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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.

BUT THE CODE IS THE CODE!

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. 

WHICH CHANGE DO YOU THINK THEY WENT WITH?

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.

THAT WON'T LAST LONG!

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. 

ONE SIZE NEVER FITS ALL.

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 41 commentsJay Markanich • April 14 2013 04:39AM
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