility of bacterial or viral infection. Here’s what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends: 

 Wear rubber, latex or vinyl...

What inspections does a bank or mortgage lender need for loan approval?

Monday, June 25, 2018

There is no single, simple answer to this question. It depends on the lending institution, the type of loan, and the underwriter assigned to your loan. The one thing that is certain is that you should not offer to share your home inspection report with...

Why is the garage door track a white tube?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Clipenglyde garage door system is now history but was hailed as the next big thing in garage door technology in the mid-1990s.  It was invented by John Jella, of Spillman-Jella Manufacturing, in 1993. Clipenglyde is a patented track system that...

Does the condenser (outdoor unit) SEER rating determine the SEER of an air conditioning system?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The SEER rating of a heat pump or air conditioning system is based on the efficiency of the combination of the condenser (outdoor unit) and air handler (indoor unit). They are required to be matched up by the manufacturer for performance, and the system...

What is the purpose of a thermostatic mixing valve above a water heater?

Monday, June 25, 2018

We were inspecting a home owned by a doctor today and noticed a thermostatic mixing valve installed between the water heater and outgoing hot water pipe into the home. The valve blends in cold water with the hot water outflow, as necessary, to maintain...

Can you access or exit a bedroom through another bedroom?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The International Residential Code (IRC) and residential edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) do not address this question directly. But bedrooms, like all rooms in a home, are required to have an unobstructed means of egress (way to get to the...

Can the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve discharge pipe for a mobile/manufactured home water heater terminate under the home?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The requirements for the TPR valve discharge piping are virtually identical for both site-built and mobile homes, with one big exception: the International Residential Code (IRC) and residential edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) specify that...

What is the difference between a structural defect and a cosmetic defect?

Monday, June 25, 2018

“Hey, would you be sure to look at that crack in the wall of the back bedroom near the ceiling?” This is the kind of request we often get from customers at the beginning of a home inspection. Structural problems are right up there with roof leaks at...

What is the average radon level of indoor and outdoor air in America?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The average radon level of residential indoor air is 1.3 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), and outdoor air averages 0.4 pCi/L, based on a national radon survey completed in 1991. The EPA recommends mitigation (fixing it) when indoor air level is...

Will opening the windows reduce the radon level in a house?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Our area is one of several radon hotspots in Florida. Depending on the part of the county you live in, there is a 20% to over 50% chance that the indoor air in your home will be higher than the level at which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)...

How long does it take to get the results of a radon test?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The minimum test period for a radon test done by a licensed radon technician is two days (48 hours), but often ends up being a few hours longer to accommodate the schedules of the test technician and the homeowner. Results are available immediately...

Can the seller tamper with a homebuyer's radon test to change the results?

Monday, June 25, 2018

There are two basic types of radon testing equipment: passive and electronic. While no test device is absolutely tamperproof, the passive test systems make it much easier to manipulate the test results downward. 

    To understand why, let’s...

Why are most house roofs slanted instead of flat?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Flat and low-slope roofs were briefly popular during the post-war decade of the 1950s and into the early 1960s, largely due to the influence of the spare, angular style of the modern architecture movement. The futuristic designs of architect-designed...

Do older houses have higher radon levels than new houses?

Monday, June 25, 2018

We sometimes get asked if a new home can have a radon problem, or if the age of a house affects the radon level. Those are sensible questions, and multiple factors affect the radon level in a home, but age is not one of them. Radon rises from the soil...

Can stormy weather change the radon level in a house?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Two kinds of bad weather can raise the radon levels in a home temporarily. A heavy rainstorm that saturates the top layer of soil will seal the surface from rising radon gas and it will tend to migrate to under a home, where the soil is still permeable....

Can an electric panel be located in a bathroom?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The National Electrical Code (NEC) specifically excludes locating an electric panel in a bathroom. NEC 240.24 (D) says: “Not Located in Bathrooms - In dwelling units, dormitories, and guest rooms or guest suites, overcurrent devices, other than supplementary...

How can I tell the age of a Rheem tankless water heater from the serial number?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The third and fourth numbers, after a single letter, are the year of manufacture of a Rheem tankless water heater. So the data plate of the water heater shown below indicates it was manufactured in 2015.



Here’s links to a collection...

What is the blue dumbbell-shaped tank at the well equipment?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

It’s a Lakos Separator, which removes sand and other small particles from well water by centrifugal action, using a vortex created in the central tube. Although their centrifugal filters come in other, simpler shapes, the dumbbell is the one that’s...

How can I tell if a roof has more than one layer of shingles?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Adding a new second layer of shingles over an existing shingle roof is called a “roof-over” in the construction industry, and it does have a couple of advantages:

The cost of removal and disposal of the old roof is eliminated.
It has...

What is board and batten siding?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

“Board and batten” siding was originally simply a practical way to apply lumber to a barn or house for siding during the 19th century. Boards eight to twelve inches wide, or more, were nailed up vertically and butted together side-by-side, or spaced...

How can I tell the age of a Mor-Flo water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mor-Flo water heaters are manufactured by American Water Heater Group, and the first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture. So the data plate for the water heater shown below indicates that it was manufactured in 1998.

What is the knob on the hose faucet handle that says "SpinSecure" on top?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

It’s a patented faucet locking mechanism that requires inserting a magnetic key in the side to turn on the faucet. The key is not generic, but multiple locks can be keyed identically. There is also a SpinSecure lock that looks virtually identical, but...

Does a washing machine receptacle outlet require GFCI protection?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Yes, as of the 2017 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), any receptacles in a laundry room must be GFCI-protected. Although the code does not specifically state that a washing machine receptacle has to be GFCI, the washing machine must have...

Do all receptacle outlets in a kitchen require GFCI protection?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

No. According to the National Electrical Code [NEC 210.8 (A)(6)], Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection is only required “where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces.” Additional wall receptacles mounted around...

How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

According to the Social Security Administration, the typical 65-year old American can expect to live to the age of 83. Some will depart this world sooner, and about 10% will live to 95. Old air conditioners, along with the other replaceable components...

What is an SPF roof?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The letters stand for Spray Polyurethane Foam, and an SPF roof is constructed by combining two chemical components, isocyanate and polyol, at the head of a spray gun. It is applied in sweeping strokes over the roof and creates a hardened closed-cell...

What is the average life expectancy of a radon mitigation system?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The two main components of a radon mitigation system are the duct piping and the exhaust fan. Most of the system is PVC pipe that has a life expectancy of 50 to 70 years or more, which is essentially the lifespan of the house.

    Radon mitigation...

Do radon mitigation systems require maintenance?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Very little maintenance is required for a properly installed radon system. The part of the system most likely to fail is the exhaust fan, so it is important to make sure that it continues to function properly. 

    Radon mitigation systems...

What is the minimum and maximum slope of the trap arm of a plumbing drain?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Let’s start with the definition of a trap arm. The Florida Building Code defines it as “that portion of a fixture drain between the trap weir and the vent fitting.” Next, you need to know the definition of a trap weir: it is the top level that water...

What is the difference between Acrocrete and EIFS?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Many of the most handsome homes in Gainesville have an EIFS finish on the exterior walls, like the one in the photo above. Unfortunately, when we tell homebuyers that their new house has EIFS (pronounced “eefs”) exterior walls, they often say “no, you’re...

Does a refrigerator water supply line require a shutoff valve behind it?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Refrigerators with water and ice service are classified as a “plumbing appliance,” which is defined as “an energized appliance with plumbing connections, such as a dishwasher, food waste grinder, clothes washer or water heater.” The Universal Plumbing...

How can I tell the age of a Rheem air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Find the letter in the middle of the serial number. The first two numbers after it are the week of manufacture, and the third and fourth numbers after the letter are the year of manufacture. The month and year of manufacture is also indicated at the...

