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One Year Inspections - Improper Smoke Detector Placement Can Cause False Positives

Every time my client uses the oven and heats the kitchen up the smoke detector would go off.  They found out that improper smoke detector placement can cause false positives.  When they called the builder about it they were told it is "normal."  What!!??

Well, of course the detector going off would be "normal" when the detector is in the kitchen only 8' from the range!  Heat is one of the things that set off smoke detectors!

That is not an appropriate positioning of the smoke detector by anyone's definition of appropriate.

EXCEPT MAYBE THE BUILDER...

I told my client that OF COURSE the detector going off would be the norm, but only because the detector should be somewhere else, like in the hall outside the kitchen.

Are there smoke detector location recommendations?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2002 recommendations has this to say about smoke detector location:  

"Figure A.11.8.3(b)  In dwelling units with more than one sleeping area, a smoke detector should be provided to protect each sleeping area in addition to detectors required in bedrooms. [Existing Figure A-8-1.2.1(b) from 1999 edition of NFPA 72.]

(c) Are more smoke detectors desirable?  The required number of smoke detectors might not provide reliable early warning protection for those areas separated by a door from the areas protected by the required smoke detectors.  For this reason, it is recommended that the householder consider the use of additional smoke detectors for those areas for increased protection.  The additional areas include the basement, bedrooms, dining room, furnace room, utility room and hallways not protected by the required smoke detectors.  The installation of smoke detectors in kitchens, attics (finished or unfinished), or garages is NOT recommended, as these locations occasionally experience conditions that can result in improper operation."

That is pretty clear! I would expect that heating up a kitchen with cooking might just be an "occasional condition" that can result in improper operation!  How do you spell "duh?"

My recommendation:  when builders try to shove things down the throats of your clients, claiming that it's"normal," find out!  It might not be!  A home inspector can surely help in this regard!  Call an experienced one!


 

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 65 commentsJay Markanich • September 07 2011 06:16AM

Comments

Jay * FEW VA landlords know that the smoke detectors in their rental units need to be checked and CERTIFIED 1X annually as operational.  This is SO EASY to check and SO EASY to forget until the UNthinkable happens!

GREAT REMINDER for the upcoming FALL season!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) about 9 years ago

And remember, Wallace, that pushing the button and making a beep, beep is NOT a test.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Good morning Jay;  30 minutes up and featured already.  Somebody loves you.  Or maybe just great posts.

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) about 9 years ago

Good morning, Jay. Silly, boy!!! That alarm is to let the fam know that supper is ready!!! Didn't they teach you that in inspector school???

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) about 9 years ago

Good morning and congrats Jay! Us laypersons are told to press the test button and change the batteries once a year. Should we be doing sounthing else? My system is hardwired throughout my multi-story home.

Posted by Marco Giancola, Realtor (305)608-1922, Miami Beach Florida (Beachfront Realty) about 9 years ago

Hi Jay,

I find homes with some in the right area's and some with no detectors at all.

The homes that do have a smoke detector in the kitchen area the owners have removed the batteries because they go off while they are cooking.

Public need to be more informed about the placement of the detectors.

Have a great day,

Clint Mckie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) about 9 years ago

Ken - thanks, didn't know it was featured!  I've been doing other stuff.  But, for sure, it's the posts!

Michael - I tried to explain that to the client, but he just kind of looked beyond me with a distant stare.

Marco - that proves that they make a sound.  You can buy a "smoke maker" and test it with that.

Clint - hence the post!  I see this all the time on new construction and the supervisor looks at me like I'm an idiot.  On the one year the proof is in the pudding.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

OH this is really funny.  I can't beleive the builder's response.  Gosh, and such a simple explanation on why it's happening.  It really makes you wonder.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 9 years ago

They say things like that Debbie either out of ignorance or because they don't want to have to do something about it.  That's why I included the NFPA literature in the report.

It's also common sense...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Hi Jay - Steam from showers can set off smoke detectors that are close to bathrooms.

Posted by FN LN about 9 years ago

Jay, great info; the home I had in Washington State had improperly placed smoke detectors.

Posted by Michael L. Brownstead, ABR, GRI, MRP, SRS, 1SG US Army (Ret.) (Keller Williams Realty) about 9 years ago

It's the heat Marc, but the moisture can act as a fog and the unit might think it's smoke.

