Inspection items – what’s wrong with your home?

Austin Home Inspector
One of the inspectors we use, Bob Petersen at Precision Inspection had the published following newsletter article, which he said I could republish hear on my blog.

by Bob Petersen

I have to chuckle whenever I enter a home for an inspection and either the agent or owner informs me that, ‘this home is in excellent condition, so we doubt you’ll find anything wrong’.

My advice on these type of comments is:
1. NEVER say this to an inspector (he’ll only look harder!)
2. If you DO say it, don’t believe it (there is ALWAYS something wrong!)

After 25 years of building and inspecting I have discovered two unassailable truths about housing: none of it is perfect and everyone thinks their home is in good condition.

So for this article I thought I’d discuss what we most commonly find in the homes we inspect. For the most part these are homes which the owner has ‘kept up’ and which, from the street at least, appear pretty good. From my experience the typical home owner is thinking about paint, carpeting, roofing etc. when he thinks about the term good condition, i.e. things which he can see.

Anyone who has experienced a modern home inspection knows the inspector rarely cares about what he can see, but what he can infer from what he sees. If I see that the carpeting, paint and roof are in poor condition then I can logically deduce that items I can’t see are probably also in poor condition.

Here are some of the items we see every day:

A/C – dirty filter, both coils dirty, drain line outside buried, marginal cooling, 2nd floor units without automatic shutoff switches
Heat – burners rusted (gas), elements inoperative or wiring burned (electric), fan control out of adjustment, old style gas line, gas leaks, disconnected flues (VERY common on houses with new roofs!), carbon monoxide issues, leaky ducts.

Electrical – plugs ungrounded or wired backwards, breakers double wired or oversized, fixtures ungrounded, exposed wire splices, main ground wire unattached, GFI outlets missing or inoperative; smoke detectors missing or inoperative (this scares me more than anything else), aluminum wiring problems, antiquated or ungrounded breaker boxes.

Plumbing – water heater relief valve & line defective or improperly installed, non-drafting or disconnected flue, gas leaks, missing anti-siphon valves, leaking fixtures, corroded fittings, no dialectric unions (where copper pipes connect to steel), sewer line issues (especially on slab homes built in the 50’s & 60’s).

Appliances – ungrounded, gas leaks, missing shutoff valves, vented to attic (in the case of venthoods), leaking, missing parts.

Fireplaces – Damper inoperative, excess creosote, firebrick or refractory panels loose/cracked, firestop missing, no rain cap.

Attic – inadequate or missing rafter supports or truss bracing, rafters over spanned. Insulation thin or missing, poor ventilation.

If you are saying to yourself ‘not my house’, think again! The odds are high that 40-60% of the items mentioned above are present in your home right now, especially if it’s more than 15 years old. While most home owners would never consider having someone in their home to look for problems such as these, most should as many of these defects constitute safety or fire hazards (or at the very least huge energy wasters).

My grandmother told me that a ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. Was she perhaps thinking of home maintenance??

Courtesy of Precision Inspection 282-0455, feel free to copy and use as you wish! Bob Petersen

3 thoughts on “Inspection items – what’s wrong with your home?”

  1. My house is just 6 years old and we supervised the construction. Its built like a tank and a three-star green builder to boot! Six inch studs, lots of insulation, low-E windows, new wiring, no lead paint. It kills me that we will have to sell it at some point and move into a 1960s era slab foundation to get our kids into a decent public high school. I shudder at all the potential problems: electrical issues, sewer issues, foundation, on and on.

    Now our house isn’t perfect, the sprinkler system has a leak, and the electric starter on the gas stove likes to click and the ac coils need cleaning but I have great confidence in the overall construction of this house and I so fear moving back into an older house!! Ack!

  2. I’ve lived in slab or pier-and-beam houses all my life — every one of them built in the ’50s or ’60s…and they do fine. Sometimes the doors stick, sometimes they don’t.

  3. Okay, please keep these happy 1960s era slab foundation stories coming!

    We just passed on a house that had a 5.5 inch slope in one room and a 2.5 inch slope front to back. Foundations can be fixed but the house was sited poorly, back yard drained towards the house, clay soil, seemed like the problems would reoccur. That plus the need for new ac, roof, windows, put us off. I am spoiled by my highly insulated house and low electrical bills. We had a 1951 house, pier and beam foundation was great but no insulation in the walls meant that you tell if a cold front had come through just by putting your hands on the wall. And the electric bills were high!


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