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Top Five Problems Revealed During a Home Inspection

Purchasing a house is a major decision, and a home inspection report can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Here are some of the more common issues found during a home inspection.

 

Poor Grading and Drainage

Water should run away from any structure to help prevent moisture intrusion. If the soil around a house slopes toward the house, or if water pools around the perimeter of the foundation, that moisture can create hydronic pressure in the soil that can move the foundation, causing cracks and leaks that can lead to extensive damage and expensive repairs. If water wicks into the wood framing members, the wood will rot over time. This moisture also provides a haven for wood-destroying organisms (WDO) because it provides a water and food source.

Erosion around the perimeter of a house may be caused by water spilling over gutters due to clogged downspouts or downspouts that terminate near the foundation. Downspout extensions or spill ways can be installed to keep water away from the foundation.

Roof Coverings

The roof of a house is designed to withstand most of what Mother Nature can dish out, whether it be rain, wind or sun. If installed properly, the roof should keep water out of the home.

The life expectancy for roof coverings varies depending on the material. Asphalt composite shingles, for instance, typically have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. As the roof covering ages, it can become more susceptible to water infiltration and leaking.

Plumbing Problems

Notice a theme here? Controlling water is one of the most important issues in home maintenance.

Leaking supply water and drain lines can cause damage to walls and floors, or they can become the water source for mold and mildew. Outdated (galvanized) or problematic systems (polybutylene) can develop leaks more frequently. Wax rings under toilets can develop leaks and damage the floor around the toilet or the ceiling below.

Electrical Issues

House fires caused by faulty wiring and overloading circuits are common. It is not unusual for a home inspector find evidence of DIY additions to a home’s electrical system. Many times these additions work but were not done properly, causing safety issues.

Exposed wire connections and double taps in the panel are also common problems. If your home inspector finds these or other electrical issues, he/she will recommend that you have the system evaluated and repaired by a qualified licensed electrician

HVAC Havoc

Inadequate maintenance of the HVAC equipment is common. 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 need to be replaced. 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.”

This is a sampling of typical issues found during a home inspection. These items may vary depending on the geographical location of the property and the overall maintenance of the property.

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Content originally published in February of 2016.

November 2017: Plumbing Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Plumbing

Q: Obviously my inspector will check the plumbing fixtures — sinks, toilets, showers, etc. — but what about the supply and drain pipes?

Ask The Inspector

A. In addition to checking all the plumbing fixtures of a property for functionality, water pressure, drainage and flow, your inspector should visually inspect and describe the water supply pipes and drainage pipes.

Water supply pipe materials were made of lead and then converted to galvanized pipe from the early 1900s to early 1960s, so those may be present in older homes. Copper supply pipes were introduced in the late 1950s and may also still be used. Some modern-day plumbing supply systems have incorporated plastic-type piping — such as polybutylene, PEX and CPVC — made by various companies. During the inspection, your inspector should determine and describe the type of plumbing supply systems.

In some cases, drain pipes were made with clay for underground use from the house to the main line at the street. Inside the house – in the early days of the late 1800s to early 1960s — lead and cast iron were primarily used and then replaced by the more modern ABS, PVC and CPVC plastic drain pipe material.

In any case, your inspector is looking for signs of leakage and corrosion with either your water supply or drain pipe systems. A home inspection does not guarantee insurability of a home that contains certain building products and materials; some insurance companies may not cover certain water pipe supply systems.

For example, there was a class-action lawsuit that is no longer in effect for polybutylene piping systems. Polybutylene piping is typically a gray, sometimes black, flexible plastic piping system that was prone to leaking, especially in the first generation. These systems were reported as failing in the tubing, fittings and connections. The settlement of the class-action suit only repaired the leaks — it did not entitle full replacement unless warranted. The second generation of this piping was prone to leaking at the fittings. Thus, when discovered, polybutylene piping systems should be fully inspected by a qualified plumbing contractor.

