When Codes Don't Make Sense

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

It turns out that everyone but a bureaucrat wonders when codes don't make sense. 

The Northern Virginia suburbs around Washington DC are totally built out.  There are no vacant lots to buy.  But being so close to town these suburbs are very desirable, but expensive, places to buy homes.

Many homes, however, are on small lots.  The homes were built many decades ago.  The homes in many cases are NOT desirable.

So what is happening is that people buy the home for its lot, raze the house and build a large, new home there.

Sometimes two large homes frame an older, smaller one in between.  And it is dwarfed. 

So the bureaucrats, in their wisdom, have created codes to "protect" these small homes. 

One code restricts the height of houses next door.

And that to make sure that the sunlight is not blocked so much from reaching the smaller house.

Never mind the fact that these suburban neighborhoods are very established and the trees surrounding the houses are often 250' high.

Homes can't block the sun.

The inspection I did on this new house was a new one for me.  It is the first time I had heard about this particular code height restriction.

The nearest house is over 100' away.  No sunlight is blocked at any time.

BUT THE CODE IS THE CODE!

This house was 2.5' too high!  The roof needed alteration or the County would not approve its occupancy.

So, what to do?  The builder could remove and completely redo the roof, with more acute angles, so it is shorter.  Or they could literally cut the top off!  That alternative would be far cheaper. 

WHICH CHANGE DO YOU THINK THEY WENT WITH?

They cut the top of the house off, leaving a flat surface about 8'x40'!

The surface is covered with a synthetic EPDM roof.  The builder bragged that it is a single piece of EPDM, so it won't leak.

I'm not so sure about that.  Too high and steep for me to safely climb, I chose to look at it with 20x binoculars and also from the inside.  What I saw in each case was not good.

The EPDM was folded at the corners and nailed all over, with some, but not all, nails covered with tar.

THAT WON'T LAST LONG!

Also, I found the framing for the new flat surface to look lacking.

It is composed of 2x6" boards only nailed to the edges of previously cut off roof trusses.  There is a center support, but again, it is all nailed.

The only suggestion was that a roofer with EPDM experience and engineer come to look it all over.

Personally, I was not impressed.

The only venting for the attic is now represented by four small scoop vents cut into the rear roof.  Not very much.  This will be a hot, hot attic.

This may be a long-term disaster waiting to happen.

An EPDM surface exposed to so many hours of direct sunlight will dry out quickly.  Especially if it isn't installed properly.  Most installers have NO IDEA what they are doing as regards this product.

I am EXCEPTIONALLY interested in hearing what is determined by the roofer and engineer.

To me, this code does not make sense.  You simply cannot apply something as broad as that sunlight "code" like a blanket draped over every single circumstance. 

ONE SIZE NEVER FITS ALL.

My recommendation:  when I see something on a home inspection that I would not want to inherit when purchasing the home, I have no choice but to take the inspection to the next step.  What is the next step?  Suggest more eyes, more brains, and knowledgeable specialists.  After all, that's what I would do for myself or my family when buying a house.  The Golden Rule should rule.

 

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


close

This entry hasn't been re-blogged:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
Topic:
ActiveRain Community
Location:
Virginia Prince William County Bristow
Groups:
Ask the Home Inspector
Professional Home Inspectors
Addicted to Active Rain
Adventures in Home Inspecting
WeBlog Anything (almost)!
Tags:
code enforcement
flat roof
codes
insufficient support
epdm
improper roof installation

Spam prevention
Show All Comments
Rainmaker
1,367,527
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Jay, that was a quick fix just shave off the top. They were more interested in meeting the height restriction than the structure of the roof.

Apr 13, 2013 11:28 PM #22
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

When laws trump function and common sense Mike.  I find it ridiculous.

Apr 13, 2013 11:43 PM #23
Rainmaker
1,529,578
Mike Cooper, GRI
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

Jay, the idiocy of public officials abound in all sectors.  Next, they'll be demanding white shingles to reflect heat away from the houses.  Of course it will blind pilots, but the homes will be more energy efficient.  Oy!

