Every house has defects. Whether its new construction or a 95 year old home, no house is perfect. A home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property that generally takes around 3-4 hours, so there is absolutely no way any inspector will guarantee that they will find every defect. The goal is to find the defects that are unsafe, or will cost a lot of money to repair. Below are some photos of the most common defects that I find during a home inspection.
Shrinkage cracks in the foundation- Shrinkage cracks are common with poured concrete foundation walls and floors. These cracks usually show up within the first year or two. While they don't usually pose a risk to the structural integrity of the foundation, water may leak through the cracks which can be a problem. These cracks can be filled with an epoxy injection by a certified contractor relatively inexpensively.
Two layers of shingles- I see this often but two layers of shingles is NOT a defect. However, this is the maximum number of layers allowed. After the second layer needs replaced, all the shingles need to be ripped off and re-shingled. The extra layers of shingles add more weight to the roof decking, the flashings may not be performing correctly, and some shingles may not be secured properly due to the extra layer the nails have to penetrate. I note this in my reports so my clients know when the time comes for a new roof covering.
Frozen hose bib pipes- I'll admit I don't see this one too often but it is a problem in the Spring time. People that don't unscrew the hoses from the outdoor spigots run the risk of this happening. The water in the hose will freeze and back up into the piping going into the house which can burst. Now this photo above is a picture of a frost-free hose bib so this cracked pipe won't actually leak until you turn the spigot on to water your flowers in the Spring. This is a great way to ruin a finished basement! Easy fix for a plumber by the way.
Bathroom exhaust vents that don't vent directly to the exterior- This is one of the most common defects during a home inspection. Your bathroom exhaust fans are exhausting a lot of moisture from showers and must vent ALL the way outside. Not almost like we see here. All that moisture in the air is just getting blown into the attic which can cause mold growth and condensation problems. We need to see all exhaust vents terminating at the exterior of the home.
Here is another picture of a laundry exhaust vent that would vent directly to the exterior if the laundry exhaust piping was attached! All that lint, exhaust, and moisture from a gas dryer was just being dumped into the crawlspace! This needs to be corrected ASAP.
Shingle lifting and loss of granules- Shingle lifting usually occurs when the adhesive seal on the underside of the shingles is failing. This can be a warranty claim if the shingles are newer, however, most of the time it's due to the age of the shingles being past their prime. These shingles can most certainly blow completely off in a storm with high winds. The loss of the granules (the little hard pieces that are attached on the surface of the shingle) is also usually a sign of the end of the useful life of the shingle. Being exposed to the elements year after year will eventually allow these to come off and collect in gutters and downspouts. High foot traffic as well as tree limbs and branches that rub on the roof or that are in constant contact will also cause granule loss. This is why we recommend tree limbs to be trimmed back away from the houses and off of the roofs.
While we're on the subject of roofs, another common thing we see is somebody patching ripped or torn shingles with roofing tar. DIY tar, silicone, caulk etc are all considered temporary fixes and not the proper way to repair shingles. These need to be fixed by a licensed roofing contractor to prevent any leaks that may develop. The other thing we see up on roofs is clogged gutters and downspouts. Trees that overhang roofs are a huge culprit and you need to have those gutters cleaned out regularly! The water cannot run out the way it was designed to do so it sits in the gutters and keeps the shingles wet as well as puts a strain on the gutter system with the extra weight. You can see the amount of moisture on that roof in the photo on the right.
Siding to grade clearance- We look for a 8" clearance between the siding and the grade. This may have had some clearance when it was built and has settled, or it may have never had any clearance. The moisture from the mulch and dirt will "wick" up into the siding and wall and will keep the siding wet causing corrosion to the siding and it can rot the wood behind the siding. It's not a deal breaker but it can definitely be a problem.
Negative grading- This is where the ground is sloped towards the home as opposed to away from it. Positive grading is what we are looking for. We want all water to flow away from the home to prevent it from seeping back into basements and foundations. You can see where this sidewalk/patio has settled and its allowing water to flow back towards the home. Shockingly, I didn't find any moisture intrusion in the basement during this inspection but I would bet that with enough rain, they will get some water in the basement.
Missing handrails- This is another very popular defect found in a home inspection. The 2018 IRC building code states that a handrail is needed when you have four or more risers (steps). When this home was built, it was built to code. However, codes change for safety reasons so its a good idea to add a handrail for safety. This is a cheap fix.
Double taps- A double tap is where two wires are installed into a breaker that is designed to accept one wire. There are a few breakers that are listed to handle two wires, however most are not. A new breaker should've been added to accommodate another circuit. This is considered a defect because two wires compressed under one screw may not be secured properly and can cause arcing and generate heat that can lead to a fire if the connection becomes loose. This is an easy fix but needs to be handled by a licensed electrician.
DIY jobs- I run into a lot of things that have been done by the homeowner that aren't done properly. This photo above is of garage lighting that was installed by the homeowner. This wiring needs to be inside a metal conduit and secured to the ceiling to protect the wires. These plug in wire light fixtures are a no-no. This is also an easy fix but should be handled by an electrician.
I hope you learned a little bit about some of the more common defects that I run into on a majority of homes. Most of these defects are due to either the home not being updated to newer, better building practices, or poor craftsmanship. People who are trying to save a buck or two will end up with some of these problems. If you take the time to learn about different aspects of your home, you will understand how to effectively maintain your home as well. Simply walking around the house a few times a year and keeping notes on what needs attention is a good idea. Saving money today might mean spending lots of money tomorrow! It's also a good idea to get three estimates when you are looking to have work done so you can hear a few different ideas about the repairs, and make sure you are paying the right person for the job.
My name is Chris Dallaglio and I'm the owner of Total Eclipse Inspections LLC. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Radon Measurement Professional, U.S. Dept of Energy Home Energy Score Assessor, part-time blogger.