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The home inspection is one of the most important steps during the purchase process for both new constructions and old homes. Here are some reasons why:
- It helps reveal defects before they become serious problems — A quality inspection will reveal defects in the house that the seller doesn't want you to see. Once you sign on the dotted line, the previous owner has very limited liability for anything you didn't catch.
- It will help you make a final decision — Knowing that you may have to renovate or make repairs may be exciting, as it's an opportunity to get exactly what you want out of the house. However, some people do not want the hassel of construction in their new home, and knowing that before they've commit can be a life-saver.
- It will help you make an offer — In a buyer's market, knowing all deficiencies and the price of their repair will give you some leverage over the seller in terms of pricing.
An Interactive Home Inspection
Follow us on an interactive home inspection. Click the image below to begin.
These are common problems for both new and old houses. Click the signs below to find more about each problem.
Furnace and chimney stacks require ample clearance from the roof. If they're too close to the roof or they become blocked, they can become fire hazards. If shingles aren't correctly placed around the vent or the caulking is old, this can be the source of a leak.
Pests and Vermin
Bees, bugs, birds, rodents and other pests are regular finds in unsealed rooves. They may also disturb the insulation in the attic. From there, they may find their way into the house.
The septic system vents via the plumbing stack vent, located on the roof. When blocked, the plumbing stack affects drains all along that stack, often resulting in foul odors and slow drainage.
Top floor bathroom humidity fans often come out on the roof. In cases where humidity doesn't effectively escape the house, mildew is the most common side-effect. Some bathrooms don't have fans. These bathrooms rarely avoid humidity problems.
Leaky Roof & Windows
Left unattended to, leaky rooves and windows result in water damage over time. On windows, one obvious sign is wood that seems to be bulging. In cases of leaking from above, discolorations may be visible on ceilings and walls.
Fire safety is too often overlooked. Second floor bedrooms are challenges when planning fire escape routes, as they're more isolated than other places of the house. During a fire, the hallway may be blocked as well, limiting escape options. For bedroom windows with no overhanging roof segments, escape ladders are an acceptable solution.
Aside from the obvious side-effects, drafts have a large impact on the efficiency of the house, as they require the furnace and air conditioner to work harder. Drafts occur where there are gaps in the weatherproofing of the house. This can happen over time as a result of regular wear and tear, or as a problem with an install. Windows, doors and poorly installed electrical sockets are prime candidates.
Bathrooms with humidity problems often have mildew problems as well. After using the bathroom for showering or bathing, the ventilation fan is meant to be left on until the humidity has cleared. Some bathrooms don't have ventilation fans despite modern building codes generally requiring them.
Leaky plumbing and regularly leaving water on the floor in bathrooms can lead to water damage. Though bathrooms are typically more resistant to water strewn about, they're not impervious to it. It's usually a good idea to clean water off the floor immediately. Regularly using the ventilation fan also helps with general humidity.
Some houses have downright bad plumbing. Home inspectors regularly find uninsulated plumbing run through the attic and along outside walls. For those that don't catch it in time, problems like burst pipes in the dead of winter, terrible water damage and cold taps are very common.
Venting from the stove must exit the house. This is especially true of gas stoves, for which failing to do so can result in environmental illnesses and gas pockets which may cause an explosion.
Kitchen Fire Hazards
Kitchen fires are some of the most common destructive accidents in the home. It's always a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
To spot leaks in the kitchen, look for bulging of the wood or particle board used cupboards, especially around the sink. If the refrigerator has a water hook up, ensure that it hasn't been leaking on the floor over time.
Bad wiring can manifest itself in several ways. Sometimes there are too many outlets on a circuit. In basements and bedrooms, building codes require arc fault circuit interruption (AFCI) to prevent fires. The type of socket is also sometimes overlooked. For bathrooms, GFCI outlets are required to prevent shock.
Be especially wary of handyman additions to the house. These types of additions are often done without permit, and do not meet building code. Handymen additions are often a source of danger.
