Chicago New Condo Bathroom Inspection: Finding Bathroom Safety Issues


Chicago new condo bathroom inspection

Condo inspection - the difference between 15 amps and 20 amps rated electrical outlets receptaclesAll bathroom outlets must be 20 amps rated and must include GFCI protection (there might be one GFCI receptacle and other outlets connected to it and protected). Your new condo bathroom receptacles must be installed on #12 AWG wire which you can’t see without removing of the receptacle or at least its cover, but this is beyond our basic / visual inspection.

Typical electrical outlet receptacle ground and wiring testersThe best way to test bathroom GFCI is to purchase a GFCI receptacle tester (you can get one for under $10.00 in any local Home Depot®/Menards® or Lowes®, smaller hardware stores might be more expensive – just make sure that it has a GFCI test option) and test all of the apartment receptacles for proper wiring and functionality. The minimum you can do is to use a cord & plug lamp for testing – make sure that the light goes OFF and stays OFF after you push and release GFCI’s “trip” button – learn extremely important GFCI maintenance.

Bathroom electrical outlet receptacle must be installed within 36 inches from the bathroom sink exterior edgeMake sure that there’s an electrical outlet receptacle within 36” of each sink exterior edge. Bathroom electrical outlet may be installed on the mirror, wall surface, or sink cabinet face /side wall within 12” from the countertop.

Chicago condo bathroom whirlpool tub inspection / electric and safety

Electrical outlet receptacle must be secured inside the junction box and should have a cover installedIf your new condo has a whirlpool tub, its motor must be accessible and plugged into a GFCI receptacle or GFCI breaker protected outlet. Pull the motor plug from the receptacle, and plug in your testing device / push the test button, or push GFCI breaker test button (in electrical panel) to make sure it trips and disconnects the power to the motor. Make sure that electrical box is secured, receptacle attached to it, and has a cover plate installed.

The access to the hydro-spa motor must be large enough for servicingMotor access must be large enough for servicing if required, and for en emergency disconnect – so you can reach and pull the plug from an electrical outlet socket. Check if the motor is within reach and removing it would be possible without destroying surrounding walls.

Bathroom electrical issues - hydro-massage tub motor terminal needs to be bonded to the water pipeBathroom electrical issues- hydro-massage tub motor terminal properly bonded to the cold water pipeMost of the hydro-spa motors (unless listed on label as double insulated) have a grounding screw / terminal. There must be a #8 solid AWG copper wire bonding (connecting) this terminal with a water pipe (special clamp must be installed on water pipe) – very important and rarely installed. In some cases the terminal is on the opposite side of the access panel, you’d need a good source of light and a telescopic mirror (just a few $$$ in most hardware and car supply stores) to see it.

  • Open the tub / whirlpool faucets – make sure that cold / hot water markings correspond to whatever is discharging from the spout.
  • Check under the spout and around the valves for leaks
  • Make sure that when turning the valve(s), there’s only one OFF position and that the valve turns only one way from that position. If improperly installed, you’ll be able to move the handle both ways from the point the water stops running, or the handle(s) might turn 360° (applies to all faucets in your condo).
  • Close the drain (if it’s working), fill the whirlpool tub with water to about 2″ above the highest jet, point all the jets towards the tub bottom (if adjustable) and turn ON the switch. Operate whirlpool for a couple of minutes, test controls to makes sure that all of the jests are functional, look underneath for any signs of leakage (if accessible of course).

Chicago condo bathroom stall shower inspection

  • Operate shower stall enclosure components to make sure that everything is aligned properly, no gaps along the door edges / door closing and opening smoothly.

Cracked fiberglass shower base cornerIf you have a manufactured type shower base (fiberglass, plastic, concrete, Corian, etc), check its surface for cracks, scratches, dents, stains. Cracks usually appear in corners or around the drain hole, might be caused by improper handling, installation or even manufacturing process. Other 99.9% issues are caused by the base installer or whoever performs other jobs around the base.

Leaking shower enclosure requires resealingOpen grout-joints between the tiles require resealing - all tiled wall corners should be sealed with siliconOpen the valves, check for proper operation (same as whirlpool section), if possible, direct shower-head onto the enclosure seams (run it 10-15 minutes) to make sure that none of them are leaking

  • If your condo shower stall has a tiled seat, make sure that it has a positive slope to provide proper drainage, ensure that all shower stall seams / corners have been sealed with silicon. Even if they are not cracked yet, 99.9% of them will eventually separate and start leaking onto the ceiling below.