How can I tell the age of a Ruud air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Find the letter in the middle of the serial number. The first two numbers after it are the week of manufacture, and the third and fourth numbers after the letter are the year of manufacture. The month and year of manufacture is also indicated at the...

How can I tell the age of a York air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

For York systems manufactured from October 2004 to the present, the first and third characters in the serial number will be letters, and the second and fourth characters will be numbers that indicate the year of manufacture. So, for example, the serial...

How can I tell the age of a Comfortmaker air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The first two numbers after a single letter in the serial number are the year of manufacture of a Comfortmaker system by International Comfort. So the serial number shown below indicates a 2007 manufacture date.



    Also see our...

How can I tell the age of a CAC/BDP or BDP air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

These systems are usually dark brown and do not have a logo medallion or sticker. The only manufacturer identification is at the bottom corner of the data plate, as shown above. Older models may also only be identified by BDP Company. The second two...

How can I tell the age of an International Comfort Products (ICP) air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The first two numbers in the serial number, after a single letter, are the year of manufacture of the unit. So the serial number below indicates the condenser was manufactured in 2013. Sometimes there will be no logo medallion or sticker, and the only...

How can I tell the age of an Inter-City Products air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The first two numbers in the serial number, after a single letter, are the year of manufacture of the unit. So the serial number below indicates the condenser was manufactured in 1995. Usually there will be no logo medallion or sticker, and the only...

How can I tell the age of an Aire-Flo air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Aire-Flo heat pump and air conditioning condensers are manufactured by Lennox specifically as replacements for R-22 refrigerant systems, and they are shipped charged with nitrogen. The second two numbers in the serial number are the year of manufacture....

How can I tell the age of a Fujitsu air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Most companies encode the year of manufacture in the serial number, but Fujitsu does not. You have to call the Fujitsu Service Department, at (866) 952-8324, with your serial number and they will give you a date. They advised us that the  heat pump...

How can I tell the age of a Nordyne air conditioner from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The fourth and fifth characters in the serial number are the year of manufacture for a Nordyne system. So the serial number shown below on the data plate of a Nordyne package heat pump indicates that it was manufactured in 2015.


How can I tell the age of a Cumberland air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Luxaire is manufactured by York and uses their serial number system. A sequence of four letters followed by a string of  six numbers was used until October, 2004. The third letter indicates the year of manufacture but, because the letter series repeated...

How can I tell the age of a Luxaire air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Luxaire is manufactured by York and uses their serial number system. A sequence of four letters followed by a string of  six numbers was used until October, 2004. The third letter indicates the year of manufacture but, because the letter series repeated...

How can I tell the age of a Janitrol air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Janitrol brand was manufactured by Goodman Manufacturing Company from 1982 to the mid-1990s. The serial number system was the same as for Goodman systems, which is that the first two numbers are the year of manufacture. The data plate on the side...

How can I tell the age of a Heil air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Heil brand is produced by International Comfort Products. Units produced since the early 1990s have a serial number that is a single letter followed by a series of numbers. The first two numbers are the year of manufacture. So the serial number...

How can I tell the age of a FHP (Florida Heat Pump) geothermal heat pump for the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The first letter of the serial number indicates the year of manufacture, starting in alphabetical order with “A” for 1971, but eliminating I, O, and Q, then recycling the letter code over again in 1994. 

          A = 1971 and 1994...

How can I tell the age of an EcoTemp air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

EcoTemp is manufactured by International Comfort Products and follows their serial number system. The first two numbers after a single letter are the year of manufacture, so the EcoTemp serial number shown below indicates the heat pump condenser was...

How can I tell the age of a Trane furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

There are two serial number formats:

2002  to present - If the serial number is a 9-digit combination of letters and numbers that starts with a number, then the first number is the year. Beginning in 2010, the first two digits are the year....

How can I tell the age of a Johnstone air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Johnstone is a brand manufactured by the Goodman Company, and the year of manufacture is the first two digits of the serial number. So the serial number on the Johnstone furnace data plate shown below indicates it was manufactured in 1992.

Can an electric panel be located in a closet?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

An electric panel is not allowed to be located in a clothes closet, and the logic is that the close proximity of flammable items is a hazard. Here’s how it is stated in the Florida Building Code (FBC, Residential Edition, and the International Residential...

Do home inspectors inspect barns and other agricultural buildings on a farm?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Home inspectors are trained in evaluating houses based on residential building standards and codes. But, here’s the catch: barns and agricultural buildings are exempt from the Florida Building Code. Florida Statue [553.73(10)(c)] states that “nonresidential...

Why can't I use my home's central air conditioning system to cool the garage?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Tapping into your air conditioning system to add a couple of ducts may seem like an excellent idea if you if have a garage workshop, but it is not allowed by the building codes. The International Residential Code (IRC) and Florida Building Code (FBC...

How can I tell the age of an Affinity air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Affinity is the high-efficiency HVAC brand of York International, a division of Johnson Controls. The second and fourth digits of the serial number, taken together, are the year of manufacture of the unit. So the serial number on the data plate of an...

What is the average life expectancy of an SPF roof?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The lifespan of an SPF (Spray Polyurethane Foam) depends on two factors. The first is the quality of the professional application. Polyurethane foam is created by mixing two chemicals under pressure at a spray nozzle head by trained applicator who applies...

When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The first requirement for AFCI breakers was in the 1999 National Electrical Code (NEC), to be effective on January 1, 2002. It applied only to all receptacle outlets in bedrooms. 

    The 2002 NEC upped the ante to include all outlets in...

What is the difference between an electrical receptacle, an outlet, and a plug?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Although all three terms are often used interchangeably to mean “that thing in the wall that you plug a cord into,” each has a different, specific meaning:

Outlet - The National Electrical Code (NEC) defines it as “a point on the wiring system...

What is aging in place?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Most Americans, and especially the Baby Boomer generation, want to continue to enjoy the freedom and familiarity of living in their own home as long as possible, even as the disabilities of aging begin to accumulate. “Aging in place” is the name most...

What is the tank marked "potassium permanganate" in the water treatment system for?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Potassium permanganate is an extremely strong oxidant used in water treatment to remove iron and the “rotten egg” smell caused by hydrogen sulfide, in conjunction with a greensand filter. It works by oxidizing the dissolved iron and hydrogen sulfide,...

How can I tell the age of a Frigidaire air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Frigidaire is a brand manufactured by Nortek (formerly Nordyne) and the fourth and fifth digits of the serial number are the year of manufacure for most units. So the data plate for a package heat pump shown below indicates it was manufactured in 2001. 

What do I need to know about buying a foreclosed mobile home?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The first chance to buy a foreclosed mobile home is at public foreclosure auction. If you choose to bid at the auction, you will not be able to inspect the property before purchase and may not even get a chance to set foot inside the door.

What is the operating cost of a radon mitigation system?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The most common type of radon mitigation is the “active subslab suction” type, also called a “subslab depressurization” system. One or more suction pipes are installed through holes drilled in the floor slab to a cavity of crushed rock underneath. The...

Why has the thermostat screen gone blank?

Friday, June 22, 2018

A digital thermostat can be powered by either batteries or the house electrical system. Pull the front plate of the thermostat and look for batteries behind it. They are usually AA or AAA batteries, and replace them to see if that fixes the problem....

Does the presence of carpenter ants in a house indicate that there are probably also termites?

Friday, June 22, 2018

While it is possible to have both carpenter ants and termites infesting the wood of your house, one does not attract the other and they do not have any kind of symbiotic relationship. In fact, they are natural enemies. Carpenter ants like to raid termite...

Should I buy a house with fire damage?

Friday, June 22, 2018

If you have never done a house repair and renovation before, this is not a good place to start. Renovating a fire-damaged house has all the problems of any renovation of a house in disrepair, but with multiple additional complications.

...

Should I buy a house that has been remodeled/renovated without building permits or has open permits?