Poor Land Grade
Land that is not graded to direct water away from the house can result in basement humidity problems. A common cause for this is the settling of earth around pipes and dug up areas.
Basement Fire Hazards
The furnace and water heater are dangerous if not properly maintained, or incorrectly installed. If the furnace is enclosed in a room, building codes often require a fair bit of clearance to the wall and special fire-resistant insulation and drywall, called a firewall.
Building codes require Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) breakers on circuits to basements and bedrooms. Arc faults are one of the leading causes of household fires, resulting in over 350 deaths and 1,400 injuries per year.
One of the leading causes for basement floods is backed up storm sewer systems. When the storm sewer is backed up, water will enter the house from the utility drain located near the water heater. Keep the drain cap nearby, and be ready to cap the drain if it rains heavily.
Poorly constructed and incomplete elements of a house are a constant danger to those using them. Stairs with no handrail, or that use laminate flooring are notorious for injury.
60% of cracked foundations form within two years of having been laid. They pose problems for building structure, humidity and the inhabitants' health. Depending on the severity of the crack and underlying soil conditions, costs for repair can range into the thousands or even tens of thousands.
What to be Aware of During Your Home Inspection
Home inspectors will look for many items not necessarily clear to the naked eye. Be sure to employ a recognized Canadian home inspector who has previously performed inspections in the area you are looking to buy in. The more experienced your home inspector is, specifically in finding plausible concerns that could be discovered in the particular area you are looking to purchase in, the better.
Upon completion of the home inspection you will be given a building inspection report that should convey to you conventions such as any major concerns, safety issues, repairs that need to be made urgently or in time, improvements, items to monitor, and deferred costs. Deferred costs refer to items that are close to, or have reached, their normal functional expectancy and will require repair or replacement sometime soon.
Remember that a home inspector cannot view the property in its entirety; especially dependent on the weather conditions you have your potential home inspected in. Home inspectors will usually require the potential buyers sign a waiver. Read over this paper carefully, and be sure that you are satisfied with the terms specified therein. Also clarify that your home inspector is available to answer calls, concerns and questions that should arise as you read over the building inspection report after the home inspection, and further deliberate your potential purchase.
See that your home inspector climbs on top of the roof, into the attic to observe for cracking and sufficient insulation, and in the basement crawl spaces to ensure there are adequate heating registers.
Have the home inspector explain items to you that you don't understand and ask lots of questions. Locate your outdoor water shut-off valves, your water metre, your breakers; turn every light on and off, check every vent, every window, every duct, etc. A home inspection should take more than an hour and roughly three on average.
In addition to a home inspection, a home appraisal will often be required if you are planning to use the property as a rental unit or are applying for a variable rate mortgage.A home appraisal is not the same as a tax appraisal, which is conducted by the city or town in which the property is located.
You can also do some of the homework on your property yourself. You can look at flood maps on city websites to be sure your location is not in a high flood risk area; look at the slope or grade of the property to see if its location increases the risk of water in the basement; and put an inquiry in with the municipal water services department to see if there have been sewage or water problems at the property before.
On municipal police services pages, you may observe the average crime rates in different neighbourhoods of the cities and compare. For instance, the Calgary Police Service offers a great crime mapping tool to view any reported criminal instances that have occurred in a Calgary community up to six months past.
No matter where the home or the condition, you can always expect small repairs and basic fixes in addition to cosmetic alterations you will want to make, such as new window treatments, paint, backsplash, countertops or cabinetry. As a rule, cosmetic changes are less costly and risky than major concerns with items such as the furnace, hot water tank, foundation or plumbing.
You should always be prepared to put in about one per cent of your home's value in fixes and upkeep every year. Remember, short cuts almost always lead to bigger expenditures down the road. Observe for smoke and mirrors, or homes that have been renovated to mask a larger problem, and purchase for practicality over aesthetics. You can always change the interior of your home to match your tastes, but you cannot change its location.
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