HOME INSPECTIONS: BUYER BE-WARE AND SELLER BE READY!
It is often a condition of sale and usual practice for a buyer to hire an independent home inspector to review a potential property. A professional home or cottage inspection is an objective in-depth visual examination of its structure and operating systems that results in a detailed report describing the overall condition of the building and its operating systems. Its purpose is to educate the client about the physical condition of the home and addresses areas of concern or requiring maintenance. Home and cottage owners should do their own inspections once or twice each year. These are some of the more common areas of concern.
A Solid Foundation
Tell-tale signs that suggest foundation problems include cracks in walls, sticking and swinging doors, or uneven floors. Home Inspectors examine the footing and foundation of the home. If there are problems, a professional engineer can provide an accurate analysis and design a repair solution. Having repairs done by a reputable contractor will increase the value of the structure.
Water Damage or Dampness
Water damage is one of the most common problem areas and issues should be addressed immediately to avoid further costly repair. Water leaks usually leave warning signs like standing water and/or stains. Common sites are around windows or at the bottom of exterior doors, which indicate that water is penetrating the structure from the outside. Stains at the joint between the ceiling and an exterior wall could be a sign of a roof leak or an ice dam problem. Stains anywhere else along a ceiling can indicate a leaky roof. Water stains on the floor of a cabinet might mean that water is leaking from the sink trap or somewhere else in the sink drain system. High-risk areas for floor water damage are around the dishwasher and fridge, and on the bathroom floor around the toilet and the shower. If drywall is discoloured or swollen, it means the drywall has absorbed moisture and is soft and broken down. Damaged drywall is usually found in the same areas as water stains and buckled floors. Evidence of water damage in a basement with a cement floor shows up as a white power substance on the cement. This is known as "effleurage" and could be evidence of recurring water issues. Home Inspectors will look for these indicators of water damage as evidence of other underlying problems.
Electrical Wiring and Circuitry
Home Inspectors will note indicators like octopus plugs for evidence of inadequate circuits. Electrical wire should be copper or aluminum. The electrical panel and circuit breaker configuration should be adequate for the needs of the house. The inspector will look for receptacles with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFI) in bathrooms and kitchens, and will also check some of the other receptacles in the house.
An inspector will check the water pressure in a house by turning on multiple faucets and flushing toilets at the same time to find out if the pipes are undersized. If water looks dirty when it first comes out of a faucet, the pipes may be rusted. An inspector will look for leaks and clogs, and run the dishwasher and check the septic system for signs that may indicate a drainage problem.
The Septic System
There is a separate septic and comprehensive inspection available if a buyer suspects any issue with a septic system. There are many different systems available, with a tank and leeching bed being most common. The age of the tank, type of tank (cement or plastic) and size of tank is important, as well as the state of the bed. The average shelf-life of a septic system in full time use is approx. 25 to 30 years.
One of the first things inspectors notice are deteriorated, damaged, loose or missing shingles or other roof coverings. The flashing around the base of the chimney should be watertight, and the mortar and bricks in good condition. Water leakage through a roof can result from physical deterioration of the shingles, or storm damage. Attic problems concerning ventilation, insulation or vapour barriers can cause mould and mildew to form, which can lead to premature wear of the roof, structure and building materials. An inspector will check for framing, ventilation and type of roof construction, flashing and gutters of the roof, and the attic space. High-wear areas where there is significant foot traffic or areas where downspouts from upper roofs discharge onto lower roofs, flashing at dormers, plumbing stacks, and valleys should be carefully inspected. Electric cables should be well secured and properly powered, and supports for television antennas or satellite dishes should be checked. Tree branches should be kept cut back to avoid damaging the roof surface. Flat roofs should be inspected for blisters, bubbles, and flashing details. Inspect tar and gravel roofs for areas of gravel erosion. Tree branches should not contact the roof surface.
Heating and Cooling Sources and Systems
An Inspector will check water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, duct work, chimney, fireplace and sprinklers. A cracked heat exchanger can emit carbon monoxide, and must be replaced if damaged. The chimney should be solid. Inspectors will look for cracks in the bricks, and crumbled mortar. If covered with stucco or parging, look for cracks or loose sections. Chimney caps should be inspected for loose or broken sections as should the protruding clay chimney liners. Chimney flashings should be inspected for leakage. Efflorescence (a white salt build-up on the chimney) indicates moisture within the chimney. Metal chimneys should be checked for rust, missing rain caps and loose braces.
The Inspector will identify the type of insulation used, its condition, and how well it's been installed. Tell-tale signs of poor insulation or inadequate ventilation include water stains on the underside of roof boards, rotting, mildew and fungus. Gable and roof vents should be checked for obstructions, and attics for any evidence of pests like squirrels or raccoons.
Mould and Mildew
An inspector will check the basement walls for powdery white mineral deposit, as well as for a mildew odour. Attic spaces will be checked for any ventilation, insulation and vapour barriers inefficiencies. Mould thrives in damp humid conditions such as bathrooms with poor ventilation, leaky water pipes and roofs, laundry dryer vents and exhaust fans. Homes that have been flooded are at serious risk for moulds. Although a Home Inspector might not perform mould spore tests, you can hire a professional to do it for you.
Other Areas of Concern
Masonry - Walls constructed of brick, block and stone should be checked for deterioration. Continual flow of water down a wall from a clogged roof gutter or downspout can result in water freezing and thawing and over time, lead to damaged grout and mortar.
Wood-Rot - If decay is discovered, figure out where the water is coming from. Check for roof and plumbing leaks, and missing or punctured flashing. Look for stains and drip tracks caused by ice dams. Eaves should be wide enough to prevent water from cascading down side walls. Gutters must be properly maintained. Finish grades should slope away from the foundation. Crawl spaces and attics should have soil covers, and venting and/or insulation should be present, adequate, and properly placed. Peeling and blistering paint signal inadequate interior ventilation, or a missing vapour retarder. Water stains on framing and sheathing inside walls suggest condensation.
Windows - Check caulking and weather-stripping, and for broken or cracked panes of glass. Storm windows should be installed in fall and replaced with screens in spring. Check the finishes and sills for paint deterioration and rot. Window wells should be cleaned.
Security - Inspectors will look at the basic safety features that protect your home such as proper locks on windows and patio doors, dead bolts on the doors, smoke (and possibly carbon monoxide) detectors evident and working in every bedroom, and on every level of the home