Home Inspections How Do They Tell?

The first thing the home inspector looks at is the exterior components of a house.

Grading on all sides of the house is very important since many of the problems in the house will be caused by water and moisture accumulating around the foundation area. This can be avoided by maintaining a sufficient slope to the ground. The slope should be sufficient to drain the water away from the house a minimum distance of five feet.
Wood on porches, patios, decks and wood fences require continuous maintenance. A good high quality exterior water sealant will prolong the service life of the wood. Galvanized nails or brass deck screws should be set below the wood surface.
Retaining Wall should always feature “weep holes” to assure drainage of any moisture from behind the retaining wall. A good combination of gravel fill next to wall and “weep holes” will help drain excessive moisture.
Trees, Shrubs, Bushes and Hedges which overhang a roof system or rub against exterior walls or gutters should be trimmed back to avoid damage to the dwelling. Also, the accumulation of dead leaves, needles, etc. will prohibit the proper functioning of the gutter system.
Window Wells are an area that invites water damage. Normally, window wells are corrugated metal and should be securely fastened to the foundation. Next, the bottom of the well should extend at least two inches below the window sill. And, finally, the bottom of the window well should have approximately four inches of coarse gravel to promote proper drainage.
Good Roof Maintenance prolongs the life of any type of roofing system. Damaged or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. Valley flashing should be wide enough so that water cannot get under the shingles. Roofing problems usually occur first on the southern and western exposures due to the sun. Periodic observation of the entire roof area is recommended.
The Electrical System should be checked by random operation of selected switches and testing of receptacles throughout the house. Individual circuits are not traced, nor are the number of switches or receptacles noted on each circuit. Normally, electrical systems are assumed to have been installed according to accepted electrical codes at the time of installation.
Aluminum Wiring has been installed in many homes and has proved dangerous in a number of installations. You should be alert for the danger signs: warm cover plates on switches or receptacles, switches which operate only on occasion. If a problem is ever suspected, call an electrician.
Labeling the Service Panel is very important. If a particular circuit repeatedly “trips” at the service panel, the circuit is overloaded and an electrician should be contacted. Breakers should be tripped every six months or so to guard against corrosion and to assure effective operation.

GFI

GFI’s (Ground Fault Interrupters) are required by current electrical code and should be tested and reset on a regular (monthly) basis.
Smoke Detectors are now required in all new construction and are a safety device that should be installed in every house. At least one should be installed within fifteen feet of the bedrooms and a second should be installed near the furnace.
Regarding your Furnace , it is always recommended that a heating specialist be contacted every fall to inspect the unit and in particular, the heat exchangers. Also, a cleaning might be in order for a more efficient heating season. Furnace Filters must be changed frequently or they waste energy and could damage the gas forced air heating system. The filters should be changed every 30-40 days during use or wash reusable or electronic filters.
Cooling System Compressors should be serviced each spring to maintain their efficiency and prolong their service life.
The Plumbing System should have a main shut-off valve where the water service enters the house which should be at least 4’-6’ below grade in Denver. There should also be a temperature and pressure relief valve on the hot water heater as a safety feature designed to protect the hot water heater and its users. There should be a shut-off valve on the cold water supply side of the hot water heater. Flushing your hot water heater is an essential maintenance procedure. During use, sediment will collect at the bottom of the tank forming an insulating barrier, thus reducing the efficiency. Drain your water heater and flush it with burst of water from the cold water supply side. This should be done annually. In the Denver metropolitan area, most Basements or Lower Level floor areas generally have cracking due to the clay content of our soils. These expansive clays are called Bentonite. These cracks, if large enough, should be filled with an epoxy or a rubber-based sealant. Signs of dampness such as stains, wicking or a dry whitish powder residue (efflorescence) are indications of dampness or moisture.
Crawl Spaces should have a visqueen (plastic) or felt paper placed over the bare ground. This will reduce moisture and the potential for Radon gas entering the house. Insulation in the walls and ceilings is now required by Code to be minimum of an R0-1 1(3-1/2 inches of fiberglass in the walls) and an R-19 in the ceilings. However, Public Service recommends R-30 in the ceilings. This is approximately 14 inches of loose fill fiberglass insulation.
Chimneys should be cleaned on a regular basis to remove the accumulated creosote which causes chimney fires. Ventilation is extremely important in crawl space areas as well as attic areas to remove moisture and also assist in summer cooling.
Finally, it is important to save all Owner operation manuals on appliances and water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, etc. In addition, service companies and service records should be maintained on each appliance as this information will be beneficial to pass on to the new buyer of the home.