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The following was written by guest blogger Bill Erickson of National Property Inspections.
A home inspection is designed to help you understand the overall condition of a home’s major systems. In any given home, no matter its age or appearance, it’s common to find a handful of items that need to be upgraded or repaired. That said, there are certain defects in a home that present a bigger red flag for real estate agents and potential buyers.
Here are major problems that our inspectors at National Property Inspections see on a regular basis that are indicative of a large-scale issue.
Whether your home is new or old, sewer issues can arise for a variety of reasons. Two of the most common causes are underground roots that have grown into the line or an obstruction somewhere in the line.
Standing water in the yard, signs of flooding in the basement, and heaved walkways could indicate that you have a problem with your main drain. If you see any of these telltale signs, it’s best to order a sewer line scan because sewer repairs can cost as much as $10,000.
If the home you’re looking to sell or purchase is older (built between the 1880s and 1970s), it could include dangerous electrical wiring. Knob-and-tube wiring and aluminum branch circuit wiring are two of the biggest offenders. Both of these antiquated methods pose severe fire hazards and could mean higher insurance premiums or even un-insurability altogether.
Your inspector or an electrician should be able to pinpoint these outdated electrical practices. If the home has them, you may be faced with a costly upgrade or the decision to either walk away from the sale or knock a few thousand dollars off the asking price for a costly upgrade.
Drywall, like any other material, expands and contracts with temperature. This movement often causes minor cracking on its surfaces. Cracking is relatively normal at the intersections of walls and ceilings. These minor cracks can be easily repaired without cause for concern.
However, diagonal cracks from the corner of doors or windows could be a sign of foundation movement. These types of cracks require professional evaluation to assess the extent of the damage.
In skipping this crucial step in the real estate transaction, you won’t truly know the condition of the property you’re purchasing.
Bill Erickson, National Property Inspectors
Like drywall cracks, foundation cracks are common and often easy to repair. However, it’s still important to understand their cause.
Hairline cracks (1/16 inch or less) and corner cracks aren’t of any real concern, as they’re likely to happen during the concrete’s curing. Cracks that measure 1/8 inch or less can form from foundational movements, but can also be easily sealed.
If you notice horizontal cracks in the basement or cracks that are 1/4 inch wide anywhere on the foundation, you’ll need to consult a structural engineer, as this could indicate a larger issue that may require stabilization repairs such as wall tiebacks or carbon fiber reinforcement.
The vast majority of homes have some sort of mold growth. Mold will form any place where there’s excessive amounts of moisture. Small amounts of mold around the tub, shower, sink, and even windowsills are normal since water and condensation frequently collect in these areas. These tiny collections of mold don’t pose any immediate hazard.
However, mold on walls and ceilings outside the bathroom and kitchen indicate a widespread problem such as a broken pipe that could cost thousands of dollars to remediate.
You can find red flags indicative of poor roofing on both the home’s interior and exterior. Outside vegetation that’s touching or in close proximity to the roof typically hides or contributes to roof damage.
Discolored shingles also implicate water damage and previous repairs. Inside the home, water stains on the ceiling could indicate a leaking roof. Freshly painted ceilings or differences in ceiling texture could be a sign that the present owners are attempting to cover up damage.
Since repairing a roof is a significant expense, you’ll want to get a better understanding of its needed repairs or lifespan before attempting to buy or sell a home.
Approximately 6,000 people are injured annually due to collapsing decks. Over time, a deck’s support posts and beams can deteriorate and compromise its structural integrity.
Industry standards require ledger boards to be bolted to the home with joist hangers. They’re also required to have adequate fall protection, such as handrails. Uneven or sloped boards often signify that the ledger boards or posts are giving way.
The good news is that most deck issues can be prevented with proper maintenance, but any major concerns should be examined by a professional.
Homes built before the 1950s are notorious for using galvanized pipes. These are pipes that are coated in zinc as a way to prevent rusting and are easily identified by their silver-gray color. Galvanized pipes were initially designed to last at most 60 years, meaning most found today are near the end of their lifespan. The pipes have likely corroded inside and could soon breakthrough the zinc coat.
Along with leaks, galvanized pipes are difficult to repair, and rusted pipes can release lead into the water. Especially if a line is used for drinking water, it’s best to get galvanized pipes replaced as soon as possible.
High grading around the foundation is one of the most common issues identified on inspection reports. The proper minimum clearance between the facade and the soil is 4 to 6 inches. High grades are most commonly found in planter areas. Homeowners often place new mulch without removing the old, creating potential issues.
Ponding water around a foundation can cause a loss of support and settlement. When water sits against the foundation without proper drainage, the ponding can result in wood rot and mold throughout the structure.
Siding, stucco, and stone/brick veneers are not waterproof, so water easily penetrates the exterior walls. If the drainage is blocked, the moisture gets trapped in the wall, promoting more wood rot and mold.
Site grading should always slope away from the foundation for at least 5 feet, and gutter downspouts should always direct water at least 5 feet away from the foundation or deposit into a site drainage system.
Inadequate maintenance of the HVAC equipment is another common find. Dirty condenser coils on the air conditioner condenser unit and dirty furnace filters can lead to major repairs. The equipment may be at or near its life expectancy and require replacement. Gas-fired furnaces may not burn properly.
With proper maintenance, an HVAC system can continue to heat and cool the house, but many times heating and cooling systems are “out of sight, out of mind.”
Waiving a home inspection can be a costly decision. Especially in today’s hot market, it may be tempting to forgo the inspection. But in skipping this crucial step in the real estate transaction, you won’t truly know the condition of the property you’re purchasing.
A professional home inspection from National Property Inspections will give you the knowledge to make the right choice. Find your local inspector today so you can complete your investment with confidence.
Bill Erickson has been with National Property Inspections, Inc. since 2001. With more than 25 years of experience in marketing and sales management, he heads the corporate advertising functions and the NPI marketing department. Bill also works closely with the NPI National Accounts department, winning commercial business for NPI inspectors across the United States. On a daily basis, Bill handles customer relations and provides marketing training and support to franchise owners.
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