Home Inspections to Avoid Home Inspection Nightmares!
The following information on the inspection of interiors and exteriors of homes, is also applicable to the inspection of houses before occupation or purchase.
Interior Home Inspection:
Start at the top of the house and work down.
It is of the utmost importance to obtain access to the roof-space — that is the space between the ceilings of the uppermost rooms and the actual roof covering. Most houses are fitted withtraps or doors, for inspection of water cisterns which are usually located in the roof-space. Take a torch with you, but switch it off for your first look. Any tell-tale chinks of light through slates or tiles indicate the possibility of future , but if these are not extensive they are not of major importance. If more than small chinks of light filter through the inside of the roof some immediate action is necessary to deal with missing or broken slates or tiles; wood-work and other surfaces under damaged places should be thoroughly inspected for signs of wet or . If there are signs of wet or dry rot in the timbers this could be very serious and lead to expensive treatment. However, dry rot is mostly found under floorboards, seldom in roofs.
The timbers should also be carefully inspected for — a condition that is likely to occur in rafters — the roof timbers on which the roof covering is laid — and the joists, the thick timbers that support the ceilings of rooms on top floors. is indicated by groups of numerous small holes about the size made with the point of a small bradawl. Another sign of woodworm is fine powdery sawdust, on the affected timbers or surfaces below them. If woodworm in a roof is extensive it will necessitate urgent action to check it and strengthen the infected timbers.
If the timbers look sound and feel solid when rapped, continue your inspection with the water storage tank. This should be free from rust on the exterior and interior; in a well-kept house the cistern will be topped with a wooden cover and enclosed in a box packed with material to insulate the tank in very cold weather. The pipes leading to and away from the tank should be wrapped with lagging. The absence of lagging or a box should be dealt with before hard weather sets in; lack of a cover should be dealt with to prevent dust settling on the water in the tank.
Take a look at the covering of the loft floor. It may be partly boarded or completely open, being just joists across the floor space with some boards round the tank. Absence of flooring is not necessarily a bad thing, but its presence does add value to the property, and a loft makes a good place for a workshop. If the floor has been lagged — that is, covered with insulating material in the form of cork-like granules between the joists, or sheets of glass wool covering the floor — this is a sign that the house has been well cared for. Floors so lagged conserve heat in winter and make the house cooler in summer. Before leaving the roof, work the cistern ball up and down with hand pressure; if the valve is working properly water will gush into the tank when the ball is depressed — if the valve is faulty the inflow of water will be a slow trickle. See that the stop-cock — a tap in the main pipe from the— works easily with hand pressure. When you leave the roof-space check that the trap fits closely to seal off the loft.
While you are checking the inside of the house, pay particular attention to the small items which give some indication of the quality of the builder’s work — plumbing fixtures, door-handles, locks and catches, etc. If these have been skimped, the builder may have cut down in other ways not so easily visible.
As you enter each room, start at the top and work down. Look at ceilings first, wide cracks above windows and doors may indicate weak framing. Small cracks in a ceiling are nothing much to worry about; they are usually the result of the expansion and contraction that all buildings are subject to. Large cracks and bulges should be viewed with suspicion. Press gently against such flaws; if there is a clear movement the plaster may have separated from the laths which may mean a complete plastering job.
Electrical fittings affixed to ceilings should be firm and never loose. Watch for cracks in walls; these can mean little or much; small cracks are not serious, but large ones that can be traced, running through to adjoining rooms on either side or above and below, may be due to subsidence, in which case the crack will also be visible on the outside walls. Take a good look at the wallpaper; old wallpaper can easily be replaced, but it may tell you something more than just old age. If the paper is blistered or peeling or has patches ringed by stains the chances are that damp is penetrating the structure, especially on outside walls and chimney-breasts.
Scan the woodwork of doors and windows, see that doors and windows are not warped and that they open and close easily and do not have to be pulled or pushed to fit into their frames. Locks and catches should work efficiently and be free from rust.
Inspect the fireplace: the surround should be firmly fixed to the wall, and there should be no cracks or gaps round the edges; there should be no loose or cracked tiles; the firebrick at the back of the fireplace should not be cracked. The grate should be in reasonable condition; the best fires are those fitted with an ash-pan.
Check light switches and plugs to see that they are firmly secured to walls and skirtings. Take a very careful look at the skirting; there should be no large gaps between the bottom edge of the skirting and the floor-boards — this is not serious but it is something that should be put right. Rap the skirting with your knuckles; it should sound firm and solid. If the boards sound dull and feel soft you can suspect dry rot.
Dry rot shows on skirtings and floor-boards in the form of a series of square cracks set closely together. If there is any sign of dry rot, you should have the floor-boards lifted. Dry rot is recognized by its fruit, visible on the underside of the skirting, floor-boards, or joists, in the form of fluffy masses of white fungus which resemble cotton-wool. The masses may be tinged with bright yellow and mauve patches, and stringy strands of spreading fungus trail from the fungus patches. The fruit bodies of dry rot resemble toadstool heads covered with spots of rust-red powder. It is a disease, a contagious disease which can spread very quickly. If the area affected is quite small it is not too difficult a job to put right, but this should be dealt with immediately.
Give the floor-boards a careful scrutiny. Small spaces between the boards are nothing to worry about, but there should be no large gaps or cracks, depressions or bulges. Make a point of walking all over the floor, which should not squeak or give unevenly in any place. The boards should not be too badly worn or scarred.
Examine the staircase, passages and landings. Are the stairs badly worn, is the handrail secure and really strong enough for its purpose, and are the stairs safe for children ?
