­

Attached garage

73

Fire and health hazards

73

Plumbing check

75

 

Flood potential

76

 

Doors

76

 

General considerations

77

Detached garage

77

 

Exterior

78

 

Interior

78

 

Heat and electricity

80

 

Checkpoint summary

80

 

The garage should be inspected after the exterior inspection has been completed. There are two basic types of garages: attached and detached. An attached garage is a part of the main building. It might be located below a habitable portion of the structure or connected to the side of the building. A detached garage is a separate structure, not part of the main building. There might be a connecting breezeway or porch between the two structures.

Attached garage

Since the principal use of the garage is car storage, the possibility of dripping oil and gasoline presents a potential fire hazard. Because the attached garage is connected to the main structure, certain precautionary measures should be taken during construction to minimize the hazards. Look around the garage to see if there are any potential problems.

Fire and health hazards

Is there an interior door between the garage and the house? If there is, is there at least one step leading up to the door? There should be. (See FIG. 7-1.) It is surprising how often I find that the garage floor slab is at the same or a higher level than the adjacent living area. (See FIG. 7-2.) The living area should be above the level of the garage floor to prevent toxic exhaust gases and gasoline vapors, which are heavier than air, from entering the house whenever the interior door is opened. As a precautionary measure, the interior door should have a tight seal around the joints to prevent seepage. This door should be fire-resistant, such as metal-clad, solid wood, or hollow core, with a sheet-metal covering on the garage side. As a safety feature, the interior door should also be self-closing. In most homes it is not. It seems that homeowners have found self-closing doors inconvenient, especially when carrying in packages from the local supermarket. Nevertheless, safety should not be sacrificed for convenience.

Real Estate Home Inspection photographs of house defects
Real Estate Home Inspection photographs of house defects

Next, look at the walls that separate the garage from the living area. Are there exposed wood-frame members? There should not be. Exposed wood framing in this area is considered a fire hazard and should be covered with a fire-resistant material such as plaster or stucco on lath or 5⁄8-inch plasterboard. This wall should be insulated to reduce heat loss. If there is a living area above the garage, the ceiling should be insulated and have a fire-retardant covering.

In some garages an access hatch to the attic is located in the ceiling. Occasionally the hatch cover for this opening is missing or open. (See FIG. 7-3.) This is a fire hazard. If a fire should start in the garage, the open area in the ceiling could act as a flue and draw the flames up into the attic where they would quickly engulf the house. The attic hatch cover must be in place at all times.

Some homes have a garage in the basement. The garage is at the basement level with no partition walls separating the garage area from the basement area. This is a fire and health hazard in addition to being inefficient from an energy-conservation point of view. When the garage doors are opened, there will be a loss (from the basement) of warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer.

Occasionally the heating plant (furnace or boiler) is located in the garage. (See FIG. 7-4.) This is perhaps the least desirable location for a heating unit. There is always the possibility that a leak could develop in the gasoline tank or fuel line of an automobile. If the garage is inadequately ventilated, the resultant flammable vapors could be ignited by the flame in the heating system. Of course, this risk can be minimized by locating the heating unit on a platform (since gasoline vapors are heavier than air and will accumulate at ground level) or enclosing the heating unit in a room with a tight seal on the door. If the heating unit is enclosed, the area must be vented to provide outside air for combustion. Another problem with a water-heating system located in the garage is that the pipes are more vulnerable to freezing should the system malfunction or run out of fuel oil.

Real Estate Home Inspection photographs of house defects

Log in to comment
­