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The Home Inspection Basics

The question most clients ask is, “What Does a Home Inspection Include ? ”   This is especially true of ” First Time Home Buyers “.  Here are the Home Inspection Basics which are derived from inspecting over 8,000 homes.

My answer is typically, ” A home inspection is a visual inspection of your home “.  Starting at the exterior of your home, it includes Landscaping, Sidewalks, Decks and Balconies, Retaining Walls and Patios.  The exterior inspection also includes, Exterior Cladding, home-inspection-basicsWindows, Doors, Shutters, Porches, Roof, Shingles, Flashings and Soffit and Fascia.

One of the more important Home Inspection Basics is the Landscaping of your lot which is very important to your foundation and also in maintaining a dry basement.  Ideally the ground should slope away from your house at a minimum of 2 inches of fall every 6 feet.  This will ensure water runs away from your home rather than collecting along your foundation.   I always tell my clients that they should go outside their home during a heavy rain storm and look at what the water is doing around their home.  They will be able to see where the water is going or collecting and can then formulate a viable water drainage plan which will help protect their home.  Concrete foundations are a very impressive support system, but if water is allowed to collect against your foundation it will seep through the concrete.  CONCRETE IS NOT WATERPROOF.

Most homes will have shingles installed on roof.  Some home owners are electing to install metal roofing due to its longer life expectancy.  Fiberglass shingles typically have a life expectancy of around 15 to 16 years, with the southern exposure side starting to deteriorate first.  Some home owners will install new shingles over old when selling their house to save money.  While the Ontario Building Code allows this practice it is basically passing on the added expense of removal and waste tipping fees to the new home owner.  Another roofing money saver is only installing new shingles on part of the roof, or even worse combining two layers of shingles and not installing new shingles on part of the roof.  Cheaper roofing contractors all have some things in common, which are: re-using old and bent flashing, re-using old style roof vents and re-using old and often rusting valley flashings.

In the interior of the home I always start in the Basement which will have your homes HVAC components, hot water heating and usually the main electrical panel.  A visual inspection of these items includes identifying the Manufacturer and Date of Manufacture.  In Century Homes this is where asbestos can be first identified usually being attached to heating system ducts.   Knob and Tube wiring may also be found in older homes, while typically cut off and not in use it is sometime found to be live in some isolated areas of the house, such as in the attic.

Structural Issues are also a common item of concern in basements.  Home owners or uneducated trades persons may inadvertently damage the structural integrity of a component when adding electrical, plumbing of heating fixtures.  Many times I have come across Drilled Hole closer than 2 inch requirementfloor joists that have been improperly notched by some installing plumbing drains or supply lines. In basements where the home owner has added electrical cables it is fairly common for them to drill holes in floor joists and totally ignore the requirement to have a minimum of two inches clearance from the edge of floor joist to drilled hole.

Electrical Panels are required to be a minimum of 100 amps to meet insurance company requirements.  Also Electrical Panels are not permitted to be installed in bathrooms.  I once inspected a new house where the bathroom plumbing was installed in front of main electrical panel.  Not sure who should have picked up this deficiency, either the ESA inspector or the municipal building inspector.  All electrical panels are also required to have 36 inches of clear working space in front of panels.

Aluminum Wiring in home is a very controversial subject with everyone having a different opinion.  Many homes, in fact entire subdivisions, were built in the late 70’s and early 80’s using aluminum wiring.  Years later aluminum wiring was found to have an oxidizing issue which could lead to arcing and possibly even causing a fire.  Many insurance companies will not insure a home with aluminum wiring no matter what you do to improve connections etc.  It would be allowable to build a new home with aluminum wiring as it is not illegal to use.  Many Realtor’s recommend having pigtails installed or using approved aluminum/copper fixtures.  Read our article on the Risks and Dangers of Aluminum Wiring.  

Galvanized plumbing is another item that some insurance companies will not insure a home if present.   Any galvanized plumbing existing in a home is well over its predicted life expectancy.   Galvanized plumbing deteriorates from the inside so it can not be readily identified when it is going to fail.  Any water damage sustained from a galvanized plumbing leak may not be covered as it would be considered negligence on the part of the home owner to have not replaced it. 

Our Home Inspection Basic list of items is prepared to allow you to comprehend what is entailed in a Professional Home inspection and also provide you with a preview of what your home may have as deficiencies.

A building permit is required for most modifications or additions to your home. ( Adding rooms, doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, structural, or foundations )  During the home inspection, which includes your exterior deck and basement systems and components, it is usually pretty obvious if the Required Building Permit was taken out and this will be identified in your Home Inspection Report.  Also,  Virtually all electrical work requires a permit from the Electrical Safety Authority.  Your electrical panel will have a sticker from Licensed ESA Contractor which is dated and states what type of work was done.  Improperly installed electrical cables is one of the most common items found in basements.  Note:  If you buy a home that has had work done without a Permit, you then take responsibly for it.

