How To Look at a House

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What is the difference between PVC and CPVC pipe?

Saturday, May 21, 2022
What is the difference between PVC and CPVC pipe?

They are similar, but not the same. PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride) is bright white and cannot be used for water supply pipe inside a home or for hot water. It is primarily for water service pipe coming to the home and drain/waste pipe inside and leaving it. CPVC (Chlorinated PolyVinyl Chloride) is cream to tan color and approved for both hot and cold supply...

Should I buy a house with aluminum wiring?

Thursday, May 19, 2022
Should I buy a house with aluminum wiring?

Homes built before 1972 with solid aluminum wiring are "55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets reach Fire Hazard Conditions than homes wired with copper," according the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission). 
The problem is due largely to aluminum’s high coefficient of expansion compared to copper, although...

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

Thursday, May 19, 2022
How can I tell the age of a RunTru heat pump or air conditioner from the serial number?

The year of manufacture of a RunTru heat pump or air conditioning condenser is the first two numbers of the serial number on the data plate at the side of the unit, and is also stated at “MFR DATE” at the upper right corner, as in the example below.

    Also, see our blog post How do I tell the size in tons of a RunTru heat pump or air...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Roof Sheathing

Friday, May 13, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Roof Sheathing

Roof sheathing provides the stable base for installing roofing, and must be securely nailed to the roof structure below to avoid the roof being sucked away during a hurricane. But it is only visible from the attic and does not get much attention—until there’s problem. 
• Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses?  
• What causes...

What are common problems found at a one-year warranty inspection of a new house?

Tuesday, May 10, 2022
What are common problems found at a one-year warranty inspection of a new house?

Here’s our list of the defects we commonly find in an 11th month warrany inspection, along with some that are not so common but happen often enough that they should also be checked. Construction defects that aren’t observable when a home is brand new can be caught by an inspector and fixed by your builder near the end of your one-year warranty. So...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Aluminum Wiring

Sunday, May 8, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Aluminum Wiring

Homes built before 1972 with solid aluminum wiring are "55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets reach Fire Hazard Conditions than homes wired with copper,” according the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission). The problem is due largely to aluminum’s high coefficient of expansion compared to copper, although oxidation...

What are the common problems of 1920s houses?

Friday, May 6, 2022
What are the common problems of 1920s houses?

The Roaring ‘20s was exactly that: full speed ahead. While the economy surged and the stock market kept hitting new highs, over 4 million homes were built. That was twice as many as the decade before, and 60% more than during the depression years of the 1930s. Homes were also larger and more ornate than a the decades before and after.
    Here’s...

Can the required egress doors in a mobile/manufactured home be sliding glass?

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Yes, the two required emergency egress doors in a manufactured/mobile home can be sliding glass. But exterior sliding glass doors must "be constructed in accordance with 24 CFR 3280.403 the 'Standard for Windows and Sliding Glass Doors Used in Manufactured Homes’," and provide a "minimum 28-inch wide by 72-inch high clear opening." There are also...

Should I buy a house with polybutylene (PB) piping?

Sunday, May 1, 2022
Should I buy a house with polybutylene (PB) piping?

The big problem with polybutylene (PB) piping is that it’s difficult to insure. Most insurance companies will outright decline to insure a home with PB-pipe because of its history of failure. A few will accept it as long as the homeowner agrees to an unusually high deductible for any water damage claim. 
     Manufacturers stopped producing PB-pipe...

Should I buy a house with an old inground pool?

Friday, April 29, 2022
Should I buy a house with an old inground pool?

You can expect a concrete or fiberglass inground pool to last 30 to 40 years, maybe even longer with diligent maintenance and keeping up with the water chemistry. But, as a pool gets older, more maintenace and repairs are necessary for both the pool shell and equipment. Also, although an older pool is wonderful for family backyard fun, the prestige...

Do manufactured/mobile homes have more foundation problems than site-built homes?

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Most manufactured homes are installed on a foundation consisting of piers of stacked concrete blocks on top of a plastic or concrete foundation pad. Protection against uplift forces and lateral stability is provided by tie-down anchors and lateral arm systems secured to the home’s steel beam undercarriage. The entire foundation system is above-ground,...

How can I tell if stucco is loose around wall cracks?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Moisture that gets into cracks in a stucco wall can cause swelling that eventually loosens it. Sometimes the loose areas are not visible, but tapping around the crack and listening for a hollow sound will reveal them. It’s important to remove and repair any loosened stucco around a crack as part of the crack repair. 
Here’s links to some of our...

Should I buy a house near a sinkhole?

Monday, April 25, 2022

Insurance companies in Florida have the right to decline homeowner’s insurance if a house is near a sinkhole, even a half-mile away or more, depending the particular company’s standard for coverage. Since each insurer has their own underwriter guidelines, some will accept more risk than others, and it may be possible to declined by one insurer and...

Should I buy a fixer-upper with big problems?

Sunday, April 24, 2022
Should I buy a fixer-upper with big problems?

Fixer-uppers have an allure that is undeniable. The combination of heartache and reward that comes with repairing a house that's a mess can be truly gratifying. Or it can be overwhelming. 
    To help you decide if that fixer-upper is right for you, we have assembled a list of links below to our articles about many of the major defects that a...

Should I buy a house with a retaining wall?

Saturday, April 23, 2022
Should I buy a house with a retaining wall?

First of all, let’s be clear that we are not talking about two-foot high retaining walls that are primarily decorative, like the ones used to create low planting beds around the exterior of a home. This is about retaining walls that are higher than that, and actually hold back enough earth to be a problem if they failed. 

    To start,...

How long does a dry-stacked stone retaining wall last?

