Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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Why Don't Home Inspectors Mention Code?

Home inspections are not ‘code’ inspections, and a lot of home inspectors even treat the word ‘code’ as taboo.  They call it the ‘C-word’.  I recently had another  home inspector on AR tell me he’s not even allowed to use that word in Kentucky.  This is such a taboo word that I don’t use it either, but I don’t think it has to be this way. 

The basis of taboo 
Three of the largest home inspection organizations make it clear in their Standards of Practice that home inspectors are not required to report on code compliance.  For example, the ASHI Standards of Practice state that “Inspectors are NOT required to determine compliance with regulatory requirements (codes, regulations, laws, ordinances, etc.).”  There is nothing in the standards prohibiting home inspectors from determining compliance… it’s just not a requirement.

Where ‘code’ plays a role in home inspections
Home inspections are conducted to educate the client – usually a home buyer.  The ASHI Standards of Practice states that Inspectors are required to report on Unsafe conditions, which is defined as a condition that is judged to be a significant risk to bodily injury during normal, day-to-day use; the risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation, or a change in accepted residential construction standards.

Accepted Residential Construction Standards
This is not defined, but my interpretation of this means ‘building codes’.  This is how construction standards are defined.  Inspectors in different parts of the country have different building codes, so they also have different construction standards.  What is acceptable in one part of the country might be unacceptable in Minnesota.  Home inspectors should be expected to know what’s acceptable in their part of the country, and they should be able to prove it if necessary – this means citing code.

It’s always a judgement call
Since 2003, the National Electric Code has required arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) for bedroom circuits.  AFCIs prevent fires.  Does the lack of an AFCI breaker in a home built before 2003 constitute an unsafe condition?  What about a new construction home?  Let me ask that differently.  Should a home inspector call out missing AFCIs in homes built before 2003?  What about new construction homes?   If a home inspector doesn’t answer ‘yes’ to the last two questions or ‘no’ to the last two questions, they’re basing their answer on ‘code’, not ‘unsafe’ conditions.  Us home inspectors call this is a ‘construction defect’, but why not call a spade a spade?  It’s a code violation.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Golden Valley Home Inspections

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 67 commentsReuben Saltzman • April 08 2009 06:27AM

Comments

It is not a code violation if there was no law against it at the time when they were built.

It is a code violation if the home was built but only after the law came into effect

Putting on a report as a code violation when is not will only create a sense of fear for the buyers . .and make our jobs as Realtors even more difficult.

 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 10 years ago

Buyers need to know if a home isn't up to code. If it was built before the law cited this requirement then they need to know that. I so agree that code should be used. Luckily my husbands a GC and will tell it like it is! Seller its not up to code!

Posted by Chip Jefferson (Gibbs Realty and Auction Company) over 10 years ago

Fernando - calling something a code violation on a home inspection report that isn't a code violation is just plain wrong, no question about that.  That's not what I'm talking about though.

The question I'm posing is whether code violations should be reported, and why they should be reported. AFCIs have been required in bedrooms for 6 years now.  If a new construction home is built and there are no AFCIs present, should the home inspector report this?  Why?  This is clearly a code violation, but it's not any more unsafe than missing AFCIs in a home built in 2002.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

Laura - I mostly agree with you.  This blog was kind of my rant asking why people get so whipped up when they hear the word "code".  They even call it the "C-Word".  Why?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

Hmm. Interesting because down here that is all they are allowed to base their inspections on pretty much.  It's great getting an inspection on a home built in the 70's - Makes for a lenghty report in the inbox.

However, it does get irritating because there are a lot of inspectors that like to throw around the 'c' word but not all of them are code certified to make those statements.  My favorite is when they put stuff like 'Insufficient attic ventilation'.  Really?  There is a specific formula to figure that out and I wonder if they know what it is and took the time to measure exactly the space of the attic, etc.

I agree that buyers need to know everything that is wrong with a home.  But when it is 'opinion' of the inspector, that's when I have a problem.  It should be mandated that any opinion put in to an inspection report should be followed by documentation.  Kind of like showing your work in Geometry class.

(can you tell that I had a sticky inspection recently)  :)  Thanks Reuben for a great conversational post.

Posted by Stephanie Edwards-Musa, knitwit at thred UP (thredUP.com) over 10 years ago

Reuben,

I would pretty much agree with you. As you say it is often a judgment call, but can be a slippery slope. We are not and do not have the authority to call out or demand that "code" violations be repaired. Your example of AFCIs can be easily equated to GFCIs. Home inspectors call out GFCIs with out much trouble. Why? Because they have been around for so long now it has become sort of an accepted standard.

I agree that home inspectors for the most part dance around code as they do many other things in our profession in the name of, what else, liability.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Stephanie - the ASHI standards of practice say to report:

"those systems and components inspected that, in the professional judgment of the inspector, are not functioning properly, significantly deficient, unsafe, or are near the end of their service lives."

