Monday, December 30, 2019

Dual Function Arc Fault / Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Breaker


Dual Function Arc Fault / Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Breaker

                                                                    



I have seen some disagreement between home inspectors and even electricians regarding the new requirements for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter protection. This is especially true when we throw Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters in the mix! We all know what each circuit breaker does. In a previous newsletter / blog I discuss the AFCI requirements in detail. Where are AFCI’s required and when should a combination AFCI / GFCI breaker be installed? Basically AFCI’s are required for all 120 volt circuits where a GFCI is not required. However….there are times that a combination AFCI / GFCI is recommended or required. First some basics. We know GFCI’s are required in bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens (within 6 feet of a water source), and damp locations (basements, outside, garages, etc). They should also be installed protecting pools, spas, and hot tubs. AFCI’s and Dual Function AFCI / GFCI’s should be installed in the following locations:

·         AFCI’s should be installed for ALL 15 – 20 amp / 120 volt branch circuits protecting bedrooms, sleeping areas, living, dining, family rooms, dens, hallways, closets, kitchens, laundry areas, and baths not requiring a GFCI (wall receptacles more then 6 feet from a water source). Basically all 120 volt circuits.
·         AFCI protection is required for any circuit when adding, changing, replacing, or extending any branch circuit that requires AFCI protection
·         If a circuit is added, changed, replaced, or extended that required GFCI protection, a Dual Function ARCI / GFCI should be installed. This may include circuits that have been extended from a previous service panel that now serves as a junction box.
·         Newer type AFCI breakers / receptacles are compatible with household appliances including refrigerators
·         Average cost of a Dual Function AFCI / GFCI is $38.00
·         The lifespan of a AFCI circuit breaker is the same as a standard circuit breaker

Friday, November 29, 2019

Inspecting Flat Roof Coverings


                                         Inspecting Flat Roof Coverings 
















Flat roof systems and coverings have evolved considerably over the years. I remember the time that rolled asphalt was used primarily for flat roof coverings. And many times that was installed incorrectly. As a home inspector, I see many flat roof coverings, even with acceptable materials installed improperly. First off, there should not be an actual “flat” roof structure. Roof structures should have some pitch. The structure should not be built with a 0/12 pitch. Keeping standing water off this type of roof is impossible even with proper drainage. Even the smallest leak will be disastrous. Low slope / flat roof structures should slope approximately ¼ inch per foot. Many inspectors refer to a low slope / flat roof structure as having a pitch of less that 4/12. Although some roof shingle manufactures will warranty their shingles (if certain underlayment is properly installed) on up to a 2/12 pitch roof. However, home inspectors will not know if the proper underlayment was installed correctly. Installing a low slope / flat roof covering is something all roofing companies say they do, however this installation involves using the proper materials with a high degree of skill. The requirements for low slope / flat roof coverings are different than a pitched roof. I normally recommend a single ply membrane.  Here are the trouble areas and what a home inspector should be looking for:

·         Ensure there is some degree of slope and proper drainage
·         If roof drains are employed closely check to ensure they are sealed
·         Look for the installation of a clamp ring drain that will seal better than a conventional drain
·         Roofing material should extend at least 8” up an joining wall or window sill
·         Roofing material should be installed 18-24” under shingles where a pitched roof joins a low slope. Ensure shingles are not installed to low and nailed into the membrane
·         Lifted or bubbles in the membrane
·         Repaired areas or tar
·         Metal flashing should be used for brick walls and be let into or cut into the mortar joint
·         Stucco / EIFS; metal flashing should be used under the lower drainage section
·         Roof drains should be avoided if possible and exterior gutters or scuppers should be installed. Proper flashing should extend from the roof covering into the scupper
·         Parapets should have roofing material installed over them and capped with a metal flashing
·         Skylights should be installed with the roofing material extending up the side and capped with a proper gasket or manufacture supplied flashing
·         Penetrations should have pre-formed flashing not tar
·         The leading edge should have roofing material under the drip edge and over the fascia. Drip edge would then be sealed with another piece of roof membrane over the top of the drip edge
·         Ensure there is not a raised edge at the leading edge that would cause water to  back up or not drain properly   

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Kickout Flashing Requirements



