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.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Importance of Rake & Drip Edge





The Importance of Rake & Drip Edge

Many homes that I have inspected lack Rake / Drip edge. As a renovator, I have seen the damage caused by missing rake / drip edge. Whenever we stripped an asphalt roof covering, there was always moisture damage to the decking approximately 1 foot out from the edge when rake / drip was missing. This is caused by either water being driven under the shingle or by the water tracking under the shingle and on the roof deck. Some roofers who opt not to use rake / drip edge justify it by extending the shingles at least 2 inches past the leading edge of the deck. I always recommend to my clients that it is installed. It is very frustrating when seeing a new roof covering without rake / drip edge. Do we note satisfactory? I don’t because I feel that the roof may leak or deteriorate because of this missing flashing. Rake / drip edge is flashing. If flashing were missing anywhere else, we would consider it a major defect. In 2012 the International Residential Code (IRC) requires that rake and drip edge shall be provided at eaves and rake edges of single roofs. It also must be installed properly in order for the intended purpose. Here is what a home inspector should be looking for:

  • Rake / Drip edge shall be overlapped at least 2 inches
  • Rake / Drip edge shall extend not less than ¼ inch below the roof sheathing
  • Rake / Drip edge shall extend back onto the roof deck not less than 2 inches
  • Rake / Drip edge shall be mechanically fastened to the roof deck at not more than 12 inches on center
  • Rake / Drip edge shall be fastened with a minimum 12 gauge shank and 3/8” diameter head
  • Underlayment shall be installed over the drip edge along the eaves and under the drip edge along the rakes
  • Rake / Drip edge should be corrosion resistant
  • Rake edge should be installed along the eave from the bottom upward. The top sections should overlap the bottom section to prevent water getting in at the joints

Monday, April 29, 2019

Proper Air Sealing & Moisture Control






Some home inspectors also perform Energy Star ratings or Energy Score evaluations. Some states are requiring more than just Energy Star. They are adopting a score evaluation for all homes. Soon these “scores” will be part of the properties profile, and used when the house is listed for sale. Most home inspectors do not do this type of testing which is above the requirements of a visual home inspection. However air loss and moisture intrusion can become a very important part of a home inspection. Moisture entering a house, whether as a leak or because of condensation creates issues that are detrimental to the building. Mold, wet / dry rot, Sick Building Syndrome, and other serious issues can occur. We are starting to see this in newer homes as we do with homes constructed in the 70’s and 80’s. These homes are designed to be “tight” and energy efficient. Many older homes do not experience these types of moisture issues because of the air loss resulting in the areas in question drying out before the moisture becomes a problem. It is not trapped and air (leaks) will dry it out. There are issues that we may not be able to see during a visual home inspection. Some of these are: air barrier, which should be continuous, insulation installed properly, vapor barrier in the proper place / orientation, flashing, etc. So many things that effect air sealing / loss and moisture intrusion that we cannot see. Energy Star has a checklist that inspectors use when performing an inspection. This is also good information for a home inspector. You can find this list by clicking on this link: CLICK HERE
Without being able to see some of the areas where these problems may have originated, what can a home inspector look for:

  • Garage band joist
  • Floor above garage
  • Attic knee walls
  • Skylight shaft walls
  • Wall adjoining porch roof
  • Basement / crawl space band joists
  • Crawl space walls (foam is the best choice for this application)
  • Slab – edge insulation
  • Look for thermal bridging in attic space
  • Insulation should not have gaps
  • Cantilevered areas are properly insulated with vapor barrier
  • At least a 6 mil vapor barrier on dirt craw space floors
  • Openings to unconditioned spaces are fully sealed
  • Attic access panel is insulated
  • Attic drop down stairs are fully insulated
  • Recessed lighting properly sealed (must be IC rated)
  • Whole house fan cover is insulated
  • Common wall between dwelling units is insulated and fire rated
  • Pipe / shaft penetrations are properly sealed (fire caulk / sealant if necessary)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Inspecting Single Ply Beams


Inspecting Single Ply Beams


Although a visual home inspection is not a code or engineering inspection, many home inspectors would require that beams and wood support members are multi-ply or built up beams. Commonly 2 – 2 by’s and a ½” piece of plywood sandwiched in the middle. Single ply beams would not be appropriate for door and window headers, or for spans supporting a second story or roof structure. Currently single ply beams are only acceptable for decks, porches and landings where no additional support is required. In the 2018 IRC, there is now a span table specifically for decks (Deck Beam Span Length’s for Single Ply Beams), the table is above. The table specifically addresses 2x6 – 2x12 single ply beams for deck joist spans. Using the table we can see a single ply 4’ 11” 2x6 can support spans up to 6’. A single ply 5’1”  2x8 can support spans of up to 8’. So what should a home inspector look for:

·         These spans also apply to stair landings not supporting a second floor or roof structure
·         This table applies to decks / porches and landings not supporting a second story
·         Roof structures that are being supported by a deck will require a larger beam / support member
·         Single ply beams are used for small spans
·         It is acceptable to use a single-ply beam in place of multi-ply beams as long as the size is appropriate
·         Single ply beams can be used for space requirements are an issue
·         Single ply beams will also save money