DEAR BARRY: We’re buying a brand-new home with a water heater in the garage. It’s installed on a raised platform, as required by code, but our home inspector says it needs further protection from vehicle impact. He says a steel post should be installed to keep a car from hitting it. The builder says the raised platform protects the water heater and meets code. Who is right? –Sandy
DEAR SANDY: According to the plumbing code, the builder is correct. According to common sense, the home inspector is more correct than the code. Here is why:
The plumbing code requires that a water heater in a garage be protected from mechanical damage in one of three ways: 1) by being installed behind a barrier; 2) by being elevated; 3) by being out of the normal path of a vehicle.
If the water heater in the home you are buying is installed on a raised platform, it complies with this code requirement. However, from the standpoint of truly adequate protection, a barrier such as a steel post (known as a bollard) would provide far better protection. The reason for this additional protection is simple.
A raised platform typically consists of wood framing and drywall — strong enough to support a water heater but not strong enough to withstand the impact of a car or truck. If a framed platform were damaged by a vehicle, the water heater could fall, causing the gas and water pipes to rupture. A well-placed bollard would prevent this from occurring.
Reliance on a raised platform assumes that a vehicle’s bumper is too low to strike the water heater directly. Once upon a time, that might have been true. But today’s 4-wheel-drive SUVs and pickups with high bumpers could easily strike the base of a raised fixture.
Some building departments require a bollard, even though the water heater is installed on a raised platform. The building department in your area may not take this approach, but an upgrade would be highly advisable. If the builder does not agree, you can have a bollard added after you purchase the home.
DEAR BARRY: We were storing some things in the attic of our new home and noticed that outside light is visible through the roofing in many places. So we called our builder. He says it is normal to see spots of light through a roof. But we asked another builder, and he said that answer is nonsense. Who is correct? –Dave
DEAR DAVE: Light in an attic is not as desirable as light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. In most cases, it is a sign of faulty roof installation. However, there are some exceptions, depending upon the type of roofing you have. For example, with a wood shake roof or with some kinds of tile roofing, light may be visible beneath the flashing in some places. But light should only be visible when looking downslope within the attic, not when sighting upward along the interior surface of the roof.
You should have this inspected by a licensed roofing contractor or by a qualified home inspector. If your builder is excusing a faulty condition, you should have at least two professional opinions to back up your position.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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