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 29 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??