“Every breath you take”…Is It A Red Flag?

 

“Every breath you take”…Is It A Red Flag?

 

laundry rack

No “Every breath you take” is the songs’ refrain (POLICE/Sting).

Every breath you expel does add humidity to your homes interior, but that’s normal, no red flags for that.  But…

Seeing a laundry drying rack like the one in the photo Is a big RED FLAG to any inspector.

Why?, Well the modern home is equipped with several exhaust systems located in specific rooms to remove excessive moisture at the source before it can be allowed to spread to places where it will do damage.  These would be laundry rooms, kitchens and bathrooms. Exhaust fans of the same type are sometimes found in powder rooms, but are not required for humidity unless there is a shower or bath installed too.

Laundry racks like this or basement clothes lines have no means of collecting and removing the excess humidity they cause to be introduced. So once observed the inspector is alerted for humidity damage in the cold zones and surfaces.

Typically damage occurs in window components, electrical components in exterior walls and framing wood at concrete basement walls. Humidity that is drawn into or bleeds though to attics can build up as frost and come back in as damaging ‘leaks’. But there will be damage in hidden areas that can’t be visually examined. Any weakness, imperfection or damage that exists in the vapor barrier system is at risk.

Not all houses have perfect vapour barriers. Over time there has been a wide variety in the methods and materials used for these systems. Add to that the normal variations in skills, procedures and execution of construction and you have a wide range in the quality of vapour barrier systems in homes that are otherwise similarly finished and appointed.

Knowing this it is much better to remove extra humidity right at the source when it is being produced. Remember we are not concerned about mirrors fogging up, but if you allow that humidity to disperse then it’s going to show up in other places, hidden places, as damage, rust or rot.

So we recommend (1) setting up the laundry exhaust properly, and (2) using the kitchen range exhaust when cooking and not just for odours. When you’re having a bath or a shower (3) run the fan with the door closed while you are using it and for up to an hour after you are finished.

Operation of theses systems does have an energy cost, but it is far outweighed by the cost of damage repair required if they are not used. Consider providing timer switches for fans so they can be set and left.

For rental property it is a good practice to wire bathroom fans directly with the light switch. Most renters are less aware of maintenance than property owners.

And finally if you must dry clothes on a rack or line, set it up like these people in a room that has an exhaust fan, close the door and run the fan, at least for the first few hours.

 

 

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

“We Won’t Fix Anything Unless It’s A Code Violation”

The photos themselves tell the story. This article, as well as highlighting some new construction deficiencies, also illustrates the problems inherent with extended and horizontal exhaust duct systems.

This is a reprint of an article by one of my associates, Jay Markanich (VA), and should you wish to comment on his article please click through the links and do so directly on his blog.

For anyone wanting answers about this and similar problems for a home or property in the Montreal area please contact me Robert Butler at any of the numbers listed below.

More new construction fun!  And guess who it’s with … again?  And the same tricks – late afternoon phone call, the inspection needed to be done the next day, enormous amounts of insurance information – same old, same old.

The buyer called me in a panic.  We had previously corresponded many times, but she did had not been told the requirements the builder has pertaining to inspectors and inspections not realizing things were far enough along to have the inspection.  Even though I had warned her, she did not believe me (they seldom do).  I told her to call the lady in the office back (we’re buds) and to say that “Jay” was doing the inspection, she would have her information overnight and we would be there at 7am the next morning.

My office buddy offered a new wrinkle, “We won’t fix anything unless it’s a code violation.”

YEAH, RIGHT!  Why do they keep trying to pull this, um, this stuff?

May I offer two of the things they fixed the very afternoon of our inspection?  Were they against the code?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

#1 – This little beauty is a vent that starts in the powder room on the first level, passes through two floors to exit through the wall above one third-level bedroom, to travel another 25′ or so to the left of this photo to exit through the roof.

Can a powder room fan push air up and that far?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

How far is that air pushed?  I calculate 50’+.  What size fan is needed to handle that distance?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

Does the code cover the size of a fan and how far a vent tube can extend before it exits through a roof?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

Worse, just a couple of feet to the left of this photo is the little anomaly seen below.

Gee, ain’t it perty?

The insulation around that very solid vent tubing is missing just a bit.

Won’t that create condensation inside the tubing?  Why yes, yes I think it just might!