Chicago condo bathroom lights inspection

Recessed light fixtures and trim over the tub or shower stall must be rated for wet - damp locations (restrictions apply) #1Recessed light fixtures and trim over the tub or shower stall must be rated for wet - damp locations (restrictions apply) #2Recessed light fixtures within 3’ from the tub or shower stall edge and 8’ vertically from the edge must be rated for wet / damp locations (usually require enclosed trim preventing moisture penetration)

Bathroom wall light electrical wiring must be concealed inside the fixture enclosure or junction box
Lights – if you have a light strip above the mirror with an open top, check if electrical wiring is properly contained within an electrical junction box or fixture itself – you should not be able to see exposed wires and connections

Chicago condo bathroom exhaust fan inspection

  • Any bathroom without an openable window requires an exhaust fan. Depending on the condo building type, this might be an individual exhaust fan installed on the wall or ceiling, or central exhaust system with just a register in your bathroom (some have switch controlled dampers). You can place a tissue or toilet paper over it to make sure that it has suction.

Bathroom vent installed above the shower or bathtub requires GFCI protection
Any bathroom exhaust fan installed directly above the shower stall or bathtub must be listed for such locations and GFCI protected (manufacturer requirement) – turn the fan on and push GFCI receptacle test button, this must stop the fan.

Chicago condo bathroom inspection other issues

Check tiled surfaces for missing grout or cracked grout linesMake sure that all tiled wall corners are sealed with siliconCheck all tiled walls for missing or cracked grout – look at grout lines from different angles to make sure that they are all completely filled with grout and free of cracks. There might be an inadequate mortar base, sometimes loose underlayment that permits movement and results in grout cracking.

Tiled wall and tub or shower base edge are very common areas of moisture penetration - silicon application ensures water tight sealTypical separation between the sink countertop and the back-splashTiled wall and floor corners, tile seams with tub and shower stall base, shower enclosure to wall seams, sink countertop to wall seam – they should be all sealed with silicon to prevent moisture / water penetration.  99.9% of them will eventually crack / open, and without flexible sealer on top of the seam, they will start leaking. Your neighbor from the floor below is usually the first one to let you know about it.

Tub-shower window sill has a negative slope and holds waterWindow sill (if window located within the shower stall / tub area) should be sloped towards the interior / not the window frame. Assuming that it is tiled, all seams with the window frame must be sealed with silicon.

Sealer application on tiled / grouted surfaces – I don’t think that there’s such requirement / regulation (except for the grout and some tiles manufacturers recommendations), so you can’t really request it from the developer. However, I highly recommend it – it saves maintenance time, slows grout deterioration, prevents grout, unglazed tiles and stone surfaces from absorbing water. Application is very easy and clearly explained on any sealer bottle – just make sure that the surface you’re applying it over is clean and fully dry.

Condo bathroom window safety glass

Bathroom window safety glass - required for any windows within 60 inches from the tub or shower standing surfaceBathroom windows located within 60” from the shower stall or tub standing surface MUST be tempered type glass – check the corners of a window pane for etching confirming that it is tempered. This is a very common problem, and for a very simple reason – tempered window glass is more expensive – if it’s not there, it must be replaced.

  • Tub or shower enclosures must be also tempered glass and I’ve never seen a new one without the label. Custom / frameless enclosures might not have a “Tempered Glass” etching or label so the only thing you could do is ask developer for a certificate or manufacturer contact information.

Whirlpool / tub surface issues

Cracked fiberglass whirlpool tub edge, as a result of improper handling and installationCheck your new condo bathroom tub for dents, scratches, marks, discoloration (all types of tubs), and cracks especially along the edges supported with tiled surface (fiberglass and plastic). While first 4 are usually related to a sloppy drywall / tile installers, painters and sometimes a plumber, cracks along the edge are usually a sign of an improper base / inadequate support under the tub, and poorly designed framing.

Properly supported whirlpool tub - just one of the optionsImproperly supported fiberglass tub - might crack around the drain end edges when under stress- filled with waterThe tub should be fully supported from underneath, not rest on the thin edge which becomes critical while filled with water. You should be able to see hydro-spa tub support after removing the motor access panel.

Condo bathroom sink and faucet issues

  • Make sure that your sink, cabinet / sink base, countertop, faucet components and all the hardware are securely attached (supported). Check if pup-up drain is functional, open hot and cold water separately to make sure that supply lines have not be switched around. Look at the water flow and pressure – the screens inside the faucet spout discharge end (aerator) might be contaminated and require cleaning.
  • Keep your bathroom sink faucet open for several minutes and check the plumbing underneath, look for leakage stains under the pipes and valves, run your hand over the connections (drain and supply) to make sure that there’s no leaks.

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Chicago Condo Inspection Manual

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