Work done in the middle of the night—some prefer the lights on—some off.

While most jurisdictions have setback requirements, it is typically beyond the scope of a home inspection to know what the requirements are for any given jurisdiction. These setback requirements are different for rear yard, side yard and front yards. They are also different for homes on corner lots or homes with streets or alleys on two opposite sides of the home.

In some areas “grandfathering” may also apply.

Also “variances” may have been obtained.

When additions are added to homes these setback requirements have to be taken into account. While I may not be able to determine the “exact” setback requirements for the home I am inspecting, there are some clues that might make one question the location of structures on the property.

At a recent inspection I noted that the addition to the home was “less-than-professionally” constructed, and that the addition was closer than 5 feet to the property line. There is a pretty good chance that the addition was done without permits. It would be a good idea in such a case for the buyer to obtain documentation that the addition meets jurisdictional requirements. They might find themselves forced to bring the structure into compliance.

In the following photo it is not hard to see that this addition to the home is certainly close enough to the fence (property line) to most likely be out of compliance. The red line is approximately 5 feet inside the property line and shows how much of the addition might need to be removed.

In older neighborhoods it is common to find homes that would today be considered too close to the property line—but these sorts of variances and grandfathering are rare in newer developments.

Setbacks from property lines

Setbacks from property lines

The methods of construction appeared to have been done “in the middle of the night” as they say—and quite possibly in the dark as well.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Kitchen fully “stocked”—noodles included

Kitchen comes “stocked”—-noodles included.

You know those staged kitchens with the tall glass jars full of noodles?

Are those “real” noodles?

As a Seattle Home Inspector I see my fair share of down-draft vented ranges. For these vents to function properly they have to move a lot of air because the natural flow of hot air is upward. To counter this fact, the blowers on these things are considerably more powerful than an exhaust fan in a typical hood above the range.

I am not much of a fan of these vents, but if you have an island installation and don’t want the look of a hood above the range, I guess they are OK. They are more problematic with gas ranges than electric ranges. The ones on gas ranges can really make the flame dance.

At a recent vacant home, that had been completely repainted and cleaned before it was put on the market, it seemed a little incongruous that the grease screen and components of the range exhaust had not been cleaned as well. The “inside” of the oven had been fairly well cleaned, but this opening for the down-draft vent had been overlooked. Perhaps it was deemed too disgusting to clean?

Who doesn't like noodles?

Who doesn’t like noodles?

My buyer was not impressed—and neither was I—but at least it did show the noodles were indeed included. Right in plain view above the noodles one can see the instructions about keeping the screen clean.

Filter Cleaning Instructions

Filter Cleaning Instructions

When I checked the connection of the vent under the unit it did not surprise me to find the vent pipe was disconnected. This lack of connection would result in most of the exhausted air staying in the kitchen—and in particular, staying inside the cabinet under the range.

Disconnected vent

Disconnected vent

Of course the grease screen in this unit was so packed with grease it likely was not venting out of the kitchen anyway.

Range exhaust vents should always be smooth wall metal pipe, and should be routinely professionally cleaned.

When was the last time you cleaned the grease screens in your vent hood or down-draft vent?

Depending on one’s cooking habits, lots of grease laden air gets pushed through these vent pipes and the grease can solidify on the inside of the pipes. This is also why the vent pipe should be insulated to reduce the risk of condensation inside the duct. Of course at the exterior, it goes without saying, there should be a cap with a back-draft damper and the screen needs to be maintained clean. If there is a small mesh screen, eventually, it will look just like the grease screen at the entrance to the exhaust unit.

Noodles anyone?

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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You won’t get arrested for being this kind of flasher!

When exterior trim becomes a water collection device–sooner or later–bad things are going to happen.

Entryway roof structure support posts

Entryway roof structure support posts

It is all too common to see wood trim components assembled from multiple pieces in such a way that when they are painted and caulked, the installer figures the assembly will shed water adequately.  In some climates and in some locations, even in adverse climates, these installations can be fairly forgiving. I find it completely baffling that anyone constructing the trim details pictured below, could ever think this assembly was going to be OK long term.

Improper trim details

Improper trim details

This installation is more of a water collection device than a water shedding installation.

In the rainy Pacific NW these assemblies generally do not fair very well and sooner or later—whether due to lack of maintenance or simply because water has a knack for finding its way into places we do not want it.

It is generally considered “best practice” to have all horizontal surfaces flashed with metal and properly counter-flashed by the vertical surfaces that sit on top of it–not to mention that is also logical.

The highlighted areas in the next picture are the horizontal surfaces that should be properly flashed with metal and these metal flashings should then be counter-flashed by the vertical surfaces that are above them.

Horizontal surfaces should be flashed

Horizontal surfaces should be flashed

Such an installation can last indefinitely and will keep water from getting where we don’t want it.

This is a good kind of flasher to be.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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