Why is Your House Scarier Than Halloween?
My trusted home inspector Tate Leavitt with AmeriSpec Home Inspection Service had performed a home inspection on an older house recently that the buyer was a little leery about. They asked him if he was comfortable doing an inspection on a house that the recent owner had just past away in and wasn't noticed for days. He said that he assured them that it didn't bother him at all, that was until he started taking thermal imaging pictures of the house and caught this...
Tate thought about showing her this picture but decided he didn't need to give her unnecessary nightmares. After all it was only a shot of him pressing his face and hands against the wall. He knew his family would get kick out of the story so he saved it for them. I asked Tate to send me some SCARY house problems, so he figured he just had to share this along with the rest of the problems that a home inspector comes across every day.
This picture may have been a joke but there are many issues in our homes that are not. We spend more time in our houses than anywhere else and it is important that they are healthy, comfortable and affordable. When they are built right and maintained they can help keep us stress free and healthy. Here are a few issues that we run into on a daily basis that homebuyers should be aware of.
Untreated pine shakes
So many homes in Calgary are roofed with this material. It rots out and deteriorates quickly. You can get on a maintenance plan to have these shakes replaced on an annual basis but it is costly. If you are looking at buying a house with these shakes be aware of the costs that you will occur to maintain or replace them. Oh and if you just want to ignore them expect to have water leaks and eventually harmful mold problems.
By now I am sure that most people are aware of the dangers associated with Aluminum wiring. I have read that there are an estimated 450,000 homes in Canada that are wired with it. Problem is that these homes are 55 times more likely to have fire hazards than homes wired with copper wiring. This wiring is prevalent in Calgary and is becoming more and more of an issue with insurance companies.
When I inspect these houses I always recommend that the buyers get their insurance agents on the phone and ask them what they require. The insurance companies all have their own solutions for aluminum wiring and some of them their solution is to say sorry we won't insure it until its replaced. As you can see this can be a big hit to someone who has just purchased a home and is already strapped for cash.
Trapped moisture behind shower walls
It's amazing how many times we have tested tile shower surrounds and have had our non-intrusive moisture meters jump right off the scale. The drywall behind the tiles become spongy and I can promise you this if you leave it long enough it becomes a mouldy mess. Often times the tile, grout and seams around the shower look good but there is still high moisture content behind the wall. This is because the grout is porous and will allow water to slowly soak through it. Here is a tip to help save some of you from this costly and potentially dangerous problem, simply buy some grout sealant and apply yearly.
Where do I even start with plumbing? I will try and keep this short. First, we had lead distribution lines then Galvanized. Both of these materials are no longer acceptable. Lead because it poses a health risk and galvanized because it rusts and deteriorates from the inside out. Copper was used next for many years, overall this has been a good choice. After copper Polybutylene or PolyB was an early generation plastic piping. It's the grey stuff you see in houses from the 80's – 2000. This stuff is hit or miss with leaks and problems. There have been many flooded and damaged houses due to the pinhole leaks that can occur in this pipe. Many specialists believe that it is only a matter of time before it all fails. Keep your fingers crossed that yours holds up.
That's just the distribution lines, we also have to worry about waste plumbing. Many homes over the years were built with Cast iron or Clay pipes. These are susceptible tree roots, collapsing and overall deterioration. My first house I owned was a 1950 bungalow that had this same problem. We had raw sewage back up all over the basement and eventually I had to jackhammer out my concrete floor and replace the old lines with new plumbing. Not fun for any homeowner and once again it is costly and dirty!
Mold, Mold, Mold
We can't always detect mold as it is very good at hiding itself but we do our best to find it. Using high tech moisture meters, thermal camera and just good old experience we can often find mold problems. Mold can be found all over the place from basements to inside walls, attics and pretty much anywhere and everywhere. Mold poses a serious health hazard to many people and it should not be taken lightly. These are probably the scariest little demons in our homes. It is important that our homes stay dry in order to combat this problem.
Then, of course, there are always birds, insects and rodents. I have seen a family of squirrels living in the un-insulated attic hatch, birds that bore nests straight into the siding. Wasps nest in attics and under decks, bees, mice and all sorts of insects. For the most part, when these animals and insects stay to the outside it's not much of a problem. However, in the attic and living spaces of the house, they can cause damage and make a real mess.
Besides who wants to hear a mouse scratching in the walls beside you. There have a been a few times when I opened the damper on the fireplace and a dead bird fell out. That I can handle, it's the time the live ones come out that I have an issue with. Yes, have seen birds and bats come out of there.
Oh, and if you see that your vent covers are broken, replace them. This little guy probably won't survive once the dryer gets running.