Galvanized piping systems are now considered obsolete and are no longer used. Typically, galvanized piping systems have a tendency — depending on hard water content — to collect calcium deposits at elbow and T fittings, which reduces water flow, especially on the hot water side. Eventually the lines close up, and in some cases, they can develop leaks.

Plumbing system repairs and replacements can be one of the most expensive repairs to a home, so it is important to have plumbing systems inspected by a quality, trained home inspector.

Be Advised

Dealing With Air Impurity

Air impurity is caused by two general pollutants: particulates and gases. Smoke, dust mites, and pollen fall into the particulate category. Gaseous pollutants include gases released as a result of combustion, such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

Be Advised

There are several ways to clean your home’s air of its potential pollutants:

  • Air filter solutions trap particles as air passes through the filters.
  • Activated carbon air filters are used to eliminate gases and odors from the air.
  • Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) systems use UV light to kill gaseous pollutants.
  • Air ionizers remove particles from the air by releasing negative ions, which change the polarity of airborne particulates.

It’s not possible to control the air quality outdoors; controlling it indoors is another matter. An air purifier is available for nearly every indoor pollutant, and is a common sense decision for homeowners to help ensure a healthy air environment.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. You should not install polybutylene piping or any type of plastic piping system this close to a gas water heater vent pipe.
  2. This is a proper installation.
  3. Plastic piping like polybutylene is the best type of piping system to use for this application.
  4. PEX pipe would be a better choice for this application.

Correct Answer A. You should not install polybutylene piping or any type of plastic piping system this close to a gas water heater vent pipe. There should be a metal type of extension pipe installed for any of the supply lines in or out of a gas water heater. NPI’s inspection expert says that the installation in the photo is a disaster waiting to happen. Also note that the pipe may be leaking due to corrosion.

Noteworthy News

Exterior Flashings

Whether for a window, door or skylight, cutting a hole in your home will create a place where water can enter. This can cause rot, mold or other problems. Flashings, made of aluminum, galvanized steel, copper and plastics such as PVC, are meant to cover and protect the seams. This prevents water problems from occurring.

Noteworthy News

Flashings may be visible, concealed or partially concealed, and are integral in ensuring that water stays outside on the lawn instead of inside on the floor. If traced to their source, many so-called roof leaks are actually flashing failures. Flashings divert water away from: chimneys, windows, doors, valleys, the intersection of various rooflines, skylights, pipes and stacks.

As part of a general home inspection, NPI professionals inspect the flashings to ensure they are functioning and properly installed. The inspector will observe both the inside and outside wall and roof openings where flashings are common to determine if there is any evidence of failure or leakage. Findings are recorded in a written report. For more information on flashings, roofs and property inspection, call us today.

Maintenance Matters

Shopping Tips for New Windows

One of the best ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to install new windows. But once you start shopping, the variety of available technologies to choose from may seem overwhelming. For instance, glazing materials now come with a variety of coatings and feature options. You can also buy frames in aluminum, wood, vinyl, fiberglass or a combination of materials. And, each glazing or frame option has its own pros and cons.

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

To help you determine which window option to choose, we’ve collected the following tips:

  • Look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label to ensure that the window’s performance is certified.
  • The lower the U-value, the better the window’s insulation. In colder climates, a U-value of .35 or lower is recommended because these windows have double glazing and a low-e coating.
  • In warmer climates, where summertime heat coming through windows is the main concern, look for windows with double glazing and spectrally selective coatings to reduce heat gain.
  • Select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less.
  • To maximize the seasonal energy benefits in temperate climates, choose windows with both low U-values and low solar heat gain coefficiency (SHGC).
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® AND EnergyGuide labels on the windows.
  • Vinyl windows are a low-cost durable option — virtually indestructible, impervious to moisture and insect and rot-proof.
  • Fiberglass windows won’t warp, rot or crack, but they also cost about twice as much as vinyl windows.
  • Although aluminum windows are extremely strong, aluminum has many downsides: It doesn’t insulate well against heat and cold; it expands and contracts rapidly relative to glass, putting stress on seals; and it is susceptible to the corrosive effects of salt air, so it’s not a great choice for coastal climates.
  • Wood windows have a certain charm, but they aren’t as durable, are susceptible to rot and insect attack, require vigilant maintenance and cost more.

