Common Defects

Many things in a home need attention sometime in their life. Things that a homeowner should look for are signs of roof leaks; you’ll typically see brown stains on your ceiling, especially around skylights, and chimneys. If you see a brown stain, you need to find the source of the problem and get it taken care of by a licensed roofing contractor. For removing the stain on your ceiling, you can try using Clorox bleach on a damp rag, or in a spray bottle. Once the roofers have finished repairing your roof, you need to have the attic inspected for signs of mold growth, and if you find any black speckles or fuzzy growth, contact a mold remediation company immediately. Mold can be very harmful to your health, and the health of your loved ones.


If you are looking at a house built prior to 1978, the house may have lead based products in it. This includes lead based paints, which can chip off the walls, and can then be eaten by pets or even children. The house may also have lead plumbing which was used early on as the main water supply lines. Lead is considered to be a heavy metal, which means that once it’s ingested, it stays in your body forever. You could get lead poisoning if the levels of lead in your blood stream are high enough.

Lead is a soft, malleable metal with a dullish gray color. When freshly cut it has a bluish-white color. You can also tell if you have lead pipes by the shape of its connections. They had to melt the lead pipes together so you won’t have a fitting or crisp looking connection; it’s more of a blob of lead where two pipes come together. Having lead pipes is very dangerous because your drinking water is running through these pipes, collecting some of that lead, and then you’re putting it directly into your body whenever cooking with it, drinking it, or bathing in it.

Water Damage

Most homes have some sort of water damage, whether it’s from a leaky roof, leaky pipe, or leaky foundation. Water damage can result in wood rot, deterioration, delaminating of materials, rusting of metals and eventually lead to mold and mildew issues.

Water leaves a stain on your walls, or ceilings, or floors. It’s very difficult to find the origin of a leak as water can penetrate any small crack. Water can appear to be coming from one place when in reality it’s coming from an entirely different area. A common place for water damage is around a bathtub, or toilet. The floor will be soft and spongy to the touch. Using a probe we can determine if the subfloor is rotten and in need of repair or replacement.

The real concern I have with water damage is mold. Is there still water? If there is then we have do worry about mold. For more information on mold please refer to the MOLD page. Briefly, mold needs two things to grow, an organic substance (wood, drywall, etc.) and moisture. Get rid of the moisture problem, and you’ll get rid of the mold.

Water damage is an issue when inspecting a home because though I may see water damage, I cannot determine if it is from a past leak or if it’s a current problem. We will list is as a fault of the home and the buyer and seller can determine what should be done after our report is finished.


Mold is a microscopic fungal growth. Mold needs two things to grow, the first is an organic food source such as wood, drywall, fabric, etc. The second thing mold needs is moisture. That’s why mold most commonly grows in showers, bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens. The most common place for mold to grow is in the attic above a shower where the bathroom vent does not exit the home properly and the moisture from the shower goes directly into the attic, creating a warm, moist environment for mold to spawn and thrive.

Mold can cause serious health hazards including allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Having mold in your home is no picnic; you should treat the mold with a bleach water mix immediately, then find the water source and get it fixed by a licensed contractor so the mold doesn’t return.


When inspecting plumbing, we’ll determine where your main water shut off valve is located, what type of plumbing you have, and inspect for any leaks or potential leaks.

A home's water supply is crucial in both the health of the home, and the health of its occupants. If your home has old water lines, they could be made of lead, which is considered one of the world’s heavy metals, and when taken internally can be toxic. If the home is equipped with lead pipes, we will recommend replacement before closing due to the health risks at stake.

Mostly we’ll be inspecting for leaks, or clogs in both water supply and drainage lines. Most new homes have PVC drain lines, which are made of plastic; however your house could have cast iron, or copper drain pipes. Your water supply lines could be made of lead, steel, copper, or a number of plastics with crimp on fittings. They all have their pro’s and con’s but as long as they’re not leaking, or made of lead, they will all do the job of delivering your water safely.

We’ll check to see if each faucet has it’s own shut off valve located near the appliance. We’ll check each appliance such as the dishwasher and garbage disposal (if equipped). While inspecting the shower, we’ll run each sink and flush the toilet and watch for a drop in water pressure at the shower. This will indicate if you have adequately sized water supply lines.

While we’re running the sink, we’re also filling the tub and sink. After we’ve checked for ample water supply, we’ll let the drain plugs loose and make sure the drain lines have adequate flow.


When looking at your electrical system, we need to look for properly sized wires, correct wiring at the outlets and switches, and check for correct ground to wire height clearance (if feed wires are flown overhead from a pole). We’ll check that all wires coming into junction boxes have the correct clamps or grommets to prevent broken wires which could cause a fire hazard.