Wouldn't this be opinion?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

James - Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding!  I didn't want to be the one to say it.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

I do not mind a mention of code as long as it is explianed. Many inspectors do not explain to folks that a condition that exists used to be code but now code has changed. So the question is is the condition a problem or just subject to a change. Once a buyer hears code violation those words are so charged that it is hard to get at the meaning of the issue

Posted by Charlie Ragonesi, Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros (AllMountainRealty.com) over 10 years ago

It is all in the way that the report is written and the information is given to the potential buyer.  Some homes are older and not consistent with the current building codes but then so are all of the rest of the homes in that neighborhood.  If we take the time to explain the findings of the inspector to the potential buyer, it goes a long way.  Our state allow mention of code violations and all of my inspectors will make a note that it is not in compliance with the current code but may have been in compliance when the home was built or remodeled.

Posted by Cherry Wings Realty, Your Traverse City Michigan Realtor (Cherry Wings Realty) over 10 years ago

It does leave a lot to interpretation. Codes change alot an in some places there were none in place at the time it was built.

Posted by Scott Guay, Associate Broker. Ocean City and Ocean Pines MD (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services PenFed Realty) over 10 years ago

Reuben

Good post. Your are correct about the safety issue. To easy to wanted to call out things that are not really defects.

Posted by Mike (Inspector Mike) Parks, Inspector Mike (The Parks Consulting Group, LLC) over 10 years ago

Reuben, our inspectors around here sure mention code a lot.  Even if complying at time of construction.  There are some permitting and insurance issues associated with code compliance.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 10 years ago

Hi Reuben,  yes.  But stuff that gets in to building science and other stuff that takes specific calculations that are on other reports made prior to permitting? 

How do you say that there is not enough attic ventilation?  Or a loud garage door opener. 

I'm not disagreeing I'm just saying that it should be followed by documentation showing why they said that.  If their opinion is that the garage door is too loud, put down why it would be a problem.  If they feel the door is jammed incorrectly, show a picture why because it looks like every other door to a buyer and for that matter it may have been installed properly per the instructions of the manufacturer.

Same thing goes with other stuff.  If an inspector feels that a window is put in backwards show proof, if the electrical socket is about to catch on fire, show why.  That's all I'm saying.

The whole 'I think' thing can cause problems.  We as agents have 'opinion' on value based on documentation of value from MLS and we have to show it.  It's the same thing.

Posted by Stephanie Edwards-Musa, knitwit at thred UP (thredUP.com) over 10 years ago

Codes "theoretically" are an attempt to make our homes safer.  In the case of the AFCI's I have no problem calling out when they are missing in new construction----if I know that the jurisdiction involved required them.  But that is the problem----knowing when, and what jurisdictions adopted what.  The answers to these does not alter that it would be a damn good idea to get them installed as a safety upgrade----regardless of code.  Now lets look at the odd issue of something that was not code, became code, and now is no longer required by code----and also varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction:  The Auto Close function of the door between the house and the garage.  This is where my buyer is hiring me for my expert opinion and I am going to tell them that for "safety" it is still a good idea regardless of code.  If a door has auto-close installed am I going to now recommend that it be removed?  I don't think so.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

This discussion has been based on a buyer's inspection. Let's say it's a seller's inspection. I tend to have a change of attitude because the seller may give the impression that all they want is a "Current Standard" or "Code" inspection prior to listing.

Posted by Tad Petersen / Home Inspector, Mpls (Safeguard Home Inspections, Inc.) over 10 years ago

As a Texas professional Inspector I make myself an enforcement authority by detailing code violations. We call out "Standards" violations. I do use the word code, but not on the inspections report and only as a means to describe a issue I find.

Posted by Keith Campbell (Alpha Inspections) over 10 years ago

Charlie and Christine - great points.  It's all about communication.  Calling something a code violation is a lot different than saying that something is no longer allowed by code.

Stephanie - well said, and I completely agree with you.   I thought that was what you were getting at, but I just wanted to be sure.   Thanks for the response!

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

Charles - the auto-closer thing is a great example of something that's right either way.  I'm not a fan of the auto closers, so I lean towards not having them... but it depends on my client.  If I inspect a garage where there is a stairway that drops down in to the house, I might recommend an auto-closer.  If I inspect a house for buyers that have small children, I'll warn them about their kids fingers getting broken by the auto-closer.  I never mention code though - I just talk about common sense.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

I'm with Charles on this. There are sooo many different codes, and every city, town, or county I go into has different interpretations and/or versions of the national codes, the CABO codes, and the codes that particular community adopted on their own. Given all of this, it would be an overwhelming task for a home inspector who goes into many different jurisdictions to have even a small grasp of the code requirements for any given area. Citing National Code requirements in a general way may be something that inspectors could do effectively.

Posted by Kevin Corsa, H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector (H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties)) over 10 years ago

Let's not forget that "Code" is the minimal standard.  Many times you need to exceed the minimum just to maintain good building practices.  Codes are not rocket science by any means, if an inspector is comfortable in referencing codes then I say go for it.  If a person can read and comprehend then they can cite a code, it does not require any special credential.

