The five biggest home inspection mistakes. By Alyson McNutt English • Bankrate.com
A home inspection is one of the most important steps you can take to make sure your new home is a sound investment and a safe place to live.
But, many people don't fully understand what happens in a home inspection or what they need to do to get the most out of it. Find out what inspectors say are the five biggest mistakes buyers make during the home inspection, and how you can avoid these potentially pricey pitfalls.
Mistake No. 1: Not having new construction inspected.
Even experienced homebuyers sometimes make this rookie mistake. They assume that because a home has passed all local codes and ordinances, it must be in good shape. Don't be so sure, says Jim Troth, owner of Habitation Investigation LLC, a Mechanicsburg, Ohio, home inspection company. Troth once inspected a brand new home that had just passed the final municipal and county building inspections. But when he explored the crawl space beneath the house, he discovered someone had removed about 3 feet of the home's main support beam to accommodate duct work.
"The house was already beginning to sink in that area," he says.
The moral of the story: Don't assume your builder -- or the contractors -- did everything right just because the home passed code. An inspector is your last line of defense against major defects that could quite literally sink your financial future.
Mistake No. 2: Choosing an inspector for the wrong reasons.
When you choose an inspector, you're selecting the professional who will give one of your biggest investments a full physical checkup. You want to choose someone you know who is competent, thorough and trustworthy. Unfortunately, too many buyers just go with the cheapest inspection company or the one recommended by their Realtor.
"The least expensive person is often the person with the least experience, ability and technical savvy," says Aaron Flook, owner of Pittsburgh-based A.M. Inspection Services LLC. "If you want a referral from your real estate agent, ask for two or three different names, then interview each one to determine who you feel most comfortable with."
Always ask about licensing, professional affiliations and credentials, and whether the inspector carries errors and omissions insurance.
Mistake No. 3: Not going along on the inspection.
The written report you get from the inspector doesn't give you nearly as clear a picture of the condition of the house as you might think. Flook says buyers who don't go along on the inspection can overemphasize minor problems, or worse, not realize how serious a defect is.
"I did one inspection where the buyer didn't come along, and he ended up getting worked up about first-floor plugs that weren't grounded and completely ignored that the water tank was drafting carbon monoxide," Flook says. "You really need to go along with the inspector, ask questions and listen when he gives you his professional opinion on the house."
Mistake No. 4: Not following up on the inspector's recommendations.
Sometimes, buyers don't follow up on items discovered in the inspection before they close. Like the man who didn't grasp that the carbon monoxide coming from his water heater was a big problem, you may not realize how much it will cost to fix a given defect. Often inspectors will recommend buyers get an issue evaluated further, but the buyers wait to do it until after closing, says Kathleen Kuhn, president of the inspection company HouseMaster of Bound Brook, N.J.
"If buyers wait to have a system evaluated until after closing, it can turn out to be more expensive or a bigger deal than what they anticipated," Kuhn says.
Kuhn says you should always get several estimates on repairs before closing, and you should feel comfortable calling your inspector to discuss these estimates. "The inspector may be able to share some insight into the contractors' suggestions," she says.
Mistake No. 5: Expecting your home inspector to be a psychic.
No matter how experienced or skilled your home inspector is, he can't see the future. "Home inspectors don't have crystal balls, so they can't specifically predict when an aging system will fail," Kuhn says. "Sometimes, optimistic homebuyers think a system still has a few good years just because there aren't visible signs of malfunction at the time of inspection."
A home inspector can tell you that an air conditioning system like the one in the home you're buying usually only lasts 10 years, and yours is 11 years old. But he can't tell you when it will fail. That's when you need to follow up with people who know more about each specific system about which you have questions.
And remember, the home inspector is hired by you. He's there to give you an honest, straight opinion about the house.
"The inspector is one of the few people in the buying process whose income doesn't depend on the home closing," Troth says. "They're paid to inspect, not to sell. So they're in a better position to be neutral."
Call me for your home inspection in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Parkersburg, Charles City, Manchester, Independence, Waverly, Dike, Hudson, Jesup, Center Point, New Hampton, Oelwein, West Union, Decorah and other areas in the Cedar Valley.
How Does a Dishwasher Work?
Dishwashers are labor-saving and water-conserving appliances that were first invented in the U.S. in the 1850s. There are both portable units and permanently installed units that are found in most homes today.
Permanently installed dishwashers rely on the home's electrical and plumbing systems, which is why their proper operation and maintenance are critical to household safety and trouble-free use.
