What I'm Seeing Now


Home Inspectors and Codes #2 - Does Your Inspector Know?

So, does your inspector know? Or, better, what does your inspector know?

The National Electric Code (NEC) contains nearly 800 pages, packed with charts, graphs, tables, etc., is updated every three years, and each update usually contains about 1,000 changes. Plumbing, mechanical, building, fire, and so forth are similarly overwhelming. Further, codes refer to hundreds of standards published by various organizations such as the National Bureau of Standards, American Society for Testing and Materials, United Laboratories (you've seen the UL listed stickers on appliances), the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers – there are dozens more!

Personal note: my community HOA will ding you for algae on vinyl siding. As such, that becomes the local “code.”

Your home inspector is a generalist – it is unlikely that he will remember precisely that a fireplace hearth should extend 16” in front of an opening of smaller than six square feet -- and that it should be 20” for openings larger than that! However, a short hearth, of 12” or so, will probably be noticed, and noted on the report. An inspector’s musings or concerns expressed verbally or on the report should be followed up by referring to a specialist.

It is even less likely that your home inspector will remember when a certain code provision was instituted in the jurisdiction he is inspecting. In Northern Virginia, some communities only a few miles apart will have chosen to enforce certain code modifications at different times. Sometimes it is decades. One of the largest suburbs of Washington D.C. only recently began to require powered vents in enclosed bathrooms even though throughout most of the country and Canada they have required that for years!

I understand that some jurisdictions passed the new AFCI codes for bedrooms before the tested and approved devices came out! How was that enforced?

If you think the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) knows all the codes and when they were adopted, think again. They may not even be able to come up with a history of code articles, dates, or where they are enforced. Photocopies of relevant documents or verbal answers over the phone may not be reliable.

My recommendation: If you are buying a home, not knowing whether a deficiency the home inspector has mentioned is a violation of local codes when the house was built, it is best to ask a specialist in that area. THEY are more likely to know local standards at least, if not the codes. They have learned the codes in the School of Hard Knocks, a cruel, but effective teacher. Oh, and remember Mother Nature…

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 13 commentsJay Markanich • November 26 2008 07:32AM
Home Inspectors and Codes #2 - Does Your Inspector Know?
So, does your inspector know? Or, better, what does your inspector know? The National Electric Code (NEC) contains nearly 800 pages, packed with charts, graphs, tables, etc., is updated every three years, and each update usually contains about… more
Have You Checked Your Electric Meter's Legal Seal?
On my inspections I routinely check the legal seal under the electric meter. If it is broken, I note it. Recently some clients of mine were challenged by the electric company that installed a new meter on their house to show why they should… more
Home Inspectors and Codes - The first of four posts…
This is the first of a few posts regarding home inspections and codes. Stay tuned! Building codes have been around for a long time. Sometime in the 1700’s BC, in Babylonia, Hammurabi’s Code stipulated that a builder be slain if he built a… more
Bounced Checks
In the last two weeks I have gotten a rash of bounced checks. This happens periodically, but not like this. Are you experiencing the same thing? It's usually the same excuse - oh, my wife forgot to transfer money, I didn't realize you would… more
Not To Bury A Talent, But…
I had occasion recently to see a need satisfied, two needs really, and at the same time! In a group of young men, stripling boys really, some singing would have been dramatically improved with some piano accompaniment. No one stepped up to… more
And If The House Fits, Wear It!
I have had clients over the years who bought houses that were well within their financial means. There were others who bought way over their means. Their motivations are not my call. Similarly, I have had clients buy houses that were in… more
Free Furnace Fun Facts
This time of year the furnace becomes a very important appliance. Checked it recently? What kind do you have - gas, oil or electric? Do you have an annual service contract? Do you need one? Replaced or cleaned the filter recently? Can you even… more
Is Your Marketing Slightly Better?
I have posted something similar to this on other home inspection sites. I have been asked to tweak it a bit to apply better to real estate and post it here. In business development, there are lots of keys, all under the heading of… more
Are You Slightly Better?
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, in a marketing class at MBA school, I learned a principle that has stuck with me: The Slight Edge Principle It is simple and a marketing idea that needs to be employed. This is it… more
Buyer Red Flags - At the First Look-see - Part 3 of 3
This is the final entry for Buyer Red Flags Of course, the list could probably go on. But these three lists together are short enough that if you wanted to keep an index card in your pocket while walking through the house you could! Most you… more