To many times I have seen bucket toting checklist inspectors attempting to cite a code just to impress the folks who hired him.  I'm sure we have all come across one or two inspectors who fit this description.

Posted by Scott Patterson, ACI, Home Inspector, Middle TN (Trace Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Some inspectors need to mention code.

For example, in Massachusetts the defintion for repair is:

"Repair. All repairs, when implemented by the buyer, seller, and/or homeowner shall comply with applicable requirements of the governing codes and sound construction practices."

The inspector is required to mention code when calling out a repair.  The client often has many questions on what will it take to make the repair according to the governing codes.  Massachusetts has a lot of old homes, making repairs to an old home and satisfying the current governing codes can be quite an adventure.

I have heard many "code stories" yet had previously put them in the "old wives tales" category.  It sounds like the stories still hold true in other parts of the country.

 

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) over 10 years ago

Kevin - things must be very different where you and Charles live.  That must be very frustrating to have different codes everywhere you go... CABO codes even?  What the heck?  Fortunately for me, what you're talking about doesn't apply in the Minneapolis / Saint Paul area where I live. 

'In the Minneapolis / Saint Paul area, every city needs to adopt the Minnesota State Building Code.  It's up to each city's BO to interpret and enforce the code, so there can be variations, but they're few and far between.  I've heard many local inspectors talk about how cities can have many different interpretations, and how it's impossible to keep up with all of them.   After getting to know enough BOs and after taking enough continuing ed courses or college courses taught by state or local inspectors, I've decided that this argument about  not being able to keep up is either BS, laziness, or as Jim Mushinsky said, "old wives tales".

Don't get me wrong, I'm not directing this comment at you.   I've heard some pretty crazy stories about what happens outside the Twin Cities Metro area, and I'm glad I don't do inspections there.  I'd be pulling my hair out.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

Reuben, if we are talking "New Construction" the variations from jurisdiction to jurisdiction are minor----it is all the housing stock build prior to the existence of the IRC where the biggest differences occur.  Here is an example of one difference in my area regarding new construction.  In the area I cover---which is a big area---Seattle and Renton are the only two jurisdictions where it is required to have a UFER ground---all the other jurisdictions have not adopted this requirement of the code.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

if it is a blatant code violations yes call it out IE safety, or new  construction other then that I'm with Charles here to many variations here we use IRC 2006 which of course can be superseded by sate or local code then what about ADA and on and on

Posted by Dennis Goudreau (DRG INSPECTIONS LLC) over 10 years ago

Call a spade a spade. I think that it is important to always take codes into consideration when inspecting a house, as these standards are put in place for a reason....but just my 2 cents.

Posted by Randy King (Prokore Inspections) over 10 years ago

Reuben, I think you touched on the essence of home inspection, continuing education. Usually the ones that try and act the smartest are attempting to cover up what they don't know.

I belong to two organizations here and attended the monthly meetings. Both meetings are largely dedicated to continuing ed. Considering the number of inspectors here it's funny to me that I always see the same few faces at these meetings.

This where problems begin. Not staying up to date on your knowledge. Stephanie made an excellent point before. If you say somethings wrong back it up with facts. Or at least explain why you believe there is a problem. Because I'm the inspector and I say so is not good enough.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

"Because I'm the inspector and I say so is not good enough."

I get whipped up just reading that James.  Anyone that says something like that is doing a disservice to our profession.  It's embarrassing. 

On that same note, I get really annoyed with inspectors that cite code as the only reason for their recommendations.  If you don't know why it's in the code, do some research or don't recommend changes.  I'll often point out plumbing code violations in my reports, but if I feel the violations are of little consequence, I don't make any recommendations to correct. 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

ALL home inspections are based on building codes, whether we admit it or not. Without the codes, everything else is just an opinion. When the particular code is cited correctly it takes the opinion and even the knowledge or lack there of the inspector out of the equation.

On the other hand, home inspectors are not code inspectors because it is impossible to verify code compliance in a completed house. Most municipal inspections take at least 5 visits during different stages of completion, which means lots of stuff is just not available for us to see.

Posted by Jim Luttrall (Mr. Inspector.net) over 10 years ago

As I see it, codes are for new construction evaluation, which as many others have pointed out would be handled in stages by county or municipal inspectors.  As a home inspector, we are not required to cite cods, however if a code reinforces a safety issue than I believe its our obligation to cite it.  That being said,  the state of Florida uses grandfathering for almost everything.  This means that code dates may not be applicable to older homes.  If it is a wind mitigation inspection, then I am required to utilize some codes (adhering to minimum standards).  I agree that education is paramount, but communication is even more important.  Just because a house is grandfathered into not having the requirement of arch fault interrupters or GFCI's for that matter does not mean it should not be talked about.  I usually will report those situations as, "Although the house is old enough to not be required to have.......it was implemented into recent code as a safety precaution,  WE recommend upgrading to...."

