Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their attics without being required to carry a portable ladder.
The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.
2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):
1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.
2006 IRC (Residential Construction):
R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.
Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:
In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.
Sump pumps are self-activating electrical pumps that protect homes from moisture intrusion. They are usually installed below basement or crawlspace floors to remove rising groundwater and surface runoff before it has a chance to seep into the home. Accumulated water can cause interior damage and encourage the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus. Pumps should be maintained and equipped with all necessary components in order to ensure their reliability.
Types of Sump Pumps
Inspectors should check for the presence of the following:
Insideout inspectors are not required to check for a proper discharge location. They can note an improper discharge if they see it, but searching outdoors for the discharge is not recommended. The following is good general information that can be passed on to the homeowner:
In summary, sump pumps are used to remove excess water from homes that would otherwise cause property damage. There are multiple types, but they all monitor water levels and ensure that they do not rise higher than predetermined levels. Proper maintenance and inspection will ensure pump efficiency and prolong their lifespan.
InsideOut Home Inspectors are required to inspect the gutters and downspouts as part of the roof portion of the home inspection.
Some important factors a home inspector should consider include:
A few inches of rain falling on the roof of a house can produce several thousand gallons of water runoff. This runoff must be channeled away from the home's foundation. Otherwise, the excess water can quickly saturate the soil surrounding the building and wick through the foundation to the interior. (See Figure 1 below.) Once inside, this moisture can lead to a variety of problems, including mold and wood rot. Excess moisture can also cause indoor air quality problems.
Figure 1: If not drained away from the house, the volume of water coming off a roof in a large rainstorm can quickly saturate the soil and wick through the foundation into the interior of the building.
Gutter System Basics
Gutter systems consist of two parts: 1) gutter channels that run horizontally along the roof edge to collect runoff; and 2) the downspouts that carry the collected water to grade level. Roofing gutters should slope down toward the downspout at the rate of 1/16-inch per foot, or 1/4-inch per 5 to 10 feet. An angle less than this won't allow water to move effectively, and much more of an angle will cause the water to move at too great a speed, potentially resulting in overflow over end caps and corners.
In terms of standards, InsideOut home inspectors are not required to measure the amount of gutter slope. To do it accurately would be time-consuming, would require a transit or water level, and would exceed InterNACHI's Standards of Practice. A more practical approach is to make sure that all gutters slope toward the downspout. In judging adequate slope, look for signs of standing water in portions of the gutter away from the downspout, and eyeball the margin against the fascia.
Gutter channels are typically available in 4, 5, and 6-inch sizes. They are referred to by their shape: there are K-style gutters (also known as "ogee" because the shape resembles this molding type); and U-style gutters (or half-round), as shown in Figure 2 below. The style differences are principally aesthetic; there is no substantial difference in performance. Larger sizes conduct more water at a faster rate, provided that there are enough downspouts to drain the gutter channels without overflowing.
Figure 2: Standard gutter styles found in building supply centers include the K and U styles. The difference is purely aesthetic. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Building America Solution Center.
Most downspouts are made of the same material as the gutter system, so they tend to suffer from similar problems, but with a few twists -- especially in the area of mechanical damage from proximity to high-traffic areas.
Downspouts should be inspected for:
The following are some climate-specific considerations for different types of gutter systems:
Inspectors can relay the following tips to their clients to help them properly and safely maintain their home's gutter system:
The home inspector should also explain to his clients the importance of a properly functioning gutter system, and the potential problems that an undersized or damaged system can create.
This article was sourced from the U.S. Department of Energy and InterNACHI®.
Homeowners may use a generator to supply electricity to their home in the case of a power outage, either out of necessity or convenience. Inspectors may want to know about generators and the potential hazards they present when improperly wired or utilized.
There are two main types of generators: permanently installed, standby generators; and gasoline-powered, portable generators.
Standby generators typically operate on natural gas or liquid propane. They remain fixed in place outside the home and are designed to supply on-site power to specified circuits through a home's electrical wiring. These generators work in tandem with a manual or automatic transfer switch, which automatically detects an interruption in grid-powered electricity and subsequently transfers over electrical input to the generator.
Some advantages of standby generators are as follows:
Gasoline-powered, portable generators are typically smaller in size and power capacity than permanently installed generators. They are designed so that corded electrical devices may be plugged directly into them.
Advantages to portable generators are as follows:
Inspecting A Generator
InsideOut inspectors check for the following:
In summary, generators can be lifesavers during a power outage, but they present serious health and safety concerns if they are not installed and used properly.
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