Dear Barry,

Our home is very old but was renovated in 1977. The people who are buying it hired a home inspector. The inspector said that our gas furnace violates the building code because it is installed in a bedroom closet. We had the home inspected before we bought it, and we’ve had it serviced every year since. But no one has ever told us that you can’t have a gas furnace in a bedroom closet. Is this really in violation of code? –Justine

Dear Justine,

The buyers’ home inspector is correct: Section 304.5 of the Uniform Mechanical Code states, “Fuel-burning equipment shall not be installed in a closet, bathroom, or a room readily usable as a bedroom, or in a room, compartment or alcove opening directly into any of these.” This prohibition was apparently overlooked by the home inspector when you bought your home and by the people who have been servicing the system ever since.

This installation may have occurred during the 1977 renovation and may not have been done with a permit. You can check with the building department to determine the permit history of the property. But regardless of the permit status, the furnace access and possibly the combustion air sources will need to be changed in accordance with applicable requirements.

Dear Barry,

We’re buying a brand-new retirement condo. Should we get our own inspector or just rely on the builder’s inspector? Or, do we really even need an inspection? After all, we will have a year to request repairs if anything goes wrong during the warranty period. –Diana

Dear Diana,

There are two reasons why you need a professional inspector of your own. The inspector you hire will be there to discover every visible and accessible defect, regardless of whether that discovery is profitable for the builder. The builder’s inspector has other loyalties, related of course to the source of his paycheck. His allegiance is to the builder, not to you.

Reason number two involves the common assumption that the one-year warranty will cover all inherent defects. All the warranty covers are the defects that you discover during that first year. For example, if an appliance ceases to function, or if a sink drain begins to leak, you will probably notice the problem and call it to the attention of the builder. But what about less obvious defects? Suppose there is a safety violation at the garage firewall, or an improper gas connection at the water heater, or a chimney installed too close to combustible materials in the attic, or some portion of the roof that was not properly flashed, or some ungrounded electrical outlets. It is unlikely that you would become aware of such problems during the first year, and those conditions would remain after the warranty had expired.

No one should ever buy a new home without hiring a professional home inspector because all new homes have construction defects, regardless of the competence or the integrity of the builder.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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