We live with our children every day and as a result, we don’t see the small daily changes that a grandmother who only sees them a few times a year sees when she visits. Homes are like that – we live in them every day and as they age and start to creak and have issues we often don’t see them because we’ve watched the gradual transformation. We only notice it when something stops working or when someone comes in from outside and with a “new eye” calls our attention to it. I just closed on a very pretty home, BUT. The sellers had been in the home for almost 30 years. During that time they had upgraded the kitchen and one bathroom. They had done things to the home to make it work for their family, but they had ignored things that didn’t “bother them”. As a result the building inspection and the municipal inspection came as real shocks to them.
The husband had switched out some electrical outlets and light switches over the years. The home has aluminum wiring. He apparently went to the hardware store and picked up switches and outlets without making sure that they were CO/ALR and could be used with aluminum wiring - $8000 bid just to check every outlet and switch in the home to see which ones were done correctly and which ones were done incorrectly BEFORE the electrician fixed the ones that were done incorrectly, not to mention the fire hazard they has been living with all these years.
The children are grown and gone so they seldom went to the basement – as a result they hadn’t noticed that the plumbing stack had reached the point where it was leaking.
The gas furnace had 3 leaks and the flu liner was so corroded that it was leaking – the gas leaks you couldn’t see, but the flu liner corrosion could be seen. Add the gas leaks in the house to the electrical problem caused by the wrong switches and outlets and you have a much larger problem.
Codes change over the years, and the codes that the home met when they bought it, aren’t the codes that the home needed to meet now – from GFCI’s that had to be installed to shut-off valves on gas appliances. The list just kept growing, the seller just kept getting angrier and blaming the buyer for being picky about wanting things taken care of that hadn’t been a problem until the buyer came along.
The buyers, who had taken care of their home and had fixed it up before selling it, kept their cool, and were exceptionally good at recognizing what were important items and what were annoyances. But it should never have happened. The sellers had been living in an unsafe environment for some time without realizing it. If they hadn’t put their home on the market, which generated home inspections, they could have had disastrous consequences from several of the problems that were found.
It’s HARD, to look at your home with an inspector’s eye. But periodically you need to.
1) If you live in a community that has a municipal inspection (from your city or county or both), you can get a copy of the inspection checklist and go through it on your own or with a handyman to find out the areas where your home might have issues (I don’t recommend asking the municipal inspector to come, because if your home has issues they can force you to move out while the issues are being fixed and most people don’t want to do that). Then fix them.
2) Some heating and cooling companies will come check your system out for you for a minor charge at the beginning of each season, but you need to ask if they will check your gas lines and your flues when they do the inspection, not just the furnace and air conditioner. They are the people who repair them, so they can check them, but they won’t automatically do it in their seasonal inspections unless you ask for it.
3) Look at your plumbing stacks – in a newer home they will be PVC plastic pipes and you don’t have to worry about them, but in an older home they are cast iron and they will rust through from the inside out. Look for brown stains – look for “growths” – they are called carbuncles. They are actually boils where the cast iron is rotting from the inside out and when it rots enough, the sewerage will leak out through the hole. Do not cut off the rust and paint over it, it will come back with a vengeance. At that point, your stack has to be replaced – call a plumber. Make sure you look at the section of the stack that is at the top of the floor joist/at the basement ceiling (ie look up) not just the section of the stack that is the straight pole in your basement.
4) Check your electrical panel box. Go to a website called “Is My Panel Safe?” if your panel is listed here, consider getting a new one.
If you have any questions, please consider contacting a local realtor to get the name of a reputable building inspector to help you (in the State of Missouri, building inspectors are not licensed and ANYONE, can be a building inspector without any training or experience. As a result, your local Realtor will have a list of inspectors that they know are experienced, do a good job, and will provide you with the information that you can use to help you to have a safe home for your family.
As always, if you would like more information, please go to my website at DaleWeir.net, Dale