Posted by Steve Edmonds (WE Home Inspections, Inc. - Serving Oviedo & Central FL) over 10 years ago

Picking and choosing your code citations wisely is probably the best course, as long a where you live does not  require you to cite them. There are some very old "codes" still on the books around here that probably no one would ever want you to cite. Some are pretty funny, some are downright stupid. I'll see if I can compile a list of some of them and post it for you.

Posted by Kevin Corsa, H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector (H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties)) over 10 years ago

Jim - Excellent points.

Steve - I think there's nothing wrong with using more forceful language in your reports.  "Your bathrooms do not have GFCI devices.  GFCI devices have been required in bathrooms for the last 30 years, and they prevent people from getting electrocuted.  Add GFCI protection for the bathroom outlets."  Don't even mention what was required when the house was built, just tell the buyer to do it.  No one can argue with you.

Kevin - I'm looking forward to that list.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

I recommend and suggest and when I do it usually based on a code as what else can it be based on?

Codes change from Town to town and since many of us Inspect in up to 100 different towns the exact following of codes can get us into trouble.

We walk a fine line and in my case have found that constant education in learning the reason behind many codes helps justify my comments.

Pre 2003 with no AFCI in the bedrooms gets a definition of AFCI in my report along with a comment that I recommend upgrade at some point in the future.

Pretty simple in many cases to walk the tight rope but one must not take a mis step.

In Illinois Carbon Monoxide and smoke detectors are required within 15 feet but I like to recommend them in bedrooms and near ventless fireplaces.

Not everything therefore is based on code and this is where Inspectors do have differences.

The key is to convey information .

 

Reuben this was a good subject.

Have a gold Star, on me.

Posted by Bob Elliott, Chicago Property Inspection (Elliott Home Inspection) over 10 years ago

Thanks Bob.  I might have to start copying your approach to AFCIs.  I haven't decided how to report them yet.  Yeah, I know, It's only been six years...  I'll get there.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

Stephanie

    You have repeated the attic ventilation a couple of times so I think I can safely assume you had a recent problem with this yourself. Many times with ventilation it is very easy to spot, other times it's not. I agree with you that if possible, there should be pictures to explain it to the client. But let take an example of an attic I went in last summer.

     Outside temp was about 94, the home was a comfy 76 and the attic was 142 degrees. That is 48 degrees above outside temp and 68 degrees above inside inside temperature. First, since its 142, it is considered unsafe to be in that location for more than 15 minutes. As you know, a good inspection in the attic can take more than 15 minutes. Every baffle and every vent (and all the other stuff) just can't be inspected (properly) in that amount of time. So how would I get pictures? It MUST be explained as such, and I would also suggest to re-inspect on a cooler day or first thing in the morning when the temps are lower. But just the temperature alone indicates poor ventilation and it should be reported on.  

     Now please trust me, I am on your side in that Inspectors need to explain why a comment is made. If the reason is clear, there should be pictures. Regardless, when I mention the venting, I add another picture that answers your questions, because yes, there is a way to measure the venting.

Recommended amount of attic ventilation.

 

As for should the inspector mention the code every time a comment is made. No. There are things not listed in the code or the code states, as per manufacturers instructions. Having to cite exact lines of code with every comment would add a lot of time and delays to reports. We may remember where it is in the book, but I doubt any of us can just quote the actual code for every possible comment. Another thing to consider, the item may have been to code when installed, but it just simply broke over time. Is it a code violation or just a broken thingy?

Then we have the "I think" comment. There are times when we see indications of a problem but we can not answer it exactly without, for example, punching a hole in the wall. Lets say I see an active water stain on the ceiling in a closet which is directly below an upstairs bathroom. But in the bath room, there are no signs of leaks or damage. It would be easy to "think" there is a leak in the bathroom above but no way to prove it. If I stated for a fact there was a leak, then the plumber showed up, broke a hole in the ceiling and found no leak, then the kid admitted to, I don't know, playing with a squirt gun and getting it wet, I could be held liable for the plumbers charges and damages caused. After all, I said for a fact, it was X when it was really Y. 

So, do I mention the stain and what I think, in my professional opinion, is the problem or not mention it at all?

Again, not trying to be hostile or to sound as such because I really do understand what your saying. In the case above I would say that it may be X but it could also be something else I can't determine and requires more investigation.

 

Posted by John Coker, Virginia Beach Home Inspector over 10 years ago

It seems that every inspection I go on has a guy asking about code.

Posted by Tony Stiles (The BrickKicker Inspection Services) over 10 years ago

I inspect in way too many jurisdictions with different variations of what they accept as code for me to actually declare something a code violation.  Statewide code would be good but every little jerkwater wants to change this and that in what they accept as code.

I just use the national standards and explain that if they want to know if it is a code violation, they'll have to contact the local yokel for a definitive ruling.

