Here's the 30 most recent of over 2500 home inspection blog entries. You can also use the Blog Index link above, or 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 mcgarryandmadsen.com dating back to 2011.

5

How To Look at a House

recent blogs

What is the difference between a control joint and an expansion joint?

Sunday, July 25, 2021

A control joint is used to minimize cracking in the surface of a material. One example would be the control joints used for installing of stucco over a wood frame wall. Because the stucco expands and contracts at a different rate than the wall under it, control joints create a flexible gap to absorb the movement and avoid surface cracking. Shown below...

Do the wheels and towing hitch have to be removed when a mobile/manufactured home is installed?

Saturday, July 24, 2021
Do the wheels and towing hitch have to be removed when a mobile/manufactured home is installed?

The towing hitch is always removed. Sometimes we see the axles left in place under the home, but usually they are taken away by the installer and recycled. HUD requires that both the tow bar and axles/tires, which they call the “running gear,” be removed in order for  home to qualify for FHA mortgage insurance. 
    Also, FHA financing is not...

What are the signs my flat roof needs to be replaced?

Friday, July 23, 2021
What are the signs my flat roof needs to be replaced?

Here’s two key differences between flat (low slope) roofs and sloped roofs as they age:
•• The overall condition of a sloped roof is easily observed from the ground at a glance. But out-of-sight means out-of-mind, so a flat roof often doesn’t get checked until water starts dripping from the ceiling under it.
•• Because rain rolls off a sloped...

What causes ponding (standing water) on a flat roof?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021
What causes ponding (standing water) on a flat roof?

A few puddles on a flat roof after a heavy rain are normal. But when they are still there two days later, you have a problem. Standing water deteriorates the area of roofing under it, causing premature leaks, and tends to collect unsightly and acidic leaf debris around its outline. Here's our list of five possible causes:
1) Sagging roof - Flat...

What are Florida requirements for new home termite treatment?

Sunday, July 18, 2021
What are Florida requirements for new home termite treatment?

Florida requires a protective barrier against termites between the ground and a new house, and allows multiple different ways to provide it, "including soil applied pesticides, baiting systems, and pesticides applied to wood, or other approved methods of termite protection labeled for use as a preventative treatment to new construction.” The treatment...

Why are AFCI circuit breakers warm even when no power is being drawn?

Sunday, July 18, 2021
Why are AFCI circuit breakers warm even when no power is being drawn?

There’s an electronic circuit inside an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter breaker (both AFCI and CAFCI types) that generates enough heat, even when there is no load on the circuit, to make it 10º to 20º hotter than surrounding regular breakers with no current flow. These breakers will feel warm to the touch when you run your hand down the face of the...

Do windows in a house have to open to pass a home inspection?

Friday, July 16, 2021
Do windows in a house have to open to pass a home inspection?

If the windows are designed to be openable, then the inspector will test a representative number of them—but not all. If they are found immovable, difficult to open, or damaged, those defects will get noted in the report. An inspector’s report does not issue a pass-or-fail judgement. Only the homebuyer decides whether a house failed inspection, and...

How do I determine the age of a Westinghouse furnace?

Thursday, July 15, 2021
How do I determine the age of a Westinghouse furnace?

The fourth and fifth digits of a Westinghouse furnace serial number are the year of manufacture, and they should follow three digits of letters. So the serial number shown below indicates manufacture in 2009.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 
  To learn more about heating and air conditioning systems, see these...

Does a GFCI trip if you overload the circuit?

Thursday, July 15, 2021
Does a GFCI trip if you overload the circuit?

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) device only trips when there is a difference between the amount of current leaving it and the amount returning to it. This current leakage indicates that a person might be getting shocked, and it trips within a fraction of a second. So a GFCI receptacle outlet does not trip due to an overloaded circuit. 

What happens to my Florida wind mitigation insurance discount for hurricane shutters/windows if even just one opening is not protected?

Thursday, July 8, 2021
What happens to my Florida wind mitigation insurance discount for hurricane shutters/windows if even just one opening is not protected?

