In last week's blog, we looked at problems found during a home inspection that are the result of improper installation (roof coverings, roof flashings, skylights, exterior siding, and electrical). We've decided to continue in this direction by highlighting a few other areas in which poor workmanship, makeshift repairs, and use of incorrect materials are commonly found by a-pro home inspectors.
Why continue focusing on installation problems? The truth is that even the most respected roofers, carpenters, electricians, and plumbers can make mistakes from time to time. When critical home systems are installed or repaired by do-it-yourselfers or less reputable contractors, the chances for errors increase exponentially. It's why a fair, honest, and unbiased assessment performed by a third-party home inspector should never be skipped when shopping for a home.
Our goal is not to pick on the countless quality contractors who do a spectacular job in the markets we serve. Far from it. In fact, a-pro home inspection services are unique in that we report on both the positive aspects of a home as well as the trouble spots. But when ill-advised installation practices are discovered, you can rest assured that a-pro's inspectors will include them in their reports.
Today, our Home Inspection Installation Problem Checklist (Part II) covers some of the issues we find with gutters and downspouts, plumbing, insulation, windows, and doors:
Gutters and Downspouts: When not installed properly, a gutter system will fail to direct rainwater and melting ice and snow away from the home, resulting in an increased chance of foundational damage, staining of exterior cladding, and potential water penetration. Gutters must be sloped downward so water and debris flow toward the downspout opening and eventually away from the base of the house. If the level or sloping the other way, the gutter will collect water which could eventually cause corrosion, sealant failure, leakage, spill-over, and system damage due to the extra weight. Other installation defects include leaky downspout joints that have been installed upside down, insufficiently attached downspouts and downspouts that don't terminate far enough away from the foundation, causing soil soakage that could expedite foundational settling.
Plumbing: One of the most frequent issues found during a home inspection is amateurish plumbing repairs. These often take the form of duct tape wrapped around a leaky pipe. Another familiar DIY plumbing defect is fixture installations with cross-connections that allow backflow of contaminated water into the home's drinking supply. In addition, a single amateurishly installed pipe can end up causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Among other concerns, the inspector will report on leaky water supply pipes caused by lack of insulation (often in basements and crawl spaces); the presence of leak-prone PB piping used in homes from 1978-1995; use of potentially harmful pre-1960s zinc-coated galvanized pipes; ABS waste piping, which is known for its high failure rates; and leaks in toilets and other fixtures that can be attributed to unprofessional workmanship.
Doors: Lack of flashing at the bottom of an exterior door is a common problem found by home inspectors. The use of caulk, instead of well-installed metal flashing, will eventually allow moisture penetration into the home. On the interior, the inspector may cite a number of door installation concerns, including inaccurate fitment, misalignment, the latch bolt not being aligned with the striking plate, and door edges that are cut too deep, causing hinge-binding.
Windows: Like with doors, flashing problems rank at the top of common window installation deficiencies. The inspector will note instances where caulking has been used instead of metal flashing to block water penetration, particularly at the top of the window trim. Gaps between window frames and the sill or between the frame and the wall is a problem that can occur when an installer hasn't accurately measured the job. This can lead to energy losses, drafty conditions, and wood rot. Damaged paint, mold, rotting wood, condensation, and hard-to-open sashes (not due to settling) are all indications that an amateurish installation may be the culprit.
Insulation: Your home inspector will report on several installation problems regarding insulation, including material that is blocking attic vents, and batt insulation with the paper vapor barrier facing the wrong way (on the outside rather than facing down).