Friday, June 22, 2018

There are three issues related to buying a house that has had improvements that were done without building permits or the permits are in limbo:

• Inability to confirm that concealed parts of the improvements were done correctly - Home inspectors...

Should I buy a house with mold?

Friday, June 22, 2018

You love everything about the house: the floor plan, the neighborhood, the backyard, the kitchen, even the colors. But it has some mold and the seller is unwilling to do anything about it. Take it or leave it. How do you decide?  

    “The...

Do stucco walls mean a house is concrete block?

Friday, June 22, 2018

“But I thought this house was concrete block!” is a comment we hear often, with a sigh of exasperation, from our inspection customers when we tell them that the stucco walls of their future home are constructed with wood studs and plywood sheathing....

Could faulty work or lack of a building permit for home improvements cause an insurance company to deny a claim?

Friday, June 22, 2018

While there are plenty of good reasons to have any improvements to your home done with a building permit by a licensed professional, the possibility of a denied insurance clam because of incompetent or non-permitted work is not one of them. Insurance...

Why is a garage floor sloped?

Friday, June 22, 2018

It makes practical sense for drainage, especially if you hose down your garage floor every once in a while, but also happens to be required by the both the Florida Building Code (FBC) and international Residential Code (IRC). The slope is only necessary...

How can I find out the size of my air conditioner?

Friday, June 22, 2018

It’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Look for a number that is divisible by 6 somewhere in the center of the model number on the data plate at the side of condenser (outdoor unit), like 12,18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, or 60. 

    A...

Should I buy a house near a high-voltage power line?

Friday, June 22, 2018

There are two big concerns that people have about buying a house adjacent to a high-voltage power line, so let’s take them one at a time.

 Increased cancer risk - Power lines emit a low-frequency EMF (electromagnetic field), which is considered...

Is radon mitigation possible for a condominium?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The installation of a radon mitigation system in a condominium can present unique problems for a mitigation contractor. Because a system must exhaust the gases it collects to an exterior location, the piping must penetrate the walls or roof, which are...

Why does venting a clothes dryer into a garage, attic, or crawl space cause problems?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Home clothes dryers don’t start out venting into an enclosed space because the building code specifies that the termination of a dryer duct must be outside. Here’s what the Florida Building Code (FBC), Residential Edition, says about it:

...

What are the pros and cons of a wall-mounted toilet?

Friday, June 22, 2018

We once inspected the rural home of a gentleman who was determined to not have any pipes under his floor slab because of a previous bad experience with under-slab plumbing leaks, and built his house with wall-hung toilets and all the plumbing fixtures...

How many receptacle outlets can you have on one circuit?

Friday, June 22, 2018

There is no limitation on the number of general purpose duplex receptacles you can have on a 15-amp circuit breaker. The National Electrical Code [NEC 210.52(C)] requires a minimum of two 20-amp circuits for kitchen appliances, and the requirement has...

What are "self-contained" electrical receptacle outlets and switches?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Self-contained receptacles and switches are easily recognized at a glance by the lack of the small screws that secure the cover plate of a regular receptacle or switch in place, as shown in the photo above. They are usually found in mobile homes and...

How can I tell the age of a Marey tankless water heater from the serial number?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The folks at Marey apparently want to be be certain that you know when your water heater was manufactured. The first four digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture, followed by a period and then two digits that are the month of manufacture....

How does a home inspector use a tic-tracer (non-contact voltage tester) for safety when doing electrical inspections?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Both of our fathers worked with electricity in their careers as an elevator mechanic and a communications technician for an airline. And both of them taught us the old-school way to check to see if something was electrified and could shock you, possibly...

Does an electric receptacle outlet in a storage shed require GFCI protection?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The National Electrical Code [NEC 210.8 (A)(2)] requires ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection for  “all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles” installed in “accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade...

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Since we recently bought a new home in the The Villages, a 55+ community in North Central Florida, we thought it would be good idea to see how it measures up in accessibility features, looking forward to the years ahead as we age. We chose one of their...

How long does it take to build a mobile/manufactured home?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A manufacturer can produce a home in anywhere from two days to a week or so. It’s an assembly line process that is similar to the one for carmakers, just slower moving. The climate-controlled environment and specialized tasks of each worker make it...

What is a chert house?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Chert is a local limestone rock that was quarried from the mid-1920s to the 1940s to construct homes in Gainesville, Florida, especially in the area around the University of Florida. It is an authentic indigenous architectural style and often, but not...

What is a building trap?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The U-shape of a plumbing P-trap provides a liquid seal to stop sewer gases from rising up into the home through plumbing fixture drains. A building trap could also be called a “whole house P-trap” because it is on the main drain line, usually buried...

What does it mean when the water meter spins back and forth?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Most water meters have a “leak detection” spinner in the shape of a triangle, star, or arrow, that can show low level water flow. If it is moving forward (clockwise), there is water flow. If it twists slowly back and forth, that can be caused by fluctuations...

Does a "QEST" brand mark on pipe mean that it is polbutylene (PB)?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Qest did make PB (polybutylene) pipe until manufacturing was discontinued in the mid-1990s, but they also now make PEX (cross-linked-polyethylene) pipe. The difference between them is that PB pipe will have “PB2110” next to the brand name, and PEX is...

Why is there mold inside my toilet tank?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

We see this problem more often in homes that have been empty and closed up for a months waiting for a buyer, or bathrooms that are rarely used. Mold requires three things to start growing: warmth, moisture, and organic material. An empty house, with...

Why do septic tank contractors want you to get rid of your kitchen disposal?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

That brown stuff floating in the septic tank being pumped out in the photo below is not what you think it is. This particular house had been empty for a while, and it’s food waste, ground up in a disposal and flushed into the septic tank months before,...

What is the average life expectancy of a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacle?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Our estimate of average life expectancy for GFCI receptacles is 15 to 25 years, although some fail as early as 5 years. Exterior receptacles tend to have a shorter life due to weather exposure, especially if the “in-use” clear plastic cover is missing....

When was a gas water heater first required to be elevated 18 inches above a garage floor?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The requirement to elevate a water heater so that the source of ignition is not less than 18 inches above the garage floor first appeared in the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) and Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) in 1976. All editions of the International...

When should I replace electric receptacle outlets?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There is no standard age for receptacle replacement, but here are six signs that mean it’s time to change one out:

 Will no longer hold the prongs of a cord securely - Metal strips in the receptacle hold the prongs of an appliance cord under...

How much ventilation is required for the under-floor crawl space of a home?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Homes with an elevated floor and an under-floor crawl space are required to have ventilation openings of at least 1 square foot for every 150 square feet of floor area, and a minimum of one ventilation opening within 3 feet of each corner (to avoid...

Should I get a lightning rod system to protect my house?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Deciding whether or not to have a lightning protection system installed on your roof depends on how much risk you are willing to accept. Homes with a lighting rod system will definitely not endure lightning damage, but most houses without one will also...

Why is it a mistake to store lumber in the crawl space under a house?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

If you have an older house with an elevated wood floor and a crawl space, it might seem sensible to store some leftover lumber from one of your home improvement projects out of the weather and under the house until you start the the next one. Don’t...

What are the minimum requirements for a shower?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The 2017 Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) have the following minimum standards for residential showers:

  Not less than 30 inch interior dimensions measured from finished...

Why should a tankless water heater have an isolator/service valve kit installed?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Manufacturers call it an “isolator valve kit” or “service valve kit,” and plumbers often just say “flush kit.” It’s a set of four valves, two each on the hot and cold water pipes below a tankless water heater, that enables you or a service person to...

What is the building code for the minimum height of stair steps (risers)?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Both the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) do not list a minimum height for stair risers. The codes only state a maximum riser height of 7-3/4”. But the FBC specifies “ANSI A117.1-09...

