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Here's the 30 most recent of over 1,700 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 of earlier blogs from www.mcgarryandmadsen.com dating back to 2011.

5

How To Look at a House

recent blogs

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019
How do I tell the age of a Richmond water heater from the serial number?

Richmond water heaters are manufactured by Rheem, and the 3rd and 4th numbers of the serial number are the year of manufacture. So the data plate shown below indicates the water heater was manufactured in 2001.

    Also, see our blog post How can I determine the age of a water heater if the serial number is missing or decoding it is impossible?

How do I determine the age of my water heater?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
How do I determine the age of my water heater?

The year of manufacture of your water heater is encoded in the serial number on the data plate sticker. It is usually the first two numbers or second two numbers in the series, but varies by company and some use a single letter to indicate the year. Click on the brand of your water heater below to go to a page with instructions on how to interpret...

What is the average life expectancy of a GFCI circuit breaker?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
What is the average life expectancy of a GFCI circuit breaker?

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) circuit breaker can be expected to last 30 years or more, which is longer that the 15 to 25 years average life of GFCI receptacles. Also see our blog posts What electrical hazards does a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) NOT protect against? and What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers?

What is the average life expectancy of an AFCI or CAFCI circuit breaker?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
What is the average life expectancy of an AFCI or CAFCI circuit breaker?

An AFCI or CAFCI circuit breaker should last 30 years or more. The only exception to this average lifespan is AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breakers that were manufactured previous to 2008, when they were superseded by the code requirement for new CAFCI (Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breaker. Our experience is the that older-style...

Does stucco need expansion joints?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Does stucco need expansion joints?

Stucco does not require expansion/contraction joints when directly applied to concrete, concrete block, or other masonry, except where there is a change from one material to another.
    Stucco on wood frame construction is another story, because stucco has a different rate of expansion/contraction than the underlying wood framing. Wood is more...

What is the average life expectancy an EPDM roof?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
What is the average life expectancy an EPDM roof?

An EPDM roof can be expected to last 20 to 30 years. Possibly longer with diligent maintenance. EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer. It is a synthetic rubber membrane and, like any membrane roof, punctures from walking or dragging anything over the surface; but, if leaks occur, they are often at the glued seams. UV-light deterioration...

What is the average life expectancy of manufactured stone?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
What is the average life expectancy of manufactured stone?

Manufactured stone can be expected to last 50 years or more if free from manufacturing defects and properly installed and maintained. Improper installation or maintenance, which we have found to be common, reduces the lifespan to 30 years or less. It is essentially concrete that has been cast in molds to the shape and texture of stone, with dyes that...

What is the average life expectancy of kitchen cabinets?

Monday, December 9, 2019
What is the average life expectancy of kitchen cabinets?

You can expect kitchen cabinets to last about 50 years. Kitchens are, however, one of the most popular remodeling projects, and cabinets are often replaced at about the 30 to 40 year point because they are outdated. 
    Also, we have found two types of kitchen cabinets that do not hold up as long as expected:
•• Older particleboard budget...

What is the average life expectancy of paint on a house?

Friday, December 6, 2019
What is the average life expectancy of paint on a house?

Exterior paint can be expected to last 7 to 10 years, and interior paint 10 to 15+ years. But it is possible for a paint finish to fall short of even the low end of these ranges due to any of the following factors:
• Inadequate surface prep and cleaning• Severe temperature and moisture fluctuations• Moisture buildup behind the walls• Painting...

When is a house not required to have an attic access hatch?

Friday, December 6, 2019
When is a house not required to have an attic access hatch?

Essentially, a house is not required to have an attic access opening when the attic is too small for a person to enter and move around inside. Here’s the two minimum requirements:
1) Attic area exceeds 30 square feet, and
2) Minimum vertical height of 30 inches, measured from the top of the ceiling framing members to the bottom of the roof...

When were the water control valves for bathtubs first required to be temperature limiting (single handle)?

Thursday, December 5, 2019
When were the water control valves for bathtubs first required to be temperature limiting (single handle)?

The requirement for a temperature limiting valve for bathtubs (single handle, anti-scald) was begun in the 2006 editions of the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Universal Plumbing Code (UPC), and also applies to whirlpool bathtubs. The Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code followed in 2008 (FBC P2713.3).
The FBC states...

When were shower control valves first required by code to be pressure balanced and temperature limiting (single handle)?

Thursday, December 5, 2019
When were shower control valves first required by code to be pressure balanced and temperature limiting (single handle)?

The requirement for a pressure balanced and temperature limiting shower control valve (single handle, anti-scald) was instituted in the first edition (2000) of the International Residential Code, and earlier in the 1997 edition of the Universal Plumbing Code (UPC). It was also in the first edition (2002) of the Residential Editon of the Florida Building...

When are solid risers required on stairs?

Sunday, December 1, 2019
When are solid risers required on stairs?

Solid risers are required on all residential stairs by the International Residential Code (IRC 1011.5.5.3) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC), with two exceptions: 
1) Solid risers are not required between treads if "the opening between treads does not permit the passage of a sphere with a diameter of 4 inches."

What does termite damage look like?

Saturday, November 30, 2019
What does termite damage look like?

Termite damage is rarely as easy to spot as in the photo above, which has the clearly visible tunnels that termites bore through the wood, called “galleries.” Because they require a moist environment and will die from dehydration if exposed to air outside the wood for too long, termites tend to munch right up to the surface of painted wood and stop....

How can I determine the age of an American Standard air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Friday, November 29, 2019
How can I determine the age of an American Standard air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Most American Standard units state the date of manufacture clearly on the data plate, usually at the upper right, but it is also encoded in the serial number. Either the first number or the first two numbers are the year of manufacture and here’s two examples.

