Here's the 30 most recent of over 2300 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 www.mcgarryandmadsen.com dating back to 2011.

5

How To Look at a House

recent blogs

Are Wadsworth electrical panels dangerous?

Monday, August 3, 2020
Are Wadsworth electrical panels dangerous?

We know of no verified, documented problems with Wadsworth panels, except that they are old. The Wadsworth Electrical Manufacturing Company dates back to 1918 and was an early innovator, with numerous patents for electrical breakers and panel box designs. Wadworth panels were most popular from the 1930s to 1950s. The company was liquidated in 1990,...

What is code for air conditioning a garage?

Monday, July 27, 2020
What is code for air conditioning a garage?

Any heating/air conditioning ducts that serve the residence cannot also have registers (vents) in an attached garage. The registers would provide a direct route for a fire to move from garage to house. A separate HVAC system that serves only the garage is acceptable. 
    This is part of multiple requirements for “Dwelling-Garage Separation”...

What is code for the fire rating for a garage attic?

Monday, July 27, 2020
What is code for the fire rating for a garage attic?

Most attached garages have a ceiling secured to the bottom chord of the roof trusses or ceiling rafters, and the ceiling must minimum be 1/2” drywall or equivalent. Any attic access opening panels must also be 1/2” drywall or equivalent. These requirements do not apply to detached garages.
    This is part of multiple requirements for “Dwelling-Garage...

What is code for the fire rating for a garage ceiling?

Monday, July 27, 2020
What is code for the fire rating for a garage ceiling?

Most attached garages have a ceiling secured to the bottom chord of the roof trusses or ceiling rafters, and the ceiling must minimum be 1/2” drywall or equivalent. If there is no ceiling and the roof structure is exposed in the garage, then the wall separating the garage from the dwelling must be 1/2” drywall or equivalent and extend up to the underside...

What is code for the fire rating for garage walls?

Monday, July 27, 2020
What is code for the fire rating for garage walls?

Any common walls between an attached garage and the house must have minimum 1/2” drywall or equivalent on the garage side of the wall. Only common walls (not perpendicular walls) must meet this requirement. If a garage is detached, but within 3-feet of the residence, any walls within 3-feet must have 1/2” drywall or equivalent.
    This is part...

Can an electrical panel be in a bedroom?

Sunday, July 26, 2020
Can an electrical panel be in a bedroom?

Yes, a bedroom is an allowed location for an electrical panel. When the panel is placed in the bedroom, the electrician usually puts it in the area behind the door swing. The National Electrical Code (NEC) lists four prohibited panel locations at 240.42(C,D,E,F). A panel cannot be located:
1) Where exposed to physical damage.2) In the vicinity...

What electrical panel locations are prohibited?

Sunday, July 26, 2020
What electrical panel locations are prohibited?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) lists the prohibited panel locations at 240.42(C,D,E,F). A panel cannot be located:
1) Where exposed to physical damage.2) In the vicinity of easily ignitable material. Clothes closets are specifically noted as an area with easily ignitable material (hanging clothes).3) In bathrooms.4) Over steps. 
...

Can a home inspector tell me if the wiring in a home is safe?

Sunday, July 26, 2020
Can a home inspector tell me if the wiring in a home is safe?

Not really, not 100%. Home inspectors have plenty of training to recognize visible defects in the wiring, but the majority of wiring in a home is concealed and cannot be fully evaluated. So an inspector can tell you about the condition of the areas of the electrical system that can be seen and, to an extent, use electronic circuit testers to check...

Why are there no neutral pigtails at the AFCI and GFCI breakers in the panel?

Sunday, July 26, 2020
Why are there no neutral pigtails at the AFCI and GFCI breakers in the panel?

Where did the all the neutral pigtails go? If you can’t figure out if the wiring to the GFCI and AFCI breakers in the photo above is a problem or not, then you haven’t heard about the new “plug-on neutral” panels. They provide a concealed neutral bus bar under the breakers. Each breaker snaps over and then locks onto it. So pigtail neutrals, like...

What are code requirements for fireplace gas shutoff valve?

Saturday, July 25, 2020
What are code requirements for fireplace gas shutoff valve?

