The above photos are showing poor insulation in the floor that overhangs the exterior wall. The darker the color = the colder the surface. This is common when batt insulation is just stuffed into an area. Voids are present that allow heat/cold to pass easily. The temperature change is not just a discomfort. It can lead to condensation, mold and wood rot. I am a big fan of foam insulation. It fills most gaps and creates an excellent heat barrier.
High efficiency furnaces can take combustion air from inside the house. Providing the room is large enough and the home is not hermetically sealed (or too tight). New construction home here in the Chicagoland area require blower door tests to ensure the home is air tight, but not too air tight. We have to have fresh air/oxygen so we don’t get sick. The opening on this intake does not have an elbow on it. If you open any furnace installation manual, you will find the acceptable installation method so you can take combustion air from the inside of the home.
The phot below shows the proper installation method. The elbow helps prevent inadvertent blockage such as resting clothes, towels, books, or boxes on the hole. Blocking this opening should stop the furnace from starting but should it start, the oxygen will be limited and high levels of carbon monoxide will be created.
A home inspection in Lake View found a clogged dryer vent. Keeping these clean is important.
A Northbrook Home Inspection (New Construction), we found a missing mortar joint.
It may not seem like much, until the stone comes loose and needs to be repaired.
A Home Inspection in Rogers Park – Chicago found this water heater.
During a home inspection in Lincoln Square -Chicago we opened this humidifier and found the winner. Can anyone top this?
During a Home Inspection in Barrington we found a snake skin.
If a fire starts in a garage, you do not want it to spread to the attached house. Additionally, if you start up your vehicle in the garage, you do not want carbon monoxide entering your home.
Homeowners (me included) have a tendency to store an assortment of flammable materials in garages. Gas, diesel fuel, paint thinners and removers, cleaning solvents, propane cylinders, swimming pool chemicals, and other compressed gasses such as welding gas.
I have also been on many calls as a fireman where the car was started inside the garage so it can warm up. This allows carbon monoxide (CO) and other gas accumulation within the garage.
Fire separations are required between residences and attached garages and their attics. We find, and document, this issue often during our home inspections.
Here is the wording from the IRC 302.5
Openings and penetrations through the walls or ceilings separating the dwelling from the garage shall be in accordance with Sections R302.5.1 through R302.5.3.
R302.5.1 Opening Protection
Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 13/8 inches (35 mm) in thickness, solid or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 13/8 inches (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors, equipped with a self-closing or automatic closing device.
(Many communities have amended the self-closing or automatic closing device to read self-latching hardware). I haven’t memorized every community’s code (also every year of every code) about this reference. I treat the above reference by looking for a self closing device and if it is present, then it should work.
R302.5.2 Duct Penetration
Ducts in the garage and ducts penetrating the walls or ceilings separating the dwelling from the garage shall be constructed of a minimum No. 26 gage (0.48 mm) sheet steel or other approved material and shall not have openings into the garage.
I just recently did a home inspection in Chicago that had the dryer vent running through the garage and exited the structure through the garage wall. This is not acceptable and I consider this a breach in the fire separation.
R302.5.3 Other Penetrations
Penetrations through the separation required in Section R302.6 (see below) shall be protected as required by Section R302.11, Item 4. (At openings around vents, pipes, ducts, cables and wires at ceiling and floor level, with an approved material to resist the free passage of flame and products of combustion. The material filling this annular space shall not be required to meet the ASTM E 136 requirements.) This means that fire rated sealant is not required. Typically drywall mud is installed here and that is acceptable.
R302.6 Dwelling-Garage Fire Separation
The garage shall be separated as required by Table R302.6. Openings in garage walls shall comply with Section R302.5. Attachment of gypsum board shall comply with Table R702.3.5. The wall separation provisions of Table R302.6 shall not apply to garage walls that are perpendicular to the adjacent dwelling unit wall. (This means that if there is not a living space on the opposite side of the garage wall, then the drywall is not required.)
TABLE R302.6 DWELLING-GARAGE SEPARATION
|From the residence and attics||Not less than 1/2-inch gypsum board or equivalent applied to the
|From habitable rooms above the garage||Not less than 5/8-inch Type X gypsum board or equivalent|
|Structure(s) supporting floor/ceiling assemblies used for separation
required by this section
|Not less than 1/2-inch gypsum board or equivalent|
|Garages located less than 3 feet from a dwelling unit on the same lot||Not less than 1/2-inch gypsum board or equivalent applied to the
interior side of exterior walls that are within this area
Attic Pull-Down Stair Units
One obvious example of a ceiling fire separation breach is the near an attic pull-down stair unit. Many of the pull down stairs that I see are not designed for this installation. They do make pull down stairs that are rated for this type of installation, but those commonly are not found at the home repair stores. The photo to the left is a ladder that is designed for garage penetrations. The door of the ladder fully closes and seals when the ladder is in the up position.
Efflorescence is the salt deposits on a masonry or concrete surfaces that is associated with water moving through walls. Water in the walls dissolves salts from the mortar and concrete or masonry. As water evaporates off of the wall surface, the salts are left behind as crystals on the masonry. They are usually whitish, but they can also be green or brownish as well. They are soft, powdery, and usually project 1/4″ or so out from the wall if protected from rain. It would be more of a stain if not protected.
The efflorescence itself is often not an issue, but it does suggest that water is in the concrete or masonry. In our winters spalling is an issue when water freezes. The goal is to try to stop the water from getting into the masonry.
The crystal deposits on the fee of the masonry are largely sulfates or carbonates of sodium, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, and potassium. Portland cement mortars may be the source of the sodium and potassium. Other soluble salts such as chlorides may also be deposited as water evaporates from the surface of the masonry. There may be a lot of efflorescence immediately after construction, diminishing and disappearing over. the first few years. Seasonal efflorescence is also common. being noticeable only during colder weather.
Bricks that absorb or trap water easily are more prone to efflorescence than bricks with a low absorption rate. Efflorescence can sometimes be reduced by rinsing the wall with water or dilute hydrochloric acid. although the additional water can Mae the problem worse. in some cases. Preventing chronic or continuous wetting of the masonry should help control efflorescence.
Whenever we see the efflorescence, we look for the water. (except on new construction) It is the water that is the problem and we need to keep it away from the concrete or masonry that is affected.
It’s Monday morning and the snow is falling. The news says that this week the temperatures will fall to below zero. I know some of the western burbs already got hit with some really cold weather. If you haven’t done so already, please get your house ready and call on family and friends to make sure they are ready as well. Here is a list of the top things to do asap.
Please feel free to ask questions, post pictures, or offer any suggestions that help yourself and other.
Stay safe and stay warm.