Home Inspections- five critical areas
To avoid significant future expenditures on your dream house, your home inspection should focus on foundation settling, water and drainage, cooking vents, electrical outlets and mold.
Avoiding houses with very significant problems in the above areas will save you money and help you stay healthy. Some problems can be remedied easily and others have to be monitored.
If you are buying a house in a seismically active area (earthquakes, landslides and sink holes) or one situated on a hill, then pay extra attention to the home's foundation. Be sure that you hire a certified home inspector with experience in this area.
Here are some of things to look for with your home inspector:
- Look for cracks where the ceiling, walls and floor come together. If you see cracks, this is known as differential settlement of the house. Depending on the degree of cracks, this may not be of great concern.
- A telltale sign of unusual foundation settlement is the windows and doors. These are just not going to work properly.
- Take a very close look at the foundation walls. Many older homes added sections over the years. Sometimes, the new foundation is not properly tied to the old foundation. The point where the two foundations come together is called a cold joint. This means that the floors of each part may be moving at different rates.
When connecting two foundations, the ideal thing to do is to make sure that the soil conditions are good. Some engineers also recommend raising the house and pouring a single new foundation.
Foundation settlement is not necessarily a deal breaker or cause for alarm. Sometimes you have to watch and wait and see how your windows and doors function properly over time. Your home inspector can help you assess the future risks. If repairs have to be made to prevent additional settlement, you can assess the costs, and make a counteroffer for the home or just walk away.
Water and Drainage
Improper drainage from gutters very close to a house can also cause uneven foundation settlement. If one gutter is discharging a great deal of water in one part of the foundation, the soil will be more wet than it is 5 to 10 feet away. Excessive water can cause soil movement and also may cause your foundation to move at different rates. This can cause your floor to crack.
Controlling roof runoff with good gutters and downspouts are key in maintaining a good foundation. The seamless gutters are the best. Make certain that downspouts are sloped away from the house.
Vent pipes over the range hood should not be corrugated. It should be a smooth vent pipe with as few turns and angles as possible. This will prevent grease and debris from being trapped inside the pipe, where it can become a fire hazard.
Use GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor) outlets in bathroom and kitchens or anywhere you have water and people. This will save your life by cutting off the electricity right at the outlet.
Mold in Bathooms
Bathrooms and shower areas are ideal habitats for mold. That's because there's usually plenty of heat and lots of moisture. Typically bathroom fans are not on long enough to remove the moisture from shower areas.
Mold can make you sick so this is nothing to laugh about. Also mold over time destroys wood and the material is adheres to. It's a good idea to install an automatic fan timer. This will keep the fan on for up to an hour and automatically shutoff.
If you have mold on your bathroom or shower ceiling and walls, you'll want to find out if it is on the surface or within the drywall. Surface mold can be cleaned with a bathroom cleaner. If the mold is actually in the fabric of the drywall, then you'll have to replace the drywall. You can cut out a small piece of dry wall to see if the mold is on the other side of the drywall.
A bleach and water solution are usually all that is needed to clean surface mold.
- Mix one cup of bleach to a gallon of water,
- Wipe the ceiling and wall with the solution
- Wait for 15 minutes and
- Then rinse off.