Most homes have copper wiring throughout, however some houses in the ‘70s were wired with aluminum wire, which can cause a problem anywhere it makes a connection. Aluminum wire expands and contracts at a different rate than copper or brass. This means that when you use aluminum wire, you need to use a specific type of switch or outlet; otherwise the wire and switch will loosen each other and create a potential fire hazard.

Many older homes have not had their electrical system upgraded to today’s building standards. This can be a problem because your home needs to have a GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter anywhere an outlet is within 6 feet of a water source. These special outlets have a circuit breaker built in, which will trip (or break) in the event of a power overload, such as dropping a hair dryer in a sink full of water. These upgrades can be handled quickly by a licensed electrician. 

We’ll check for proper grounding of the electrical box and inspect for proper panel to ground connection. We urge home owners to leave their electrical repairs to a licensed professional due to the extreme amount of danger created by electricity.

Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning

Every home is equipped with some sort of heat source, it maybe a wood stove or it could be a solar heat pump. There are many types of HVAC or Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Most commonly found in homes is the gas or electric furnace, with a central air unit located outside. We’ll inspect the furnace and it’s heat exchanger looking for cracks that could leak carbon monoxide (if it’s a gas furnace) into the home.

Some homes are equipped with a boiler and radiators, this is a good system if maintained properly. We’ll inspect the unit for leaks, corrosion and proper water levels. If equipped with radiators in each room, we’ll inspect whether or not they are level, a non level radiator will not work properly.

We’ll inspect the outside condenser unit and insure there are no leaks and that it is functioning properly. We’ll inspect for ductwork, and return air ducts as well.

You should change your air filters once a month, this will not only keep your furnace running smoothly, it will keep your home less dusty. Air filters are inexpensive and you can buy special types that can be cleaned and reused. It is safe and easy to change your air filters.

We’ll insure that your outside air conditioning unit has the proper electoral shut off located within 6 feet of the unit, if not equipped we’ll recommend a licensed electrician install a shut off immediately.


Each home needs to be protected from the elements. A good roof is vital for the longevity of your home. Some homes have steep roofs; others have very shallow pitched roofs. Many roofs are covered in asphalt shingles and some are covered in steel or even slate, which is a type of rock. The number one place for leaks is around roof penetrations such as a chimney, or plumbing vent pipe. Whenever you can limit the number of roof penetrations, you reduce the risk of a rotten roof, or leaky roof.

When installed correctly a asphalt shingled roof should last between 20 and 35 years. A slate or steel roof should last 100+ years; however a steel or slate roof is much more expensive to install.

If your home is equipped with roll type roofing, it’s only going to last about 10 years; roll roofing is designed for really shallow pitched roofs for things such as sheds.

Other homes are shingled with cedar or wooden shakes or shingles. These will shed water just fine, but they take more maintenance and a closer eye. Cedar shakes or shingles can shrink and cause cracks or open spaced to occur, which is a direct path for water. Remember, water is the number one damaging cause of a home. Take care of your roof.

Black staining on the roof is caused by algae growth, if you have a roof that’s not black, you may see this black algae forming. It is not harmful to your roof; however it is unsightly and can be taken care of by going to a pool or pond store and asking for some algaecide. This job can be performed by the homeowner (if the roof is not too steep) or by a handyman or other contractor. Simply spray your roof with the algaecide, and it should mitigate the algae quickly.


You should take a look around your furnace and water heater about once a year, look at the bottom of the units for signs of rust and degrade. If you see any rust, you should contact a plumber or heating and air conditioning company to have your equipment inspected. An old water heater can be dangerous if it fails. They have the potential to explode if they become too dilapidated to function correctly.

Sump Pump

If your home has a basement, check the function of the sump pump semi regularly, make sure it’s always plugged in and that a child hasn’t unplugged it in order to plug in their stereo or other toys. To many times basements get flooded due to neglect of regular inspection. To check the function of your sump pump, you can remove the cover, and lift the float up to a vertical position, the pump should kick on. If the pump does not kick on, I would recommend having a plumber come to inspect, and replace if necessary.

Foundation Cracks

Small cracks in foundation walls or basement walls can occur over time. This check is primarily for homes with unfinished basements, where you can see the concrete block, or poured walls. If you see a horizontal crack that’s longer than 3 feet, you should be concerned with proper drainage of your ground on the exterior of your home, maybe you’ve got a clogged downspout or maybe the city or road crew has been through recently and now your property doesn’t drain the way it used too. The cause of the horizontal crack is caused by hydraulic water pressure from outside pushing in. There is no need to be concerned unless the crack is 1/8” of an inch wide, that’s about the same as if you can stick a nickel in the crack. If the crack is big enough for a nickel to fit in it, you should contact a foundation specialist immediately, if the source of the hydraulic pressure is not corrected, you could have that wall collapse under your house, causing your house to cave in.

If you see a vertical crack, this is usually caused by uneven settling; these need to be inspected by a professional to determine if the amount of settlement is acceptable, or if it needs further attention.