The requirements for a gas fireplace shutoff valve are at 409.5 in the International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC). A shutoff valve must:
1) Be located in the same room as the fireplace.2) Within 6 feet of the appliance.3) Cannot be concealed.3) Must be upstream of union, connector, or quick-connect device serving fireplace.4) Or, located at a gas manifold...

Are replacement electrical panels required to have AFCI breakers?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Are replacement electrical panels required to have AFCI breakers?

A replacement electrical panel is not required to upgrade to combination-type AFCI breakers if: 1) the panel does not include any new circuits, and 2) any extensions of the existing wiring to accommodate the new panel are not more than 6 feet [NEC 210.12(D)(Exception)].
    Otherwise, combination AFCI-protection is required for all circuits that...

What is the difference between an attached and detached garage?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
What is the difference between an attached and detached garage?

The simple way to define an attached garage is that it shares a common wall with the living area of a house, but building officials usually consider that any structural attachment between garage and house—wall, roof, or beams—to mean the garage is attached. Electrical conduit, fencing, or any non-structural connections don't count. But it is ultimately...

Will a GFCI receptacle outlet trip if you overload the circuit?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Will a GFCI receptacle outlet trip if you overload the circuit?

No, a GFCI receptacle does not provide overcurrent protection for a circuit that is overloaded with too many appliance/lighting loads. But a GFCI breaker in the panel will trip when a circuit becomes overloaded, because it provides overcurrent protection plus GFCI protection for any leaking current—technically called a “Ground Fault," which is the...

How far away do plumbing pipes have to be from an electrical panel?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
How far away do plumbing pipes have to be from an electrical panel?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) does not specifically address plumbing pipe clearance, but requires an area clear of any obstructions that is 2’-6” wide, 3’-0” deep, and 6’-6” high around the front of a panel  [NEC 110.26(A)]. 
    No plumbing pipes or other items are allowed in this area, except that other electrical equipment that is part...

How many tons is my air conditioner or heat pump?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
How many tons is my air conditioner or heat pump?

It’s easy to find the tonnage once you get the hang of it. Hunt for a number that is divisible by 6 or 12 somewhere in the center of the model number on the data plate at the side of condenser (outdoor unit), like 12,18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, or 60. 
    A ton of air conditioning equals 12,000 BTU so, for example a “24” in the middle of the model...

What causes excessive voltage drop at a wall receptacle outlet?

Monday, July 20, 2020
What causes excessive voltage drop at a wall receptacle outlet?

Higher than normal resistance to current flow in a circuit causes excessive voltage drop. Here’s a few possible culprits:
1) Wiring is smaller than code standard for the amperage rating and/or length of run of circuit.
2) Poor wire splices anywhere in circuit.
3) Loose wire connections at receptacles or switches, especially the backwired...

What is the lowest acceptable voltage for a wall receptacle outlet?

Monday, July 20, 2020
What is the lowest acceptable voltage for a wall receptacle outlet?

The National Electrical Code [NEC 210.19(A)(note 4)] specifies the maximum voltage drop at 5% for the farthest receptacle of a nominal 120-volt circuit, which means 114 volts is lowest allowed. Although not specified by the NEC, the accepted standard maximum voltage is 5% more than the nominal rating, which would be 126 volts. 
    See our blog...

How do you analyze a wall crack from cause to effect?

Thursday, July 2, 2020
How do you analyze a wall crack from cause to effect?

Understanding what the different wall crack patterns mean can often point you directly to the underlying cause. Each type—inverted “V,” stairstep, vertical, etc—indicates a likely scenario. This way of evaluating a structural problem in a wall is essentially going from “effect to cause." But sometimes the answer isn’t that clear-cut. There may be...

How long does a countertop last?

Thursday, July 2, 2020
How long does a countertop last?

You can expect a countertop to last between 10 to 60 years with reasonable care, depending on the material and level of use. Here’s our list, with links to articles with more info about each one, and a bar graph comparing lifespans.
Concrete - 50±Cultured Marble - 25± yearsGranite - 60+Laminate - 15 to 40 years, average 25Marble - 50+Quartz (Engineered...

