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.
- 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.
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.
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”.
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Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections