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Here's the 30 most recent of over 2,000 home inspection blog entries. You can also use the Blog Index link above, or Google Custom Search box below, to find the article with the info you need. Also, our Blog Archive lists all the articles, including a reposting and updating of earlier blogs from www.mcgarryandmadsen.com dating back to 2011.

5

How To Look at a House

recent blogs

Can two sinks share a trap?

Monday, March 30, 2020
Can two sinks share a trap?

Two sinks can share a trap as long as the centerline of the outlet (tailpiece) of both sinks is not more than 30-inches horizontally from the trap centerline, per International Plumbing Code (IRC P3201.6), as shown in the diagram above.
   Also, see our blog posts What is a double trap in plumbing? and Why is it a problem when a trap under a...

What is a double trap in plumbing?

Monday, March 30, 2020
What is a double trap in plumbing?

A double trap is two plumbing traps in tandem, one after the other in line, and this often causes the first trap to get sucked out by the last trap. An example of one sink trap connected to another sink’s trap is shown above. Only one trap is allowed between a plumbing fixture and a trap arm by the International Residential Code (IRC P3201.6). The...

How long should a stair handrail be?

Saturday, March 28, 2020
How long should a stair handrail be?

A handrail must be continuous for the entire length of a stair, from directly above the top riser to directly above the bottom riser, and terminate (die into) the adjacent wall or a newel post, per International Residential Code (IRC 311.7.8.2). It can, of course, extend longer into the landings. Top of the handrail is required to be 34 to 38-inches...

What is a grippable handrail?

Saturday, March 28, 2020
What is a grippable handrail?

A grippable handrail is one that you can easily and securely get your hand around to steady yourself while you are on a stair. It must be continuous for the entire length of a stair, from directly above the top riser to directly above the bottom riser, and terminate (die into) the adjacent wall or a newel post. The International Residential Code (IRC...

What is code for dryer vent termination clearance?

Friday, March 27, 2020
What is code for dryer vent termination clearance?

Many manufacturer's installation manuals specify a minimum 12-inch clearance around the termination of a dryer vent to the ground and any adjacent wall or other obstruction to the air flow. We know of no requirement in the International Residential Code (IRC) for this clearance but all codes require following the manufacturer’s installation instructions....

What is code for garage receptacle outlets?

Friday, March 27, 2020
What is code for garage receptacle outlets?

“At least one 120-volt, 20-ampere branch circuit shall be installed to supply receptacle outlets in attached garages and in detached garages with electrical power,” according to the National Electrical Code [NEC 210.11(C)(4)]. There is no stipulation for number or spacing of receptacles, so some garages will only have one receptacle. The circuit is...

Are temite shields required by code?

Thursday, March 26, 2020
Are temite shields required by code?

Termite shields are an old-time code requirement that has been replaced by chemical treatments and other construction standards. They have not been code for over 50 years and we only see them in 1960s and earlier houses, with the exception of some newer homes include them as an additional termite barrier. Shields are a less-than-perfect solution that...

Can you have a deck without a railing?

Thursday, March 26, 2020
Can you have a deck without a railing?

A deck is not required to have a railing if it is not more than 30-inches above any ground level within 24-inches of the edge of the deck. So any deck that is more than 30-inches high requires a guardrail that is minimum 30-inches high, per International Residential Code (R312.1.1). Also, the openings in the rail pickets should not allow a 4-inch...

When is a handrail required on both sides of stairs?

Thursday, March 26, 2020
When is a handrail required on both sides of stairs?

A handrail is only required on one side of a stair with four or more risers (three or more treads), per the International Residential Code (IRC 311.7.8). There is no requirement for a handrail at both sides of a residential stair, although it is an excellent safety precauation, especially for seniors. Public buildings that must be Americans With Disabilities...

What is a safe level of radon?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
What is a safe level of radon?

Less than 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) is considered a reasonably safe level for indoor air by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The World Health Organization (WHO) sets a lower maximum of  2.7 pCi/L.
    But neither of these numbers is offered as being absolutely safe, because just a small amount of radon breathed...

Does a home inspector check water pressure?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Does a home inspector check water pressure?

When a home buyer is concerned about water pressure, the problem is usually actually water flow. Water pressure in a municpal system is sufficiently high and private well systems also have a pressure adjustment that is set at an adequate level for normal use. When there is a water flow problem, it is typically caused by a restriction in the piping...

Is 45 degrees too steep for a stair?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Is 45 degrees too steep for a stair?

A stair at a 45-degree angle is not allowed by code due to the maximum riser and minimum tread standards. The maximum riser allowed by the International Residential Code (IRC) is 7-3/4”, but a 7-3/4” tread is smaller than the minimum tread depth of 10”. Conversely, matching a 10” tread to a 10” riser would exceed the 7-3/4” max riser. It’s a no go...

What is a tankless water heater average life expectancy?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
What is a tankless water heater average life expectancy?

You can expect a tankless (on-demand) water heater to last about 20 years, or longer with diligent maintenace. The critical maintenance task is flushing it out regularly, and an isolator valve kit needs to be installed in order to do a flush. To learn more about this, see our blog post Why should a tankless water heater have an isolator/service valve...

Do I need a radon test for a house with a radon mitigation system?

Monday, March 23, 2020
Do I need a radon test for a house with a radon mitigation system?

Unfortunately, the fact that a house already has a radon mitigation system does not guarantee that the radon level in the home is below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum for indoor air of 4.0 pCi/L (pico curies per liter of air). So a homebuyer should go ahead and test to be sure. Here’s three reasons why the indoor radon level may...

How far should stair nosing stick out?

Sunday, March 22, 2020
How far should stair nosing stick out?