What can I add to my septic tank to help it work better?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Products that get dishes cleaner, teeth whiter, and indoor air fresher are in every home, and for a good reason: because they work. So it makes sense that an additive to improve the performance of your septic tank would be a good idea too.

Does an above-ground pool have to comply with code requirements for a swimming pool barrier?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Florida Building Code (FBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) both define a swimming pool as “any structure intended for recreational swimming, bathing or wading that contains water over 24 inches (610 mm) deep. This includes in-ground, above-ground and...

What is the difference between regular tap water and recycled/reclaimed water for landscape irrigation?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The big concern that many homebuyers have about purchasing a home that has a reclaimed wastewater irrigation system is the health risk.  But the possibility of any pathogens lingering in recycled water in Florida is eliminated by the disinfection requirements...

Can I put a new asphalt shingle roof over an existing shingle roof on a manufactured/mobile home?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Re-roofing by adding a second layer of shingles is called a “roof recover” by most building departments, and is allowed for site-built homes but not mobile homes. Although it is not specifically excluded in the Florida Building Code (FBC) or the international...

Why does condensation form on the outside of some windows and not others in the morning?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The dew point is the temperature at which moisture in the air will condense on a surface. It fluctuates with the outdoor temperature and relative humidity, which have an inverse relationship to each other. Because cold air can hold less moisture than...

How does a retrofit hot water recirculation system work?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There is no return piping for the hot water to flow back to the water heater already installed when a hot water recirculation system is retrofitted in a home, so a device called a “crossover valve” is installed under the faucet farthest from the water...

When is it acceptable to use indoor air as combustion air for a furnace?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The gas furnace in new homes in Florida is usually installed in a sealed closet or the garage, with outdoor combustion air supplied by ducts into the attic. But it is still allowed by the International Residential Code (IRC) and Florida Building Code...

What causes dark or light "ghost" lines on ceilings and walls?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It’s called “thermal tracking” and is caused by a difference in temperature over a surface created by what is happening behind it. The hazy lines develop slowly and are usually dark, but sometimes all of the area except at the lines darken, like in...

Why is premature curl of roof shingles a problem?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

One of the ways that a shingle roof shows its age is curling at the corners. It is one of several indications that a roof is older and ready to be replaced, and usually accompanied by deterioration of the tab adhesion at the leading edge of the shingle...

Where are the most common places to find wood rot on a house?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Here’s our “Top 10” list of hotspots where wood rot is likely to occur on the exterior of a house:

 Will it rot or not? - The first thing to do is determine what is wood or a manufactured cellulose product and what is inorganic and not subject...

What causes scorched burn marks near the bottom of a gas water heater?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The burn marks are caused by flames shooting out of the access opening to the burner compartment. It usually happens only briefly and intermittently, but can be a fire hazard and will eventually damage the internal components of the water heater. 

What causes water dripping down the flue (condensation) at a gas water heater?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Although water dripping down the flue can be caused by a missing or damaged rain cap at the roof, it is more likely that the wetness is caused by condensation of combustion gases on the interior surface of the flue. You may see it puddled on top of...

How far should trees be kept away from a mobile/manufactured home?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There are three ways that trees can damage a mobile home: falling branches, roots heaving or settling the foundation piers, and toppling over onto the home in a storm. HUD recommends that “for any home, it is a good idea to keep large trees away from...

Can the smoke sensors in a home security/fire alarm system replace the smoke alarms required by the building code?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A residential security/fire alarm system can replace the smoke alarms required by the building code under these conditions: 

Provides the same level of smoke detection and alarm as required by the building code for smoke alarms.
Permanently...

Is every exterior door of a house required to have a landing outside?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A landing is required outside each exterior door of a home. Sometimes the rule is misinterpreted as meaning at the required egress (emergency exit) door, but a landing is necessary at all exterior doors. The exterior door in the photo above is a back...

What is a "combination waste and vent" in a plumbing system?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Plumbing drain traps are required to be vented, so that air can be introduced into the drain piping to allow free flow of the liquid. But there is one exception, a combination waste and vent, which is essentially an oversize drain pipe that has enough...

How does a home inspector inspect a refrigerator ice maker?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There are four scenarios an inspector can encounter when checking a refrigerator ice maker:

Ice maker is functional when tested at door service, or bin in freezer at refrigerator with no door service is filled with ice - Yes, we verify that...

Are drop-in toilet bowl cleaner tablets safe?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Toilet bowl cleaner tablets that sit in the bottom of the tank have two advantages over the older type that hang of the side of the bowl: they are easy to install without having to touch the toilet bowl and not visible when in place. But, because they...

What is a "while-in-use" weatherproof electrical receptacle outlet cover?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A while-in-use receptacle cover, as shown above, is different from a regular weatherproof cover, like the one shown below, in that it allows a cord to be plugged into it while still remaining resistant to water intrusion. It is often referred to simply...

What is a "fixture unit" for plumbing?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

It is a unit of measure used to evaluate the demand that a particular plumbing fixture, or group of fixtures, will put on the plumbing system. It is used in conjunction with other factors, and there are fixture units assigned for both water supply and...

What is the difference between "Type X" and regular gypsum drywall? Where is it required?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Type X is sometimes referred to as fire-rated drywall, and here are three ways that it differs from regular gypsum drywall:

Standard drywall is 1/2” thick, but Type X is 5/8” thick.
Type X has glass fiber reinforcement in the gypsum...

What is the difference between a vent stack and a stack vent?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This is one of those oddities of plumbing terminology. Seems like they should be the same thing, but they are not.

    A vent stack is a vertical pipe that is only used for venting, and runs upward from the drain piping to the open air outside...

Can I test vacant land for radon before building a house?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Not really. The average radon level of outdoor air is 0.4 pico-curies per liter of air (pCi/L), which is 10% of the level at which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends remediation action. Some areas exceed the average, but we don’t know...

Is it normal to smell gas near a natural gas meter?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Gas meters have a disc-shaped regulator next to them that reduces the pressure of the incoming gas down to the correct, much lower level for the appliances in a home. The regulator utilizes a spring, piston, and rubber-like diaphragm in combination...

How do I tell the age of an Insinkerator instant hot water heater from the serial number?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture and the second two numbers are the month. So this unit was manufactured in April of 2012. 



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How can I tell the difference between Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) and a Flexible Appliance Connector (FAC)?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Both CSST and FAC are corrugated stainless steel pipes used to transport natural gas or propane. Because each has different limitations, it important to be able to determine which one you are looking at. Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (shown above)...

Does a water heater need a shut-off valve?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A shut-off valve is required on the cold water supply pipe to water heater. Here’s how the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) state it:

    A “full-open” valve is one that does...

What are the tie down requirements for a modular home?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Modular homes are built in a factory and then delivered to a homesite for installation, similar to a manufactured/mobile home. But there is no steel undercarriage with wheels for transportation, and they are lifted into place by a crane onto a permanent...

What causes a gurgling sound when a bathtub or sink drains?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The gurgling is most likely to occur when the tub or sink has been filled with water and then drained. It is caused by the drain releasing air displaced by the volume of water draining and is is comparable to what happens when you turn a soda bottle...

Why is garbage disposal not allowed at a combination waste and vent (CW&V) under a sink?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

“A combination waste and vent system shall not receive the discharge of a food waste grinder” is clearly stated at P3111.1 in the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC). But we see them installed...

What is the difference between a sill cock, hose bibb, hose faucet, outdoor faucet, and hose spigot?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

They are all different names for the same thing. The building codes prefer hose bibb, which is considered as one type of water outlet. Here’s how the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC)...

Does a homebuyer need to ask the seller's permission to do additional inspections after the initial one?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The FARBAR “As Is” contract, which is the one most often used in our area, specifies that the homebuyer has the right to “have such inspections of the Property performed as Buyer shall desire during the Inspection Period.” There is no limitation for...