Posted by Erby Crofutt, The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY (B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com)) about 10 years ago

Here is the problem I see with not communicating well enough. homebuyers read the language and do not know that it's a true defect or not up to code. They see it as something that needs to be fixed, but not THAT important - unless you define it is such a way. Then the word "code" becomes important. A kitchen sink with a standard drain/venting system that was deviated from orginal and existing code has to be written so that in layman's terms - it is understood. "No evidence of venting system to sink drain system" sometimes does not cut it. "existing kitchen drain system and venting is not in compliance to Minnesota Plumbing Code - evidence of non standard plumbing installation". Or more specific to city/county verbage. Then we have to site the code as well?

 

 

Posted by Am about 10 years ago

Reuben - nice description in your last post.  No need to cite code here, but if asked (challenged) you should be able to back up your statements.  I feel if you are offering inspection services in a jurisdiction you have a professional responsibility to your client to know the code that applies in that region.  This does not mean citing each and every code violation in the report, but you should have a basis to show how you arrived at a given conclusion.  Telling a client "you will need to contact the authority having jurisdication in our city and/or research the code yourself to determine WHY I made that recommendation" reduces your effectiveness as an expert in your field.  A client looks to us for answers.  That's why we are paid professionals.

If a client is considering purchasing a home, should they not be informed by you, the expert, that if they contemplate a moderately sized remodeling project that they will be required to upgrade some non-compliant issues?  True, perhaps non AFCI circuits in a bedroom was not a code violation in a home built in 1970, but if they remodel, they will need to absorb the cost of upgrading to current code in some instances.  Another example would be bedroom egress via a window - many older homes do not meet current egress requirements and a buyer could be stuck with a large remodeling bill if they purchase that house and then begin to remodel.

In our profession, we are constantly struggling to prove that our recommendations are valid.  I say point it out, and be prepared to provide the actual code to back up your statements.

Posted by Darin Redding (Housecall Property Inspections) almost 10 years ago

Darin - very well put.  I agree with everything you just said.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 10 years ago

Codes or not... Who cares!  We are being hired by our clients because we are professional home inspectors.  Some home inspectors are light weights and some are heavy weights. (In terms of knowledge & experience, not physical features)  What our clients are depending on, is us giving them the information they need to make an informed decision.

Case in point as an example; The 2003 IRC says that you don't have to have house wrap or feltpaper behind vinyl siding.  The "Vinyl Siding Institute" in their " Vinyl siding Installation Manual" state; "In order to achieve designed performance, vinyl siding must be installed over a water-resistive barrier system...".  The barrier system includes house wrap or felt paper and appropriate flashings.

Tell your customers what they need to know, who cares about a code.  As the example points out; Sometimes "Codes" are inadequate, or wrong.  

Posted by Paul A. Perry, Home Inspector - Crossville & Cookeville, TN (Certified Inspections, PC - Residential & Commercial Property Inspections ) almost 10 years ago

great post, awsome comments

Posted by Der Hous Inspector LLC, Certified Master Inspector CMI (Der Hous Inspector) almost 10 years ago

Isn't this why sellers should have a home inspection before putting their house on the market?

They can address the issues, if any, before a buyer has a problem

Posted by Virginia Tatseos (Stage-Show-Sell) over 9 years ago

Paul

"Case in point as an example; The 2003 IRC says that you don't have to have house wrap or feltpaper behind vinyl siding.  The "Vinyl Siding Institute" in their " Vinyl siding Installation Manual" state; "In order to achieve designed performance, vinyl siding must be installed over a water-resistive barrier system...".  The barrier system includes house wrap or felt paper and appropriate flashings."

Here in Ohio not following the manf. specs. is a code violation.

Ohio has only one code for 1,2,3 family dwellings. The 2006 RCO. No local codes anymore.

 

Posted by Mike (Inspector Mike) Parks, Inspector Mike (The Parks Consulting Group, LLC) over 9 years ago

Paul - I agree with you, we're there to tell buyers what is good and what isn't, regardless of codes... but codes are still important!  What's your take on AFCIs?

Virginia - Yes, pre-sale inspections are a great thing!  But... what does this have to do with building codes?  Are you commenting on the blog, or on someone else's comment?

Mike - what is the RCO?  "Residential Code for Ohio"?  We don't have much for local codes here either, which is very nice!

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

Reuben

http://publicecodes.citation.com/st/oh/st/b4v06/index.htm?bu=OH-P-2005-000004

Posted by Mike (Inspector Mike) Parks, Inspector Mike (The Parks Consulting Group, LLC) over 9 years ago

I cite codes all the time. I am also a licensed code inspector as well as a licensed construction official.

New Jersey has the Uniform Construction Code; that means the code is consistant througth-out the state.

However, NJ also has the 'Re-Hab' code that allows renovations without 'updating' the structure. Here's a classic example of someone who doesn't know the code getting into trouble...