Stairs and Handrails are another common item which are inspected during the Home Inspection.   Many times basement handrails have been removed while moving furniture etc. and never replaced.  Open stairs in basements are permitted to have an open side while basement is unfinished.  Once any part of basement is finished the stairs now require protection on open side.  Guards would be required to be installed with no opening large enough to allow a 4 inch sphere to pass through.  This is the same requirement for exterior decks which are higher than 23 5/8 inches ( 600 mm ) above grade.  Two other common defects found with stairs is that they are required to be “Equal in Height” and have a maximum height of 7 7/8 inches.

Window with Leaking Thermal Seals are fairly  common on houses over 5 to 10 years old.  Windows facing South are more susceptible to Leaking Thermal Seals due to increase exposure to sun.  Many people selling their home will sometimes hire someone to come and drill holes in thermal unit allowing moisture to dissipate, and then installing a small one way valve and vent.  My personal opinion on this method is that it is a complete waste of money as you no longer have a Thermally Sealed Window.   Your money is far better spent on replacing glass unit which will only cost you approximately 20% more and you end up with a brand new Thermal Unit.

Laminate Flooring is the go to product for people sprucing up their home to sell and for landlords doing a quick fix up prior to listing home.  The first thing I look at with laminate flooring is did the installer under cut door jambs to give that flooring that professionally installed look.  The second item is the transition trim at entrance doors and lastly how was the closets finished.  Although very uncommon I did inspect one home where the home owner installed laminate flooring over carpet.

Attic inspections can reveal a lot of issues.  The most common issue is the presence of mice in the insulation.  While most clients are disturbed when they hear that there are mice in the attic, typically 95% of home with fiberglass insulation have some or a lot of mice Mouse Holes in Fiberglass Insulationin the attic.  Some homes have so many trails throughout the insulation that is seems like it was installed that way.  Mice have the ability to walk up brick walls and compact their heads, allowing them to enter at most soffit areas.  Many home owners will put plates of mouse bait to reduce their presence.  The insulation I personally prefer is blown cellulose.  This recycled product is treated with Fire Retardant which mice do not like.   When ever I inspecting an attic with cellulose insulation I am amazed that it looks like a desert with no tracks or trails visible.   Although cellulose will settle over time I would prefer some settling over having mice living in my home.   For the Do It Your Self home owners, Lowe’s will let you use their insulation blowing machine for free if you purchase 20 bags of cellulose insulation from them.  The last time I purchased cellulose insulation it was $10.00 per bag.

Many attic may have a mould issue which can be related to poor ventilation or even a bathroom exhaust fan which is discharging into the attic.  I have even seen kitchen exhaust fans discharging into the attic area.  Any moisture entering attic area is a potential for mould growth.  Even a small item as a missing seal on attic hatch can allow air and moisture to enter attic potentially creating mould growth.  In older homes adding extra insulation without installing soffit baffles can cause ventilation issues which can lead to “ice damming” in the winter and moisture damage to rooms below.

Some older homes and even newer homes will sometimes have Vermiculite Insulation installed.   Some Vermiculite Insulation, especially from the Libby Montana Mine, has traces of asbestos.  Health Canada and most Realtor’s state that as long as you don’t disturb vermiculite insulation in atticthe asbestos there is little risk to your health.  The issue of asbestos has to be decided by the client as to what their individual comfort level is.   When buying a home with asbestos there will be issues whenever selling the property.   The seller is legally obligated to inform potential buyers that there is asbestos present.  Want to know more about Asbestos and Your House?   Read our article on Vermiculite and Asbestos

Century Homes can sometimes still have  Knob & Tube Wiring.  The most common place to find live knob and tube wiring is by far the attic.  So many times I have seen all basement circuits cut off and deactivated only to go into the attic and find live knob and tube wiring.  Some times this is the fault of the contractor who was just too lazy to finish the job correctly or maybe even the home owners decision.   Many  insurance companies will not insure a home with any knob and tube wiring installed.

Home Inspection Basics is a snap shot view of what is typically found in various homes in the Simcoe County inspection area.   Although many items may be found in homes anywhere, some items are only related to particlar homes, such as:  Century Homes,  Home Built in the late 70’s and Early 80’s or Homes that have been modified by Home Owners with obtaining a Building Permit.  A professional Home Inspector will identify the deficiencies found and will also detail the ramification of the deficiencies.  The Barrie Home Inspector does not provide estimates on repairs on any deficiencies found.  Contractor’s prices are so varied and workmanship is not consistent which prevents an accurate cost of repairs.

The items listed above are common to many homes inspected by the Barrie Home Inspector.   There are many instances where individual deficiencies are not common and are only detected through experience and training.  Listing every deficiency found and identified would be impossible.  If you have any questions about any aspect of a home inspection or an item in your home, feel free to call Roger Frost at 705-795-8255 and he would be more than happy to discuss any concern you may have.  Having inspected over 8,000 residential properties and being a Certified Building Code Official gives Roger the knowledge and experience to help Home Owners answer just about any question.  Best of all – All advice is FREE!

Call Roger today at 705-795-8255 or Email your Questions to [email protected]