15 Most Common Problems Found During a Home Inspection
Buying a home? When you conduct a home inspection as a buyer, you ideally want to know if there are any major problems and if so, what’s involved in remedying them.
A quality home inspector will not only identify any issues, but they will also give you an introduction to your future house along with suggestions on how best to maintain it.
If you’re a first time home buyer, this will be especially important for you so that you know how to properly care for and protect your investment.
A home inspection typically takes 2 to 4 hours and can reveal plenty of information about the home. One of the biggest benefits is that it prepares you for the house and helps you decide what to fix immediately, in 2 years, in 5 years, etc. Here are the most common issues that are revealed:
1. HVAC Needs Servicing
Your HVAC system uses almost half of the energy in your home. It works hard every year to keep your home climate-controlled. Therefore, it tends to need servicing quite often. Unfortunately, many people do not service their HVAC systems yearly, which results in issues during the home inspection.
The average home inspector will not do an in-depth job of inspecting the furnace and AC. If you purchase a home with an HVAC system over ten years old, hiring an HVAC specialist to perform a complete system check is wise. This step will help you determine the remaining life of the unit and project future repair costs.
2. Water Intrusion
Water damage can be tricky to identify. Thankfully inspectors are fully trained to find this issue and recommend repairs.
Your roof will often be the first spot for water to leak and will travel downwards. Inspectors will usually start in the attic when looking for water damage, from the top of the house down. Some of the signs of water damage include the following:
- Cracks and holes - Cracks or holes on the exterior walls are prime spots for water to enter your home
- Warped floors and damp carpets
- Stained walls and ceilings - Even if the stain results from an old leak that has been repaired, inspectors will still check for mould build-up
- Peeling paint and wallpaper - This issue may be an indicator of a leak behind the walls
- Musty odours - This problem can be an indication of mould buildup, often caused by leaks
- Some water intrusion may result from small leaks, but your inspection report will include details on the breadth of the problem. In addition, it will explain the steps to take to remediate the situation if needed.
3. Roof Problems
Your roof will be one of the critical components an inspector will pay attention to during a home inspection, as it’s one of the essential parts of your home. The condition of your roof will be affected by many factors, some of the main ones being the weather.
Here are some of the everyday things an inspector will look for during a roof inspection:
- Sagging - This problem occurs when the joists of your home are weakened and cannot properly hold the roof in place. This issue can be exasperated by large amounts of snow or poor drainage from your roof.
- Overall condition of the roof sheathing - Particularly in areas around chimneys or other roof penetrations and valleys of the roof.
- Soft spots that indicate leaks - These can be further identified by a deeper look in your home’s attic.
An inspector will assess your roof in two different ways. First, if the weather allows and provided that the environment is safe, they will walk the roof to understand its condition.
Second, they will enter your attic. Working in the attic allows them to see any areas where current or past leaks have occurred. They will also see signs of roof sagging, spreading, and twisting of the rafters.
4. Electrical Wiring Issues
One of the main causes of fires in homes is due to electrical wiring problems. Most homes that are newly built will not have electrical issues.
Some of the most common electrical issues an inspector will find are as follows:
- Exposed wiring and fraying
- Painted outlets - which can cause overheating
- Reversed polarity - Meaning that the hot, neutral, and ground slots for plugs have somehow been mixed up.
- Aluminum wiring - Aluminum was considered more cost-effective than copper wiring in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but it can contribute to the potential for a fire in your home.
- Improper modification of electrical panels - This issue can cause intermittent flickering of lights or your switches and outlets not working correctly.
An inspector will check the condition of your electrical panels and outlets, your light fixtures, and the type of wiring present in the home. If they feel that a system needs to be updated, they will include this suggestion in your report.
5. Poor Ventilation
While you likely will not run into issues with the ventilation in newer builds, older homes may have problems with ventilation. Simply put, poor ventilation will lead to moisture buildup, which can lead to wood rot, termite infestations, mould development, and foundation issues. Home inspectors will take a trek into your attic to determine the state of your home’s ventilation.
If there is not enough ventilation within your home, there will be a large amount of heat that builds up in your attic, raising the overall temperature of your home, sending your cooling system into overdrive. Proper ventilation equals more energy efficiency.