     The only exception to this simple system is that some models manufactured...

Is a fire-rated door required between an attached garage and the house?

Thursday, November 28, 2019
Is a fire-rated door required between an attached garage and the house?

There are three door choices in the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC), and all of them have enhanced fire resistance compared to a regular interior door, but only one has the fire resistance rating spelled out:
Solid wood door not less than 1-3/8” thick.
Steel door, with a...

What is the most important sentence to know in the entire National Electrical Code (NEC)?

Thursday, November 28, 2019
What is the most important sentence to know in the entire National Electrical Code (NEC)?

It’s near the beginning of the code, at 110.3(B) Installation and Use, and says:
"Listed or labeled equipment shall be installed and used in accordance with any instructions included in the listing or labeling."
    Anything electrical installed as part of the construction of a house must be listed or labeled, which are two levels of approval...

Can termites eat their way through concrete blocks and mortar?

Thursday, November 28, 2019
Can termites eat their way through concrete blocks and mortar?

Termites only eat cellulose-containing materials like wood and paper; but they have been known to tunnel through softer materials, like thin plastic, to get at the cellulose. Lime mortar that was once used to lay brick for older homes is another material soft enough that they sometimes are able to bore through it.
    Solid concrete blocks and...

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Holiday Season!

Thursday, November 28, 2019
Wishing everyone a happy and safe Holiday Season!

Christmas tree lights twinkling, candles glowing, fireplace crackling, alcohol flowing—it’s the happiest time of the year. But, between 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 860 home structure fires that began with holiday decorations, and another 210 fires were started by Christmas trees, according the National Fire Protection...

When was an electrical receptacle outlet for laundry equipment (washing machine) on a separate, dedicated electrical circuit first required by code?

Thursday, November 28, 2019
When was an electrical receptacle outlet for laundry equipment (washing machine) on a separate, dedicated electrical circuit first required by code?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires at 210.52(F) a minimum of one receptacle outlet at an area designated for laundry equipment, and it was first included in the 1971 edition of the code. To learn more about the details of this requirement, go to our blog post Is  a laundry area for a washing machine required by code for a single family residence?...

Why is there diagonal bracing at the roof rafters in the attic?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Why is there diagonal bracing at the roof rafters in the attic?

We often see this detail in older homes built before manufactured roof trusses became the standard for residential construction. It was a way to provide additional rafter support, and also some resistance to lateral movement, for longer-span roof rafter framing. The beam running perpendicular to the rafters at approximately the midpoint between the...

What is the minimum number of receptacle outlets required in a house?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019
What is the minimum number of receptacle outlets required in a house?

The total number varies, of course, based on the size of the house. But here are the minimums for each area, per National Electrical Code (NEC 210.50):
• One receptacle at front and back of house exterior, not more than 6.5-feet above grade [210.52(E)]
• Receptacles in "every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library,...

Does a garage door opener require GFCI protection by code?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Does a garage door opener require GFCI protection by code?

Yes, a garage door opener must have GFCI protection. But a GFCI-protected circuit for the ceiling receptacle was not necessary until the 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), so you may find older articles on the web that indicate otherwise. For the full story, go to our blog post Is a ceiling receptacle outlet for a garage door opener...

How can I tell the age of a Square D electric panel from the serial number?

Sunday, November 24, 2019
How can I tell the age of a Square D electric panel from the serial number?

The alpha-numeric sequence is usually a stamp over the wiring diagram, as shown in the photo above. It would be more accurately described as a date-code system, since each panel box does not have a unique number. The diagram below is for panel manufactured from 1956 to approximately 2002.

So the date-code shown at the top of the page indicates...

INSPECTOR LICENSING & STANDARDS

Sunday, November 24, 2019
INSPECTOR LICENSING & STANDARDS

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about INSPECTOR LICENSING & STANDARDS:
• Are there any minimum inspection standards that a Florida licensed home inspector must meet?
• Can a Florida licensed contractor do home inspections without having a home inspector license? 
• What is the difference between a building inspector and...

BUILDING CODES

Sunday, November 24, 2019
BUILDING CODES

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about BUILDING CODES:
• When did the first Florida Building Code (FBC) begin and become effective?
• The home inspector says I have construction defects. How did my home pass inspection by the building department? 
• What is the difference between prescriptive and performance building codes?

Should roofing nails be visible sticking into the attic?

Monday, November 18, 2019
Should roofing nails be visible sticking into the attic?

Yes, and there are two types of nails that are normal to see in an attic:
1) The ring-shank nails used to secure asphalt shingles to the plywood or OSB roof sheathing typically penetrate into the attic 1/4” or more. The extra length that protrudes into the attic is necessary to provide adquate withdrawal resistance along the shank of the nail,...

What is the minimum size allowed for a bedroom?

Sunday, November 17, 2019
What is the minimum size allowed for a bedroom?

A bedroom must be a minimum of 70 square feet and not less than 7 feet wide at smallest dimension, according to the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC). This is a basic standard that applies to any room in a home for it to be considered “habitable.” Local jurisdictions may have a higher...

Does a home inspector check wall air conditioners?

Friday, November 15, 2019
Does a home inspector check wall air conditioners?

Most wall air conditioners are permanently installed and therefore required to be inspected by the Standards of Practice of both national home inspector associations and the State of Florida. The definition of installed by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), for example, is “attached such that removal requires tools.” Because window air...

Does a home inspector check window air conditioners?

Friday, November 15, 2019
Does a home inspector check window air conditioners?

Any appliances that are not permanently installed are not required to be inspected by the Standards of Practice of the two national home inspector associations and the State of Florida, and window air conditioners are specifically excluded in the standards for that reason. The definition of installed by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI),...