Exhausting! The building codes have limits.

Seems like this dryer vent is a “cut-and-dryer” case of what were they thimkin?!

As anyone that regularly reads my posts knows–I love standing seam metal roofs. Inspecting them is difficult if they are steep, but because a fair amount of skill is necessary to install them, they usually don’t have a lot of issues that are not going to be apparent from the eaves–assuming you can get to the eaves. I was able to get to the eaves at two locations on this duplex, and overall the roof looked great.

The pitch is 7/12–not an exactly friendly pitch for an asphalt roof–and certainly not for a steel roof. A slippery slide at the playground is not much steeper than this–some are less steep. Add to that, that it was raining at the time of inspection, guaranteed that I would not be venturing onto the roof. From the eave I did note one thing on this 5 year old home.

The dryer exhaust cap.

How is anyone going to do routine maintenance on this vent cap? While the installation meets code requirements, I still find the installation seriously lacking.

Even with the best filter/screens in dryers, these caps will eventually plug with lint. Cleaning at least a couple of times a year is typically necessary–but at least there was no screen in this cap like is so often the case.

The “close-up” of the cap shows a fair amount of lint building up inside the cap–who can tell whether the flap opens properly or not?

I have no clue as to a viable solution to this problem, when the dryer is not located on an outside wall of the home–but surely some solution is warranted. If no other route for the exhaust can be found, then establishing a maintenance program with someone trained and qualified to be on this type of roof a couple of times a year may be warranted.

Perhaps it is time to make an adjustment to the codes–and/or good sense.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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When designers don’t put on their thinking caps.

I often find instances where it would appear that designers have lost their thinking caps or never had one to begin with.

largecondo1Take this 6 story building for example.  There are probably a hundred condo units in this building and every unit has a dryer.  All these dryers have to terminate at the exterior of the building somewhere.  The top units can likely pretty satisfactorily be vented through the roof for ease of maintenance/inspection (they were not however).  Even the second floor vents can likely be fairly easily and safely maintained by ladder from the ground.

But what about the floor levels in between?  These vents are going to be 30, 40, 50 or 60 feet off the ground!  It some areas they are even further off the ground due to the slope of the site.  While it is common for Condo Associations to have a maintenance schedule for maintaining these termination points, one has to wonder just how cleaning and maintenance gets done.  Even renting a cherry picker a couple of times a year would get expensive on a building this size.  It is amazing to me that building codes would even allow the vents to terminate where maintenance would be so difficult.

In this next picture I have circled some of the dryer vent locations that would be extremely difficult to maintain.

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To add insult to injury all of the dryer vent terminations on this building had screens installed over the vents.  Even if this was a good idea (It is not and is in fact not allowed) it would only increase the number of times they would need to be inspected/cleaned due to the presence of the screens.

As you can see in the following picture some of the screens—this one 40 feet off the ground—is partially blocked with lint consistent with inadequate maintenance.

So all of this begs the question, “Why weren’t the vents terminated at locations where they could be easily maintained at virtually not cost?”  This could have been easily accomplished by terminating the vents at all the deck locations around the building—as some of them were.

Given that dryer fires are one of the most common types of fires in residential construction, it makes sense to have more sense as to where these vents terminate.

This stuff is not rocket science and yet we try to make it so at times.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Dryerja vu–around and around and over and over again.

I have done many posts about clogged dryer vents and the types of duct pipe used on dryer vents—and it is a subject that bears repeating.

While it is pretty easy to convince people for the need to vent their dryers outdoors, getting them on board with maintaining them is a whole nuther story. Many fires in houses are caused by dryers–by some estimates around 13,000 per year. If you want to know just how combustible dryer lint is–just take a match to it.

It lights VERY easily.

The cap at the exterior should never have a screen in it and the whole unit should be maintained free of lint so that the flap can open properly. Multiple flap type caps clog easier than single flap type caps. When you go to the hardware store to buy one of these vent caps, they almost all come with some sort of exterior screen–just throw that part away.

Even the ones with the BIG openings will clog with lint.

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The ones with little openings clog even more quickly.

dryer-vent-fires2

Besides the obvious fire hazard, of allowing all this lint to build up on the inside of the pipe and cap, is the fact that clogged vents will increase drying time ASTRONOMICALLY.

So far we are talking about electric dryers. Now if we complicate the issue by the dryer being a gas dryer, think about the gas burning away inside the dryer with no way to vent the gas fumes or the lint-laden hot air. Now we could have Carbon Monoxide issues, oxygen depletion issues, as well as the fire hazard.

Whether the dryer is electric or gas, if the dryer is allowed to heat with no way to vent that heat, the heat will build up in the dryer increasing the risk of fire.

It is simple.

Simply keep your dryer vent clean.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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