Pre-cast fireplaces were installed on many homes throughout California during the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s. We come across them frequently while inspecting homes here in San Diego County. Many of these fireplaces were cracked or damaged before they were even installed. Most of the cracks discovered are typically at the “insulation plate” which starts at the fireplace opening and extended to the smoke chamber . A damaged fireplace can allow smoke, fire and carbon monoxide to enter the home which is a serious safety concern and fire hazard. During a recent home inspection, I came across this pre-cast fireplace that was severely cracked (one of the worst I’ve ever seen) and not safe for use. The only fix for this fireplace would be to tear it down and build a new one. If you are concerned about the fireplace in the home that you currently own or one installed at a home you are considering purchasing, be sure you have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified expert before attempting to use it.
When inspecting a home, the inspectors of John Robinson’s Inspection Group are always thinking about the health and safety of the current and future occupants of that property. When it comes to health and safety, Fire Protection is always at the top of our list.
Did you know that materials like gypsum board provide passive protection against the rapid spread of a fire?
In single family homes, townhouses and condos with attached garages, a minimum of 1/2 in thick gypsum board or equivalent must be installed on the garage side of the walls and ceilings common to the house or shared attic space to maintain proper fire separation. Also, 5/8 in thick Type X gypsum board must be attached to the ceiling of the garage under habitable rooms.
There should be no direct openings between the garage and sleeping rooms. The door to the house from the garage is required to be 20 minute rated, 1 and 3/8 inches thick, solid wood or steel. There should be no duct openings in the garage (i.g. no central air or heat vent openings that terminate in the garage common to the house). Ducts that penetrate the common/firewall must be 26-gauge steel.
The most common issue we see are voids, holes or separations in the firewall to allow the passing of water lines, gap piping, and electrical wires from the garage to the home. All voids in the fire separation between the garage and the home should be sealed with approved materials.
If you have any questions regarding fire-separations and/or possible voids in the firewall of a home you currently live in or thinking of buying, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 619-684-1444.
All of the inspectors here at John Robinson’s Inspection Group get asked by our San Diego home buyers from time to time if certain modifications or additions discovered (or disclosed by the sellers) need to be or should have been permitted. Our answer generally depends on exactly what was modified, changed or added to the home inquestion. Over the years and after performing thousands of pre-purchase home inspections, we have discovered that most home buyers, home sellers, and home owners have no idea of what needs to be permitted vs what may not need to be permitted. The following list will serve as a good place to start in determining if your addition or modification needs to be permitted according to the latest International Residential Code (IRC) manual.
According to the IRC, permits are not required for the following:
* Detached one-story accessory structures (tool sheds) less than or equal to 200 sq.ft.
* Fences less than or equal to 6 ft., sidewalks, driveways, swings and playground equipment
* Retaining walls less than or equal to 4 ft. from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall & with no surcharge
* Water tanks on grade less than or equal to 5,00o gallons & height/width ratio less than or equal to 2:1
* Painting, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter & similar finish work
* Awnings projecting less than or equal to 54 inches from exterior wall & supported from wall
* Decks less than or equal to 200 sq. ft. & less than or equal to 30 inches above grade and not attached to dwelling or serving a required exit door
We wanted to provide this list of what typically can be done to your home without a permit according to the latest IRC to help clear up some of the confusion for our home buyers, sellers, and owners. If what you are planning to build falls outside of the list above it is safe to assume that a permit is required. However, your local city/county building official has the final say regarding what needs to be permitted. So before you build be sure to contact your local building department to prevent problems and hefty fines down the road.
Because your health and safety may depend on it.
Your home inspector’s number one priority during a home inspection is identify problems with the home that will affect your family’s health and safety. This is why the home inspector’s of John Robinson’s Inspection Group strongly recommend that you read the entire home inspection report. In it you will find further evaluation and/or repair recommendations that can have a direct effect on your family’s health and safety.
For example; If the inspector identifies that the color of the furnace or water heater flame is incorrect, this can be indicative of a problem with the furnace or water heater like a cracked heat exchanger or damaged burner. A cracked heat exchanger is not always visible during a home inspection. So, the inspector will recommend that the furnace be further evaluated by a licensed HVAC contractor (or plumber) to determine the exact cause and repair as needed (which may require replacing the furnace or (water heater).
Without reading the entire inspection report and following the inspector’s recommendations, it will be impossible for you to know the true condition of the home that you are purchasing. We love Realtors and their referrals. However, do not rely solely on your Realtor to tell you what issues discovered by the inspector are or are not important. If you have questions or need further clarification on comments made in the inspection report call your John Robinson’s Inspection Group home inspector immediately. We will be more than happy to help you.