Cumberland County homes not built to code; issues with dryer vents

Investigations

Some of the homes in the Walden neighborhood, in Silver Spring Township, were not built to code.

“I would think it is everybody prior to 2013 with a second-floor laundry,” said Sam Boyd, a homeowner. 

Another homeowner in Walden posted pictures on a neighborhood Facebook page after he discovered his dryer exhaust was only vented to the soffit in his attic. The pictures show lint blown all over the attic, which codes experts say poses both a fire hazard and a mold risk. 

The neighbor who posted the pictures decided to investigate after he noticed it was taking his clothes hours to dry. Other neighbors, like Boyd, were experiencing the same thing

“I had a contractor go up into my attic and take a look, and my dryer is vented exactly the same way, right to the soffit,” said Boyd. “I could see the lint that went up on the roof, and apparently there is lint all over the blown insulation.”

According to the International Residential Code, dryer exhaust ducts must terminate outside. The Walden neighborhood was built by Charter Homes. It has 10 developments in the Midstate. Its website touts 5,200 hundred homes built in 25 years and boasts multiple awards, including a Safety Excellence Award.

Charter Homes never responded to multiple requests for comment, but the company is responding to homeowners.

“Charter is taking responsibility and took ownership of it. They are going to fix it,” said Boyd. “I was told within two weeks my home would be taken care of, and I was concerned about my neighbors’ homes because taking care of mine doesn’t solve the issue, and he assured me they are going to take care of everyone’s home.”

Silver Spring Township follows the International Residential Code. The township’s codes officers, which inspect all new construction, apparently did not catch the mistake.

“I would have thought they would have caught that,” said Boyd.

“The codes are frequently ambiguous, and the inspectors are expected by the code to use their best judgment under the circumstances,” township manager Theresa Eberly said. 

“Occasionally due to ambiguities in the code, inspectors contact the building code writers who may provide non-binding interpretations of their code.  Also, the stage of construction at which inspections are done frequently cause conditions to appear to be compliant with code at the early mechanical inspection only later to be concealed from the inspector’s view at the final inspection.”

“The code also relies on builders, who must be certified under the code, to appropriately follow the code. Our inspectors completed their inspections consistent with the codes as they were interpreted and in accordance with the standards practice in the profession,” Eberly said.

Silver Spring Township conducted an internal investigation into the matter after it was contacted by ABC27.

“The internal inquiry of the township into the venting of dryer vents at Walden showed that the inspectors used appropriate judgment and interpretation of the building code at the time of the inspections,” Eberly said.

“In modern construction, dryer venting is inspected prior to installation of a soffit and is placed in the approximate position it will eventually terminate through the soffit. At final inspection, the termination point is normally concealed by the final components of construction. In the case of the grilled vent, the code clearly prohibits only screens, but does not address grills.”

Silver Spring Township is now changing how it handles this issue.

“Based on this issue being raised recently, the township has decided to make a more conservative interpretation the word “screens” to include grills due to having some similarity with screens, and will be applying that interpretation going forward,” said Eberly.

Codes experts say venting the dryer exhaust to the soffit in the attic was an accepted practice at one time.

Every three years, the International Residential Code is updated and states can adopt recommended changes. Codes experts tell us dryer exhaust changed to being vented outside in 2007, before the homes in the Walden neighborhood were built.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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