 

On older houses, many times the bedroom windows are not large enough for today's requirement of 'emergency escape & rescue'. I know of some inspectors who call it out as a defect, yet some other inspectors are 'un-aware' of the requirements. Here's what I say about the situation:

Bedroom windows are not large enough for today's fire emergency escape & rescue standards (At least 1 window per bedroom must have a minimum opening that is 24" high and 20" wide with a net opening of at least 5.7 square feet, or 5.0 Square feet if on 1st floor level). This means if a window opening is 24 inches high, it must be 34 1/2 inches wide to meet the 5.7 sq ft. While they probably met standards when the house was constructed, you should consider upgrading to meet today's safety requirements. Now, to make things more confusing, the NJ Re-hab code allows you to replace these windows with the same exact size windows; however, you cannot make them any smaller, and if you make them larger then the existing size, they then must meet the above mentioned requirements.

 

Darren

Posted by Darren Miller (About The House) over 9 years ago

I cite codes all the time. I am also a licensed code inspector as well as a licensed construction official.

New Jersey has the Uniform Construction Code; that means the code is consistant througth-out the state.

However, NJ also has the 'Re-Hab' code that allows renovations without 'updating' the structure. Here's a classic example of someone who doesn't know the code getting into trouble...

 

On older houses, many times the bedroom windows are not large enough for today's requirement of 'emergency escape & rescue'. I know of some inspectors who call it out as a defect, yet some other inspectors are 'un-aware' of the requirements. Here's what I say about the situation:

Bedroom windows are not large enough for today's fire emergency escape & rescue standards (At least 1 window per bedroom must have a minimum opening that is 24" high and 20" wide with a net opening of at least 5.7 square feet, or 5.0 Square feet if on 1st floor level). This means if a window opening is 24 inches high, it must be 34 1/2 inches wide to meet the 5.7 sq ft. While they probably met standards when the house was constructed, you should consider upgrading to meet today's safety requirements. Now, to make things more confusing, the NJ Re-hab code allows you to replace these windows with the same exact size windows; however, you cannot make them any smaller, and if you make them larger then the existing size, they then must meet the above mentioned requirements.

 

Darren

Posted by Darren Miller (About The House) over 9 years ago

Darren - Here in Minnesota we don't have any type of 'Re-hab' code, but it's actually allowable to reduce the size of the window opening with replacement windows, provided you're using the largest replacement window available from the manufacturer.  

I make a similar comment in my reports, and if the windows all look too small for an average person to climb out of, I recommend having this fixed.  I list the code requirements for new construction right in my report, along with a diagram.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

In Ohio:

"115.6.1 Door and window dimensions.

Minor reductions in the clear opening dimensions of replacement doors and windows that result from the use of different materials shall be allowed, whether or not they are permitted by this code."

Posted by Mike (Inspector Mike) Parks, Inspector Mike (The Parks Consulting Group, LLC) over 9 years ago

Reuben,

It is all in the verbiage! Communicate the the concern with clarity, cite reasons why it is not acceptable and go to the source (code). When inspecting new homes there is no other guideline. When inspecting older homes (where current building codes do not apply) a different approach must be taken. However the safety concern noted is still present regardless of age. That is where the clear and concise communication comes in. We as inspectors cannot demand that anything be altered in the home.(PERIOD). We can only state the condition that is present at the time of the inspection. If we are wise we will temper our findings, explain the safety concern regardless of age of dwelling and not be so legalistic. Items that to us, in our opinion appearing as unsafe must be addressed. I try not to use the "C" word but in my humble opinion if you do not know the codes then there are times when you will not know that a condition exists.  In all things there is benchmark for condition or accuracy and in some cases there are benchmarks for benchmarks. Int eh case of homes codes are the benchmark and all of them are in place because property or life has been lost or damaged.

Blessings to ALL and a happy New Year as well

Mike Reel

 

Posted by Michael Reel (Integrity Home Inspections LLC) over 9 years ago

Reuben,

 

Great post I only want to mention that there is 2003 NEC The code cycle is 3 years so there is the 96, 99, 2002, 2005, 2008 etc.

Also AFCI's were first required in the 1999 NEC for all bedroom circuits in homes permitted after January 1, 2000.

It helps to know when the code is adopted in your area and what changes were made.

In my area we had some municipalities that went from the 96 NEC until they adopted the 2005 NEC. We also had one County that excluded the AFCI requirement when they adopted the 99 NEC. (They kept it when they adopted the 2005 NEC)

So here is a different question:

You inspect two properties in a single day, they are 1 block away from each other and both were built in 2003. The city border is between the two homes. One city is still using the 1996 NEC that does not require AFCI's The other city addopted the 2002 NEC.

Neither home has AFCI's. Since it is not required in the one town, is it still a safety concern or "Unsafe Condition"?

This is where the home inspectors opinion has to come into play. Why would it be an unsafe condition at one property and not the other?

For the record, I write it up on both houses.

Posted by Scott Warga (ACSI American Construction Specialists & Investigations) over 9 years ago

Citing building codes during the inspection process is at best a slippery slope.  If we cite a particular code regarding AFCI or GFCI placement and do not cite a code for some other electrical transgression aren't we liable?  I believe a good attorney would tell you if you are not a certified code inspector you have no business citing a particular code. 