Other things you should ask yourself about and check, are the fittings and services. Are the water taps in reasonably good condition, or will they need replacing? Is it possible to get a bucket under the taps in the sink? Are the water pipes rusted? Are sinks, lavatory pans, baths and wash-basins cracked or chipped, or are they badly stained? And are these fittings secure in their mountings? Is the electrical installation adequate for your requirements or is it supplemented by the addition of trailing lengths of flex?
Go round and turn all the taps on, flush the toilets, check the flooring around wash-basins and sinks for wet and dry rot. Push open and close every window. Broken sash-cords are nothing to worry about, they are easily replaced, but windows that need force to open or close them are in bad order. You should be able to open or close a window sash with the pressure of one finger.
Assess the amount of cupboard room in the house. Is there sufficient, or are there suitable recesses into which cupboards can conveniently be built? Check larders and pantries for accessibility and condition of repair.
Make a thorough inspection of the hot-water system and the method of heating water. Does it require a roaring fire on a summer day? Is the hot-water tank lagged? Is the boiler in good condition? Does it require any special fuel? Is the coal bunker or coal house awkward to get at on a cold wet day? And can fuel be easily deposited and extracted from the storage accommodation ?
Look at the condition of such things as cookers and don’t forget to check the cellar — if there is one. A good cellar should be dry and ventilated. The timber should be sound, the floor should be of stone or concrete and it should be adequately fitted with interior lighting, or permit good access of daylight.
Exterior Home Inspection:
Start at the top and work down.
Get as close a look at the roof as possible, especially if inspection of the inside has shown that the roof may be faulty. If a ladder is not available a pair of field-glasses will be found extremely useful for inspecting out-of-reach surfaces. Look for displaced or missing tiles or slates. Examine the lead flashings inserted in the bottom courses of the chimney-stacks. Examine the gulleys where sloping surfaces of roofs meet for signs of wear and tear.
Give thea thorough check for cracked sections and watch for tell-tale patches of rusty stain on woodwork below the which indicate cracks or broken joints.
Chimneys should rise at least two feet above the highest point of the roof, or you may be bothered with smoky fires. Test the pointing (the face of the layer of mortar between the brick courses) to see that it is firm. Loose pointing may permit the entry of water; crumbling mortar may indicate that the chimney needs completely rebuilding.
After the gutters, inspect the eaves and fascia. Follow the down-pipes from eaves to foundations; the fixtures should be firmly seated and the pipes uncracked and free from rust.
Check the outsides of the windows (the upstairs ones may have to be inspected from inside the house). Try sticking the point of a penknife-blade into the woodwork; if the blade slides in easily the wood is probably rotten or rating. If the blade meets with firm resistance the woodwork is sound. Check specially at corners and places where water runs off the wood. The panes should be uncracked and the putty should be firm. Dry crumbling putty may have to be replaced, but more important, water may have seeped through the old putty into the framing.
Metal windows should be free from deep rust pits, and catches and hinges should meet freely. Check that meeting edges of windows and frames do actually meet and close snugly. Inspect the window flashings which are thin strips of metal inserted in the brickwork over tops of windows — nearly always over down-stair windows, not necessarily over upper windows that may be protected by eaves.
Have a good look at the doors and doorways. Do they swing freely and close properly, or are there gaps through whichcan enter? Are the doorsteps worn or slippery? If there is a porch over the doorway, make certain it is firmly seated and in good condition.
Inspect the brickwork. Are the bricks flaking or crumbling? Is the mortar between bricks firm or soft? Is the mortar round windows in good condition; is the mortar round doorways firm? Or are there gaps where mortar has crumbled? Make a special point of inspecting visible signs of the damp-proof course. Has the efficiency of the damp-proof course been short-circuited by a path, coal-bunker, or outhouse built against the wall of the house? Are the gratings that permit air to circulate freely under the floor of the house clear and unblocked by rock gardens or rubbish? Inspect the drains and covers and make certain that metal covers are not cracked. Inspect outbuildings with the same thoroughness as the main structure, inspect paths, fences and boundary walls for damage and dilapidation.
The state of the decoration is not the most important thing to consider when inspecting a house with a view to purchasing it, unless decoration has been so neglected that the fabric of the walls has been damaged or the woodwork has suffered by reason of such blatant neglect.
The most important thing is the structural condition; redecoration can be done in your own time and the need for it need not upset the purchase provided some adjustment is made in the offered price to meet the cost of redecorating. Structural deficiencies need putting right at once before any further damage is incurred and the cost of immediate structural repairs can be quite heavy; again, this need not necessitate a decision not to purchase:
(a) if the repairs are done by the seller or
(b) if a very reasonable adjustment, to cover cost of repairs and any inconvenience during repair, is made in the purchase price offer.
If the house is not in tip-top condition, will it be easy to put it in good order, and will it be easy and economical to maintain in good order? If the structure is sound it should not be necessary to effect any major repairs for an initial period of, say, seven or even ten years, provided any small defects are put right at the outset. The main item of maintenance is decorating, and the would-be purchaser should consider this fully when comparing different properties for possible purchase. To keep property in good condition the exterior woodwork should be cleaned down and repainted once every three years, but if the property is near the sea it may be necessary to redecorate the outside every two years.
The probable cost of interior decorations depends largely on the use that the house is put to, the number of persons occupying and using it, and the size of the decorating areas. With reasonable usage, and providing the initial interior decoration is done properly, a house occupied by an, adult family should need redecorating only once in every four or five years, and the cost can be staggered by redecorating the rooms in rotation so that the charge does not have to be met all at one time. Where there are young children and perhaps pets, the main rooms of the house which are mostly used will need redecorating every two years, and even the rooms used least will probably need redecorating about every three years.