How to Look

at a House


A blog with answers
to your questions about
HOME INSPECTION
and HOME MAINTENANCE


More Blog Posts on Home Inspection:

  1. The seller has to fix everything you find wrong with the house, right?

  2. How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?

  3. Do you see similar problems with houses in the same neighborhood?

  4. Can I do my own home inspection?

  5. What should I look for when buying a former rental house?

  6. Should a home inspection scare you?

  7. Is it still possible to do an inspection if there’s no electricity or water?

  8. What happens at a home inspection?

  9. What questions should I ask the home inspector during the inspection?

  10. We looked at the house carefully, and it seems alright. Do we really need a home inspection?

  11. What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?

  12. What is the best way to negotiate repairs after the home inspection?

  13. Are you licensed and insured?

  14. Should I hire an engineer to inspect the house?

  15. How can I tell if cracks in the garage floor are a problem or not?

  16. What should I bring to the home inspection?

  17. What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

  18. Are there any minimum standards that a home inspection must meet in Florida?

  19. Does the home inspector also check for termites?

  20. What questions should I ask a home inspector I’m considering hiring?

  21. What tools do you use for a home inspection?

  22. How much does a home inspection cost?

  23. What is the difference between a building inspector and a home inspector?

  24. What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property?

  25. What do I need to know about buying a 1950s house?

  26. Should I buy a foreclosure house if the bank refuses to turn on the utilities?

  27. What can go wrong when a homeowner encloses a porch without a building permit?

  28. How can I tell when it’s time to paint the house?

  29. When did the first Florida Building Code (FBC) begin and become effective?

  30. Is painted bathroom tile acceptable?

Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

   The primary exemption to the requirement to obtain a building permit is for repairs. Unclogging a drain or changing out a plumbing fixture or valve (as long as the fixture or piping is not relocated) are examples. Replacing switches, receptacles and light fixtures at existing locations also do not require a permit.

   Here’s our “Top 7” list of home improvements that really do need to be permitted and inspected, but often are not, and the safety and livability of the home suffer as a result:

  1. 1)Water heaters - This is the #1 project that we often see done by a homeowner or handyman without a building permit. An improperly installed temperature-and-pressure relief valve drain, bad vent connector, exposed electrical splices, and missing collision protection in a garage are all examples of an unsafe water heater installation.

  2. 2)Roofing - Roof sheathing has been required to be re-nailed to meet higher hurricane-resistance standards for the past decade when a roof is replaced. When we see that there hasn’t been a nailing upgrade and the roof penetrations are poorly flashed, it’s a sure sign there was no professional supervision.

  3. 3)Decks - Once you visualize that a deck is an elevated platform that people stand on, the importance of safe installation comes into focus. The priority in deck building is to provide a series of strong and secure connections to transfer the weight of the deck and its occupants to the ground. To learn more, go to our blog post “What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?”

  4. 4)Garage and porch conversions - Converting the garage to a master bedroom suite or family room, and changing a screen porch into an enclosed sun room are popular home upgrades. Because they can be done out of view of any nosy neighbors, they are popular weekend-warrior projects. Lack of adequate insulation, air conditioning ducts and wall receptacles are typical problems with conversions done without a permit. See our blog ”What are the most common problems when a homeowner encloses a porch without a building permit?” for more on this subject.

  5. 5)HVAC system - While the change-out of a furnace is rarely tackled as a homeowner project, sometimes a tradesman will do the work without a permit to avoid the newer safety and efficiency requirements.

  6. 6)Electrical wiring - Luckily, most people are scared of being shocked while doing electrical repairs and leave the work to a licensed electrician who pulls a permit, but the main safety issue is fire prevention. Amateur electrical work is painfully obvious to a home inspector. Check out our blog “What are the most common homeowner electrical wiring mistakes?” for more details.

  7. 7)Kitchen remodels - Because relocation of plumbing and electrical is often part of a kitchen remodel, the work should be done professionally and with a permit. Loose wires, P-traps installed backwards, and blocked range hood vents are typical problems.

   Proof of building permits for improvements, and ensuring that they have been closed out with a final inspection, are now a required part of many real estate transactions. So, beyond safety, it makes good sense nowadays to get permits and inspections for home improvements just to make things go smoother when it’s time to sell.


While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.

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