At Carson Dunlop, we've been inspecting homes since 1978, which means we have seen a lot: a lot of neighbourhoods, a lot of homes, and a lot of problems. Simply put, no home is perfect. Homes, like people, have flaws - some you can live with, some you can't. However, when it comes to houses, many expect perfection and when a deficiency is uncovered we are often asked: "Is this normal?"
To help alleviate concerns and provide homeowners with some added perspective, we've compiled a list of the top five major deficiencies most commonly identified by Home Inspectors.
5. Old or Leaky Roofs
How we spot them: In addition to physically inspecting the roof for any defects, there are other indicators of a leaky or damaged roof. These include stains on the ceiling, crumbling paint and wet surfaces.
What they mean for a homeowner: Most roofs use asphalt shingles and typically last between 15 and 20 years. To help prevent and protect against any water intrusion and damage, we recommend replacing them earlier than this timeframe.
How to fix them: Replace damaged shingles, loose flashings and torn valleys. Tree limbs overhanging and touching the roof should be cut back, and missing mortar or loose bricks on the chimneys should be repaired. A roof repair is usually a few hundred dollars. A roof replacement is usually several thousand dollars. For a more detailed breakdown of roofing costs, check out our article on Home Improvement Costs.
4. Structural Issues
How we spot them: The size, type and frequency of cracks on foundation or masonry walls, as well as visible damage to beams and joists, are indicative of structural issues.
What they mean for a homeowner: Most structural issues are of minor in nature. However, some are potentially huge expenses and can have implications for homeowner safety. Home Inspectors can help to identify which type you're dealing with; and for more complex issues we recommend having a specialist inspect the home.
How to fix them: These are generally a case by case basis. Minor issues can be hundreds of dollars. Major structural defects may cost tens of thousands of dollars.
3. Knob and Tube Wiring
How we spot it: Knob and tube wiring was the standard in homes built prior to 1950. The age of the property, along with a visual inspection of the wiring can help determine the presence of knob and tube wiring in a home. An easy test is to check the outlets of the bedrooms, living and dining rooms to see if they are grounded. This can be done with a low cost circuit tester, available at most hardware stores. Checking kitchens and bathrooms may not be an accurate reflection of the state of the home as these areas often get renovated first, which means their wiring gets updated. While this test will give you an idea of the presence of knob and tub wiring in your home, it is not completely exhaustive.
What it means for a homeowner: While replacing the wiring may be a high priority for insurance purposes, that does not mean the wiring is inherently unsafe. The Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association has insurance partners who help provide coverage for older homes, with more complex issues. For more information on these insurance partners, click here.
How to fix it: Rewiring the home is most effective. We recommend doing this during renovations as it is the most cost-effective process. The cost depends on the extent to which knob and tube is present in the home. Rewiring may cost a few thousand dollars per room, and upwards of $10,000 for the average, single-family home. If the home is entirely knob and tube, it is a significant upgrade, not a repair and should be budgeted accordingly.
2. Old Furnaces and Air Conditioners
How we spot them: The data plate on the unit will display the make, model, serial number and manufacturer's date. This information, used in conjunction with our Technical Reference Guide, helps determine where the unit is in relation to its life expectancy. In addition, the physical condition of the unit will also contribute to its status.
What they mean for a homeowner: The typical life expectancy for a furnace is about 20 years. That being said, sometimes a non-functional furnace may simply need a minor repair. Regular maintenance can help to extend the life cycle of your furnace. For more information on furnace maintenance, check out our article on Simple Furnace Maintenance.
How to fix them: Furnace repairs are typically a few hundred dollars, whereas replacing a furnace can be several thousand dollars.
1. Wet Basements
How we spot them: Visible water in the basement is a good indication that there may be an issue with water intrusion. A moisture meter helps Home Inspectors identify the presence of moisture when it is less obvious. There are other factors that can cause moisture intrusion, such as improper grading and ineffective downspouts which can lead to water damage.
What they mean for a homeowner: More than 90% of basements will be subject to water intrusion at one point in time. For the most part this will be minimal, however long-term exposure to water can cause major damage and mold.
How to fix them: Fixing grading, gutters and downspouts is the easiest and most effective way to alleviate the potential for basement leakage. Correcting gutters and downspouts may cost a few hundred dollars and usually improving the slope of the ground can be achieved by a homeowner. To help protect your home, check out our article on How to Prevent Water Damage.
As a professional Home Inspection consulting company, our aim is to help homeowners stay safe, warm and dry. For more tips, advice and information, subscribe to our blog and start following us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.