Buying a home has lots of steps. Once a home buyer is “under contract” on a property, it’s common for them to hire a professional home inspector as the next step. This contingency allows the home buyer to determine whether anything is wrong with the property before purchasing it.
A home inspection typically takes 2 to 4 hours and can reveal plenty of problems with a home. This article covers the top problems discovered during a home inspection.
Most home inspectors do not check for termite damage. Termite inspections are one of the most recommended portions of a home inspection following a purchase. Why is this the case? Because you often cannot see their damage from the outside.
What are some of the signs of termite damage your inspector will be looking for?
- Buckling floors
- Dry rot in wood floor joists
- Wood rot in door and window frames
- Soft/damp wood
- The presence of mud tubes bored into the soil near the foundation or directly into the home.
- Swarms around indoor or outdoor lights
- Small mounds of what looks like sawdust
Where will your inspector look for termite damage? One of the first areas they will look at will likely be in your crawlspace or basement. These areas are often the first to show signs of moisture, creating the perfect environment for these wood-destroying organisms. Other areas include the following:
- Wall cavities
- Firewood stacked against the side of a home
- Mulch or other landscaping materials near your home’s walls and foundation
- Window Frames
This component of a home inspection is very closely tied with termite inspections. During this portion, exposed wood will be what inspectors will have their eye on the most.
In nature, wood rot is a vital part of the cycle of life, but it is not something you want to have present in the house you are planning on making your home. Wood rot can lead to the following problems:
- Deterioration of support posts and beams
- Rotted floors and ceiling joists
- Destroyed roofs
- Unstable porches and decks
What causes wood rot? The most common culprit is a combination of moisture and fungi coming together to make a tiny home within the wood. There are three types of wood rot that an inspector will be keeping an eye out for:
- Brown Rot – AKA “dry rot”. The surface of the wood will appear dry, but upon further inspection of the wood’s interior, you will find its cellulose has been targeted, breaking into small, cube-like bits.
- White Rot – Noted in wood that takes on a white color and spongy feel.
- Soft Rot – Noted by its honeycomb-like appearance after it breaks down cellulose in the wood. This rot is not commonly found in houses but can be.
If present, repairing wood rot can cost an individual upwards of $20,000.
Home inspectors will test the functionality of the appliances. Home inspectors examine the appliances within a home to make sure they are in good working order.
Here are some of the typical ones an inspector will look over:
- Your stove range and oven
- The cooktop
- Oven and cooktop vents
- Garbage disposals
- Built-in microwaves that convey with the sale of the home
They often perform a series of tests and checks on the appliances and note any issues in the report. Some of the most common problems include the following:
- Range controls or burners not turning on or heating properly
- Ovens not warming to the proper temperature. Temperature lights not working
- Range hoods not working or being vented into the attic
- Dishwashers not running through an adequate cycle
- Garbage disposal blades not working or not turning on at all.
A radon inspection is usually performed as part of a home inspection. However, sometimes a buyer may have to request this portion of the inspection specifically.
Why is a radon test recommended? Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that occurs when uranium in soil breaks down. Radon gas is released as a byproduct of that breakdown and can cause many health problems such as lung cancer.
There are a few factors that will indicate a higher risk of radon exposure:
- Location – Areas such as the Appalachian Mountains and upper Midwest have higher amounts of radon present, as sheetrock and wood are frequently used building materials in these areas.
- Foundation Type – Homes built with dirt floors in basements or crawl spaces have nothing to protect against the rise of radon from the soil.
- Foundation Cracks – Cracks provide a perfect spot for the gas to seep into your home.
- Well Water – Groundwater can have radon present in it. Therefore, it is essential to have these levels checked regularly in wells.
What happens if radon is found to be present during the inspection? A professional radon mitigator will be recommended to you. This step can cost anywhere from $800-$1500 to resolve. It is costly, but the effect radon can have on your family’s health may be worse.
Building Code Violations
Building code violations are mentioned in home inspection reports. All homeowners would go through the proper channels when building additions onto their homes in a perfect world. Unfortunately, the reality is different.
Missing or defective GCFIs – GCFI stands for Ground-fault circuit interrupter. They are required for outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, and all outdoor circuits. Simply put, they protect against electrical shocks.
Handrails along staircases without returns – Handrails are supposed to be installed with a “return,” a small wooden piece that ends into the wall.
Misplaced smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors – Codes require a smoke alarm on each level of the house and outside every bedroom.
Deck flashings – Flashing needs to be installed between the deck ledger board and the house, and the ledger needs to be firmly attached. In a lot of DIY decks, ledgers will pull loose from the structure. As a result, these decks can collapse, especially when loaded with people.
Basement bedrooms with no window for egress – Each bedroom in a home should have a window present to allow for escape if an emergency occurs.
Bad electrical work – This electrical problem is often a telltale sign of a DIY project and can result in significant fire hazards.
Bathroom vents leaking into the attic – These vents should always vent outside of the home
You have probably heard the legal commercials for this one. “If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, you could be at risk for developing lung cancer or mesothelioma.”
Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rocks and soil found in building materials before 1981. It was a popular product due to its resistance to heat, chemicals, and electricity. Some items that include asbestos are the following:
- Vinyl Flooring
- Blankets for hot water pipes
While it is not dangerous when exposed to it in small amounts, your inspector will look for areas that indicate the asbestos has been disturbed. It can crumble and become airborne. This issue may pose a threat to you and your family.
One of the most common fixes for asbestos is encapsulation, a process in which the material will be treated with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats them so they cannot be released.
Windows Not Sealing Correctly
Broken window seals can cause major heat and air loss. Much like poor insulation, windows can lead to poor energy efficiency and high electric bills in your home. They can also cause security threats, as unsealed windows or ones that do not close properly will be a prime target for an unwanted person to enter your home.
Some things that an inspector will look for on your windows include the following:
- Condensation in the window
- White, powdery substance around the windows
- Shower-like scum build-up inside the windows
Water Heater Issues
In addition to the HVAC, water heaters are one of the potential buyers’ most considerable areas of concern. So, what do home inspectors look for regarding your water heater?
Sediment buildup – Sediment buildup within your water heater will result in a smaller water volume than the tank can hold. Your water heater may have to work overtime to heat the water, driving up your energy bill. Most sediment issues can be resolved by draining and flushing the tank.
Noise – Popping sounds in the tank can indicate sediment buildup and mean that your internal heating system is overheating.
If there is hot water or not – Usually, this is a sign that the heating element is faulty. They’re relatively easy to replace
Any water that accumulates underneath the heater – Sometimes, this can just be the result of condensation. Still, after your inspector rules that out, there may be a bigger problem to address.
Tripped circuit breakers – If your water heater causes your breaker to trip, this is an indicator of a bad heating element or faulty wiring.
Your water heater is the most expensive portion of your entire plumbing system. So this portion of your home inspection will be significant.
A home inspection is a vital part of buying a home. Ask your real estate agent for a list of good inspectors in your area. When you have found one that you like, book them to get your inspection scheduled.
You may be able to enter negotiations with the sellers to help fund some of the fixes found during the inspection before closing on the home. However, if you live in a hot market where homes are sold as-is, the likelihood of a seller putting any capital towards fixes is very slim.
Even if this is the case where you live, home inspections are still recommended. You will know what needs to be fixed upon moving into your home, and you can begin planning for the work that needs to be done. In addition, home inspections are a great way to ensure that you move into your next home with realistic expectations.