Friday, April 22, 2022

The life expectancy of a dry-stacked stone retaining wall is 50 to 100+ years, with an average of 70 years, if built correctly. Because this type of retaining wall depends primarily on the weight of the stones to resist movement of the soil behind it, boulder-size stones with as much, or more, depth as face surface are necessary for a tall retaining...

What are the roof deck/sheathing panels that look like pressed spaghetti?

Thursday, April 21, 2022
What are the roof deck/sheathing panels that look like pressed spaghetti?

It’s called Tectum, and the first question we usually get asked about it is “Does this stuff contain asbestos?” No it does not. Tectum is manufactured from excelsior (long, thin wood strips, a byproduct from shaving logs that is also used for craft projects and packing material) and a hydraulic cement slurry, pressed together under heat. First produced...

What is batter in a retaining wall?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022
What is batter in a retaining wall?

“Batter” is a term used in the masonry trade for the gradual setback from vertical of a wall by insetting each course slightly back from the one below.  When a masonry retaining wall is battered it creates a stronger wall that is more resistant to collapse than one that is vertical. If you think of a person leaning into someone next to them that is...

How long do timber railroad tie retaining walls last?

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The life expectancy of a railroad tie retaining wall is about 20 to 30 years, with an average of 25 years. Take off a few years for a location in a warm, wet environment like Florida, where wood rot and termites are active year-round. And, conversely, expect a somewhat longer life in a dryer and cooler location.

    Also, a wood retaining...

What are the requirements for an electrical panel cover (dead front)?

Monday, April 18, 2022

There are three purposes of an electrical panel dead front: 1) keep any arcing or sparking that might occur inside the panel from escaping, 2) keep the exposed interior electrical connections out of reach, and 3) maintain a connection to ground so that it does not become electrically “live” and a shock hazard. That’s why they call it a “dead” front. 

What are the installation requirements for manufactured/mobile homes in Florida?

Monday, April 18, 2022
What are the installation requirements for manufactured/mobile homes in Florida?

HUD has code requirements for installation of manufactured homes, and the State of Florida has their own additional “Florida override” requirements that exceed the HUD standards. But they are all enforced by the county or city building department where the home will be installed. Also, the local jurisdiction may add a few of their own requirements,...

What is an electrical OCPD?

Sunday, April 17, 2022
What is an electrical OCPD?

OCPD is an acronym commonly used in building codes for OverCurrent Protective Device. Circuit breakers and fuses are both an OCPD. They protect against too much current flowing through the wiring in a house, which can easily heat them to the point that they ignite nearby flammable materialsa common cause of house fires. 
    The National Electrical...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Circuit Breakers

Friday, April 15, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Circuit Breakers

The building code refers to a circuit breaker as an OCPD, which stands for  Over-Current Protective Device. Here’s a selection of our articles about them:
• What is the maximum number of circuit breakers allowed in an electric panel?
• Can you add circuit breakers by different manufacturers to an electric panel if they fit?
• My circuit...

Can you substitute two 120-volt breakers for a 240-volt breaker in a panel?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Yes, you can use two side-by-side single-pole 120-volt breakers as a substitute for a two-pole 240-volt breaker as long as the following three requirements are met:
1) The breakers must be “specified" as suitable for installation in the panel by the same company that manufactured the panel box, or “classified” by a recognized rating agency like...

Does a whole-house surge protector need a dedicated circuit breaker?

Thursday, April 14, 2022
Does a whole-house surge protector need a dedicated circuit breaker?

Manufacturer instructions for Type 2 surge protectors (installed load side, after main breaker) specify connection to a dedicated unused breaker. Here’s an example from an Eaton surge protector installation manual:

    So a double-tap to a 240-volt breaker that is already serving another circuit is not acceptable. The example shown below...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Surge Protectors

Thursday, April 14, 2022

There’s about $15,000 worth of electrical equipment in the average home that can be ruined by a surge, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Compared to the cost and inconvenience of having to replace all the major appliances in your home, a few hundred dollars for a surge protector looks like a bargain. And now one is required...

Does code require a whole-house surge protector for houses?

Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Does code require a whole-house surge protector for houses?

The 2020 edition of the National Electrical Code [NEC 230.67(A)] is the first one to require that “all services supplying dwelling units shall be provided with a surge-protective device (SPD).” It applies to new homes and when an existing electrical service is replaced.
    The surge-protective device must be Type 1 or Type 2. Type 1 means that...

What is the difference between PVC water pipe and PVC electrical conduit?

Monday, April 11, 2022

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) water pipe and conduit are not interchangeable. Here’s the four key differences between them:
1) PVC water pipe is designed to resist water pressure, so the pipe wall is thicker than PVC electrical conduit.
2) PVC water pipe is white and PVC electrical conduit is gray.
3) PVC water pipe is not rated for exposure...

What is code requirement for receptacle outlets at a porch, deck, or balcony?

Monday, April 11, 2022

At least one receptacle outlet is required for any porch, deck, or balcony that is within 4-inches horizontally of a house, according to the 2020 edition of the National Electrical Code [NEC 210.52(E)(3)]. Here’s how it’s stated: "Balconies, decks, and porches that are within 102mm (4 in.) horizontally of a dwelling unit shall have at least one receptacle...

What is the code minimum slope for a porch floor away from the house?

Sunday, April 10, 2022
What is the code minimum slope for a porch floor away from the house?

A residential porch falls under the category of an an “impervious surface within 10 feet of the building foundation” in the International Residential Code (IRC R401.3), which requires a minimum slope of 2 percent (equivalent to 1/4-inch per foot) away from the house. This standard is the same for both roofed and open porches.
• • • • • • • •...

Here's the 30 most recent of over 2800 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.

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