Simply stated, a home inspection is primarily a safety inspection. In the example above, mentioning AFCI/GFCI placement can be done without citing'code'.   I know at times the lines get blurred, but keep the 'codes' out of your inspection report will help keep you out of the court system. 

Posted by Scott Coslett (National Property Inspections) over 9 years ago

Scott C: Right on! Communications, communications, communications. Apparently too many inspectors do not have that skill and it is probably THE most important one to have.

Stephanie E-M: Sorry, but 99.99% of home inspectors aren't qualified to perform engineering or design calculations. Calls are made based on experience, training, or supportive evidence. Ok, sometimes out of pure ignorance.

If I go into a 50 year old home that might have 3" of insulation in the attic, I am very comfortable stating THAT IS insufficient insulation. I think the point you are concerned about is if it called, in the opinion of the inspector, a deficiency.

Some states, with influence from the state realty association, have screwed with the inspection process so much there may not be a legal way of saying, "The insulation in the attic is insufficient by modern standards. This can mean higher than neccesary heating and cooling costs. I recommend obtaining estimates from a  qualified licensed insulation contractor to upgrade the insulation."  UNLESS it is called a difficiency.

Is what may appears to be insufficient insulation a difficiency? Not in my book but I have the flexibility to offer ADVISORY remarks to my report.

H. Stuart Brooks, Virginia Certified Home Inspector - Fredericksburg VA

Posted by Stuart Brooks, Virginia Inspection Service, LLC over 9 years ago

Scott W - for your example, I would tell my clients what the current requirement for new homes is, why this is required, and let them make the call.

Scott C - I don't subscribe to the slippery slope theory, but I also agree that there's no need to cite code if you're bringing up a safety concern.  Personally, I don't feel that the lack of an AFCI is a serious safety issue; if I did, I would have added a bunch of AFCI breakers to my own house.  I would still let my clients know if they were buying a new house that was supposed to have them but didn't.  It's all about giving my clients an education, and sometimes letting them make decisions for themselves.

Stuart - Thankfully here in Minnesota I don't have to deal with delicately phrasing my inspection wording.  I feel sorry for the home inspectors that do!

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

I usually refer to code when dealing with a safety issue - i.e.- electrical such as GFI, AFCI, stair handrails, etc.   These can be easily explained and don't really need a code reference.  However, if challenged by an angry seller or a contractor, the code citation can be brought up.

My problem is that building codes have changed over the years and in some areas, you never know when the codes were adopted. And enforcement efforts are not the same everywhere.  If I call out a code violation, but the home passed the "code inspection" when it was built, I may be in for an argument...

Posted by Andrew Cox (Cox Property Services) over 9 years ago

Andrew - I'm with you.  I take the same approach.  Your second point is a great reason to leave codes out of the inspection - use them to back up your point, not to make your point.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

Andrew

It's not a code violation if it passed code when built.

Just say "this is how it is done today."

Posted by Mike (Inspector Mike) Parks, Inspector Mike (The Parks Consulting Group, LLC) over 9 years ago

Hello Reuben,

It has been far too long for me to be in the "Rain". Life just gets busy..... I pray that you are!

This is one of those topics that just never seems to go away. I think that inspectors have the fear that if they call out "Code" compliance on a single item in a home that they are going to be required to call out code on everything else in the home. Right or wrong, I understand their concern and at times that may be true. With the advent of our excessively litigious society it is an ever increasing problem. For me I have to go back to the use of common sense and the main reason that I got into the home inspection industry. I am there to protect and to inform. As I see it there is no other reason to be a home inspector. Done properly it certainly is not a get rich quick scheme. I know what the SOP and COE for the national organizations state with regard to calling out a code issue. You were exactly correct in stating that these are minimum standards and not law. We can site many examples where code was not mentioned for a particular issue in a home of a given age but the AFCI is the perfect example. If the home is 2002 or newer, based on the NEC I state that AFCI's were required for installation for bedroom circuits. For homes that are older, (I may not write it in the report) but I definitely state that they are a recent code change that can give the homeowner added security with regard to fire safety. In homes that have knob and tube wiring where it is not required to be replaced, but someone has added a circuit breaker panel, I state that the newer series/parallel AFCI's installed at the panel for all 120 volt circuits will increase safety in the home.

Does this exceed the SOP?  Probably. Does it aid the purchaser in providing added security for their families? I think yes.

Blessings to all

Mike

 

Posted by Michael Reel (Integrity Home Inspections LLC) almost 9 years ago

The real estate association and home builder association had the home inspector law changed in my state last year so that if a home inspector wants to cite code for a defect, the specific code section must be included in the report as well as what code was enforce at the time the defect was installed. 

Fortunately we have a state building code.  The state generally adopts the IRC within 1 year and usually only delays implementation of a handful of specific new changes to the code..  Towns or cities can make more stringent codes but cannot be less stringent than the state code (which is basically the "national" IRC).  Meeting the IRC is going to serve my clients most of the time.  Those few instances where the town or city code is more strict, they are generally well known by agents and home inspectors in the area. 