What are the building code requirements for gray water reuse in Florida?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Gray water systems are allowed only for flushing toilets and urinals, and setting up one is not a simple project. To start with, the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) has specific  limitations on what water can be reused:

How much cheaper is it to heat a house with a heat pump versus an electric furnace or baseboard heater?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It costs about half as much to heat your house with a heat pump as an electric-resistance type heater according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Because heat pumps use electricity to move heat from the exterior of a home to the interior, instead of...

Why is there sand in the bottom of my toilet tank?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It’s a sign that the well is pumping sand. This is not a problem that would ordinarily occur with a municipal water supply. Sometimes not enough sand is pulled up by the pump to be noticeable in your water at the sinks or bathtub, but the small amount...

What is the difference between a park trailer and a park model recreational vehicle?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

They are the old and new name for the same thing. Both are classified as recreational vehicles and manufactured under the American National Standards Institute’s standard A119.5. Here’s a manufacturer’s medallion on one built in 1990 that lists it as...

Are park trailers and park model recreational vehicles required to have a data plate?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Park model is the newer name for park trailers, and they are manufactured under American National Standards Institute’s ANSI119.5 standard, which specifies that a data plate, like the one shown above, must be installed at or near the electric panel...

What are the building code requirements for notching and boring holes in a wall stud?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The photo above shows how not to notch studs, especially since it was at a bearing wall. The International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) have separate standards for bearing and nonbearing walls,...

When is a railing required at stairs?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Although most people think of stairs as a long run of steps for getting from one floor of a home to another, the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) define a stair as “a change in elevation...

What are the code requirements for layout of drain piping under sinks?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Here’s a diagram of the basic code standards. It does not matter whether it is a kitchen, bathroom, laundry, or bar sink.

 Trap weir, also called trap seal, minimum of 2” and maximum of 4”
 Maximum length of trap arm variable based on...

What is causing the outdoor unit (condenser) of my air conditioner to shake?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Shaking of a heat pump or air conditioning condenser is usually caused by the fan mounted inside the top of the condenser when it becomes unbalanced. Even minor shivering of the unit should be repaired because it will reduce the life of the condenser...

What are the code requirements for plumbing vent terminations?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The plumbing drain system in a home has to “breathe” in air so it can flow smoothly. But the vent piping can also emit noxious sewer gas, so it is necessary to terminate the pipes in a safe location where the sewer gas will not come back into the house.

Does an abandoned well need to be capped or removed?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The danger of an abandoned well got international attention when 18-month-old “Baby Jessica” McClure fell down a well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland, Texas, on October 14th, 1987. She was trapped for 58 hours before a rescue team pulled her out....

What is the best emergency back-up generator for the power outage after a storm?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

We are awaiting the arrival of hurricane Irma here in central Florida today, so it’s a good time to talk about the pros and cons of the different generator sizes and types. Any generator is better than none at all for the days or weeks it takes to restore...

Can I run a window air conditioner on a portable generator?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Most portable generators can handle at least a 6,000 BTU air conditioner, which needs between 500 and 600 watts. But, because the compressor component needs a 50% to 100% additional surge of power to overcome inertia at start-up, a small window a/c...

What is a tandem circuit breaker?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

If you see what looks like two narrow circuit breakers in a slot for one breaker in a panel, that’s a tandem circuit breaker. Our customers often refer to them as “those thin breakers,” and they are also called duplex, half-high, slimline, wafer, or...

How much hurricane wind speed can a mobile home survive?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Four variables affect how a mobile home will fare in a hurricane: 1) when it was built, 2) the wind zone it was designed for, 3) how well it has been maintained, and 4) what additions have been made to the home and how they are attached.

1...

Are older mobile homes unsafe?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Older mobile homes were built to meet the safety standards at the time of their construction, so it would be unfair to say they are now unsafe because HUD safety standards have been upgraded over the years. But newer manufactured homes are definitely...

How can I inspect my roof for hurricane damage?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

When you see blue sky as you look up at the ceiling, like in the photo above, you don’t need to do an inspection to know your roof requires repair. But storm damage sometimes does not show itself on the inside of your home immediately or the symptoms...

What is the difference between a condo and a PUD for a home inspection?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

PUD is an acronym for Planned Unit Development. It differs from a condominium in that a PUD owns the land under the unit. Both forms of ownership have a HOA (Home Owners Association) that has restrictions over the use and alteration of the property,...

What is allowable voltage range at a wall receptacle outlet in a house?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The nominal voltage in the United States is 120 volts, but the National Electrical Code [NEC 210.19 (A)] specifies an acceptable range of plus or minus 5%, which is 114 to 126 volts. You will rarely get a reading of exactly 120.0 volts. Voltage is typically...

Should I seal the pavers at my patio and driveway or not?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Applying a sealer to pavers offers benefits such as resistance to color fading and stains, along with increased protection from surface deterioration. If you decide to apply a sealer, experts recommend waiting about a year before application, to allow...

Is an attic required to have a light by the building code?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The NEC (National Electrical Code) specifies at 210.70(A)(3) that any “attics, underfloor spaces, utility rooms, and basements” have at least one lighting outlet, but only “where these spaces are used for storage or contain equipment requiring servicing.”...

How long does Bora-Care® last?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Bora-Care has been around since 1987, and testing so far supports the company’s claim that it will continue to provide protection from wood-destroying insects and wood rot fungi for the life of the home, as long as the wood is not subjected to rain...

What is the small pipe sticking out of the eaves/soffit under the roof overhang?

Monday, June 18, 2018

When the air handler (interior unit) of a central air conditioning system or a water heater is located in an attic, both appliances are required to have a catch pan under them so that any water leakage will not cause damage to the ceiling and living...

How did homes stay cool in Florida before air conditioning?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Both of us grew up in South Florida in the mid-20th century and each year Miami emptied out in the summertime as the “snowbirds” headed north to escape the sweltering heat. Central air conditioning has changed all that, making it possible to have cool,...

Why do concrete blocks have holes in them?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The openings are called “cells” and one reason they are there is because they make the blocks lighter and easier for a mason to handle. But the primary purpose of the cells is that they align from top to bottom of the wall when laid, and enable a builder...

Why do so many more sinkholes open up after a hurricane?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The front page story in our local newspaper, The Villages Daily Sun, right after Hurricane Irma was about all the sinkholes that suddenly appeared around the area. While it is always surprising when a sinkhole abruptly collapses, storms are known to...

What are the code requirements for an old fuse panel/box?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Building codes like the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Florida Building Code (FBC) are intended as standards for new construction and do not apply to old electrical panels. But the National Electrical Code (NEC) has safety standards for...

What is "ponding" on a flat roof?

Monday, June 18, 2018

To understand what ponding is, and why it is a problem, you need to know that a flat roof is not supposed to be perfectly flat. It should have a slight slope toward the edges and even a fraction of an inch per foot can be sufficient. When a roof is...

What is the "TIP" zone map?

Monday, June 18, 2018

TIP is an acronym that stands for Termite Infestation Probability, and the TIP map divides up the U.S. into zones according to the likelihood of subterranean termites infesting a house. The four zones range from “Very Heavy” to “None to Slight” probability...

Why is it a problem when a trap under a sink is installed backwards?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The U-shaped pipe configuration under a sink is called a “trap” because it traps and holds enough water after the sink has drained to create a liquid plug that keeps any noxious sewer gas from rising up out of the drain into your home. The pipe from...

What are the multipliers for calculating roof area based on slope?

Monday, June 18, 2018

As the height of a roof ridge rises higher and higher, so does the amount of roofing material necessary to cover it. The slope factor chart shown below gives you the necessary multiplier to calculate the actual square footage of the roof area from the...

Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof?

Monday, June 18, 2018

There are three factors that make a steep roof more expensive to install:

More materials - The area of roofing of a 12/12 pitch roof (45º angle) over one square foot of floor area is 1.41 square feet. Another way to say the same thing is...