Where will that condensation collect?  I’m going to guess it will collect in that little hitch in the get along, seen above.  I pushed on the bottom of that little, teensy downward bulge and, heaven to Betsy, it was already full of water!  Why I bet the cover on the roof wasn’t there the whole time!

THAT’S WHAT MADE THAT EXCELLENT TAPE JOB TO THE RIGHT COME LOOSE AND EXPOSE THE VENT TUBE AS IT STRETCHED FROM THE WATER WEIGHT!

Hey, eventually won’t that tube fill with enough water to prevent air from passing through that improvised trap above?  Why, yes, yes I think it just might!

Does the code DEMAND that the builder fix this interesting arrangement?  I HAVE NO IDEA!  But they did…

#2 – While they were at it, they also fixed this little beauty above the master bathroom!

If you are going to do something in life, BE CONSISTENT!

And these vent guys are nothing, nothing I tell you, if they are not CONSISTENT!

Were these two vents the only thing the builder fixed following my inspection?  You already know the answer to that!

Were all the things they fixed because of the code?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

But I do know those things were schmuck work and that’s why they got fixed!

And my little bud in the office knows that if they don’t fix them, that information might just get out into the public…

My recommendation:  when the builders play their games, don’t participate!  And when they say they won’t fix things unless they are code violations, don’t buy that either!  Why?  Schmuck work is schmuck work, and they won’t want it attached to them in public.

And my office buddy is probably thinking that I am the only home inspector in the area!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia

www.jaymarinspect.com

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

PLEASE DO NOT MOVE DRYER CLOSER TO REAR WALL.(Part 3) Dryer Vent Safety

 

PLEASE DO NOT MOVE DRYER CLOSER TO REAR WALL. (Part 3) Dryer Vent Safety

In this series I have included this article (which is reproduced with permission) from my professional association; InterNACHI.  I’m reprinting it with a view to providing some of the reference data for the earlier articles that home owners and renovators can use to understand and plan laundry room and exhaust vent installations.

It will also give people a perspective on why inspectors will be talking about this problem whereas it was not only a few years ago.

Wall note

Dryer Vent Safety    by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard

Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct (more commonly known as a dryer vent).

 A vent that exhausts moist air to the home exterior has a number of requirements:

1.            It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected!

2.            It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent hardware is available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector’s report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard!

3.            One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames! Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.

inferno

 InterNACHI believes that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.

The recommendations outlined below reflect International Residential Code (IRC) SECTION M1502 CLOTHES DRYER EXHAUST guidelines:

M1502.5 Duct construction. Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016-inch-thick (0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheet-metal screws or fastening means which extend into the duct.

This means that the flexible, ribbed vents used in the past should no longer be used. They should be noted as a potential fire hazard if observed during an inspection.

M1502.6 Duct length.

The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 feet (7,620 mm) from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet (762 mm) for each 45-degree (0.8 rad) bend, and 5 feet (1,524 mm) for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.

This means that vents should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 25 feet. Any 90-degree turns in the vent reduce this 25-foot number by 5 feet, since these turns restrict airflow.

 

A couple of exceptions exist:

1.            The IRC will defer to the manufacturer’s instruction, so if the manufacturer’s recommendation permits a longer exhaust vent, that’s acceptable. An inspector probably won’t have the manufacturer’s recommendations, and even if they do, confirming compliance with them exceeds the scope of a General Home Inspection.

2.            The IRC will allow large radius bends to be installed to reduce restrictions at turns, but confirming compliance requires performing engineering calculation in accordance with the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, which definitely lies beyond the scope of a General Home Inspection!

M1502.2 Duct termination.

 Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall terminate not less than 3 feet (914 mm) in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.

Inspectors will see many dryer vents terminate in crawlspaces or attics where they deposit moisture, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, or other material problems. Sometimes they will terminate just beneath attic ventilators. This is a defective installation. They must terminate at the exterior and away from a door or window! Also, screens may be present at the duct termination and can accumulate lint and should be noted as improper. 

M1502.3 Duct size.

The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Look for the exhaust duct size on the data plate.

M1502.4 Transition ducts.

Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet (2438 mm), and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2158A.

 In general, an inspector will not know specific manufacturer’s recommendations or local applicable codes and will not be able to confirm the dryer vent’s compliance to them, but will be able to point out issues that may need to be corrected.

 

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post