Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


Houses Don't Have 'Fire Walls' (and other commonly mistaken terms)

Below is a list of commonly misused or mistaken terms that I hear every day – sometimes from other home inspectors, but mostly from clients.  This will hopefully clear up some misused or mistaken terms.  Feel free to add to the list!

Fire Wall This is a term that only applies to commercial properties.  Most people are referring to the fire separation wall between the house and garage at a single family dwelling when they use this term, but this is not a fire wall.  A true fire wall completely separates parts of a building so that one portion may collapse and burn to the ground in the event of a fire, while the wall remains intact.  You won’t find a fire wall in a single family home unless you’re referring to the internet connection.

Direct Vent A direct vent gas appliance takes all of it’s air for combustion directly from the exterior.

  • Furnace For a furnace, you’ll see two plastic pipes running to the furnace – one for air coming in, one for combustion gases going out.   A condensing furnace with only one plastic pipe is not a direct vent.Direct Vent Terminations
  • Gas Fireplace For a decorative gas appliance (aka – gas fireplace), you’ll typically see a metal termination at the exterior of the home, where the outer ‘ring’ brings air in, and the inner ring exhausts combustion gas. The photo at right shows the termination for a gas fireplace.
  • Water Heater Direct vent water heaters are not common in Minnesota – I think I’ve seen two in my life.  Powervent water heaters are.   A powervent water heater will have a single plastic pipe to force the exhaust gases to the exterior.

Knee Wall Attic Space

Attic - Attics are defined as “The unfinished space between the ceiling joists of the top story and roof rafters”.  Many people refer to attic spaces as ‘crawl spaces’, but ‘attic’ is a much more specific term.

Fuse Box Most people are referring to the main panelboard when they say this, and most have circuit breakers, not fuses.

Sheetrock®, Durock®, Romex®… They’re all brand names, just like Kleenex®.  Better terms would be gypsum board or drywall, cement board, and NM (non-metallic) wire, respectively.

Relief Valve Discharge Pipe

Overflow Pipe I’ve heard many people use this term to refer to the pipe that gets connected to the temperature and pressure relief valve on a water heater.  I really don’t know what the best term for this pipe is, but it’s certainly not an overflow pipe.  I awkwardly refer to it as the “temperature and pressure relief valve discharge pipe” or “relief valve discharge pipe”.

Joyce Joist

Acrost Across

Heighth  Height

Footer Footing

House Geek Home Inspector

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email - Minnesota Home Inspections

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Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 6 commentsReuben Saltzman • September 22 2009 06:42AM


Ha!   Some of those are new on me.  I did not know that the term sheetrock was a brandname.  Thanks for the terminology.  This house geek loves it!

Posted by Jim Allhiser, Salem, Oregon Home Inspector (Perfection Inspection, Inc.) almost 11 years ago

I call it the TPR valve extension pipe.

Posted by Kevin Corsa, H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector (H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties)) almost 11 years ago

Jim - thanks!  I guess the house geek strikeout wasn't necessary, who am I kidding?

Kevin - that sounds better than my awkward wording.  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 11 years ago

Good stuf Reuben. Funny how brands names can plant themselves in our minds and become the norm.

Posted by Ian Niquette (Square One Home Inspection) almost 11 years ago

I got the sniffles reading it and had to go grab a kleenix for my nose.

Posted by Gene Allen, Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate (Fathom Realty) almost 11 years ago

D'oh!   You got me Gene.  Good one :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 11 years ago