Is mold contagious? Can mold spread to my home if there is a nearby house with mold?

Monday, June 18, 2018

There are literally millions of mold spores floating around in the air all the time and everywhere. Indoor and outdoor air both contain enough spores for a mold colony to begin growing within two days under the right conditions. So mold is definitely...

What is the difference between green and white sewer drain pipes?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The green sewer drain pipe is used for the final underground run from a house to the municipal sewer or septic tank. It is manufactured to be compliant with “ASTM D 3034” standard and is often referred to as “3034” pipe. It is PVC, but a lighter weight...

Where do I find the Florida laws regarding radon?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The relevant section of the Florida Statutes is at “Title XXIX Public Health, Chapter 404 Radiation.” Here is a link to the statures below:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2017/404.056    For specific rules in the Florida Administrative...

Why is the cover plate of some water meter boxes in the ground painted purple?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The American Public Utilities Association (AWPA) has established a uniform color code standard for marking underground utilities. It is used for the tiny flags you see along the side of the road to mark location of utilities below, along with the spray...

Why is the water heater older than the house?

Monday, June 18, 2018

When a major appliance is a few years older than the house it’s always a bit of a puzzler. But there are several ways that can happen:

During the “Great Recession” that began in 2007 a number of homebuilders of big developments had half-built...

Will installing a special ultraviolet (UV) light in the air conditioning system kill mold?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The surface of air conditioning evaporator coils, and the collection trough under them that the condensate drips into, are areas where mold can grow easily and out-of-sight of a homeowner. Plus, the mold colonies that form release spores that get blown...

Should I buy a house that has hurricane flood damage?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

We inspected a home a while ago for a young real estate investor who was excited about rehabbing it to flip for a quick profit. The home had been flooded by Hurricane Irma, with a water line on the interior walls between knee and waist high, and was...

Should I buy a house with hurricane flood damage that has been repaired?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Flood-damaged homes that investors bought at bargain prices and rehabbed, with varying levels of quality of work, will come on the market a few months after any major storms in the Texas, Gulf Coast, and Florida. A home that has had professional flood...

Why do home inspectors sometimes specify "further evaluation and possible repair" instead of a specific repair or replacement?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It would be great if home inspectors could open up a wall behind staining and find out what’s going on in there. But they can’t do that without permission of the home’s seller, and it is very rarely granted. So inspectors often have to depend on visual...

The one home inspection question we get asked most often: "Will that be in the report?"

Sunday, June 17, 2018

When we first started doing home inspections fifteen years ago, there was a inspector in Key West that had been doing it since the era of carbon-copy report forms and Polaroid photos. He dressed for the job like it was golf outing, in tropical-sherbet...

When was a solid wood door first required between the garage and house?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

One of the ways to update the interior of an older home when remodeling it is to replace all the interior doors and hardware. When the work is done by a homeowner or inexperienced contractor, sometimes they overlook the requirement that the door separating...

What is required clearance for access and working space in front of an electric water heater?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Although an electric water heater, like the heat pump one shown above, is part of a home plumbing system, it is an electric appliance. So the National Electrical Code requirement (NEC 110.26[A]) for equipment “likely to require examination, adjustment,...

When was it first required that neutrals and grounds be separated (not bonded) on any panel past the main service panel?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

“Is that some new code thing that wasn’t required when this old house was built?” Actually, the code standard for neutrals and grounds to be bonded only at the main service panel—and nowhere else—dates back to the 1923 edition of the National Electrical...

Why is it unsafe to bond neutral and ground wiring at subpanels?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

To understand why it is problem, we have to start with the basic principle that a 120-volt circuit begins and ends at the transformer on a pole, or the ground, outside the home. The neutral wiring completes the loop of the circuit back to transformer...

What is the minimum clearance to doors and windows for an outdoor tankless gas water heater?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The vent termination of an outdoor (not direct vent) gas tankless water heater should not be within an area extending four feet below or to the side, and one foot above, any door or the operable area of a window that can be opened. The water heater...

When was GFCI-protection for kitchen dishwasher receptacle outlet first required?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The requirement for GFCI-protection for the dishwasher receptacle was added with the 2014 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC 210.8[C]). The only other kitchen location the NEC specifies GFCI-protection is the receptacles, where they are “installed...

Why is spray paint on the bus bars of an electric panel a safety defect?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

When a new house is being built, the electric panel is usually in place in the wall, but with no cover (dead front) installed yet, when the painters start spray painting of the interior. The front of the box is supposed to be covered, preferably tape-sealed,...

Why is an opening in the wall around the side of an electrical receptacle outlet a safety defect?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The combination of an outlet box and cover plate is intended to create a closed volume that keeps any short circuits, arcing and sparking within the box, and separated from flammable materials nearby in the wall, thereby avoiding a house fire. The National...

How can I tell the age of an Aspen evaporator coil or air handler from the serial number?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The year of manufacture of Aspen air handlers and evaporator coil units is indicated by the first two numbers, after a single letter, in the serial number. So the data plate shown above indicates the evaporator coil was manufactured in 2017. The letter...

What is the difference between soil subsidence, heave, creep, and settlement?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Although all four of these different types of soil movement are often lumped together as simply “settlement” by realtors and contractors, each one has a different cause and specific cure. Knowing which type of soil movement you are dealing with makes...

What is the code requirement for a light fixture (luminaire) over a shower or bathtub?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

This is what it says in both the International Residential Code (IRC) and Florida Building Code Residential Edition (FBC) at E4003.11: “Luminaires within the outside dimension of the bathtub or shower to a height of 8 feet (2438 mm) vertically from...

How can I tell the age of a Takagi water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The first two numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture, and the second two numbers are the week, so the serial number shown below means the water heater was manufactured on the 9th week of  2017.

    Some serial numbers will...

Are bathroom accessories like a toilet paper holder, towel bar, or grab bar required by the building code?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

While a toilet paper holder and towel bar are expected by homebuyers, especially in new construction, we know of no building code requirement that they be installed in a private residence. Local housing authorities may have specifications for them in...

What is the minimum slope of a flue connector for a gas furnace or water heater?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

“A vent connector shall be installed without dips or sags and shall slope upward toward the vent or chimney at least 1/4-inch per foot (21 mm/m),” according to the Florida Building Code Residential Edition (FBC) and the International Residential Code...

What are typical aluminum service entrance wire/cable sizes for the electrical service to a house?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Here’s a listing of the standard aluminum service entrance wire sizes for residential 3-wire single-phase service. Wire sizes are AWG (American Wire Gauge), and variations may be possible due to temperature rating and type of wire.

SERVICE...

Why is the vacuum breaker at my hose faucet leaking, gushing water, or making funny sounds?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Behind the ring of tiny holes around the end of the vacuum breaker, where you screw a hose onto it, is a plastic disc that presses up against the holes when the water is turned on, then springs back when pressure drops off, allowing a small amount of...

Is the crawl space under a house required to be ventilated if the floor is concrete?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

We very rarely see a crawl space under a concrete first floor. If the concrete floor is elevated a couple of feet off the ground, it is likely that there is no crawl space and the volume under it contains clean fill soil that was placed after a stem...

What are the abandoned pipes sticking out of the wall in my house?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It is likely one of three things:

If it is a single pipe behind the water heater, like in the photo above, then you have an abandoned discharge pipe for a water heater TPR (Temperature and Pressure Relief) valve. The other end of the pipe...

What is the difference between an inverter heat pump air conditioner and a conventional one?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The compressor inside the outdoor condenser unit of a conventional heat pump runs on regular house alternating current (AC). It turns on when it receives a signal from the thermostat, and runs at full speed until the desired temperature is reached....