A nosing should not extend past the face of the riser below it less than 1/4 inch or more than 1-1/4 inch, according to the International Residential Code (IRC R311.7.5.3). A nosing is not required for treads 11 inches or more. Since the minimum size tread is 10 inches, this means that treads between 10 and 11 inches need a nosing to provide additional...

Do you have to disclose polybutylene pipes to a homebuyer?

Sunday, March 22, 2020
Do you have to disclose polybutylene pipes to a homebuyer?

Any defect of a home that materially affects the value or livability of a house must be included in the seller’s disclosure form, if known. Because of premature failure leakge problems of PB (polybutylene) pipe that caused class action lawsuits and settlements, along with removal of approval of the pipe in the building codes, the pipe decreases the...

Does a home inspector look for code violations?

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Does a home inspector look for code violations?

This is a touchy subject for most home inspectors. Some inspectors refuse to quote code and others do it in a very limited way to reinforce their observation of an unsafe situation in a home. 
    The reason is simple: building codes are a moving target. They change every three years. And it’s not just that new requirements get added every code...

Can a home inspector condemn a house?

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Can a home inspector condemn a house?

A home inspector has no legal authority to declare a house unfit for habitation. That would be a process which typically starts with an evaluation by a building inspector or code enforcement inspector employed by a city or county that has jurisdiction over the property.
    While a home inspector might venture an opinion that a house appears...

Are kickout flashings required by code?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Are kickout flashings required by code?

A kickoff flashing, also called a diverter flashing, is required by the International Residential Code (IRC R093.2.1). It is installed at the termination of a roof-to-wall flashing where it meets the eave and shifts the direction of the water flowing down the roof to move it away from the end of the wall.

    Also, see our blog post The...

Do stair tread edges have to be rounded?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Do stair tread edges have to be rounded?

There is no requirement for the leading edge of a stair tread to be rounded, but a number of good reason why it should be. Most stair residential stair treads are wood and rounding reducing the incidence of splintering of the edge. Also, a square edge does not hold a finish well and may be more likely to catch a dragging heel. 
    A maximum...

What is a low slope roof?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
What is a low slope roof?

Good question. And the answer depends on who you ask. The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) defines a low slope roof as less than a 2/12 pitch (2 units vertical for every 12 units horizontal). Carson & Dunlop, a well-known engineering firm, calls it as a range between 2/12 and 4/12. Other sources consider low slope as less than 3/12 or...

How many receptacle outlets should be in a room?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020
How many receptacle outlets should be in a room?

The number of receptacles required by code for most rooms in the living areas of a house is not specified by number, but by distance along the wall to a receptacle. The maximum spacing between receptacles is 12 feet, with no point along a wall being more than 6-feet from a receptacle, and any wall more than 2 feet long needs a receptacle. The kitchen...

Do floor receptacle outlets need to be GFCI?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Do floor receptacle outlets need to be GFCI?

There is no code requirement for all floor receptacles to be GFCI-protected. But when they are in a location requiring GFCI, such as a bathroom, then it is necessary. For a full list of all places code-required for GFCI, see our blog post Where are GFCI receptacle outlets required?   
    Although it might seem logical that a floor receptacle...

What is code for distance from receptacle outlet to a door?

Monday, March 16, 2020
What is code for distance from receptacle outlet to a door?

A wall receptacle outlet must be no more than 6 feet from a door at an interior wall, but there is no minimum distance. If the wall on either side of the door is 2 feet or less long, a receptacle is not required on the wall, but the length of the wall will be counted with the length of an adjoining connected wall towards the maximum allowed distance...

Do floor receptacle outlets count for code spacing requirements?

Monday, March 16, 2020
Do floor receptacle outlets count for code spacing requirements?

A floor receptacle outlet cannot be counted towards the minimum requirements, either for spacing between receptacles or minimum number of receptacles per area, unless the floor receptacle is within 18 inches of the wall, per National Electrical Code [NEC 211.52(A)(3)].
   Also, any receptacle installed in or on a floor must be rated for floor...

What is code for receptacle outlet spacing?

Monday, March 16, 2020
What is code for receptacle outlet spacing?

The maximum spacing between receptacles is 12 feet, 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 length cord could then be plugged-in anywhere along the wall. This standard has been in place since the 1956 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), and the...

Does a home inspector check ceiling fans?

Sunday, March 15, 2020
Does a home inspector check ceiling fans?

We inspect ceiling fans and all the inspectors we know do it also. But the State of Florida and the two major, national home inspector associations do not mention them—either as requiring inspection or exempt—in their Standards of Practice. If a ceiling fan is considered a “household appliance,” then Florida and the American Society of Home Inspectors...

What are the minimum dimensions of a stair landing?

Sunday, March 15, 2020
What are the minimum dimensions of a stair landing?

A width of a stair landing cannot be less than the width of the stair itself, and the length (in direction of travel) cannot be less than 36 inches, according to the Internation Residential Code (IRC 311.7.6). A landing is required at the top and bottom of stairs, with two exceptions:
1) A floor or landing is not required at the top of an interior...

Is a stair nosing required by code?

Sunday, March 15, 2020
Is a stair nosing required by code?

A stair nosing (extension of the tread past the front face of the riser below) is only required when a tread is less than 11 inches, according to the International Residential Code (IRC 311.7.5.3). Since the minimum tread allowed is 10 inches, a nosing is only required for treads between 10 and 11 inches. Other criteria are that “the greatest nosing...

Do all stair treads have to be the same size?

Sunday, March 15, 2020
Do all stair treads have to be the same size?

"The greatest tread depth within any flight of stairs shall not exceed the smallest by more than 3/8 inch (9.5 mm),” according to the International Residential Code (IRC R311.7.5.2). Go to our blog post The stairs feel too steep. What's the building code?  for more details on stair requirements.
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