All exterior openings must be protected from wind-blown debris by windows, shutters, or other code-approved devices to get the “Opening Protection” discount on the Florida Wind Mitigation form OIR-B1-1802. Unfortunately, If even just one is not compliant, you don’t get Discount #7 for "Opening Protection."
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •...

How can I determine the age of a Sta-Rite well water pump?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021
How can I determine the age of a Sta-Rite well water pump?

Look for the “Code" listed on the data plate for the age of a Sta-Rite water pump. The two numbers near the end of it are the year of manufacture, and the letter before them is the month (A = Jan, B = Feb, C = March, etc). So the Code shown above indicates the pump was manufactured in February of 2009. 
    Also, see our blog post What is the...

How is water getting into the outside walls of my home?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021
How is water getting into the outside walls of my home?

To better understand the ways that water can penetrate an exterior wall of your home, let’s start with the fact that water intrusion is not always liquid. It has three different states according to temperature, each with unique properties. The other two are solid (ice), or gas (water vapor). 
   Liquid water rolls downhill due to gravity, right?...

How do I determine the age of a DiamondAir heat pump or air conditioner?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021
How do I determine the age of a DiamondAir heat pump or air conditioner?

The first two numbers in the serial number are the month, and the third and fourth numbers are the year of manufacture for a DiamondAir system. If the serial number is missing from the data plate, or worn away, you can call DiamondAir tech support at (813) 885-7999 with the name or address of the original owner, and they can look up the date of manufacture...

How does concrete spalling cause structural failure if not repaired?

Saturday, June 26, 2021
How does concrete spalling cause structural failure if not repaired?

Concrete reinforced with steel is an almost magical combination. Each material has a structural quality that compensates for the other’s weakness. Steel has excellent tensile strength, which means that it resists bending, but it is weak in compression. Concrete is strong in compression, meaning it’s good at resisting being crushed or deformed, but...

How do I test an ungrounded receptacle for GFCI protection on a 2-wire circuit?

Friday, June 25, 2021
How do I test an ungrounded receptacle for GFCI protection on a 2-wire circuit?

If the receptacle is a GFCI-type with TEST and RESET buttons, just push the TEST button. It does not require a ground connection to verify that the GFCI protection is functional.
    But a single GFCI receptacle will protect all the other receptacles downstream also (but not the ones upstream between the GFCI and panel). One simple way to test...

Will a GFCI tester work on a receptacle outlet with no ground on a 2-wire circuit?

Friday, June 25, 2021
Will a GFCI tester work on a receptacle outlet with no ground on a 2-wire circuit?

No. All GFCI receptacles with the push-buttons in the center trip when they detect a difference between the amount of current flowing into the receptacle on the ungrounded (hot, white) wire and out of it on the grounded (neutral, black) conductor. When you push the TEST button, a device inside the receptacle creates that imbalance to verify that it...

Do home inspectors actually use a magnifying glass?

Thursday, June 24, 2021
Do home inspectors actually use a magnifying glass?

Close to half of all home inspector business cards include a graphic of a magnifying glass hovering over a miniature house—and half of those have a Sherlock Holmes lookalike holding the magnifying glass. It’s meant to convince a prospective customer that the inspector observes each house in micro-detail. But do home inspectors really use them? Not...

Can a water heater thermal expansion tank be installed sideways/horizontally?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Can a water heater thermal expansion tank be installed sideways/horizontally?

Most expansion tanks are designed to be installed vertically (stem up or stem down). You can install one sideways, but it will shorten the lifespan unless it is designed and specified by the manufacturer for horizontal installation. The tank shown above was not designed for horizontal installation and is connected to the hot water side of the piping,...

What size in tons is my Broan air conditioner or heat pump?

Monday, June 21, 2021
What size in tons is my Broan air conditioner or heat pump?

You can determine the “nominal” condenser tonnage 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 be a little more or less than the nominal rating, but it’s close.   
    For Broan,...

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

Monday, June 21, 2021
How can I tell the age of my Broan air conditioner, heat pump or furnace from the serial number?