What is a PTAC unit?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

PTAC is an acronym that stands for Package Terminal Air Conditioner. It is the type commonly found in a hotel or motel room under the window, like in the photo above. They are a larger, sturdier version of a residential window air conditioner, and nowadays...

Is a washing machine drain hose required to be secured at the standpipe?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) do not address washing machine drain hose attachment. But manufacturer’s installation instructions are specific about requiring that the drain hose...

How can I tell the age of an A.O. Smith water heater from the serial number?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The first two numbers in the serial number, which may appear after one or two letters, are the year of manufacture of an A.O. Smith water heater. So the data plates shown below indicate that the water heaters were manufactured in 1989 and 2004.

Why is a damaged hose faucet handle a safety defect?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Most faucet handles are cast metal that fractures with sharp edges when damaged. It’s easy to cut open your hand on a broken faucet handle when turning it on, especially when the damage is not obvious at a glance, like the one shown above. So we take...

What are the building code requirements for installing an appliance (furnace, air handler, water heater) in the attic?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

When an appliance like a water heater or air handler is placed in an attic, there is a potential safety risk for the living space below the appliance due to water leakage. Also, a person entering the attic to service any appliance must be able to get...

Does the seller have to make a repair requested by the homebuyer, even if the home inspector did not call it out as a defect?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The answer to this question depends on two things: the terms of the sales contract that buyer and seller signed before the inspection, and how badly the seller wants to sell the house. Even if the home inspector listed something as a defect that requires...

When should a corroded or damaged electric panel cabinet or disconnect box be replaced?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

They are officially called “electrical enclosures,” and serve two primary purposes: to protect the user of the equipment from electrical shock, and shield the internal components from the environment. There may also be secondary requirements, such as...

Is the door between an attached garage and the house required to have a closer (self-closing device)?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

No, a closer is no longer required by the IRC and FBC, but it is a good safety precaution to add. Every few years there is a news story in Florida about someone, usually an older person, asphyxiated by carbon monoxide fumes because they left the door...

What are the requirements for installing a chimney stack on a mobile/manufactured home?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mobile home manufacturers leave off the chimney pipe and cap due to the highway height restrictions of the Department of Transportation, so the fireplace chimney must be installed at the homesite by the mobile home installer, who will also place the...

Can you move a Wind Zone 1 mobile home to Zone 2 or Zone 3 in Florida?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

New or used homes manufactured for Wind Zone 1 may not be initially sited in Wind Zones 2 or 3. You can find the Wind Zone that the home is rated for on the data plate. Incidentally, the zones are often referred to with Roman Numerals as I, II, and...

Can you move a Wind Zone 2 mobile home to Zone 3 in Florida?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

New or used homes manufactured for Wind Zone 2 may not be initially sited in Wind Zone 3. You can find the Wind Zone that the home is rated for on the data plate. Incidentally, the zones are often referred to with Roman Numerals as I, II, and III.

What is the purpose of a stabilizer plate for manufactured/mobile home tie-downs?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A stabilizer plate is especially important in Florida because of our sandy soil. All anchors for diagonal straps must have one to prevent the anchor from being dragged sideways through the soil towards the frame due to a lateral load on the tie-down...

How can I tell the age of an Arcoaire air conditioner or furnace from the serial number?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Arcoaire is a division of International Comfort Products Corporation and uses the same serial number system as their other brands: the first two numbers after an initial letter are the year of manufacture. So the serial number on the data plate shown...

Why can't a sanitary tee be used for a horizontal-to-horizontal drain pipe connection?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A horizontal tee is not a problem for pressurized water supply piping, but will not function properly for horizontal drain pipes, which only flow by gravity and need a directional nudge at corners. The International Plumbing Code at 706.3 requires that...

Do piers and tie-down anchors have to be approved by the State of Florida for manufactured/mobile home installation in Florida?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Yes, all anchors, piers, and other tie-down components used for the installation of a manufactured/mobile home or park model/trailer must be tested, approved, and then listed by the Bureau of Mobile Home and Recreational Vehicle Construction of the...

What is the maximum number of circuit breakers allowed in an electric panel?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The answer to this question was once very simple. The National Electrical Code (NEC) specified that a lighting and appliance branch circuit panelboard could not contain more than 42 overcurrent devices (circuit breakers). That was the absolute maximum,...

What happens to a radon test result if the windows were opened, the test device moved, or there was any other evidence of tampering during the test?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

It’s simple: the test is voided and must be run again. No exceptions. The parameters for a radon test are that it has be a minimum of 48-hours, the HVAC system remains on and thermostat set between 67º and 76º F, windows stay closed, and doors opened...

Why is it important to use "cabinet screws" to mount the upper cabinets in the kitchen?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Upper kitchen cabinets are called “wall cabinets” to differentiate them from the lower ones, which are “base cabinets.” Wall cabinets stacked high with dishes carry tremendous weight and, if not mounted securely, they can fall off the wall when heavily...

Is a metal roof for a mobile home approved for HUD Wind Zone 3?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The roofing material on a new manufactured/mobile home, along with the fastening method, has been approved by HUD as part of the overall design approval based on the wind zone for which the home is rated. But, when it is time to replace the roof, it...

What is the most common type of roof-to-wall attachment?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The dominant type of construction in our area of Central Florida is wood stud frame and we are not in a wind-blown debris zone, so a metal clip like the one shown above is the connector most often used. But the type of roof-to-wall fastener used depends...

Is it alright to have a shut-off valve on both the hot and cold water pipes at a water heater?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A shut-off valve at the cold water supply pipe to a water heater is specified as necessary by the building code. But we sometimes see a second shut-off valve at the hot water pipe, even though it is not necessary. People that have had the double shut-offs...

How can I tell how well my mobile home is insulated?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

To determine the exact level of insulation in the floor, walls, and ceiling of your home, check the manufacturer’s data plate. It is usually located on the wall of the master bedroom closet or inside of cabinet door at the kitchen. Halfway down the...

What is the best place to install carbon monoxide alarms (CO detectors) in a house?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Florida Statute 553.885 has required for about the past 10 years that any new home or home addition that has a fossil-fuel burning heater or appliance (such as a gas water heater), a fireplace, or attached garage must have a carbon monoxide alarm within...

Is the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) the standard used for the electrical system of new homes?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Not necessarily. The NEC has been updated every three years since it originated back in 1911, but the code does not automatically become a national standard. Each new edition must be adopted by the state or local jurisdiction, and some of them take...

What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Both colors are caused by oxidation as the copper reacts to elements in the environment. The green oxidation is commonly seen when pool chlorine is stored in the same room with electrical equipment and minimal ventilation, producing copper sulfide or...

What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

When moisture seeps between the plies of a built-up and gravel roof, and then the sun comes out and heats up the surface, the water turns to vapor. Expansion of the trapped gas causes a raised pocket, known as a blister, to form. The blister will often...

What is a "second set" mobile/manufactured home?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

“Second set” is an industry term for a mobile home that has been moved from the original site where it was set when delivered new from the dealer. The significance of a second set home is that it is not eligible for FHA or VA financing. 

...

Is it alright to just put wire nuts on the end of unused or abandoned NM-cable or wiring?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

If the wiring is still connected at the other end in the electric panel, it must be terminated in an electrical box. The National Electrical Code (NEC 300.12) states that “Raceways, cable armors, and cable sheaths shall be continuous between cabinets,...

What is the required clearance for access and working space in front of a furnace or air handler?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Although a furnace or air handler, like the heat pump one shown above, is part of a home HVAC system, it is an electric appliance. So the National Electrical Code requirement (NEC 110.26[A]) for equipment “likely to require examination, adjustment,...

What is the maximum length for a washing machine drain hose?

Friday, June 15, 2018

The answer to this question is complicated by the fact that it is much harder to pump water vertically than horizontally. Washing machine manuals typically specify a minimum height of 39” for the entry of the drain hose into the standpipe or faucet...