What is the average life expectancy of a cultured marble countertop?

Thursday, July 2, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a cultured marble countertop?

You can expect a cultured marble countertop to last about 25 years with reasonable care. The material is a combination of ground stone, pigment, and resins. Cultured marble is a tough, durable material, but porous and easily stained. 
    Here’s a bar graph that compares the life expectancy of a cultured marble countertop to other available materials....

What is the average life expectancy of a resin countertop?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a resin countertop?

You can expect a resin countertop to last 10 to 20 years with reasonable care, and an average of 15 years. Creative colors and designs are possible with many choices of what is embedded in the resin, such as recycled glass or pennies.
    Here’s a bar graph that compares the life expectancy of a resin countertop to other available materials....

What is the average life expectancy of a marble countertop?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a marble countertop?

You can expect a marble countertop to last 50 years or more with reasonable care. Although marble can theoretically endure much longer, and has been rated by some for 100+ years, the accumulation of stains, damage, and the changing requirements for a kitchen layout over time make the century-long life unlikely. 
    Here’s a bar graph that compares...

What is the average life expectancy of a quartz (engineered stone) countertop?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a quartz (engineered stone) countertop?

You can expect a quartz (engineered stone) countertop to last 20 to 60 years, depending of level and usage and care, with an average of 40 years. The material is a combination of ground quartz, resins, and pigments. Because it is a manufactured product, the range of designs and colors is extensive.
    Here’s a bar graph that compares the life...

What is the average life expectancy of a concrete countertop?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a concrete countertop?

You can expect a concrete countertop to last 50 years or more with reasonable care. Concrete can be rustic-industrial, or more decorative with addition of stone or glass aggregates at surface. However, it is prone to staining and a sealer must be reapplied regularly.
    Here’s a bar graph that compares the life expectancy of a concrete countertop...

What is the average life expectancy of a granite countertop?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a granite countertop?

You can expect a granite countertop to last 60 years or more reasonable care. Although granite can theoretically endure much longer, and has been rated by some for 100+ years, the accumulation of stains, damage, and the changing requirements for a kitchen layout over time make the century-long life unlikely. 
    Here’s a bar graph that compares...

What is the average life expectancy of a tile countertop?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a tile countertop?

You can expect a tile coutertop to last 50 years or more with reasonable care. Porcelain tiles are more resitant to damage than ceramic. LIght color grout will show stains and dirt more than dark, and all grout must be sealed and may require repairs over time. Creative and colorful patterns are possible with tile. 
    Here’s a bar graph that...

What is the average life expectancy of a wood (butcher block) countertop?

Monday, June 29, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a wood (butcher block) countertop?

You can expect a wood (butcher block) countertop to last 60 years or more with normal care. Use of the countertop as a cutting surface will lower life expectancy to about 20 years or less. Regular application of food-safe oil is necessary to maintain water resistance of the surface. Also, the surface can to sanded and refinished as stains accumulate...

What is the average life expectancy of a laminate countertop?

Monday, June 29, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a laminate countertop?

You can expect a laminate countertop to last 15 to 40 years, with an average of 25 years. The variable levels of use and care are the reason for the wide lifespan range. Using the surface as a cutting board or putting hot pans directly on the it causes scratches and burns. Also, dings accumulate at outside corners and abrasive cleaners deteriorate...

What is the average life expectancy of closet and pantry shelves?

Saturday, June 27, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of closet and pantry shelves?

You can expect closet shelving to last 40 to 100 years or more, with an average of 70 years. Older type wood shelves on wall ledgers tend to hold up longer that the coated wire shelves with brace brackets or MDF closet system shelving.
    Here’s a bar graph that compares the life expectancy of shelving to other types of storage.     Go to our...

What is the average life expectancy of a bathroom medicine cabinet?

Saturday, June 27, 2020
What is the average life expectancy of a bathroom medicine cabinet?

You can expect a bathroom medicine cabinet to last 30 years, and sometimes much longer. Like other cabinets in the bathroom, it is likely to be replaced while still functional, but dated and a little battered, as as part of a bathroom remodeling. 
    Here’s a bar graph that compares the life expectancy of a medicine cabinet to other types of...

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