Did You Know?

The Life Expectancy of Home Components

Do you ever wonder how long a certain component in your home might last? The life expectancy of a typical component depends on the use it receives. The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components” created a timeline for you, based on the results of the study, to use before planning your next big home improvement.

Appliances differ in their life expectancies. Gas ranges have the highest life expectancy of 15 years, washers and dryers are expected to last about 13 years, and dishwashers and microwaves are expected to last nine years.

Flooring All natural wood floorings have a life expectancy of 100 years or more; marble, slate and granite are expected to last for about 100 years; vinyl floors last up to 50 years; carpet last between eight and 10 years.

Kitchen cabinets are expected to last up to 50 years.

Masonry (chimneys, brick veneers, fireplaces) are expected to last up to 100 years.

Countertops have a life expectancy of about 20 years, depending on the type.

Exterior doors (fiberglass, steel, wood) can last as long as the house exists, while vinyl and screen doors have a life expectancy of 20 to 40 years.

Garage door openers have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.

The life expectancy of most components is often overlooked. Most components are replaced before they are worn out because of changes in technology, life styles and consumer preferences. Proper maintenance of these components is important in order to achieve the maximum life expectancy.

Monthly Trivia Question

Carpenter Ants destroy wood by feeding on it. True or False?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

November 2016: Plumbing Inspections

Ask The Inspector

What You Can Expect From A Plumbing Inspection

A typical home plumbing system includes three fundamental components: the water supply system, the fixtures and appliances, and the drain system. The plumbing system’s water supply includes piping for fresh water coming in and wastewater going out. The proper flow of water through both systems is an essential part of maintaining a well-functioning home. Assessing the system for its overall condition and visible leaks is part of any home inspection.

Ask The Inspector

Only visible and accessible water supply (and drain) components within a structure are typically subject to inspection because underground or hidden portions of the system that are not readily accessible are specifically excluded. The pipes related to the water and wastewater plumbing must be separate to prevent wastewater from entering the drinking system. Supply pipes are generally made of copper, plastic, brass, galvanized iron or steel, or a combination of materials.

A National Properties Inspections professional will determine the type of pipe and look over the visible piping for evidence of leaks or malfunction, such as staining, mildew or odors. Even a small leak or condensation on pipes can cause damage to wood, wall or floor coverings. The inspection report will include signs of leaks or evidence of past leaks if found.

Some Inspectors will offer a sewer scan as an add-on service. A sewer scan is not part of a standard home inspection but if there are trees surrounding the property or evidence that there could be problems lurking below the ground the inspector might suggest scanning the sewer line for breaks or other issues. Tree roots specifically like to encroach on pipes and other water supplies.

Be Advised

Fire Safety in the Home

Every homeowner should set up an emergency plan for their household. This plan should include a list of emergency shutoffs and other important items in the house to familiarize your household with in the case of an unexpected situation.

Be Advised

You may need to find an expert to help locate, repair or maintain some of these shutoff valves and switches. It will help to locate these items in an emergency if you take the time now to tag them. Take a tour with family members explaining what these items do and how to operate the controls. Here is a list of some items to tag:

  • Main electrical disconnect
  • Water main valve
  • Water heater shutoff
  • Natural gas main
  • Local gas valves
  • Air conditioning disconnect
  • Furnace and air conditioning main switch
  • Emergency release for garage door
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Emergency toolbox

The above is a basic list. For more detailed information, contact your local utilities, police and fire departments.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

Photo submitted by Tom Trotter-NPI, Troy, OH
  1. You can put a cap on the end to catch the water when the TPR valve starts to leak.
  2. A TPR extension pipe must run in a gravity downward flow with no threaded ends to screw a cap on as in this case.
  3. You can use PEX pipe for this.
  4. You can run a TPR extension pipe uphill.

