The 10 Most Common Problems Home Inspectors
by Dennis Kaiser, CRS
Here's the most common items we find on home inspector's reports. If you
have any of these problems, you'll need to fix them when selling your home.
So why not fix them now? Your home will be safer, more comfortable, and last
1. Water Heater Strapping.
When a home is sold, the water heater must be strapped to prevent it from
falling down in an earthquake and starting a fire. The strapping technique
has been recently changed, so even people who think their water heater is
strapped correctly may have to do it over to comply with the current code.
2. Roof Repairs.
Many times roof leaks are not detectable from inside the living areas of
the home. The inspector checks the attic area and may find evidence of roof
leaks there. Especially suspect are areas around flashings such as vent pipes,
chimneys, and skylights. These areas are sealed with a black mastic compound,
and the mastic deteriorates over time.
3. Improper Drainage.
Standing water near the home can cause problems, especially if there is wood
close to the ground. Having the ground level slope away from the home usually
takes care of this.
Another good precaution is to have rain gutters that carry the water from
the roof away from the house. I know that houses usually don't come with
gutters, but a $500 or $1000 investment can save you many drainage headaches.
4. Breach of Firewall.
The wall between your garage and the rest of the house is sacred. It's intended
to keep a fire in the garage from spreading into the house quickly. The door
from the house to the garage is a solid core door, rather than the hollow
doors used elsewhere in the house. Many people cut holes in this firewall
to run cables, or cut a pet door in the solid core door. This destroys the
integrity of the firewall, and will need to be repaired.
A Ground Fault Interrupter protects you from an electrical shock in case
the ground wire is broken. These circuits are required wherever there is
water, such as in kitchens, baths, garages, and outdoors. Many older homes
don't have these GFI outlets and they will need to be added. More recently
constructed homes have them, but after a few years they may stick and stop
working. You should test yours periodically by pushing the test button on
the GFI outlet. If it kills the circuit, it's working properly - push the
reset button to turn the circuit back on.
6. Self Closing Door.
The door from the garage to the house needs to have self-closing hinges on
it to preserve the integrity of the firewall. The hinge makes sure that the
door will shut and latch automatically. We'll see people wedge this door
open to make it easy to get in and out of the garage, but this is a fire
hazard. If a fire starts in the garage, it will spread rapidly into the house.
7. Smoke Detectors.
Some smoke detectors just die of old age. You can keep them working by changing
the batteries periodically. We change ours when we change the clocks in the
spring and fall. To make sure it still works, push the test button after
you've changed the battery.
8. Dishwasher Drains.
There is a flexible hose that drains the dishwasher into the garbage disposal
and then out the sink drain. Should this become clogged, water will come
out of the overflow vent on top of your sink. This is your signal that the
drain is clogged, and needs to be cleaned.
9. Loose Toilets.
The wax ring that your toilet bowl rests on deteriorates over time, and causes
the bowl to wobble. You might not notice it, but here's how to check it.
Stand facing the bowl one leg on each side, squat down a little, and grab
the bowl with the inside of your knees. Rock side to side, and if the toilet
moves, it needs a new wax ring.
10. Heater Air Intake.
If your heater is in the garage, it sits on a platform and takes in air from
the house through that platform. This platform must not have any holes in
it, and the heater itself should be sealed where it sits on the platform.
The object here is that no air from the garage should be able to get into
the furnace, causing a carbon monoxide hazard.