Michael - you probably figured that out pretty quick.  You'd think a builder would get feedback over time and learn from it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Great post.  This is something I never would have thought of.

Posted by Donald Reich (Prudential Centennial) about 9 years ago
Normal? Nothing like a fire alarm as the way to keep the pounds down every time you need to eat!
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com) about 9 years ago

Donald - that would be understood, but not the builder!

Hector - bye, and thanks for the points.

Cheryl - that would work!  You should market that!  Maybe Billy Jays could help...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Good stuff, Jay.  Our contracting company does put them in the garage, but never in the kitchen or attic.  The way I cook, it would be going off all the time.  Not good!  Great post!

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) about 9 years ago

This type of reports makes me just want to SCREAM!!

Why do home buyers accept the most inane and nonsensical "explanations" from builders???

I am convinced that the STOCKHOLM SYNDROME is at work with new home buyers.  Otherwise, they would ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS use the services of an EXPERIENCED BUYER'S AGENT and a HOME INSPECTOR whose job is to protect their interests.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Thinking now, Mike, I don't remember ever seeing one in the garage.  But maybe.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Lenn - I noticed the detector as soon as I walked into the kitchen.  I asked if it goes off all the time and they told me their tale.  The Stockholm Syndrome is as good an explanation as any!

And it's best to scream after you knock off 25 birds in a row...   ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

That is a dumb place for a smoke detector. Like there is never going to be any smoke in a kitchen. Builders, you gotta love em.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 9 years ago

Jay, is there a code as to where to put smoke detectors? You would think builders would know.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 9 years ago

Jay, I'm with Michael, when my wife cooks, and we have the smoke detector around the corner over the doors that go into the 2 back bedrooms, when it goes off, it's like the clang of the chuck wagon's bell. Dinner time'. But I still change the batteries twice a year, just so I don't go hungry

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) about 9 years ago

Jim - if for no other reason, cooking smoke!  But what about common (or good) sense?

Michael - the NFPA recommendation is above.  I don't know if there's a code regarding kitchens.  Here is it hallways and bedrooms, on each level.

Ed - good plan.  Keep those doggies rolling... toward the dinner table.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago
Great post. In California, recent law changes went into effect also requiring carbon monoxide detectors to be installed. The requirements are very similar as those for a smoke detector.
Posted by Mark Delgado, Benicia and Vallejo, Property Management, rental h (houses for rent, Solano County & Glen Cove) about 9 years ago

Jay - we have a smoke detector of some kind in our kitchen - it detects something other than smoke...

Posted by Dagny Eason, Fairfield County CT, CDPE Homes For Sale and Condo (Dagny's Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Jay,

I have always thought that the beep was not really a true test. It just means that the unit is making a beep.

Brian

Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) about 9 years ago
Jay - great point. Builder does thing that may not be right and they do try to wiggle out o it. I threaten our builder that we will not close on our house if the electric meter was facing the Street instead of to the side of the house. He tried to tell us it was a city's fault.
Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) about 9 years ago

Mark - are there recommendations as to where to place them?  I had a blog on that:

http://activerain.com/blogsview/2194501/-where-should-i-put-a-carbon-monoxide-detector-

Dagster - it might be CO, although I don't think it should be there.  It could also be a smoke detector responding to heat.

Brian - true words!  Try a test with smoke and/or heat.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Check with the city or the electric company Mike!  You are probably right though.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

I guess I’ve learned something today since I have never heard of a smoke detector going off because of heat. The last time I did any research indicated that smoke detectors don’t have heat sensors in them. I'll have to do some additional research now.

However, smoke detectors do detect more than smoke since they actually are detecting particles and with cooking going on in the kitchen and the air being filled with the wonderful aroma of cooked food, which are little particles in the air, placing a smoke detector in the kitchen can create some good times. I would say that if the smoke detector is detecting aroma particles, it’s too sensitive and should be replaced.

I have a smoke detector in my kitchen because I have this tendency to let things cook on their own while I Play in the Rain. Sometimes they get overcooked, at which point the smoke detector tells me so. LOL

Posted by Not a real person about 9 years ago

So I went to do a little research and found that both ionization and photoelectric detectors can respond to steam or high humidity because of condensation on the circuit board and sensor. Ionization detectors are more likely to sound due to normal cooking activities; they also happen to be the less expensive.