Kickout Flashing Requirements



As home inspectors we understand the importance of kickout flashing. Many times this flashing is omitted, even on new builds. This is important for all siding materials but especially on stucco and EIFS. I have seen a considerable amount of damage on stucco  and EIFS siding because of missing kickout flashing. Having a gutter extended to the house in this area is not alone a solution. I have seen the roofer blame the siding company or vice versa. It is my opinion that the roofer should, as a matter of practice install kickout flashing in all areas where required. Remember kickout flashing, although not specifically named as such is required.  IRC Section R903.2.1 - Flashing – Locations, states: “Flashings shall be installed at wall and roof intersections, wherever there is a change in roof slope or direction and around roof openings. A flashing shall be installed to divert the water away from where the eave of a sloped roof intersects a vertical sidewall. Where flashing is of metal, the metal shall be corrosion resistant with a thickness on not less than 0.019 inch (0.5 mm) (No. 26 galvanized sheet)”. So what should a home inspector address this issue;

  • Kickout flashing should be installed in all areas where the eave of a sloped roof intersects a vertical side wall
  • Kickout flashing is not just required for stucco or EIFS, but for all siding materials
  • Ensure to thoroughly inspect the interior areas where kickout flashing is either installed or omitted
  • Ensure the kickout flashing is long enough to divert water properly away from the siding
  • Ensure the kickout flashing is installed in a manner that does not allow water to enter the wall assembly
  • Kickout flashing must be installed behind the siding and under the roof shingles
  • Ensure the water is being diverted into a gutter or other area and not accumulating in the area where the roof intersects with the sidewall
  • Kickout flashing must be corrosion resistant
  • Ensure step flashing is installed in conjunction and incorporated with kickout flashing
  • Recommend a qualified roofer install kickout flashing in all areas where required

Sunday, September 29, 2019

National Electric Code 2020 Updates

National Electric Code 2020 Updates



The National Electric Code (NEC) is revised every 3 years. All 50 states utilize the code for their standards. I am going to outline the updates from the previous version. One of the changes I was glad to see is that service panels with 6 main disconnects are no longer permitted. I have long advised my clients to upgrade split panel service panels. Trying to explain how to disconnect the service and the fact that some breakers, many times 240 volt circuits actually cannot be disconnected. This makes the panel dangerous to work on. The homeowner’s are often confused on which breaker is actually the “main” when several breakers are either marked or look like a main service disconnect. Load calculations will also be reduced to account for higher efficiency appliances and lighting options. There has been a huge reduction in this area and many times a smaller service size (depending on the house) will be adequate. When I started performing home inspections the 240 volt appliances were 50-60 amps. Now those same appliances are 20-40 amps. Here are the other updates that a home inspector needs to know: 

  • Outdoor Emergency Service Disconnects are now required for one and two family dwellings. This is to ensure first responders, especially fire fighters can disconnect the electric supply to the house
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) are now required on most 120 – 240 volt branch circuits. This includes clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, etc.
  • Serge protection devices are required for all dwelling units. Many home inspectors recommend these are installed.
  • Service panels with 6 main service disconnects are no longer permitted
  • Line side barrier requirements are required and expanded to service beyond the main electric panels. (This is for shock protection. The barriers protect from energized conductors on the line terminals of the main over current protection device in a service panel) – Picture above
  • Short Circuit Current Ratings connectors and devices must be marked suitable for use on the line side of the service equipment. We are seeing more of these devices as homeowners are looking for energy efficiency. – Picture above
  • Temporary power equipment (we see this on new construction that is not complete) require markings for available fault current and date of calculation. For temporary over current devices between 150 volts to ground and 1000 volts phase to phase will be current limiting
  • ARC reduction for services 1200 amps and greater must ensure arcing currents activate ARC reduction technology.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Receptacles in Areas That Are Damp or Wet


Receptacles in Areas That Are Damp or Wet


 

As home inspectors we always recommend Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) receptacles are installed in wet or damp areas. We should also be looking at the cover on the receptacle; there is a difference. There is also a difference, by definition of a “wet” or “damp” area. A wet area is defined as being exposed to large amounts of water (on an exterior wall not protected by a roof, near a pool or hot tub). A damp area is defined as being exposed to small amounts of liquid (basement, crawl space, under an awning). Receptacles located in wet areas should have a cover that is weatherproof when a plug is in it. Receptacles located in damp areas should have a cover that is weatherproof when a plug is not in it. They have a cap that covers the receptacle. As earlier stated they will be either GFCI or AFCI protected. So what should a home inspector be looking for:

·         Loose or damaged receptacles
·         Protective cover is damaged, loose or missing
·         Gap between receptacle and protective cover plate
·         Incorrect ampacity
·         Improperly wired
·         Unapproved exterior wiring used
·         Open ground / reversed polarity
·         Scorching
·         Serviced by an extension cord, drop cord, or other unapproved wiring methods
·         Unsafe location
·         240 Volt circuit not supplied by a 4 conductors

