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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

Does the building code apply to mobile homes?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Does the building code apply to mobile homes?

Although the Florida Building Code (FBC) has specific requirements for manufactured buildings, it excludes mobile homes from that category, and the manufacture of mobile homes is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A HUD-approved inspection agency provides inspection at the factory, and the local building...

What is the minimum size for attic access opening?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
What is the minimum size for attic access opening?

The rough opening cannot be less than 22 inches by 30 inches and must be located in a hallway or other readily accessible location. If the opening is located in a wall, the 30 inch dimension must be vertical. If the access is located in the ceiling, the minimum unobstructed headrom above the opening must be 30 inches measured vertically at some point...

How long after the home inspection does the buyer have to back out?

Monday, January 27, 2020
How long after the home inspection does the buyer have to back out?

It all depends on the number of days in the inspection period that was agreed to in your real estate sales contract and, secondarily, how many days are left in it after you have received your inspection report. Typical inspection periods are 7 or 14 days, but could be much longer or even as short as three days—although that is definitely not recommended,...

What is the difference between single-phase and three-phase electric service?

Monday, January 27, 2020
What is the difference between single-phase and three-phase electric service?

Single phase electric service is what comes into virtually all homes. The service has two hot wires that are cycling through the same phase but in opposition, as shown in the diagram below. One leg produces 120-volt current and the two legs together produce 240-volt current because of the difference in the electrical potential between the two. It’s...

What is the minimum clearance under an electrical service drip loop of a house?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

There are two minimum clearance dimensions: 1) from the drip loop to the ground when it is not over the roof, and 2) drip loop to roof surface when over the roof. When the drip loop is over the ground, it must be a minimum of 10’-0” above the grade, which is the same minimum clearance as the rest of the service drop. The photo below is an example...

Where is AFCI required for outlets in a house?

Sunday, January 26, 2020
Where is AFCI required for outlets in a house?

Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter protection is required at outlets in all "kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, or similar rooms,” per the current edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). But it’s also important to know that the NEC...

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? 
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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 springs 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...