Correct Answer is B. A TPR extension pipe must run in a gravity downward flow with no threaded ends to screw a cap on as in this case.

Noteworthy News

Home Air Purifier

Air impurity is caused by two general pollutants: particulates and gases. Smoke, dust mites, insect parts and pollen fall into the particulate category. Gaseous pollutants include gases released as a result of combustion, such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Noteworth News

There are several ways to clean your home’s air of its potential pollutants:

  • Air filter solutions trap particles as air passes through the filters.
  • Activated carbon air filters are used to eliminate gases and odors from the air.
  • Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) systems use UV light to kill gaseous pollutants.
  • Air ionizers remove particles from the air by releasing negative ions, which change the polarity of airborne particulates.

It’s not possible to control the air quality outdoors; controlling it indoors is another matter. An air purifier is available for nearly every indoor pollutant, and is a common sense decision for homeowners to help ensure a healthy air environment.

Maintenance Matters

Exterior Flashings

Cut a hole in a home, whether for a window, door or skylight and you create a place where water can enter the home, causing rot, mold or other problems. Flashings, made of aluminum, galvanized steel, copper and plastics such as PVC, are meant to cover and protect the seams, preventing water problems.

Noteworth News

Flashings may be visible, concealed or partially concealed, but they are integral in ensuring water stays outside on the lawn instead of coming inside on the floor. If traced to their source, many so-called roof leaks are actually flashing failures. When operating as intended, flashings divert water away from: chimneys, windows, doors, valleys, the intersection of various rooflines, skylights and pipes and stacks.

As part of a general home inspection, NPI professionals inspect the flashings to ensure they are functioning and properly installed. The inspector will observe both the inside and outside of areas wall and roof openings where flashings are common to determine if any evidence of failure or leakage exists. Findings are recorded in a written report. For more information on flashings, roofs and property inspection, talk with us today.

Did You Know?

The Life Expectancy of Home Components

Do you ever wonder how long a certain component in your home might last? The life expectancy of a typical component depends on the use it receives. The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components” created a timeline for you, based on the results of the study, to use before planning your next big home improvement.

Appliances differ in their life expectancies. Gas ranges have the highest life expectancy of 15 years, washers and dryers are expected to last about 13 years, and dishwashers and microwaves are expected to last nine years.

Flooring All natural wood floorings have a life expectancy of 100 years or more; marble, slate and granite are expected to last for about 100 years; vinyl floors last up to 50 years; carpet last between eight and 10 years.

Kitchen cabinets are expected to last up to 50 years.

Masonry (chimneys, brick veneers, fireplaces) are expected to last up to 100 years.

Countertops have a life expectancy of about 20 years, depending on the type.

Exterior doors (fiberglass, steel, wood) can last as long as the house exists, while vinyl and screen doors have a life expectancy of 20 to 40 years.

Garage door openers have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.

The life expectancy of most components is often overlooked. Most components are replaced before they are worn out because of changes in technology, life styles and consumer preferences. Proper maintenance of these components is important in order to achieve the maximum life expectancy.

For Your Information

Moisture Issues Inside The Home

When we turn on our home heating systems each fall, many of us experience condensation, or steam, on windows. Condensation requires a cool surface and moisture in the air. When the temperature of the glass drops below the dew point of the inside air, invisible water vapor in the air condenses on the cool glass.

Over the summer, moisture slowly accumulates in furniture, walls, woodwork, cloth and other surfaces. In the fall, as the exterior temperature drops for the first time, some of this moisture condenses on cold window glass

Most moisture leaks out of your home as your furnace runs and vent fans are used. Eventually, all the materials in your home dry out and moisture stops condensing on the windows. This normally takes a few weeks. Keeping drapery and window treatments away from the glass area allows a good flow of air over the windows and helps reduce condensation quicker.

If condensation continues to form on windows after several weeks, your home may have excessive moisture. Most moisture problems can be solved by limiting sources of moisture and improving ventilation.

Monthly Trivia Question

True or false: Brass doorknobs disinfect themselves?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.