Laundry and Utility Rooms
Laundry Room: Watch for leaks and kinks developing at plumbing connections to the washing machine. Water can overflow from the top or bottom if the machine is overloaded with a load that’s too big, or if it is resting on an uneven surface.
Protect the electrical or natural gas connections to the dryer and ensure that they are not disturbed or accidentally dislodged from their connections.
A gas dryer vent that passes through walls or combustible materials must be made of metal. The length of a dryer exhaust ensures that its blower will be able to push sufficient air volume to take away the laundry’s damp air and lint. The maximum length of the exhaust hose should not be greater than 25 feet from the dryer to the termination at the wall or roof. The length can be increased only when the make and model of the dryer are known.
Inspect the dryer venting to make sure it is not clogged or restricted, which will help the unit operate efficiently and normally, as well as prevent the unit’s motor from overheating and failing. A clogged or restricted vent hose may also lead to an accidental fire caused by the ignition up built-up debris.
The clothes dryer exhaust poses a different problem than other exhaust systems because the air is damp and carries lint. Ensure that the vent exhausts to the outside and not to the attic, crawlspace, or attached garage because the wooden structural members of the house could be affected over time. The exhaust vent’s termination should have a backdraft damper installed to prevent cold air, rain, snow, rodents, and birds from entering the vent. The vent termination should not have a screen on it, as this can trap lint and other debris and pose a fire hazard.
Furnace Room: Rooms or closets containing combustion or fuel-burning equipment or appliances should not be located off a bedroom in a single-family residence (and must be in a publicly accessible area in a multi-family building).
If possible, weep holes and related drains should be assessed following a heavy rain to make sure they are working properly. If they are not discharging water, the drains should be cleaned out and observed again in the next rain. Retaining walls more than 2 feet high should be backed with drainage material, such as gravel. There should be drains at the bottom of the drainage material that should discharge the water either at the end of the wall or through pipes. These drains and the drainage material behind the wall relieve the pressure of groundwater on the wall. Failure to drain could be remedied by excavating behind the wall, replacing the drainage material and damaged drainage piping, and backfilling. In all but the driest climates, improper drainage of water from behind a retaining wall can cause the wall to fail.
Look for movement in your retaining walls. Bowing (vertical bulges), sweeping (horizontal bulges), and cracking in retaining walls can be caused by water pressure (or hydrostatic pressure). Bulging can also be a result of inadequate strength to resist the load of the earth behind the wall. Bowing and sweeping failures may be correctable if found early enough and if the cause is poor drainage.
There are other types of failures of retaining walls. Failure by over-turning (leaning from the top) or sliding may be caused by inadequate wall strength. In addition, water behind a wall can create unstable earth, especially in clay soils, and contribute to sliding. Retaining walls also fail due to settlement and heaving. Settlement occurs whenever filled earth below the wall compacts soon after the wall is built, or when wet earth caused by poor drainage dries out and soil consolidates. In cold climates, poor drainage contributes to failure by creating heaving from frozen ground. Both overturning and sliding earth may be stabilized and sometimes corrected if the amount of movement is not extreme. Settling may be corrected on small, low walls of concrete or masonry, and heaving may be controlled by proper drainage. Significant failure of any kind usually requires rebuilding or replacing all or part of a wall. Consult a qualified professional when major repairs or corrections are needed.
Mike Avelar, CPI
Avelar Home Inspection Inc.