The fourth and fifth digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture of a Broan air conditioner, heat pump or furnace are the year of manufacture. So the data plate shown below indicates it was produced in 2011. Broan one of the family of brands of Nortek, formerly Nordyne.

     For the age of another brand or manufacturer, go to...

Does hurricane shutter installation require a building permit in Florida?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Does hurricane shutter installation require a building permit in Florida?

Yes, a building permit is required for hurricane shutter installation in Florida. If you don’t have a permit and/or documentation from a licensed contractor of the Florida or Miami-Dade product approvals for your shutters, you may not be able to get the homeowner’s insurance discount allowed on the Florida wind mitigation form for impact-resistant...

What size in tons is my Gibson heat pump or air conditioner from the model number?

Tuesday, June 15, 2021
What size in tons is my Gibson heat pump or air conditioner from the model number?

You can determine the “nominal” condenser tonnage 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 be a little more or less than the nominal rating, but it’s close.
     For Gibson,...

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2021
How can I tell the age of a Gibson heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

The fourth and fifth digits of the serial number of a Gibson heat pump or air conditioner are the year of manufacture. So the serial number JSG141118220 indicates the unit was produced in 2014. Gibson is manufactured by Nortek.
    To determine the size of a Gibson system in tons, see our blog post What size in tons is my Gibson heat pump or...

Are carbon monoxide (CO) alarms required in mobile/manufactured homes?

Monday, June 14, 2021

Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms became required in the recent updating of the HUD code on January 12, 2021, and effective July 12, 2021. It states that “carbon monoxide alarms must be installed in each home containing either a fuel burning appliance or designed by the home manufacturer to include an attached garage. Carbon monoxide alarms must be installed...

What temperature is too hot for a circuit breaker?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

All circuit breakers generate a small amount of heat and may be several degrees warmer than surrounding surfaces. But the temperature of a residential circuit breaker in a panel should not exceed about 140º F; or, on hot days, it’s better to only call it out when the temperature difference between the breaker and surrounding surface exceeds 50º F....

Will cloth wiring cause me to fail a four-point insurance inspection?

Saturday, June 12, 2021
Will cloth wiring cause me to fail a four-point insurance inspection?

Electricians call it “rag wiring” and, according to Citizens Insurance, the presence of active cloth-covered wiring in an older home does not automatically mean it will fail a four-point inspection. Citizens is the largest insurer in Florida, and most other companies follow their lead. But if the cloth is frayed and deteriorated, like in photos below,...

What are the code requirements for loft guard rails in a Tiny House?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Here’s the standards of the International Residential Code for loft guards (IRC AQ104.2.5):• Must be installed at the open sides of a loft.• Not less than 36 inches in height or half of the clear height of the opening, whichever is less.• Must comply with R312.1.3 and Table R301.5 of IRC for their construction.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •...

What are the code requirements for a ladder to a Tiny House loft?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Here’s what is required for a loft ladder in a Tiny House, per the International Residential Code (IRC AQ104.2.2):• Rung width of not less than 12 inches.• 10 to 14 inch spacing between rungs.• Capable of supporting 300 pounds on any rung.• Rung spacing consistent withn 3/8 inch.• Angle of ladder between 70 and 80 degress of horizontal.
• • •...

What are the code requirements for a stairway to a Tiny House loft?

Monday, June 7, 2021

The International Residential Code (IRC) is a little more lenient on the minimum specs for a Tiny House loft stairway than a regular house. Here’s their requirements:• Stairway to loft must be minimum 17 inches in clear width at or above the handrail, and minimum width below handrail of 20 inches (AQ104.2.1.1).• Minimum headroom is 6 feet 2 inches...

What are the code requirements for emergency escape from a Tiny House loft?

Monday, June 7, 2021

The code requires that all bedrooms, including those in Tiny Houses, provide a second means of escape directly to the exterior in case a fire blocks the regular path to get out of the house. This is accomplished by having at least one “egress window” in a loft or regular bedroom that complies with the requirements of the International Residential...

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