I keep a library of code books on my shelf.  When questioned by clients, agents, or builders, I can look up the code and render an opinion based on research.  I have also called the local code officials for their opinion of how they would implement code enforcement regarding specific matters in their jurisdiction. 

Some items are unsafe regardless of when the code was adopted.  A staircase without hand rails is a danger.  If you fall, gravity does not care what the code is or when it was adopted.  You are still going to get hurt.  I can refer to building codes that specify the spacing, height, width, lateral pressure and all the rest but the real answer is it is just plain unsafe.  There are no "grandfathered" safety hazards, only safety hazards.  My job is to inform my clients about safety hazards and using building, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical codes provide a baseline to help substantiate my opinion.

I "quote" code in my reports but I obscure it.  I write "Commonly accepted building practices require ..." and then I paraphrase the specific building code.  If an buyer, seller, agent, or builder wants me to provide a specific reference, then I am more than happy to do so outside of the report.  I have found that most tradespeople are less knowledgeable about the code that governs their trade than I am.  When asking an builder, electrician, plumber, or HVAC contractor to put in writing that something meets code and put their business name, license number and sign the document, they tend to stammer and decide that maybe they can fix the defect.   Home inspectors must put their business name, license number and sign every report.  I have already put everything on the line and am willing to back up my statements. 

Code is the absolute minimun to build the worst possible house, not a ceiling to aspire to.  If a home cant even meet code, then it is has a number of safety hazards.

Posted by Bruce Ramsey (Advocate Inspections) over 8 years ago

After being in the Inspection field for over 20 years now I provide SAFE and Sanitary Inspections, I guide my inspections with those 2 simple rules. Is it Safe and is it Sanitary.

I explain to my clients about safety, ie CO Detectors. Most CO problems come from inadequate, blocked or damaged flue venting, not cracked heat exchangers. The rubber hoses on washers are one of the most common causes of flooding in homes. GFICs around plumbing fixtures. Also is it SAFE for the longevity of the home itself

Posted by Rick McCullough (Alert Home Services) over 8 years ago

Rueben,

When HABITEC completes Home Inspections in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, we make it clear to our Client we are not code experts or code enforcement officials.  That said, we do try to maintain a good working knowledge of the IRC and apply many of those standards to our Operations Manual.  One thing we stress to our Clients is that the building code is a "minimum".  Often times we apply a more conversative condition to our recommendations or opinions because the minimum standard from the IRC is just not enough to adequately protect our Client or their new home.

Thank you,

Richard Acree

HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC (Nashville, TN)

http://habitecinspections.com

Posted by Robert Dirienzo, Home Inspections - Nashville TN (HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Home inspectors are not code inspectors for a reason, its impossible to know the codes for every village and county we inspect in. The very so much from town to town and county to county.

Jm Watzlawick

Watz Home Inspections

Watzhomeinspections.com

 

Posted by Jim Watzlawick, Watz Home Inspections (Watz Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

I had a new construction inspection the other day, where I got from the builder, "Can you show me the code to back that up?" I had called out a double-tapped breaker servicing 2 separate circuits.  The breaker is a Square D breaker that is rated to carry 2 conductors, so is allowed under code.

I explained that the installation is allowed under code, but is not the "Best Demonstable Practice." I told my client that the electrician had installed it this way, and it is allowed under code, but it would have been just as easy to put the 2nd circuit on its own breaker... the Better way, not the minimal, cheaper way.With the builder standing there, I told the buyer that I would look again, to make sure that other contractors had not taken shortcuts in their work.  The builder's rep was not sad to see me leave...

 

Posted by Andrew Cox (Cox Property Services) over 7 years ago

Home Inspectors are not code inspectors but it is good to know the code to help in their recommendations of good, better, best and what would be the correction you would make to the client. Remember that code is the minimum standard and not the best. Some builders go beyond the code and build above the minimum standard. I seem to come across alot of decks that are not built to current code and are not safe, so I recommend the post to beam connection be beefed up so to speak for safety reasons but it was acceptable the day it was built. Just like GFCIs in the kitchen, a correctly wired receptacle on the counter top is good but I recommend that they install GFCI for an added level of protection (best). I leave the code inspections to the city municipal inspectors and call out what I know is wrong without using that word and recommend whatever it is to be corrected by a professional. Good question and article.

Posted by Dan Hagman, ProSite Home Inspections, LLC (ProSite Home Inspections - Pleasant Hill, Iowa) almost 6 years ago

Darren - what if the inspector misinforms the contractor about the size requirements (egress window) - the "informed sized" new windows were purchased and installed - and then the inspector says "I did more research and found I got it wrong...you actually need ____."? Can the contractor get compensation from the inspector/office for the wasted window purchase, without having to go through small claims?

Posted by Kim over 3 years ago

This is a good subject, and yes, a potential slippery slope once one starts quoting code. The AHJ gets the last call and even they don't always enforce their own standards.

Posted by Walt Fish, Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector (Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC) over 2 years ago

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