What I'm Seeing Now


When Codes Don't Make Sense

It turns out that everyone but a bureaucrat wonders when codes don't make sense. 

The Northern Virginia suburbs around Washington DC are totally built out.  There are no vacant lots to buy.  But being so close to town these suburbs are very desirable, but expensive, places to buy homes.

Many homes, however, are on small lots.  The homes were built many decades ago.  The homes in many cases are NOT desirable.

So what is happening is that people buy the home for its lot, raze the house and build a large, new home there.

Sometimes two large homes frame an older, smaller one in between.  And it is dwarfed. 

So the bureaucrats, in their wisdom, have created codes to "protect" these small homes. 

One code restricts the height of houses next door.

And that to make sure that the sunlight is not blocked so much from reaching the smaller house.

Never mind the fact that these suburban neighborhoods are very established and the trees surrounding the houses are often 250' high.

Homes can't block the sun.

The inspection I did on this new house was a new one for me.  It is the first time I had heard about this particular code height restriction.

The nearest house is over 100' away.  No sunlight is blocked at any time.


This house was 2.5' too high!  The roof needed alteration or the County would not approve its occupancy.

So, what to do?  The builder could remove and completely redo the roof, with more acute angles, so it is shorter.  Or they could literally cut the top off!  That alternative would be far cheaper. 


They cut the top of the house off, leaving a flat surface about 8'x40'!

The surface is covered with a synthetic EPDM roof.  The builder bragged that it is a single piece of EPDM, so it won't leak.

I'm not so sure about that.  Too high and steep for me to safely climb, I chose to look at it with 20x binoculars and also from the inside.  What I saw in each case was not good.

The EPDM was folded at the corners and nailed all over, with some, but not all, nails covered with tar.


Also, I found the framing for the new flat surface to look lacking.

It is composed of 2x6" boards only nailed to the edges of previously cut off roof trusses.  There is a center support, but again, it is all nailed.

The only suggestion was that a roofer with EPDM experience and engineer come to look it all over.

Personally, I was not impressed.

The only venting for the attic is now represented by four small scoop vents cut into the rear roof.  Not very much.  This will be a hot, hot attic.

This may be a long-term disaster waiting to happen.

An EPDM surface exposed to so many hours of direct sunlight will dry out quickly.  Especially if it isn't installed properly.  Most installers have NO IDEA what they are doing as regards this product.

I am EXCEPTIONALLY interested in hearing what is determined by the roofer and engineer.

To me, this code does not make sense.  You simply cannot apply something as broad as that sunlight "code" like a blanket draped over every single circumstance. 


My recommendation:  when I see something on a home inspection that I would not want to inherit when purchasing the home, I have no choice but to take the inspection to the next step.  What is the next step?  Suggest more eyes, more brains, and knowledgeable specialists.  After all, that's what I would do for myself or my family when buying a house.  The Golden Rule should rule.




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 41 commentsJay Markanich • April 14 2013 04:39AM
When Codes Don't Make Sense
It turns out that everyone but a bureaucrat wonders when codes don't make sense. The Northern Virginia suburbs around Washington DC are totally built out. There are no vacant lots to buy. But being so close to town these suburbs are very… more
How It Is That A Newly-Installed Toilet Can Wobble
Home inspection after home inspection I wonder how it is that a newly-installed toilet can wobble. Reading the verbose and full-of-flair features list, it mentions new toilets throughout. And going into the powder room I noticed that… more
"Darn Good Thing They Thought To Put That Tree There"
As I pulled into the driveway I thought, "Darn good thing they thought to put that tree there. " Certainly you have to think in advance when you put in a tree. But how people do it BEFORE they put in a retaining wall is… more
Fireplace Credibility Gap
When so many things have a credibility gap these days - advertising, our "leaders, " the news, you name it, then certainly it must be a big bummer when a house has a fireplace credibility gap. I like to get into the fireplace and see… more
You Might Call Termites Children Of The Wood
Like the Stephen King short story of the " Children of the Corn " you might call termites the children of the wood. This follows too - the termites live behind the walls… I noticed this beam behind a chimney. Not being… more
Glue It And Screw It!
When it comes to some finish carpentry sometimes you glue it and screw it. When it comes to assembling furniture sometimes you glue it and screw it. When it comes to making a wooden toy sometimes you glue it and screw it. However,… more
One Year Warranty Inspection - The Office Is Really Hot And Cold
This is what my client said to me when I asked how the house was doing just before my one year warranty inspection: the office is really hot and cold. They had told me that over the phone too, so, in anticipation, I brought Mighty Mo! .. more
Fire Blocking - And This New Construction Is NOT Ready For Drywall
Like probably everywhere, one thing counties here are very big on is fire blocking - and this new construction is NOT ready for drywall. And yet drywall installation has been scheduled. Despite the many builder inspections, and the… more
"My Roof's Brand New! How Do You Know It's Leaking? "
It isn't often I get a phone call from a seller, but this one said, "My roof's brand new! How do you know it's leaking? " Had it not been cold the night before I wouldn't have! Had we done the inspection later in the day, that ice… more
One Out Of Two Can't Be That Bad, Can It?
When you're talking about venting two furnaces through the same chimney, one out of two can't be that bad, can it? After all, the best baseball lifetime batting average for all time was Ty Cobb's 366. That's barely better than 1/3! His… more