Are all garage electric receptacles required to be GFCI-protected?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yes, all 125-volt, single phase, 15- or 20-amp receptacles in a garage must be GFCI-protected, with only one esoteric exclusion that we will cover later. But it wasn’t always this way. Up until the 2008 edition of the NEC (National Electrical Code),...

Is a landing always required at the top and bottom of stairs?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yes, a landing is required that is at least the width of the stairs and minimum of three feet deep, with two exceptions:

A landing is not required at the top of an interior flight of stairs, including stairs in an enclosed garage, provided...

How much headroom is necessary for a powder room (half-bath) under stairs?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Because the toilet fits in at the low side of the sloped ceiling under the stairs, the vertical clearance in front of it is the primary issue. Here are the parameters you have to work within, based on the Residential Edition of the Florida Building...

What is the requirement for a service receptacle outlet for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HACR) equipment?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Because a receptacle is often necessary for servicing HVAC equipment, the National Electrical Code (NEC 210.63) specifies that a 125-volt, single-phase, 15- or 20-amp receptacle outlet must be installed in an accessible location within 25 feet of the...

How do I find a good mobile/manufactured home inspector?

Friday, June 15, 2018

A few inspectors out in the Western states, where there are huge manufactured home parks and retirement communities, specialize exclusively in them. It’s all they do. But, in many suburban areas, manufactured homes are less than 10% of the local housing...

What is the code requirement for GFCI protection for receptacles near a wet bar sink?

Friday, June 15, 2018

All receptacle outlets within 6 feet of the top inside edge of the bowl of any sink in a residence must be Ground-Fault-Circuit-Interrupter protected, and that includes a wet bar sink, according to the National Electrical Code [NEC 210.8 (A)(7)]. The...

What causes a sagging roof ridge line?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sloped roofs with a ridge depend on the inherent strength of a triangle to create a sturdy roof. The unique property of a triangle is that it cannot be deformed as long as all three sides remain intact and connected. But a rectangle can be deformed...

Is it safe to go under a mobile home?

Friday, June 15, 2018

It all depends on which mobile home you are considering crawling under. Some crawl spaces are a minefield littered with hazards, while others are safe enough to enter if you take a few sensible precautions.

    But it’s important to first...

What are the small slots at the bottom of the outside of my window?

Friday, June 15, 2018

There are usually two of them at the bottom of the window sash (frame) and they are weep hole covers. There is a top-hinged flap recessed in the slot that only opens outward. The flap is designed to open to allow any water that might get into the voids...

How can I tell if I have cast iron pipes in my house?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cast iron pipe is recognizable by its black finish and the bulge at the end of each pipe section, called a “hub,” that the adjacent pipe fits into. Surface rust may eliminate the black finish on extremely old cast iron, leaving it simply rust-color....

Can a water meter box (vault) be installed below ground level (grade)?

Friday, June 15, 2018

The installation of the water meter box, which is also called a meter vault, is under the jurisdiction of the local water utility or municipality. All of them we know of in warmer climates like ours want the boxes positioned with the top of the box...

What is the maximum spacing requirement for securing NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable)?

Friday, June 15, 2018

NM-cable must be secured and supported every 4.5-feet (1.4-meters) by staples, listed cable ties, straps, hangers or similar fittings, or other similar fittings that are designed and installed so that they do not damage the cable. A second requirement...

What causes leaks at a fake roof dormer?

Friday, June 15, 2018

We often hear them called “fake dormers,” but builders prefer the label “inactive” or “passive” dormers, as opposed to the “active dormers” that open into a living space and provide natural light. The big difference between leakage in a passive dormer...

How can I tell the age of a Sears Kenmore heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sears used multiple different manufacturers over the years to produce air conditioners and heat pumps that they sold under their Kenmore brand. So there is no single recipe for figuring out age from the serial number.

    But, if you are...

Can you replace an AFCI breaker with a CAFCI breaker?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yes. The technology for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter breakers only recognizes parallel arcing (hot-to-neutral or an arc to ground), but AFCIs did not recognize series arcing (between a small gap or frayed area in the same wire, for example), so the...

Where does rain water go when it gets into a roof vent pipe?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Rain water that runs down a plumbing vent pipe at the roof goes into the house drain system at a point past the traps at the plumbing fixtures that keep sewer gas out of the home, and heads harmlessly out to the sewer or septic tank. The only time that...

Can galvanized steel pipe still be used for new water lines in a house?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yes, it is still approved by the building codes for both service pipe to a house and distribution pipes inside it. Galvanized pipe was often installed in new homes until the early-1970s, when copper pipe became more popular, likely due to the corrosion...

What is the difference between what trips a GFCI (ground fault) receptacle and a circuit breaker?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Both devices provide electrical safety protection for a home, but in different ways. A circuit breaker is designed to cut off the electricity to a circuit when the current flow (amperage) exceeds the rating for the wires it serves. High current flow...

What are the vertical butt joint requirements for fiber-cement (Hardiplank) lap siding?

Friday, June 15, 2018

They aren’t what they used to be. A gap of up to 1/8”, and caulked at the joint, was an option in 2001 edition of the James Hardie installation manual, as shown below.

    The current edition of the James Hardie manual, along with the International...

Are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) really necessary and worth the trouble?

Friday, June 15, 2018

They are necessary because the building codes require them in all the wet areas of a home. But, more important, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are worth the trouble because they really do save lives. Electrocution deaths in homes have dropped 83%,...

Is a double heating element water heater better than a single element water heater?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Each type has its advantages, but single element water heaters are usually only models of 30-gallons and less. Plus, many are 120-volt, while the bigger tanks are 240-volt to deliver more heating energy. Dual element units are easily recognizable by...

How can I protect my pipes to keep them from bursting during a hard winter freeze in North Florida?

Friday, June 15, 2018

A hard freeze is a night when the temperature drops into the mid-20s or below for about 4 hours or more—long enough for the cold to penetrate exposed or poorly insulated pipes and freeze the water inside. The unique property of water that makes frozen...

Can I mount an electric panel upside down?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Just about all modern electric panels can be mounted upside down, meaning that the main breaker is located at the bottom instead of the top. We see them all the time. The code requirement that would stop some panels—but especially older ones—from being...

How can I tell whether the condenser (outdoor unit) is an air conditioner or heat pump?

Friday, June 15, 2018

A condenser that only cools is called a “straight cool” unit, and there are several ways to tell the difference between a heat pump and straight cool condenser. Probably the easiest method is to check near the bottom of the data plate on the side of...

What causes shingles to buckle along a line on the roof?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Asphalt shingles sometimes buckle slightly, and in an irregular pattern, due to moisture in a the materials of a new roofing system. The wetness gets absorbed by the felt underlayment, causing the felt to wrinkle. This then telegraphs to the shingles...

What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Shingles curl as they reach the end of their serviceable lifespan. It’s one of several signs of that an older roof is approaching time for replacement. Other indications are  areas of missing surface granules and loose tab adhesion, which makes the...

What is the difference between transverse and longitudinal floor framing for a mobile/manufactured home?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Longitudinal floor joists run parallel to the long side of the mobile home. It is the older style of floor framing used up to the 1980s and an example is shown in the diagram above. Transverse floor framing, which may also be called lateral framing,...

Can you wire a 240-volt water heater with 120 volts?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Yes, you can wire a 240-volt rated water heater with 120-volts, exchanging the second hot (red) wire for a white (neutral) wire to the neutral bus. Strange, but true. Because of Ohm’s Law and the fact that the resistance of the circuit stays the same,...

Is a radon mitigation fan required to be on a dedicated circuit breaker/fuse in the electric panel?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Most radon fans use 1 amp or less of current and do not need a dedicated circuit. The bigger ones pull only a little more. There is no code requirement or good reason for a dedicated circuit for the fan. 

    Putting it on a circuit with...