Q. We are in the process of trying to sell our home and are concerned about the various improvements we have done over the years without obtaining building permits. For example, last year we hired a handyman to install a new furnace, before that we installed new kitchen cabinets, and seven years ago we removed the bathroom window so that we could install a new shower. Will these be an issue when we sell the home?
A. When you sell your home, you will need to disclose the lack of permits to the buyers. Some buyers may accept these conditions as-is. Others may insist that you obtain as-built permits as a condition of the sale. And some may be unwilling to buy a home that has had unpermitted work. One option is to obtain as-built permits before selling your home. This will enable you to eliminate issues that require disclosure. Here is how that approach would apply to the three issues that you listed.
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• Hiring an unlicensed person to install your furnace was not a good idea. There are too many ways to install a furnace incorrectly, and some of these could jeopardize the fire safety of your home or could allow combustion exhaust to vent into the building. Furnaces should always be installed by qualified professionals, and permits should be obtained so that the building inspector can verify proper installation.
• Kitchen cabinets are usually not subject to permit requirements, unless the work involves alterations to the plumbing or electrical wiring.
• Installation of a new shower definitely requires a permit because it involves plumbing work. Additionally, if the bathroom window was eliminated, a mechanical exhaust fan should have been installed to provide ventilation to the exterior.
A good way to approach this situation is to hire a home inspector to determine whether the work that was done is acceptable or if repairs and upgrades are warranted. The home inspection report can also be used to supplement your disclosure statement to the people who buy your home.
Q. In one of your columns, you advised that a drain pan be installed under a water heater, with a drainpipe to the exterior of the building. This was to prevent water damage inside the building, in the event of leakage. In our condo complex, all of the water heaters are installed inside the building, at a location where a drain pipe would have to extend upward to get to the exterior. What can we do in this situation to comply with your recommendation?
A. Ordinarily, the discharge pipe from a water heater relief valve is run horizontally or downhill, which enables drainage to the exterior. In your building, a mechanical drain pump will be needed to enable proper drainage. This is a simple device that can be placed in the drain pan that is under the water heater. Water in the drain pan will lift the float that activates the drain pump. A discharge hose from this pump can be routed to the exterior or to a drainpipe somewhere inside the building.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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