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Plastic dryer vent violates construction code

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Dear Barry,

We’ve been living in a new home for two months now. We’re having problems with our new dryer – it’s simply not drying the clothes. A repairman found the dryer vent loose from the wall and also pointed out that the duct was made of plastic rather than metal and was full of lint. We’re told there’s no simple way to install a new duct. If we let the dryer exhaust blow into the house, we get drippy windows and lint on everything. Some stores sell special vent buckets for venting dryers indoors. Are these buckets OK? – Jamie

Dear Jamie,

According to the mechanical code, dryer vent ducts must be made of metal. PVC ducts take longer to become warm when the dryer is being used. This causes steam to condense inside the duct, and this moisture collects lint. Continued buildup of lint restricts the airflow within the duct, preventing your clothes from becoming dry. However, you may have additional duct problems. Since your dryer was venting poorly when the home was brand new, there may be additional restriction to the free flow of dryer exhaust.

Dryer vent buckets, commonly sold in hardware stores, do not comply with building code requirements because exterior venting of the exhaust is mandatory. But one of these devices may provide an interim solution until you can have the problem permanently solved. In the mean time, the builder may still be liable for this construction defect, depending upon the contractor liability laws in your state. The fact that the building inspector approved this installation at the time of construction does not get the builder off the hook. When building inspectors miss conditions that violate construction codes, this oversight does not render those conditions legal.

Your next step is to contact the builder regarding the faulty installation. Request that the condition be reviewed and corrected. If you encounter an unwillingness to address the problem, consult the state agency that licenses contractors and see if they can add some persuasion. It’s fair and reasonable to expect that the problem be corrected.

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Dear Barry,

Our bathroom skylight recently became dislodged and began sliding down the roof slope. It appears the skylight was not fastened to the roof but was merely held in place with tar and the weight of surrounding shingles. Some guidelines for making this repair would be appreciated. Should the shingles be removed before reinstalling the skylight, and what kind of fasteners do you recommend? – Dan

Dear Dan,

Repair prescriptions of this kind cannot be made without inspecting the situation in question. Your best bet is to have the skylight reinstalled by a qualified professional: a licensed roofing contractor or a general building contractor. This will ensure a more reliable repair and decrease the likelihood of future leakage.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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