Here's the 30 most recent of over 2600 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

Why is there a burnt smell when I turn on the heat?

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

That burnt smell usually only happens the first time you turn the thermostat to heat for a electric heat pump or air conditioner at the beginning of the cold season. It’s due to built-up dust inside the air handler. Dust on the evaporator coils makes a minor burnt smell on that first heat start-up of the year. But when the electric heat strip is activated...

What is a classified circuit breaker?

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
What is a classified circuit breaker?

“Classified” circuit breakers are made by one manufacturer to be installed as replacement breakers in a panel produced by another manufacturer. They are officially called “UL Classified,” meaning that Underwriters Laboratories has tested and approved them for installation in particular manufacturers' panel boards—often for companies that are no longer...

Does code require a water shut-off valve for dishwashers?

Sunday, October 24, 2021
Does code require a water shut-off valve for dishwashers?

A dishwaster has a hot water line connection and is classified as a “plumbing appliance." Plumbing appliances are required to have a shut-off valve. 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 (IRC).

    Earlier editions of the codes stated...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Water Shut-Off Valves

Sunday, October 24, 2021
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Water Shut-Off Valves

Water shut-off valves need to be both accessible and functional (not frozen) for emergency use, or just to change out a plumbing fixture. Here’s a collection of our articles about them:
• How do I find the main water shut off valve for my house?
• How do I shut off the main water service in a mobile/manufactured home?
• Where do I find...

When is a roof excluded from the calculation for the hip roof discount on a Florida wind mitigation form?

Sunday, October 24, 2021
When is a roof excluded from the calculation for the hip roof discount on a Florida wind mitigation form?

A hip roof slopes upward and inward on all sides. The hip shape is proven to be more hurricane-resistant than a gable, flat, or shed roof shape. So the Florida Wind Mitigation Form (OIR-B1-1802) provides its largest discount on your homeowners insurance premium for a roof that is more than 90% hip, based on a measurement around the perimeter of the...

What are the common problems to look for when buying a house built in the 2000s?

Wednesday, October 20, 2021
What are the common problems to look for when buying a house built in the 2000s?

The decade of 2000 to 2010 was two-thirds building boom and one third an economic meltdown commonly referred to as the “Great Recession.” The roaring real estate market that ended in 2007 meant that builders rushed to meet demand as prices increased each year, sometimes in a double-digit percentages. And quality of construction often suffered as a...

Can an electrical panel be located at a stair landing?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

It’s acceptable as long as the landing meets the code requirement for a safe access area in front of the panel: 2’-6” wide by 3’-0” deep level floor below it, and 6’-6” high clear above floor in front of it [NEC 110.26 (A)(1,2,3)]. The panel is not required to be centered in the 2’-6” width, but the panel door must be capable of swinging open to 90º...

Can an electrical panel be located under stairs?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

It might be possible…just maybe. While not specifically excluded by the National Electrical Code (NEC), there are two code standards that a panel must comply with to be located under a stair:1) The under-stair space is usally a closet, and a panel cannot be located in a closet near ignitable material [NEC 240.24(F)]. So, if clothes or other ignitable...

How long does concrete driveway resurfacing last?

Monday, October 11, 2021
How long does concrete driveway resurfacing last?

You can expect a resurfaced driveway finish to last 8 to 15 years, with an average of 12 years. Careful surface prep before applying the resurfacing material is the key to a long-lasting finish. Keeping the surface clean to avoid abrasion from walking on it and resealing about every 4 years also helps to extend the life. Further deterioration of the...

What is an MRD Energy Model R-80?

Monday, October 11, 2021
What is an MRD Energy Model R-80?

If you come across a mysterious gray box with electrical conduit connected to it that’s marked “MRD Energy Model R-80" and not much else, except for “Caution: do not open, risk of electrical shock, no serviceable parts” and the ominous warning  “If fault (red) light is lit, call MRD Energy immediately,” then you’ve got a power conditioner and surge...

Is an escutcheon plate required by code for safety?

Sunday, October 10, 2021
Is an escutcheon plate required by code for safety?

Yes, an escutcheon plate is required by plumbing codes: “Collars or escutcheon plates shall be provided to cover the openings around pipes penetrating walls, floors, or ceilings in finished areas that are exposed to view.” An escutcheon plate is the disc around a plumbing pipe or a fixture handle at the wall that seals the opening, and they are primarily...

Does a garage door opener need its own separate dedicated circuit?

Sunday, October 10, 2021
Does a garage door opener need its own separate dedicated circuit?

No, a garage door opener is not required to be on a separate, dedicated circuit. But, the ceiling receptacle outlet that it’s plugged into must be GFCI-protected. Which leads to an additional requirement: since the reset for a GFCI device, either a GFCI-receptacle or breaker, must be readily accessible—which means below 6’-8” high—you cannot put a...

How loud does the noise get while putting on a new roof?

Friday, October 8, 2021
How loud does the noise get while putting on a new roof?

Pretty darn loud. You may want to leave home for at least part of the time while your roof is replaced. There’s the sound of boots on the roof, scraping sounds and thuds as the old roofing is removed and new shingle bundles dropped on the roof. Then pneumatic nail gun bam-bam-bams as the new shingles are laid down. Plus, in Florida the roof sheathing...

Is a radon test required to sell a house?

Thursday, October 7, 2021
Is a radon test required to sell a house?

There are no federal or state stautes that require a radon test to sell a house. Only a local jurisdiction in a high-radon area might mandate one, so you are very likely not required to test for radon to sell your home.
    But there are specific disclosure requirements if you do decide to test. See our article Should homeowners get a pre-listing...

How do I pick the right contractor to fix my stucco?

Thursday, October 7, 2021
How do I pick the right contractor to fix my stucco?

