Common House Defects
Just like people, each house has specific and individual strengths and weaknesses. A buyer (or seller for that matter) should be aware of major issues in order to conduct an informed negotiation.
Some common major conditions that home inspectors will report on when identified include:
1. Poly-B water pipes
Polybutylene water pipes are typically the grey plastic water pipes. They were installed in new home construction/renovations during the 1970’s to mid 1990’s. Poly-B piping has a history of failure due to splitting or failure of the fittings. Repairs are expensive and extensive requiring the removal of old Poly-B piping and replacement with new water pipes throughout the house and repair of the walls and ceilings that have been opened up to gain access to the pipes. The existence of Poly-B pipes in a home may be an insurance issue as well.
2. Solid Conductor Aluminum Wiring
Solid conductor aluminum wiring was used in new construction/renovations from the mid 1960’s to about 1978. This type of wire is susceptible to overheating problems at connections which may result in fires. While the wiring does not generally need replacing, a licensed electrician should be engaged to evaluate the wiring and replace connectors with specially designed connectors for aluminum wire use and apply anti-oxidant grease. Solid conductor aluminum wiring may also be an insurance issue.
3. Knob-and-Tube Wiring
Knob and tube wiring was used in homes until approximately 1950 and may be a fire hazard. The existence of knob and tube wiring requires evaluation by a licensed electrician and possible repairs and/or replacement. This type of wiring is an insurance issue.
4. Heating systems, heat pumps and air conditioners
The replacement of old furnaces, heat pumps and air conditioners is expensive. The home inspector will identify the age of these appliances so that the client can budget for their replacement or negotiate with the seller for some adjustment.
Decks are often problem areas as they are often constructed by “home handy-men”. Improperly constructed decks can be expensive to repair/replace and may present safety hazards. Typical deck problems include: improper/insufficient fasteners, lack of proper footings/posts/beams, rot, missing/improperly supported handrails and guards, improperly constructed deck roofs. They are also often built without the required municipal building permits which may violate municipal bylaws and create insurance issues.
6. Old windows
The replacement of old windows will be expensive. The buyer should be aware of this potential major additional expenditure.
7. Foundation issues
Foundation issues include not only major cracks/displacement of footings and foundation walls, but also includes leaky basements/crawlspaces. Repairs addressing foundation issues and/or leaky basements may require extensive excavation and repairs and can be very expensive.
8. Attic insulation/ventilation issues
Improper ventilation of attic spaces is one of the major causes of mould in attics. The home inspector will inspect for impediments for proper ventilation. Vermiculite insulation often used in attics until the late 1970’s often contains asbestos. Removal of vermiculite insulation must be conducted according to Worksafe BC guidelines (www.worksafebc.com). Removal and replacement will be expensive. Older homes may have used wood chips for attic and wall insulation. Wood chip insulation is a major fire hazard and may be an insurance issue. While not as expensive to remove and replace as vermiculite, it will still be expensive.
9. Roofing issues
While a roof may look in good condition to the casual observer there may be hidden defects that a home inspector looks for such as:
- Are there multiple layers of roofing material under the new roof?
- Are the flashings done properly – many leaks occur in improperly done/missing flashings in valleys, at chimneys, at wall/roof intersections and at roof penetrations like plumbing stacks.
- Did you know that laying asphalt shingles over roof planks in older houses without first laying plywood or OSB sheeting , may void your asphalt shingle warranty?
- Those concrete/clay tiles make an awesome looking roof! Did you know that they are also a lot heavier than asphalt shingles. If the trusses used in the roof construction are not designed for the added weight, that roof just became a big expensive problem!