5 Common Home Inspection Issues

Some of the most common issues I see when inspecting homes

There is no such thing as a perfect house. I find issues even in new construction homes, but that’s a post for another day. For resale properties, it’s virtually impossible to say that the seller “had to have known” about a problem, unless you can plainly see that an effort was made to conceal it. The truth is that our lives are busy, and most homeowners wouldn’t even know how to spot issues that aren’t obvious to the naked eye. Even homes owned by architects, builders and engineers aren’t going to be completely free of issues. Luckily, the things I see most often are fairly inexpensive to solve, and can be taken care of before any damage occurs.

1. Loose Toilets

More than 50% of homes I inspect have at least one loose toilet, and homeowners often don’t realize that a loose toilet can lead to damage. In most cases, toilets become loose and start to wobble once the gasket (typically a wax ring) fails. When this happens, water can begin to leak around the base of the toilet. There’s some disagreement among plumbers as to whether or not the base of toilets should be caulked to the floor, and this is why. If the base is caulked all the way around, you would never know there was a leak! So, if you’re going to caulk the base of your toilet, don’t caulk the back. That way, water can still leak from the back to alert you to a problem. Even without the base of the toilet being caulked, many homeowners fail to notice the signs of leaking. This can eventually lead to odors, as well as significant damage to your floor and subfloor, and even mold.

2. Debris in Gutters

Most homeowners are guilty of not cleaning out their gutters as often as they should. Sometimes you can clearly see from the ground that leaves are completely covering the gutters. In other cases, the gutters may have a substantial amount of debris that can’t be seen from the ground. Excessive debris in gutters will cause water to overflow, which can cause damage in a number of ways. Most often, water will back up into the roof, causing the fascia and roof decking to rot over time. This rot eventually leads to the gutters pulling away from the house, and the holes that develop due to rot will allow rodents and other pests to enter the home. The damage in the second photo to the right was the result of clogged gutters over a period of time.  Finally, water that spills over the outside edge of the gutter onto the ground can lead to moisture in basements and crawl spaces.

3. Excessive Moisture in Crawl Spaces

Crawl spaces aren’t supposed to be excessively damp, but many of them are. There are many possible causes, and the easiest to address are exposed dirt, plumbing leaks, sweating ductwork, and issues with gutters. Keeping your gutters free of debris isn’t the only way of making sure your gutters aren’t contributing to moisture in your crawl space. Gutters should also be extended away from the foundation, and you should make sure that your gutters are properly sized for the pitch of the roof. Improper grading is the biggest problem you can have contributing to elevated moisture in your crawl space because it is the most expensive to solve, and it often causes larger amounts of water to enter crawl spaces. Elevated moisture levels in your crawl space can damage your home in many ways, and most people don’t find out until the damage has been done. Damp insulation falls, reducing your home’s energy efficiency and increasing your heating and cooling costs.  With moisture comes mold, and mold spores can find their way into the home where they can make you sick. Excessive moisture will cause structural components to rot, which leads to costly repairs.

4. Minor Electrical Items

While these are not as concerning as the items previously mentioned, it’s a good idea to correct any minor electrical items discovered during inspections, though buyers shouldn’t necessarily expect that sellers will cover the cost based on the grounds of safety concerns. For example, GFCI outlets were not required in older homes, and I would certainly recommend installing them, but it’s unlikely that a seller will see a need in doing it when they’ve lived in the house for years with no problem. One of the most common issues found is double tapped breakers. This is when multiple conductors are placed under the set screw of a single breaker. This can lead to overheating and electrical fires if not corrected. Many appliances have 3 prong plugs and are intended to be used only with grounded outlets. If one of those appliances is plugged into an outlet with an open ground like the one shown here, there is a danger of shock, electrocution, or damage to the appliance itself.

5. Minor Roof Problems

Minor roof problems discovered during a home inspection still have the potential to turn into bigger problems later. Exposed nails and underdriven nails are both small issues that are inexpensive to correct, but both can lead to further damage if left alone. Ideally, you should not be able to see the nails on your roof. Exposed nails present an opportunity for water intrusion. Exposed nails will corrode over time, and weather conditions can cause the hole to expand over time. Nails become exposed in 2 ways: improper nailing combined with harsh weather conditions, and lazy repairs in which shingles are simply nailed on top of the existing shingles instead of being properly fit under them. Underdriven nails result in loose shingles that are more likely to be removed during storms.

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