If you are asking this question, it’s likely that you have a stucco-over-wood-frame home with large crack patterns, bulges, and wet spots in the stucco. These problems tend to happen more often in Florida homes constructed during the building boom up to 2009, and many of them are like the one shown above: concrete block first floor and wood frame...

How can I make my garage cooler in the Florida heat?

Thursday, October 7, 2021
How can I make my garage cooler in the Florida heat?

Temperatures of over 100º F occur regularly in Florida garages every summer, and they are caused by three factors that all converge each hot afternoon. First, a garage is not a conditioned living space, so it is not required to have insulation in the walls or above the ceiling. So most homebuilders don't do it. Then there's the sun on the exterior...

Does code require an exterior electrical receptacle outlet near the front door of a house?

Thursday, October 7, 2021
Does code require an exterior electrical receptacle outlet near the front door of a house?

Not exactly. The current code requires a receptacle outlet at the front and back exterior walls of a home, but does not specify where along those walls they must be located. For more details and the history of this requirement, see our article Is a house required to have outdoor electric receptacle outlets?
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •...

Where can a return air opening/register NOT be located by code?

Thursday, October 7, 2021
Where can a return air opening/register NOT be located by code?

"Return air shall not be taken from a closet, bathroom, toilet room, kitchen, garage, mechanical room, boiler room, furnace room, or unconditioned attic,” according to the 2021 International Residential Code [M1602.2(4)] and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code. 
    But there are also six exceptions, and the basis of most of...

What is that strange retro-looking smoke alarm?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021
What is that strange retro-looking smoke alarm?

It may look like a smoke alarm, but it's actually an old-fashioned wind-up mechanical heat detector fire alarm. A hot room temperature, instead of smoke, is what it takes to set one off. Because the device is mechanical, it must be wound up with key to function, and the sound is similar to a fire alarm bell.
    Heat fire alarms were popular...

Do flat roofs always leak?

Monday, October 4, 2021
Do flat roofs always leak?

Not true. But it may seem like that to a frustrated homeowner with an older flat (low-slope) roof. Here’s three reasons why:
1) Flat roofs leak more water when the roof begins to fail - A sloped roof only has to resist water briefly as it rolls over the surface and heads quickly downhill. Although roofs that are called flat all have a slight...

What is a 5V roof?

Monday, October 4, 2021
What is a 5V roof?

“5V” is the shortened name for a 5V-crimp metal roof. It is the traditional profile for a metal roof, named for the five inverted V’s running down the length of each panel, two at each end and one in the middle.

    Most 5V-crimp roof panels produced in the last 30 years are made of Galvalume®, which is a steel core with a combination zinc...

What are the pros and cons of a standing seam metal roof?

Sunday, October 3, 2021
What are the pros and cons of a standing seam metal roof?

Standing seam metal roofs are easily recognized by the rows of raised fins running up the roof slope, and they are becoming more popular lately. Here’s the good and not-so-good about them:
PROS•• No exposed fasteners - The is the biggest advantage of a standing seam roof. Any penetration of a roof surface is a potential leak and this is especially...

How do I find the size in tons of a Tappan air conditioner or heat pump from the model number?

Saturday, October 2, 2021
How do I find the size in tons of a Tappan air conditioner or heat pump 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 Tappan,...

How do I determine the age of a Tappan air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Saturday, October 2, 2021
How do I determine the age of a Tappan air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Tappan is a brand of HVAC equipment that was formerly manufactured by Nortek. The fourth and fifth characters in the serial number are the year of manufacture for a Tappan system. So the serial number shown below on the data plate of a Tappan air handler indicates that it was manufactured in 2004. For the age of another brand or manufacturer, go to...

Are bare-bulb light fixtures (lamp holders) legal by code?

Saturday, October 2, 2021
Are bare-bulb light fixtures (lamp holders) legal by code?

They are called lamp holders because “lamp” is an antiquated term for a light bulb and “holder” is the socket base that the light bulb screws into. Lamp holders were once porcelain and now often plastic.They are still code-approved, but with a couple of limitations: lamp holders are not rated for exterior use, and not allowed in closets. The exposed...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Safety Tempered Glass

Friday, October 1, 2021
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Safety Tempered Glass

Here’s links to a collection of our articles about safety tempered glass, what it is and where it’s required in a home:
• Where is safety/tempered glass required for the windows and doors of a house?
• How can I tell if a window or glass door is safety glass? 
• What does ANSI 297.1 on glass mean?
• Does all tempered glass have...

What is code for the step-down at the landing for an exterior door?

Thursday, September 30, 2021
What is code for the step-down at the landing for an exterior door?

The step-down requirements to a landing at an exterior door of a home depends on whether the door is an egress door or just a regular exterior door. The egress door standards are more stringent, per the International Residential Code (IRC R311.1) and Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC). Here’s how it works for both categories:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Attic Access Hatches, Ladders, and Doors

Thursday, September 30, 2021
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Attic Access Hatches, Ladders, and Doors

“Where is the attic?” That’s the one question we get asked most often when inspecting older houses. Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about attic access:
• Where is the attic?
• Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?
• What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door?
• Why...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Stair Landings

Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Stair Landings

Stair landings are a transition point between vertical and horizontal motion as you move through a building, and that transition is where stair accidents are most likely to happen. Here’s links to a collection of our articles about them:
• Is a landing always required at the top and bottom of stairs? 
• What is the building code requirement...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Bathroom Exhaust Fans

Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Bathroom Exhaust Fans

We don’t call them “fart fans” because it would be unprofessional. But removing those stinky bathroom smells, along with the mist and humidity from showering and bathing, is what they do. Here’s links to a collection of our articles about bathroom exhaust fans: 
• Why is my bathroom vent fan not exhausting enough air?  • Does a half bathroom...

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