Very interesting. Thanks for the motivation to do some research. I love research.

Posted by Not a real person about 9 years ago

Thank you for the information. I have learned a lot from the post and the comments.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) about 9 years ago

Jay...I want you to have little gold & red stick-ons made up that say " A-OK WITH JAY" with your phone number. These are to be put in certain places like smoke detectors, junction boxes, plumbing etc. You get the idea. When a buyer, seller or Real Estate agent sees that, we all agree to move toward closing escrow. When another inspector sees that, they pack their bags knowing the place is running as presented and there is nothing to offer

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 9 years ago

Something as simple as placement of a smoke detector can make a quality of life issue very relevant for a new home buyer when everytime they cook a meal they have to deal with the faulty placement of the smoke detector interrupting them. 

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Jay -- a good post that not only speaks of proper smoke detector placement but not to accept something of fact that just doesn't make sense.  Definitely a DUH, ah-ha moment.   Congratulations on the feature.

Posted by Michael Jacobs, Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393 about 9 years ago

I see them in kitchens, over the range all the time.  Of course, they have been rendered inoperable, that screeching hurts the cook's ears.

Posted by Marge Piwowarski, Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC (Phoenix AZ Horse Property) about 9 years ago

The first house I owned had a smoke detector in the kitchen and I never had any problems with it being located there...

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - TexasRealEstateMediationServices.com) about 9 years ago

Thanks for the post today,  I enjoyed the read.  The comments a good too!

 

Patricia Aulson/ Seacoast NH & ME  Realtor

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) about 9 years ago

Jay, We had smoke detectors outside our washrooms and whenever we showered, we set it off.  Eventually, we just disconnected it, and a few years later had a handyman reposition them for us.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 9 years ago

Jay, have been at some of the smoke detector inspections - even in newer homes - and have realized that it's not the way they should be. With new codes for us in MA, I send a guide to smoke detectors to my clients - just to make sure things are okay.

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) about 9 years ago

Jay, and this is why typically these alarm/detectors are not usually located right in the kitchen.  Too much nuisance tripping.  In the early days, when they first started to be "required" and hard-wired---they were installed in the kitchens but because there was so much nuisance tripping and people disabled them---they dropped the requirement for them to be "in" the kitchen.  I always thought they were there so you could tell when the toast was done.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

Jay what a funny topic for me. During most months in eastern San Diego County we can get heavy night time fog that rolls in off the coast over 30 miles away.

If our windows are open just so and the breeze is blowing operfectly we have ahd our smoke detectors start rattling off at the wee hours of the night and morning!

Posted by Chris "The Loan Ranger" McBrearty, NMLS 274079, FHA, VA, USDA, Loan Officer and Educator (People's Mortgage Company) about 9 years ago

Good point.  Here in Minneapolis, there are some strict rules about smoke detector placement near kitchens and bathrooms: 

smoke alarms/detectors shall not be located closer than three (3) feet from any door to a bathroom or kitchen. Those located within twenty (20) feet of a cooking appliance shall be equipped with a silencing switch or be of the photoelectric type.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 9 years ago

Russel - good plan on the cooking detector!  I suppose I could try that too, but it would be a battery unit!

We have triple-protection smoke detectors in our house.  They are optical units with integrated fixed 135° F and rate-of-rise heat detector, as well as smoke.  Our security system also detects heat.  We've had them both for a long time.  This is a one-year old house, so the newer systems are probably all such as ours.

I had a blog earlier this year on replacing detectors:    http://activerain.com/blogsview/2186875/really-you-should-replace-smoke-detectors-   Hadn't thought about cooking aromas though!  Another good plan.

Gita - great!  We try to be instructive to the max!

Thanks Richie.  Thou givest me much credit!

Morgan - you'd think that using them all these decades would have taught builders, et al, proper and common sensical placement locations!

Thanks Michael.  Those things can be a nuisance for sure!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Marge - not sure I have ever seen one over the range!  Wow!

Donna - good for you, unless it was broken, old or had other problems!

Patricia - glad it was useful to you!

