In last week’s home inspection checklist blog post, we began our exploration of the kitchen—one of the most well-used and problematic spots in a home. After covering plumbing, the kitchen exhaust system, and the dishwasher, today we’ll be addressing what your inspector will be looking out for when assessing the oven, range, and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
As we mentioned before, the brand quality of built-in appliances will not be evaluated as part of the inspection. In other words, a late-model oven with all the bells and whistles will get the same assessment as a basic oven. Certainly, your real estate agent will point out the benefits of a unit’s state-of-the-art features and sparkling exterior, but that’s not the job of the home inspector, who is mainly concerned with its primary functions. The same goes for garbage disposals, trash compactors, ranges, dishwashers, microwaves, and exhaust systems.
For example, the standard operating procedures for the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) calls for the operation of built-in appliances, but do not require inspectors to check appliance thermostats and timers or do an exhaustive test of every control and feature. Per the International Association of Home Inspectors’ SOP, inspecting built-in appliances goes beyond normal protocols, but many inspectors take it upon themselves to perform simple operational tests and visual assessments to see if kitchen appliances are in working order.
Oven/Range: Your inspector will turn on the oven to see if it properly heats up in an acceptable amount of time. Problems that may be reported include an oven door that slams down upon opening, missing or broken control knobs, cracked glass in the oven door, and visible damage to heating elements. All the burners on a gas or electric stovetop will be operated as well.
The inspector will recommend the installation of anti-tip brackets for freestanding ranges if they are not in place. Even when installed, the inspector will make sure the brackets are correctly secured to the wall in order to prevent the appliance from falling over. This can be done by physically tipping the unit to see if it only moves a bit, which indicates that the brackets are doing the job. Nearly 150 injuries over a 25-year period (and more than 30 fatalities, mostly children and the elderly) resulted from toppled ranges. Even ranges that move slightly forward can cause boiling liquids to spill onto a curious child who may be standing on or tugging at an open oven door. These issues prompted range manufacturers to include anti-tip brackets with the appliance, along with instructions that contain a strong message about the importance of installing them. However, it’s not uncommon for these brackets and their hardware to simply be discarded, leaving the appliance vulnerable to cause injury.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI): This device, which prevents fatal shock by detecting variances in electricity levels and shutting down the receptacle, has been recommended for installation in kitchens since 1987. According to the National Electrical Code, article 210.8, all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp receptacles serving countertop areas and any receptacle within six feet of a sink must have GFCI protection. Plus, GFCI protection should be provided for the receptacle supplying a dishwasher. In many instances, your inspector will recommend the replacement of regular outlets with these inexpensive and potentially life-saving devices. Outside of the kitchen, your inspector will report on the absence of GFCIs in other locations throughout the home that is prone to dampness and electrical shock hazards, including laundry facilities, utility rooms, crawlspaces, bathrooms, pool/spa areas, wet bar sinks, exterior outlets, garages, and unfinished basements.
Not sure if you have GFCI protection? Just look to see if the receptacle has two buttons, often labeled as “Test” and “Reset.” The “Test” button will allow you to check to determine if the GFCI properly shuts down power to the plug connectors. When GFCIs are present, your inspector will check each to see if they’re functional. (Please note that this is only a general overview of GFCIs. There are many other standards regarding spacing of outlets in a kitchen and the proper use of GFCIs not covered in this article.)
In addition to GFCI concerns, your inspector will test lights to see if they’re working and check that all circuit requirements are met for safely and effectively serving the kitchen’s electrical needs.