Home Inspections: Common Areas of Investigation

Each homebuyer has different ideas of what will constitute the ideal home, but one thing that unites all potential buyers is the desire for a home that is fundamentally sound, safe and comfortable. This is where the services of a reputable home inspector come into play. During the home inspection, many important areas of a home are examined closely. These include:

1. Structural Problems:

Your home inspector will inform you of minor or major structural problems. Common in older homes, these can range from cracks in the plaster to small shifts in the foundation, as examples, and can be the result of poor design or construction techniques, improper structural alteration, water damage, etc. Such problems should be taken care of before they escalate or become a major expense.

2. Drainage/Grading Problems:

Water damage is a common problem found by home inspectors and, left untreated, can lead to major expenses. It’s imperative to address the problem immediately. Solutions can range from installation of new gutters and downspouts to re-grading the lawn and surrounding property to direct water away from the house.

3. Damp Basement:

Mildew odour is often the first indication of dampness in a basement. In addition to the basement, the inspector will also examine the walls to check for signs of whitish mineral deposit just above the floor.

4. Poorly Installed/Defective Plumbing:

Plumbing problems and defects are common in older homes. A home inspector will determine whether a property’s plumbing is subject to leaking or clogging by testing the water pressure. This can be done by turning on all the faucets in the highest bathroom, then flushing the toilet. If the sound of water is audible, the home’s pipes may be too narrow. Discoloration in the water is an indication of rusted pipes—another water problem to address immediately.

Tip: Your inspector should carry a moisture meter to evaluate any suspicious plaster or wall board on ceilings or walls that may be caused by water leaks. Be sure he or she also checks all fixtures and faucets for proper operation, and tiled bathtub and shower enclosures for integrity. Replacement costs for piping in the walls or ceilings, new bathroom tiling or a shower pan can be in the thousands of dollars.

5. Older/Poorly-Functioning Heating and Cooling Systems:

Older heating/cooling systems that haven’t been properly maintained can pose serious safety and health problems. The inspector will determine the furnace’s age and, if it is over the average life span of a furnace (15-20 years), will likely suggest it be replaced, even if still in good condition. The inspector will also examine closely a forced air gas heating system because any cracks in the heat exchanger could cause a leak of poisonous carbon monoxide gas. As heat exchangers are irreparable, they must be replaced if damaged. While related replacement costs may seem expensive, a new system will yield heightened efficiency and reduced monthly heating/cooling costs and, thus, benefit your long-term investment. Your home should also be inspected for the presence of underground oil storage tanks, which would need to be removed.

6. Older/Unsafe Electrical System:

Worn or outdated electrical systems and homeowner additions are common defects, especially in older homes. It is not unusual for an inspector to find undersized services, aluminum wiring, knob-and-tub wiring or insufficient/badly-renovated distribution systems. Problems with Electrical systems are a safety hazard and require immediate attention. Many lenders will not provide a loan, as most insurance companies will not insure a home with knob and tube wiring, for example.

7. Older/Leaking Roof:

Roof leaks can be a sign of physical deterioration of asphalt shingles caused by aging (asphalt roofs typically last 15 to 25 years), or could indicate mechanical damage caused by any number of factors. Your inspector will let you know if your roof requires only new shingles or whether the roof must be completely stripped before installing new shingles.

8. Poor Ventilation:

Poorly ventilated bathrooms and cooking areas can become breeding areas for mould and fungus, which can lead to air quality issues throughout a house and trigger allergic reactions. Mould can also damage plaster and window frames. These problems should be addressed before causing any permanent damage. The inspector will inform you of the quality of your insulation relative to the local climate and, if it is an older home, whether any asbestos issues exist.

9. Other:

Other problems to consider include ill-fitting doors, aged caulking, poor insulation, low-quality weather strips or poor attic seals, all of which create a drafty home. The inspector should also look at such things as the types of door locks, quality of the windows and patio doors, and smoke or carbon monoxide detectors and where they’re located throughout the home.

What to do about a less-than-stellar home inspection report? The home inspector probably won’t tell you what to do and not every issue uncovered during an inspection is serious. If you are the buyer, it is good to know how much the problem will influence your offer and/or whether to walk away from the deal altogether. If you are the seller, it is good to know how much the problem will cost you to fix or how much you may have to concede to the buyer to make repairs.

To learn more or to receive a list of reputable Vancouver home inspectors, contact Kyle at kyle@downiehomes.com.

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