Chris - there are many things that can set them off, especially the newer ones!

Praful - that is a great service I bet your clients appreciate a lot!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Charlie - which creates a dangerous condition because people go ahead and unplug them!  One problem creates another.  I like burned toast, by the way, so I need to stop by your house!

Chris - that is a new one for me!  Humidity!  Our humidity levels here are normally high, but I don't remember them ever setting off our detectors!  As I sit here right now, my weather station says the humidity is 86%!

Reubs - ours are done properly in our house, and even in the master bedroom the detector is near the door and not the bathroom.  Our house is 14 years old.  What does that tell you about the theory of evolution?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Bye Ivan.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

I really respect an inspector that talks to our clients about the smoke detectors during an inspection. Safety is a concern as part of the home inspection and you do a great job posting about this.

Great post.

Posted by The Derrick Team - Indy Metro Realtors, Your Pet Friendly Realtors (Carpenter Realtors) about 9 years ago

I have a cabin with a hard wired smoke detector which was part of the old security system. Way to high in the rafters to mess with, so we just had someone install new ones. I assumed it was not functioning when we had a smoke reversal issue with our fireplace (yeah, yeah....forgot to open the flue) but nothing.

Then months later, my teapot set it off? what?

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) about 9 years ago

That is why you always do inspections even on new homes. Would try to get builder to move it.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max By The Sea) about 9 years ago

Good information.

Posted by Jim McCormack, Nashville Short Sale REALTOR - Stop Foreclosure (Nashville Short Sale Specialist - Jim McCormack - Edge Advantage Realty, LLC - 615-784-EDGE (3343)) about 9 years ago

Amen!  There are surely good builders out there, which of course we hardly ever hear of since bad news travels the best.  But this builder is in the wrong, and either didn't know it or didn't care!

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, C.O.O., Winslow Homes (Winslow Homes) about 9 years ago

Jay, 

Thanks for the information. I'm glad to have a reference that says that smoke detectors do not belong in the kitchen. 

I once rented a beach house from a fireman. There were 2 smoke detectors within 8 feet of the kitchen. Cooking was impossible without taking out the batteries:-)

Posted by Kathleen Sheridan (WEICHERT, REALTORS ® - McCarthy Associates) about 9 years ago

My electrician installed a smoke detector at the top of a cathedral ceiling. I have to haul a 12' step ladder into the house to change the battery. We happen to have one, but how many city dwellers would?

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) about 9 years ago

It will work just fine as long as you don't cook in there.  

Posted by Michael Singh,Broker (Singh Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Derrick Team - smoke detectors and their locations is something I look at on every new construction inspection.

Karen - ha!  Well, get up there and take care of it!

Bill - it needs to be moved.  It's position is improper, by every recommendation.

Jim - thanks again!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Jeremy - when the subs do something like this, the supervisor on site should catch it!

Kathleen - and the battery units are famous for nuisance soundings!

Marte - those are painful!  They are located high on purpose, but too high is incovenient at best.

Michael - use a hot plate in the garage!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Yes, that should be the case, Jay.  I've never built a house (nor plan to), but I'd imagine the super would have to be quite organized to stay on top of everything.

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, C.O.O., Winslow Homes (Winslow Homes) about 9 years ago

Jeremy - he is the only person translating the architectural specs from paper to product.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Yes it happens and it's not unusual.  We had one like this in our home in Atlanta.  Every time I cooked a tenderloin in the oven on high heat, we had to open the windows.  Not so good in Atlanta in the winter when I usually prepare this dish.  

Posted by Beverly Femia, Broker Realtor Stager - Greater Wilmington, NC Are (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) about 9 years ago

I hear you Beverly.  We had one once, even outside the kitchen, that would go off when we baked cookies!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

We have had one in the hall off the kitchen.  I started calling it the Dinner Bell.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Gene - not a bad name!  Ours outside the kitchen went off with cookie baking.  Should have called it the cookie bell...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Great information. Let's believe the builder blindly because they said it was okay and it's their business! 

Posted by Gerard Gilbers, Your Marketing Master (Higher Authority Markeing) about 9 years ago

To say it's normal is totally correct Gerard!  It's normal for a smoke detector to go off when there is heat and smoke!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

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