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Here's the 30 most recent of over 1,900 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 many deaths each year are caused by radon?

Sunday, January 26, 2020
How many deaths each year are caused by radon?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, and about 2,900 of those deaths occur among people who have never smoked. Other sources estimate the death rate as a range between 15,000 and 22,000.
    A lung cancer death cannot be certified by a pathologist as specifically...

What are the code requirements for light fixtures in a closet?

Sunday, January 26, 2020
What are the code requirements for light fixtures in a closet?

Closets are often packed to the ceiling with flammable clothes and boxes, so the International Residential Code (IRC) and National Electrical Code (NEC) set a number of fire safety standards for “luminaires”—the term used to indicate light fixtures in building codes—in a clothes closet:
1) Incandescent luminaires with open or partially enclosed...

Do high winds affect radon levels?

Saturday, January 25, 2020
Do high winds affect radon levels?

High winds can either raise or lower the flow of underground radon gas into a home, depending on the direction of the wind and the shape of the home, although they are more likely to raise the radon level. To understand why, it helps to know about the “stack effect” that occurs in all homes, which is a natural suction that occurs because the air pressure...

Does barometric pressure change radon levels?

Saturday, January 25, 2020
Does barometric pressure change radon levels?

Barometric pressure is simply the weight of the air in the atmosphere pressing down on the earth. A decrease in barometric pressure, from an oncoming thunderstorm for example, will immediately increase the flow of radon gas from the ground. It is one of the factors that causes the normal variations that occur hour-to-hour and day-to-day in the radon...

Does heavy rain change radon levels?

Friday, January 24, 2020
Does heavy rain change radon levels?

Yes, a rainstorm can elevate the radon levels in a home temporarily, which is why radon testing for a real estate transaction is not recommended during a storm or if one is expected during the test period. There are two ways that heavy rain can raise radon levels:
1) A storm reduces the barometric pressure in the air and, because barometric pressure...

Can a drain pipe have too much slope?

Thursday, January 23, 2020
Can a drain pipe have too much slope?

The ideal drain pipe slope is 1/4” per foot, which is also the minimum per code for pipes 2-1/2” diameter or less. This incline allows the water to move slowly enough to float the solids along with it, and fast enough to scour the pipe walls. But when a pipe is sloped too steeply (1/2” per foot or more), it is just as likely to clog as an undersloped...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Brick

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Brick

Brick is popular throughout Florida as both a building block and a siding material. Nearby Ocala, Florida, is nicknamed “Brick City” because it was rebuilt with brick after a Thanksgiving Day fire in 1883 that destroyed all the wooden structures in the downtown. Here’s links with answers to our most often asked questions about BRICK:
• Is a brick...

How can I tell if a water heater is 240-volt or 120-volt?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
How can I tell if a water heater is 240-volt or 120-volt?

Most tank-type water heaters change from 120-volts to 240-volts at around the 20-gallon size. But there are some exceptions both sides of that line, so you should check the data plate on the side of the tank, like the example above. There is also the further complication that it is possible, although not recommended, to wire a 240-volt-rated water...

What causes mortar cracks?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
What causes mortar cracks?

Mortar is designed to be slightly weaker structurally than the masonry it is bonding. This goes for all types of masonry, including brick, concrete block, or stone, and the logic behind it is that any cracks caused by movement in the wall are easier and less expensive to repair at the mortar joints.
    A crack in the mortar is called a “bond...

Are two layers of shingles better than one?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Are two layers of shingles better than one?

It would seem that a double layer of shingles should be twice as good as one but, unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Applying your new roof over the old one does have a couple of short-term advantages though. You save the cost of removal and disposal of the old roof, and that also means the new roof is completed sooner.
    Those positives...

Can I sell a house with a high radon level?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Can I sell a house with a high radon level?

We know of no ordinance or law against selling a house with high radon. But many states, including Florida, have a requirement for disclosing to a homebuyer that the house has a high radon level—that is, if you know that it does. This is because high radon negatively affects the value of the property. 
    However, if you have not tested the...

How do I know if a radon mitigation system is working?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
How do I know if a radon mitigation system is working?

There are two ways of asking the question of whether a radon system is working: 1) is the fan functioning?, and 2), is the system still lowering the radon to an acceptable level?
•• Is the fan functioning? - A radon mitigation contractor is required to install a device called a manometer inside the home so you can easily check and see if the...

What is the minimum and maximum distance a P-trap can be below a sink?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
What is the minimum and maximum distance a P-trap can be below a sink?

There is no minimum distance specified by the building code, but the maximum is 24” per International Residential Code (IRC) and Residential Edition of Florida Building Code (FBC 1002.1), measured from fixture outlet to trap weir.
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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts...

How do you abandon a septic tank?

Sunday, January 19, 2020
How do you abandon a septic tank?

A septic tank that is no longer connected to a house plumbing system and drainfield, and is no longer being maintained, is a biological hazard if not properly abandoned. Florida requires an abandonment permit from the Department of Health, which costs $75, but not all states specify a permit (and inspection) for the work. Here’s how it’s stated in...

What are common problems with stucco?

Saturday, January 18, 2020
What are common problems with stucco?

There are three kinds of wall finishes that are commonly called “stucco,” and each has its own particular issues. To know how to tell the difference, go to our blog post Do stucco walls mean a house is concrete block? 
1) Stucco over wood frame - When a house is wood-stud frame, the stucco is applied in three coats over expanded wire mesh which...