6. Poor Drainage and Grading
Grading refers to the amount of slope present in the area surrounding the foundation of your home. When done properly, it slopes away from your house so that the water will flow away rather than towards it.
The insufficient slope will result in water pooling towards your home’s foundation. This problem can result in a flooded basement, damp crawl spaces, cracks in the foundation, and even shifting in your home’s foundation.
How can you tell if your home might have some issues with the grading on your lawn? Here are some signs to look for:
- Windows that are not square or that look off-kilter
- Interior doors with significant, uneven gaps at the top when closed
- Interior doors that visibly swing to one side or the other when left ajar
- Floors that visibly slope to one side or the other
Grading your yard is a tough job. Although it can be costly to fix, you will face an even heftier price tag if it is left unattended and does damage to your home’s foundation.
7. Plumbing Issues
Plumbing issues within a home can be pretty common and very costly. Unfortunately, homeowners may not even realize an issue until inspection, as most plumbing issues present themselves in the form of low water pressure or a slow drain.
The majority of the time, an inspector will pay attention to whether or not water flows from your taps effectively and do your drains work properly and the toilets flush.
If your home inspector thinks that there may be a more significant issue outside of their realm of expertise, they will likely recommend a professional plumbing inspection. However, rest easy knowing that most of the plumbing issues found during a home inspection are minor.
8. Foundation Flaws
Foundation problems are perhaps one of the most problematic areas of a home inspection for most buyers. Your home’s foundation is one of the most critical components of its overall structure, so finding an issue here can be very stressful and costly to resolve.
The following factors can cause foundation issues:
- Drainage problems - If the sloping or grading of your yard is off, water can settle near your home’s foundation, leading to damage.
- Missing or inadequate steel reinforcement in the foundation
- Intrusive tree roots
- Installation of a second story without reinforcing the original footings
How can you tell if your home may have foundation issues? One of the most significant signs will be cracks in the interior or exterior walls of the house. Some more minor signs include cracks in the tile, bowed walls, siding separation, or an uneven floor.
9. Blocked Gutters or Downspouts
Many people do not stop to consider the importance of gutter conditions. Gutters play a massive role in keeping your home safe from water intrusion.
If your gutters are blocked, cracked or are not diverting the water far enough away from your home, it will settle near your home’s foundation. Over time, erosion will occur, and you will likely develop cracks in your home’s foundation, which is the perfect environment for water to enter your home. Although maintaining your gutters may be annoying, the payoff is highly worth it.
This component of the home inspection is heavily tied to issues with your plumbing and ventilation systems. Mould will not always be visible to the naked eye, however, you can usually smell mildew in the air when it is present. Mould is prevalent around windows and doors, but it is also a frequent visitor in your bathroom and kitchen as well. Mould can also indicate a leak inside or outside your home, which you will want to find before it becomes a more significant issue.
11. Appliance Issues
Home inspectors examine the appliances within a home to make sure they are in good working order. Keep in mind that inspectors are not appliance experts, however, it is their job to ensure that they are working correctly and do not pose any safety hazards to you and your family when you move in.
12. Building Code Violations
Building codes vary from place to place, but there are some common violations your inspector will be on the lookout for:
- 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
- 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
If any of these issues are present, it’s possible that a homeowner performed the work. While inspectors are not code experts, they can generally tell you when a room in your home will not pass major code laws.
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.
14. Windows Not Sealing Correctly
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
These are all prime signs that your windows are not sealing correctly. In addition to energy considerations and safety concerns, if window seals are not up to par and you are experiencing condensation build-up, this could lead to mould development.
15. Water Heater Issues
In addition to the HVAC, water heaters can be a common area for concern. So, what do home inspectors look for in regards to 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.
Overall, it’s important to remember that home inspectors conduct visual inspections – they don’t look behind the walls and under the floors. They are not specialists and often recommend further inspections when they suspect there could be other issues. Home inspections do not look for compliance with the building code or local by-laws.
Your home inspector will look at many different components during the home inspection process. Then, they will write a detailed report about what areas were flagged and which ones are in good condition. This will become a great reference document over the years.