Smoke alarms should be located on or near the the ceiling, where smoke will first accumulate in a room. The diagram below shows the correct areas for installation.

    They should not be located above shelving, cabinets, or cove molding that would divert the smoke away from the sensor. The photo, of cove molding installed over an existing smoke alarm, is one example of what not to do.

  Also, since July 1st, 2008, new homes must have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms within 10-feet of the bedrooms. Although you can install separate CO alarms, most contractors install a combination smoke/CO alarm at these locations. To learn more about CO alarms, see our blog “Are carbon monoxide alarms required to be installed in homes in Florida?”

   Now for the question that we often get asked at home inspections: does an older home have smoke alarms that meet the standard at the time it was built? It’s a difficult one to answer with precision because, until Florida instituted a state-wide building code in 2002, the state was a hodge-podge of different codes from one county to another. For example, in the 1990s we were building and remodeling homes in the Florida Keys, and Monroe County used the Southern Standard Building Code. But as soon as you set foot on the mainland in Dade County, the South Florida Building Code ruled. Even with adjacent counties that used the same building code, sometimes one county would not adopt the new version of the code until several years after it was issued.

   So this is a rough approximation of when the smoke alarm requirement was implemented around Florida, and when the the standard was ratcheted up:

Approximately 1980 - required to have a single hard-wired smoke alarm in the access area to bedrooms.

Approximately 1990 - required to also have smoke alarms in each bedroom.

Approximately 2000 until today - smoke alarms also required to be interconnected (so that when one senses smoke they all go off) and have a battery backup.

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.

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