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I Don't Know When The HVAC Duct Code Changed For Garages

Sometimes I run across things on a pre-drywall inspection that is new, and it's how I learn that this or that is the new wave.  I don't know when the HVAC duct code changed for garages, but in the past this was not allowed.

All of the ducts passing through the garage were flexible ducts.

I had never seen this before.

In the past they have had to be metal or some fire-rated board material.

Wondering if they were metal encased in insulation and plastic I went to the beginning and they are flexible ducts throughout.

Certainly the area will be insulated and the drywall will by Type X or 5/8" thick (because that has a better and necessary fire rating).

In the past the code that I have followed was this one:

International Residency Code -- R309.1.1 Duct penetration.
- - - - Ducts in the garage and ducts penetrating the walls or ceilings separating the dwelling from the garage shall be constructed of a minimum No. 26 gage (0.48 mm) sheet steel, 1-inch (25 mm) minimum rigid nonmetallic Class 0 or Class 1 duct board, or other approved material and shall have no openings into the garage.

Not wanting to alarm my client, which is not my style, I simply said this may be something new, put the mention on the report with a question mark, and went on from there.

The "and shall have no openings into the garage" has always been the case.  So if the builder says there aren't any openings into the garage my client can just cite the code and see when things changed in the county.

If they did change!

So the question mark simply asks the question of the builder.  They can prove what they will.  But not verbally!  Let's see the new stuff in writing!  Anything can simply be said to a buyer.

My recommendation:  home inspectors are not code inspectors.  And we certainly don't claim to be up on every code in every circumstance.  For sure things change.  And when they do the builders are usually up on it, especially if the new code change makes things cheaper for them!  However, when I see something different I will put a question mark.  And why not?  It's only fair.

 

 

 

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 26 commentsJay Markanich • May 01 2013 03:00AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay. As with all codes, they are subject to interpretation by the local fire marshal and the building department. Maybe "Payola" changed some minds...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Hence my suggesting to the client that he have the builder prove when the code changed Michael!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago
Jay, as I have said many times, it is imperative that new homes be properly inspected by a licensed home inspector representing the buyer. Too often, subs cut corners, while the builder is not acting attention, and the end result is an unanticipated expense for the buyer later on when they sell the home to the next buyer.
Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) over 7 years ago

Morning Jay not likely a new code or change to the existing law happened without you knowing about it.  Must be the perception of the law.  Doesn't mean it is right

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 7 years ago

That's certainly true Norman.  In this case it's likely something that will be covered up forever and may be a safety risk.

James - I don't pretend to be up on every code change!  the NEC just last year made 1000 changes and are going to revamp completely again soon.  I'm sure nobody knows everything about that.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

As far as I know the laws for the ducting into a garage are still in place and have not changed. There is just no way we could keep up with every single law on the books when it comes to building codes. Then there is the plumbing, electrical, mechanical ect. In the pictures I did'see the boot drop for the venting? Was this ducting passing over the garage or was it stopped to drop into a register boot?

If they did change. It's news to me.

Have a good day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 7 years ago

They are all flex type ducts that pass over the garage areas here Jay! Most homes have the garage in the front and no need to pass across to other parts of the home but hardly ever see metal or duct board. 

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 7 years ago

Good morning, Jay.... I would think building inspectors would need to know the current building code in order to determine a structural or mechanical defect....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty - Retired ) over 7 years ago

They to up into a register in the floor of the rooms above Clint.

I have never before seen flex ducting here Fred.

The county guys ask me questions all the time Barbara!  When I am there and they show up they are supposed to throw me off site until they are done.  Instead they ask me what I found, and what the codes say about "stuff!"

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I'm not seeing the problem here Jay. The ceiling will be covered with dry wall, the ducts thus protected. What can not occur, which I think the code makes clear, is that the duct (flex, duct board, etc.) can not be exposed in the garage. Also a duct can not be open in or supply the garage with conditioned air. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Always good to have things built to code Jay, hope this fulfills that.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 7 years ago

Jay, I love that you said, "not wanting to alarm my client, which is not my style."   If you aren't definite about something, then there is no reason to instill fear into the client.  I've seen Home Inspectors terrify their clients over every negative item on their list, even minor items.  Clients can easily walk away from a good deal because of this fear. 

Posted by Christopher Campa, Northern VA Realtor (LONG & FOSTER REAL ESTATE) over 7 years ago

Jay, the fact that you didn't want to alarm your client and were upfront that it was a question mark type of item speaks volumes about you. No way could anyone keep up with every code. I'll be interested to hear if it did change though!

Posted by Amanda S. Davidson, Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale (Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group Brokered By eXp Realty) over 7 years ago

What Jim said, although I do find it curious that they have installed the trim on the garage/house door prior to installing the drywall?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Jay -- that is an interesting situation -- but I suppose when you have living space above the garage, you have to get the heat there somehow.   These do look a bit larger than solid pipe - but also look like they would lose less heat to the area they are in.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 7 years ago

All that is said in the post Jim.  I have never seen flex ducts before, and I have never interpreted the code to say they are appropriate.  I suggested they contact the county.

So do I Tom!  It must, I suppose, but I am not going to assume anything about something I have never seen before.

Chris - for sure I don't want to do that.  This might be something approved that week!  They will find out, for sure.

I am waiting too Amanda.  We aren't code inspectors, but the codes are out there to find.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Charlie - I wait!  As to the door, you know the door guys slap them up.  It's the drywall guy's problem!

Steven - they are 6" ducts with an R-value of 8.  But they will be totally surrounded with insulation, probably blown fiberglass.  Yes, they get the heat up there, but in the past it has always been with solid metal ducting.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Again, I'm not seeing the problem. I think the code is perfectly clear, at least in this instance. That installation is perfectly fine. I have seen flex ducts installed over a garage numerous times.

What would be the issue? 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jim - that I have NEVER before seen ducts in a garage ceiling or wall that are NOT metal or other approved product, as the code reads.  I have never before seen flex ducts.  Of course it all gets covered with Type X or 5/8s drywall.  This is a new installation to me.  That's the issue.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Are you getting a little resistant to change in your old age? ;)

If I was to guess, it may be that the builders in your area interpret the code to mean that only metal ducts can be used.  That could explain your experience. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Where reado flex ducts Jimo?

That's perfect Spanish.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Oh, and as to change and age, yes, everything, and I mean everything, was better before.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I am certainly in the camp with those that hate flex duct, but really, there is no problem with its being "house side" or "outside" of the "fire-separation" surfaces.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Charlie - since this is the first time I have seen this, I called the county and they said the material can melt at not very high temps and where they connect to the main house the holes all become chimnies.  But if Type X or 5/8" is used and there are no gaps or holes (other than the garage door opener receptacle) they are approving it now where they have not in the past.

I said Type X or 5/8" has always been required anyway, so what spurred the recent change?  No answer.  When I asked for whom that change was made the guy got real quiet.  I could have pressed it and asked what it took.  I suspect it was only a fifth of Johnny Walker Blue in the right office.  But it could have been a gallon of V-8 too...

The reason for the 26 gage metal in the code is that it is not easily compromised by heat or easily allows fire to pass.  It seems to me the flex duct is a step toward less safety.  Not sure I understand that.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, exactly---and on my planet flex duct would only be allowed as the means of insulating (and to improve air sealing) the metal ductwork inside the flex duct.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

I like your world, and have said that before Charlie!  And I really checked to see if metal was inside these ducts, and it is not.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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