Some people may not consider the garage as important as other parts of the house when it comes to performing a home inspection. However, due to safety issues that are inherent in garages, inspecting the garage is key. Garages typically provide the storage space not only for vehicles, but also for lawn mowers, gasoline storage containers, and other lawn or household chemicals. For this discussion we will focus on garages and not carports. A carport must be identified and inspected for the report, but has fewer areas of concern as compared to a garage. During the home inspection, the garage must be identified as either “attached” or “detached”, where it is located adjacent to the house and number of cars it can accommodate. If detached, the roof will also be inspected.
The Garage Floor
An inspector will check concrete garage floors for any cracking or settling and determine whether or not this is indicative of some type of structural issue. Do the floors slope toward the overhead door? This is important as spilled products or gasoline flow toward the outside and not collect in the garage.
Is there “Fire Separation” Between the Garage and the Living Space?
Another important aspect of the inspection is to note whether or not there is fire separation between the garage and the living space above. In older homes, the drive-under garage ceiling is the floor framing and insulation for the floor above it with no fire separation or burn-through barrier between the two. As building codes evolve, some type of fire protection may be mandated between these spaces. Drywall has a burn-through rating that qualifies it as a fire rated wall or ceiling. In some counties, the fire rating is accomplished with the installation of a sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems are usually not tested by the home inspector. However, an effort should be made to determine if the system is properly connected to the house water supply.
The Garage Doors
The condition of the garage doors should be noted on the report. Are the door panels damaged? Does the door track properly? Are there tension springs for the door and are there any safety considerations for these springs? Are the auto-reverse devices installed properly and are they working? Are the door openers wired with an extension cord or plugged into a GFCI protected circuit? If the doors do not have openers, this should also be noted in the report.
Any Water Stains?
The garage space is also inspected for any water stains on the floor to determine if water is getting under the door or through cracks in the floor. It’s possible that water staining from above could signal other problems in the home. The report should also note when/if the garage is overloaded with stored material/possessions and cannot be viewed in its entirety.
Water Heaters? Furnaces in the Garage?
The last item to discuss is a safety issue. Some garages contain gas-fired water heaters and furnaces. If a vehicle were to bump into one of these devices, it could cause a serious problem. To prevent this, a properly installed and sized barrier can protect the gas appliances from accidental vehicle impact. Don’t forget those steel support posts that are responsible for holding up the main beam of the house. If struck by a vehicle, you’re talking major structural and repair costs. The post should be properly secured to both the beam and the concrete floor for safety purposes.
Home Inspector Series | View the rest of “A Home Inspectors Role” Series
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