Good Idea, Poor Execution

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Finding good ideas gone wrong is nearly a daily experience for the home inspector

I often kid that I know enough about something to be dangerous. There are times while looking through a house that it seems that those who should know don't know what they should know with potentially dangerous results. 

Vents in fire resistant doorA basic and it seems from my perspective an often over looked requirement for heating equipment is the need for combustion / dilution air. Particularly with oil fired systems, which I see many of in Connecticut. Simply, when something, whether it be a scrap of paper or oil in a heating system is burned, it needs air for the combustion to work. If you place a glass over the burning paper it goes out. If you enclose a heating system is a small room without ventilation, it may not operate or it will function very inefficiently. 

The answer for the heating system is to provide a direct source of air for the burner. Ideally and in most instances that air should come from the exterior. 

During a recent inspection of a house built around 1980, I found the oil fired boiler installed in a small mechanical room accessible through a door from the garage. The door was open and appeared to have been left that way by the homeowner for some time judging from the amount of stuff in and around it. What almost immediately grabbed my attention were the two vents cut into the door. Seems the installer of the boiler, it was not the original unit, had known the small mechanical room would not provide the necessary air for the boiler to operate efficiently. What he did not appear know or perhaps chose to ignore (although I would like to believe it was ignorance) was the fact that the make up air in this instance can not come from the garage. Further the door that was cut is a required fire resistant door. 

Right idea, wrong method. 

Boiler in garageInterestingly the very next day I found a somewhat similar situation in a house of the very same building type. This house was older, built around 1967. The boiler was in the garage. Once again the system was not original (thankfully), and the installer had been aware of the need for combustion air. This time the air was coming directly from the exterior through a pipe mounted onto the burner. Better. However, the burner itself was at the floor. Installation requirements are that the burner should be no less than 18 inches above the floor. Being that this is a newer installation and it appears there is room to accomplish that that requirement, it begs the question, why wasn't the boiler raised? The direct air intake appears to be an attempt to make the install compliant. 

Once again good intentions gone awry. Repairs will be needed by qualified persons in both situations.

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Will Nesbitt 03/24/2015 12:20 AM
Home Buying
Connecticut New Haven County
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Bob Publicover
Publicover Realty Group, inc - Stuart, FL
Thinking outside the box

James, I enjoyed this post and have always had a great deal of respect for "Inspectors". Thankfully, the Florida inspectors now require a license and building trades qualifications.

Mar 22, 2015 10:19 PM #1
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond

James, always interesting to find what heating contractors due...I had a doozie this weekend.

Mar 22, 2015 10:30 PM #2
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

Well done James. Hard to believe that some of these things were not known when installed.

Mar 22, 2015 11:33 PM #3
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Obviously, they had a little knowledge or they wouldn't have been able to make the installation but not very thought out! Ignorance is bliss.....

Mar 23, 2015 01:01 AM #4
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

I sure hope the buyer requests these necessary changes and that the owner/sellers are smart enough to do the work.

Mar 23, 2015 01:13 AM #5
Dan Johnson
LiLi Lua, LLC - Savannah, GA

It may had been handyman who created this dangerous situation, but I fear another culprit.  Home improvement shows all over television make major home improvements seem so easy to do, so the TV watching homeowner decides to do it himself, or herself.  Don't believe it!!  Use mechanics to make updates that might be dangerous.   

Mar 23, 2015 01:55 AM #6
Sajy Mathew
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
Making your real estate dreams become a reality!

Good read and informative.  We deal with many old oil burning homes here in Lancaster, PA as well. 

Mar 23, 2015 02:06 AM #7
Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

I would have a lot to learn if I were selling real estate up north.  Have never even heard of an oil fired boiler.  

Mar 23, 2015 04:16 AM #8
Alan May
Coldwell Banker Residential - Evanston, IL
Helping you find your way home.

The vents in the door don't appear to be large enough, anyway.

Mar 23, 2015 12:39 PM #9
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

The concept of bringing heat, light, water, electricity and gas plus many other numerous comforts INSIDE the home...remains an interesting subject. Mankind living in boxes helps us to take a look at the problems that comes out of it

Mar 24, 2015 01:13 AM #10
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

James Quarello now if the new installations do not follow the guidelines, its a recipe for disaster! Just wondering what code do they use when they install this.

Mar 24, 2015 01:30 PM #11
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Bob, Thanks. I feel licensing is good for the home inspection industry as a whole.

Ginny, Interesting is a word I use often :)

Tom, Yes and I have stopped trying to figure out the "why". Makes my head hurt :)

Fred, More than a little, but just not enough.

Lenn, I am very certain they will be making those requests.

Dan, Yes, I think there is that element to some of what I find here and there.

Sajy, As do we here in CT. I have really come to like gas appliances. 

Mar 28, 2015 09:54 PM #12
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Paula, That's kind of funny, you being from a state that produces oil.

Alan, That's possible.

Richie, For certain. And then we add the DIY element.

Praful, There are several codes that relate to installing a heating system in a garage or in a room directly from the garage. IRC 1307.03 is one. 

Mar 28, 2015 10:03 PM #13
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James Quarello

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