Do nearby high-voltage power lines lower a home’s value?

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Do nearby high-voltage power lines lower a home’s value?

Multiple studies of property values of homes within sight of big power lines show a decreased value of the real estate of up to 10%, but averaging around half of that. To learn about other issues related to a home near power lines, go to our blog post Should I buy a house near a high-voltage power line? 
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What is the minimum slope for a garage floor slab?

Saturday, January 18, 2020
What is the minimum slope for a garage floor slab?

The building code requires that a garage floor be sloped towards the door, but does not specify a minimum slope. It is usually 1/8” to 1/4” per foot. Here is the citation from the International Residential Code (IRC):
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Here’s links to a collection of some of our other blog posts about...

How often does lightning strike a house in Florida?

Friday, January 17, 2020
How often does lightning strike a house in Florida?

Florida has the most lightning strikes, based on insurance claims, of any state. According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were 7,108 lightning strike claims in 2018 at an average cost of $10,436 each. That’s 28% more than Georgia at #2.
    Also, see our blog post Should I get a lightning rod system to protect my house? 
•...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Plumbing Pipes

Friday, January 17, 2020
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Plumbing Pipes

Plumbing is not a hot topic of conversation at cocktail parties but, when the toilet backs up or a water pipe spring a leak, how the plumbing in your home has been installed and maintained becomes much more interesting. Here’s links with answers to some of our most often asked questions about plumbing pipes:
• How can I tell what type of plumbing...

What are the standard treads and risers for a regular stairs in a house?

Friday, January 17, 2020
What are the standard treads and risers for a regular stairs in a house?

A common combination is 11-inch treads and 7-inch risers, but there is no single standard and the two numbers are often adjusted based on the space available. 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 you have the steepest stair...

How far away does a well need to be from a septic system in Florida?

Friday, January 17, 2020
How far away does a well need to be from a septic system in Florida?

The State of Florida Department of Health requires a minimum of 75 feet between a private well for potable (drinking) water and the septic system. A larger distance is necessary for a public well, which varies according to the gallons-per-day of volume, and only 50 feet is specified for a non-potable well (sprinkler system, for example). 
...

What causes a ceiling to separate from the wall?

Friday, January 17, 2020
What causes a ceiling to separate from the wall?

If the cracks are only along the ceiling/wall line, and your roof structure is wood trusses, it is likely due to truss uplift. These cracks usually occur during the winter, and close back up during the summer, because they are thermally induced. What happens is that the bottom chord of the truss bows upward during cold weather, pulling the ceiling...

What is the minimum size of a shower?

Friday, January 17, 2020
What is the minimum size of a shower?

Not less than 30 inch by 30 inch interior dimensions measured from finished interior surfaces, with a minimum of 900 square inches floor area, except that a shower can be a minimum of 25 inches in one dimension if the total area is increased to 1300 square inches. Fold-down seats are permitted as long as the minimum 900 square inches is maintained...

Are old fuse boxes illegal?

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Are old fuse boxes illegal?

There are a number of good reasons to consider replacing an old screw-in type fuse panel, but they are not illegal and replacement is not required by the building or electrical codes. Here’s what you should know:
1) Insurance may be difficult. Many insurance companies will not issue a policy for a home with an old fuse panel. Because any home...

Should I buy a house with a well?

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Should I buy a house with a well?

The 1950s TV sitcom “Green Acres,” about the hilarious situations and misunderstandings when a city couple, played by Eddie Albert and ZsaZsa Gabor, move to the country was big fun us boomers to watch as kids. But the problems that someone new to country living encounters are not always lots of laughs, and a well is one example.
    If you have...

What is the average life expectancy of a well pump?

Thursday, January 16, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a well pump?

You can expect a well pump to last about 8 to 15 years. The well itself has a 20 to 50 year life expectancy. Here are several factors that will affect the lifespan of a well pump:
• How long pump runs throughout each day - This is also called the “duty cycle” and, obviously, pumps that are used more have a shorter life. But the number of times...

What is the average life expectancy of a well?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a well?

You can expect a well to last about 20 to 50 years. The well pump should have an 8 to 15 year life. So many factors affect the life of a well that it’s difficult pin it down to within a shorter range, and it’s possible for a well to fail even sooner than 20 years. Here’s a few examples:
• A years-long drought can cause the water table to recede,...

What is a Wind Zone for mobile homes?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
What is a Wind Zone for mobile homes?

Wind zone designations were created for mobile homes by HUD in 1976 to specify two design categories of wind resistance: one for homes that are inland and not likely to get hurricane-force winds (Zone 1), and another for Florida and coastal areas of other states that are prone to hurricances (Zone 2). The Zone 2 homes are designed to withstand 100...

Frequently Asked Questions About Wells

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Frequently Asked Questions About Wells

Municipal water systems are incredibly dependable. You turn on the faucet and the water is always there. But a well can be fickle. It requires some attention and maintenance. Also, a well can be out of service for days while a pump is replaced or during a power outage if you don’t have a backup generator. Here’s a collection of answers to our most...

Frequently Asked Questions About Septic Tank Systems

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Frequently Asked Questions About Septic Tank Systems

A home septic system is both low-tech and high-efficiency when properly maintained. The bacteria do the work and you just have to keep them happy. Here’s a collection of answers to our most often asked questions about septic tank systems:
• What is the average life expectancy of a septic tank system?
• What are the building code requirements...