Apr 13, 2013 11:55 PM #24
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That improves efficiency very little Mike.  But everyone thinks a light roof will save the "planet." 

Apr 14, 2013 12:11 AM #25
Rainmaker
1,506,889
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County

Comment number ten above is my thought as well..the builder should have known before the roof went on. The plans should have been approved. How about during construction inspections...shouldn't they have caught this as well? The mysteries of life continue.

Apr 14, 2013 12:52 AM #26
Rainmaker
2,426,539
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

that's what gets people riled up is when they go before the planning commission and inexperienced people make decisions about complex issues

Apr 14, 2013 01:08 AM #27
Rainmaker
231,849
Helen and Larry Prier- Re-Max Gateway - Residential Real Estate
RE-MAX Gateway- Residential Real Estate Sales - Anacortes, WA
Anacortes & surrounding Skagit & Island Counties

Yes, permitting the plans should have caught this. However, the bureaucrats would not have taken the time to check the surrounding homes or perhaps the dumb codes  for that area. Lots of reasons for this to fall through the cracks at that end.

Any decent builder should have known the codes. and so on......

Apr 14, 2013 01:10 AM #28
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

THAT should have been the builder's complaint too Gary.  I agree.  This is the county's fault.

You just defined the bureaucrat Richie!  I can't wait for "health" care!

The grading wasn't completed until the end of construction S&L.  But you're right, it slipped through!

Apr 14, 2013 01:12 AM #29
Rainmaker
424,706
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Jay, you got to remember I am from the Gubment and I am here to help you. You gotta LUV Gubment.

Apr 14, 2013 01:32 AM #30
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Reagan said those were the most frightening words in the English language, Tom.

Apr 14, 2013 01:40 AM #31
Ambassador
604,785
Brian Schulman
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  Could apply to a number of things government does.

Apr 14, 2013 01:59 AM #32
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That quote is in a bureaucrat's blood Brian.

Apr 14, 2013 02:21 AM #33
Ambassador
1,333,180
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jay, the architect should have been aware of this height restriction and should have designed the roof accordingly.  I ran into this all the time as a builder in the Seattle area----and this was always taken care of at the design phase. 

Apr 14, 2013 02:48 AM #34
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

The house is on a slope Charlie, and on the one side it's 12' below the level.  On a flat lot the whole house would have been fine.

Apr 14, 2013 06:01 AM #35
Ambassador
3,781,303
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Jay- no one ever said that common sense was a given especially when it comes to bureaucrats or the government.  What I do like is your line: ' 

"when I see something on a home inspection that I would not want to inherit when purchasing the home, I have no choice but to take the inspection to the next step."

That's what I call professionalism. 

Apr 14, 2013 07:18 AM #36
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thank you Kathy.  Those are very nice words!  Common sense is a virtue perhaps, but not a given right!

Apr 14, 2013 07:40 AM #37
Rainmaker
2,832,758
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Another good intentions by the government that the results are not what was intended.  Anyway as you said it is what it is I would also be interested in knowing the outcome of this one. 

Apr 14, 2013 07:10 PM #38
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

They contacted me again last night with a question James, and I asked them to keep me informed.

Apr 14, 2013 07:26 PM #39
Rainer
73,564
John J. Woods
Aardvark Appraisals - Palm Desert, CA

 

   In this case I see a couple of ways in which I believe the owner or builder would've been able to logically & successfully argue for a variance to allow the structure to stay as built without embarrassing any of the bureaucrats.  The variance power is there for a reason.

 

Apr 21, 2013 02:32 AM #40
Rainmaker
1,835,779
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

The house is built on a sloped lot John.  I don't think anyone realized what was happening until after the final grading was done!  At that point - building completed!

Apr 21, 2013 06:47 AM #41
Show All Comments

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?

Rainmaker
1,835,779

Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
You may contact me anytime...
*
*
*
*
Spam prevention

Additional Information