The garage can be considered as not being as important as other parts of the house when performing a home inspection. This actually is not true because of the safety issues that are inherent in garages. Remember, garages are the storage space for vehicles, lawn mowers and associated gasoline storage containers. For our discussion we will focus on garages and not carports. The carport has to be identified and inspected but has fewer possible areas of concern as compared to a garage. The garage must be identified as attached or detached, where it is located on the house and the number of cars for which it is intended. If the garage is detached, the roof is also inspected. For our discussion we will assume the garage to be attached to or under the house.
Concrete floors tend to crack and garage floors are no exception. Determine whether the cracking is typical or indicative of settling or some kind of structural issue. Does the floor slope toward the overhead door? This is important because spilled gasoline or water blown in under the garage door will flow toward the outside and not collect in the garage.
Fire separation between the garage and the living space above is also something that should be noted. In older homes the drive-under garage ceiling is looking at the floor framing and insulation for the floor above it. There is no fire separation or burn through barrier between the two spaces. As building codes evolved some type of fire protection was mandated between these spaces. In most Atlanta area homes this fire protection is accomplished in one of two ways. The most common is to finish the garage walls and ceilings with drywall. Drywall has a burn through rating that qualifies it as a fire rated wall or ceiling. Care has to be given that this fire rated ceiling has no gaps or areas where fire can spread into the ceiling or wall cavity. In some counties the fire rating is accomplished with the installation of a sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems are not tested by the home inspector but an effort must be made to make sure the system is properly connected to the house water supply and if possible, to determine if the system is pressurized.
The condition of the garage doors have to be noted. Are the door panels damaged from either water or impact? Does the door track properly in the door rails? Is the door hardware working 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? In some foreclosed properties the garage doors can be locked or there is no power to the house. This must be noted and the best possible evaluation made. If the doors not have openers, this should also be noted in the report. The Door and Access Systems Manufacturer’s Association International publishes technical data sheet #16. This is a ten item check list for garage doors and electrical openers.
The garage space is also inspected for water stains on the floor to determine if water is getting under the door or through cracks in the floor. Water staining from above or structural issues may signal other problems in the house. Don’t be fooled by those water stains on the garage wall, they have come from windshield wipers on a rainy day. It should also be noted when the garage is full of stored material and possessions and could not be entirely viewed.
The last safety item to discuss is impact barriers. Some garages contain gas fired water heaters and furnaces. If a vehicle can bump or run into one of these devices, it could cause a serious problem. To prevent this kind of impact, a properly installed and sized barrier should protect the gas appliances from accidental vehicle impact. And while we are in the garage, you know those steel support posts that are holding up the main beam for the house? If they can be struck by a vehicle, please be sure the post is properly secured to both the beam and the concrete floor.
The next article will be on electrical.