One of the very common things about laundry rooms is that the walls behind washers and dryers are often trashed either from mechanical damage or hidden leaks—-both past and present.
It is not too hard to imagine what many buyers must think when they start to move in and find these conditions when they go to install their own washer and dryer. The walls weren’t visible when they looked at the property initially because the sellers appliances where installed and the inspector didn’t notice (or couldn’t see) the damage behind them.
Most buildings that have multiple owners—like condo’s and townhouses—have fire-rated walls between the units. While the requirements have changed over the years, as well as there are variations in the requirements from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is a good idea to look for problems related to the walls between these types of structures.
When an inspector is looking at these types of joint ownership structures it is logical that one possible place for the firewall to be compromised would be behind the washer dryer—if they back up to the wall between the units.
These areas are very difficult to visually inspect unless you are fortunate enough to be 7 feet tall and can adequately lean over the units to have a look see. Even that doesn’t help if shelving is installed in the way above the appliances. I can usually get my camera in a position to shoot some “hail-Mary” photos of the area—often revealing all kinds of fun stuff from missing underwear to ruptured supply hoses and bad electrical connections.
Often these shots reveal damage to the walls.
This was the case in a Condo I inspected a while back. Apparently in order for the appliances to be installed, and still allow for the bi-fold doors to close, there wasn’t quite enough room behind the dryer to run the vent pipe. The installer just cut away some of the drywall of the fire-wall between the two units. Probably not the best solution given that a large percentage of house fires are involved with dryer venting issues. This is another example of the breakdown that happens with overspecialization and/or lack of knowledge about the requirements of other trades. (Of course this translates to “job security” for home inspectors.)
A large percentage of house fires are involved with dryer venting. For more information on this particular type of foil dryer vent pipe please visit my post: Dryer Transition Vent Connectors
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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