Most Common Home Inspection Defects and How to Avoid Them

Whether you’re in the home buying or selling process, or just a homeowner that wants to protect your home investment, it’s important to understand some of the most significant potential issues that can impact the safety, longevity, and value of your home. The following reflects the relative incidence of defects found during home inspections:

Highest incidence:

  1. Improper Surface Grading/Drainage
    This was by far the most frequently found problem, found in >35% of inspections. It is responsible for the most common of household maladies, including water penetration of the basement and crawlspace.
  2. Improper Electrical Wiring
    Found in ~20% of all inspections, this includes such situations as insufficient electrical service to the house, inadequate overload protection, and amateur and often dangerous wiring connections.
  3. Roof Damage
    Found in ~10% of all inspections, roof leakage caused by old or damaged shingles or improper flashing is a frequent problem.

Lesser incidence (each found in <10% of reports):

  1. Heating/Cooling Systems
    Problems in this category include broken or malfunctioning operation controls, blocked chimneys, and unsafe exhaust disposal. Also, lack of routine service, including filter replacement, is a common finding.
  2. Poor Overall Maintenance
    Even the novice home buyer is usually aware of this situation, demonstrated by such signs as cracked, peeling and dirty, painted surfaces, crumbling masonry, makeshift wiring and plumbing, and broken fixtures and appliances.
  3.  Structurally Related Problems
    Many houses, because of problems in one or more of the other categories, sustain damage to such structural components as foundation walls, floor joists, rafters, and window and door headers.
  4. Plumbing
    Though not ranked by the respondents as a Number One problem, plumbing defects still rank high among the house problems encountered and include the existence of old and incompatible piping materials, as well as faulty fixtures and waste lines.
  5. Exteriors
    Flaws in a home’s exterior, including windows, doors, and wall surfaces, are responsible for water and air penetration, but rarely have structural significance. Inadequate caulking and/or weather-stripping are the most common culprits.
  6. Poor Ventilation
    Perhaps due to overly ambitious efforts to save energy, many homeowners have over-sealed their homes, resulting in excessive interior moisture. This can cause rotting and premature failure of both structural and non-structural elements.

As you can see, the most common defects reported during a home inspection are either directly or indirectly related to the damaging effects of water. Therefore, draining and keeping water away from the home should be a primary objective of home maintenance for the homeowner. The following describes some of the important factors to address to accomplish this objective.

The roof of your home is designed to protect the interior of the structure from water intrusion and depends on a covering (i.e. shingles) that is well maintained and functional. However, just as important for avoiding potential damage from water intrusion are the components of your home that are related to properly directing water away from the structure.

  • Gutters – designed to catch roof water and direct it towards downspouts
    • make sure they’re clear of debris to avoid clogging of downspouts
    • inspect for leaks at seams, corners, downspout connections
    • inspect for secure attachment to fascia
    • inspect for proper slope that allows water to drain towards downspouts
  • Downspouts – designed to direct water from gutters to away from the base of the walls
    • inspect for secure attachment to the wall
    • inspect for secure attachment of extensions to downspouts
    • confirm that extensions direct water at least 4-6’ away from the exterior wall
  • Landscaping – including plants, shrubs, trees and general groundskeeping
    • Confirm that the perimeter ground slopes away from the home at least 5% (i.e. 3” drop over 5’)
    • Confirm that wall coverings are at least 6” above ground surface
    • Trim growth of trees and shrubs to avoid direct contact with roof or walls

Maintaining these vital aspects of your home will minimize the risk of water intrusion potential damage related to water, mold, and the structural integrity of your home.

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