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Notched Studs & Top Plates


Notched Studs & Top Plates




Home inspectors always report on floor joists and beams / girders where they have been compromised by drilling holes and notching. Many times these structural members are easy to see in a basement or crawl space. We see the damage caused by compromised structural members. Settled floors, walls, and sticking windows & doors. Most times during a visual home inspection wall studs and top plates are not able to see. However many of us offer new construction inspections. It is amazing to me the amount of corners cut during new construction. Once covered with drywall, it will be near impossible to determine defects. Movement or bulges in walls may be related to compromised studs or top plates. Cracks on drywall, especially corner angled cracks. This may be even more problematic with balloon frame construction. If a home inspector sees movement in a wall, especially if it is weight bearing, it may be caused by improperly drilled or notched wall studs or top plates. So what should a home inspector be looking for?

  • If a top plate is notched more than 50%, a 16 gauge metal plate should be installed
  • Top plate joints should be offset at least 24” and overlapped at the corners
  • Notches in wall studs that are load bearing should not exceed 25% of the stud depth (actual)
  • Notches in wall studs that are not load bearing may not exceed 40% of the stud depth (actual)
  • Holes in wall studs in load bearing walls may not exceed 40% of the stud depth (actual)
  • Holes in wall studs in non load bearing walls may not exceed 60% of the stud depth (actual)
  • 2 x 4 load bearing studs less than 10’ which support 1 story and a roof, may be spaced 24” on center
  • 2 x 4 load bearing studs less than 10’ which support 2 stories and a roof, should be 16” on center
  • 2 x 6 studs should be used by walls higher than 10’ (check with the local municipality)
  • Exterior wall sill plate should be pressure treated with a moisture barrier
  • Walls should normally have a double top plate
  • #3 grade lumber is approved for studs up to 10’
  • #2 grade lumber is approved for studs longer than 10’
  • Structural composite lumber is approved for wall studs

Friday, June 28, 2019

Are Fire Sprinklers Required Everywhere?

Are Fire Sprinklers Required Everywhere?




As the debate continues for the use and implementation of fire sprinkler systems, there are some things that home inspectors should know. Currently only the entire state of California require sprinkler systems in all single family and larger residences. Many individual municipalities are requiring residential sprinkler systems. Multiple units and commercial buildings already have the requirement in place in most areas. Some materials approved are steel pipe, black iron, PEX, copper, and CPVC (orange in color). I see mostly orange CPVC. Probably due to cost and ease of installation, however there are some issues associated with its use. Some products may degrade CPVC and must be considered before employing it. Some types of caulk, fire stopping products, mold / antimicrobial products, certain types of pipe tape, certain thread sealants, some leak detector fluids, coated pipe hangers, and one type of waterproofing. Any of these products may degrade CPVC and should not come in contact with it. Fire sprinkler pipes need to be secured to ensure they do not uplift under pressure. Where are the areas that fire sprinklers are not required according to NFPA 13 – 903.3.1.1.1 & 2;

903.3.1.1.1 Exempt Locations

Automatic sprinklers shall not be required in the following rooms or areas where such rooms or areas are protected with an approved automatic fire detection system in accordance with Section 907.2 that will respond to visible or invisible particles of combustion. Sprinklers shall not be omitted from a room merely because it is damp, of fire-resistance-rated construction or contains electrical equipment. 
1.                      A room where the application of water, or flame and water, constitutes a serious life or fire hazard. 
2.                      A room or space where sprinklers are considered undesirable because of the nature of the contents, where approved by the fire code official. 
3.                      Generator and transformer rooms separated from the remainder of the building by wallsand floor/ceiling or roof/ceiling assemblies having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 2 hours.
4.                      Rooms or areas that are of noncombustible construction with wholly noncombustible contents.
5.                      Fire service access elevator machine rooms and machinery spaces.
6.                      Machine rooms, machinery spaces, control rooms and control spaces associated with occupant evacuation elevators designed in accordance with Section 3008.

903.3.1.1.2 Bathrooms

In Group R occupancies, other than Group R-4occupancies, sprinklers shall not be required in bathrooms that do not exceed 55 square feet (5 m2) in area and are located within individual dwelling units or sleeping units, provided that walls and ceilings, including the wallsand ceilings behind a shower enclosure or tub, are of noncombustible or limited-combustible materials with a 15-minute thermal barrier rating.