A dishwasher operates with sprayed water using multiple cycles of washing and rinsing, followed by drying, using hot, forced circulated air. These cycles may be further distinguished according to length of cycle, power and temperature.
Dishwashers could b plugged into a dedicated electrical receptacle at the back of the sink cabinet or hardwired as part of a switched circuit in the sink cabinet, and usually plumbed into the home's hot water supply, although the cold water supply is also an option. This assures that the dishwasher's load is optimally washed and rinsed using the maximum recommended temperature range of between 130° F and 170° F.
The dimensions of an average unit are 24x24 inches, although deluxe models may be wider and/or deeper to accommodate larger loads. Its interior components are typically made of stainless steel and/or plastic, and the exterior door may be metal, enamel-covered metal, or having a wood or wood-like veneer to match the decor of the kitchen cabinets.
Use, Maintenance and Precautions
Dishwasher-safe glasses, cups, plates, bowls, pots, pans and utensils, as well as some ceramic-ware and cutlery, are loaded into pull-out racks and baskets. They can be safely washed and rinsed in cycles that vary in intensity and length.
Many users rinse, soak or pre-treat cookware to remove solids and excess food waste before loading it in the dishwasher; this is a matter of personal preference, as well as how well the unit works on everyday and heavy-duty loads, although waste that cannot be adequately drained should be removed from dishware before the soiled items are loaded into the unit.
Dishwashers can also be used to effectively disinfect toothbrushes, infants' plastic toys, formula bottles and synthetic nipples, and teething rings, as well as other household and personal hygiene items. However, extremely soiled items that come into contact with potentially hazardous or toxic materials, such as tools, gardening implements and the like, should not be washed in a dishwasher, as the toxic residue may not fully rinse out of the interior, which can contaminate future loads of dishware and utensils, as well as clog plumbing lines.
Soaps, pre-treaters and rinsing agents to prevent or eliminate water spots are available in a variety of costs, quality and effectiveness. They also come in both powder and liquid form. Regardless of the type of detergent used, it should be specifically for dishwasher use only, as other soaps can leave behind residue, as well as create excess foam and leaks.
Maintenance is relatively easy and can be done by running the unit through a hot-water cycle while it is empty, but this is only suggested following an especially dirty load where residue has not fully washed and drained for some reason. ALSO, do not forget to wipe out the seal area. Food particles get stuck in this area on the sides and bottom of "the box". Keeping this clean will ensure a good door seal.
Dishwashers should never be overloaded. Loads should be distributed and racked such that cleaning will be effective. It is recommended that plastic items be loaded into the unit's top rack to avoid their coming into contact with hot elements in the unit's bottom and then melting, or being jostled by the power of the sprayers and subsequently blocking them, which may prevent the water from reaching the unit's entire load.
It is important to monitor the unit for failure to fully drain, as well as for leaks, excessive noise and movement, and burning smells, which can indicate a burned-out motor, an issue with the plumbing connected to the unit, or a problem with its original installation. A qualified professional should evaluate a malfunctioning unit and perform any repairs.
I was talking with an electrician friend of mine at a gathering this Christmas and we talked about one of the most commonly called out defects, double tapped circuit breakers, during an home inspection. While it means "business" for him he was saying how some home inspectors don't know exactly what they are noting and cause undo concerns when everything is actually OK. He quizzed me. I passed.
I am not an attorney and didn't seek the super-duper advice before writing this post, so here is my disclaimer before giving any electrical how-to information: Don’t do any of this work if you’re not qualified. Qualified means LICENSED and trained in electrical work. Reading this article, or watching a home improvement show, does not make you qualified. You could be seriously hurt or killed. This is only an informative overview on what I have found.
Definition: There is no official term for this, so "double tap" is the trade slang. Two conductors are connected under one screw or terminal inside a panel. This could be on a circuit breaker or on a neutral bar. I will write about neutral bars another time. Let's just say that a neutral bar is not a drinking establishment for both Cardinal and Cubs fans. They should always be separate, but I digress.
When IS a "double tap" a DEFECT?
This is a defect when the circuit breaker isn’t designed for two conductors. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a simple doorbell transformer wire that’s added on to the circuit breaker that already has a wire on it – the issue isn’t about the load imposed on the circuit, it’s about the physical connection of the wires.
When is "double tapping" NOT a defect?
Double tapping is perfectly fine if the circuit breaker is designed for two conductors. Only circuit breakers designed for two conductors will say so right on the circuit breaker, and the terminal of the circuit breaker will be designed to hold two conductors in place. The only manufacturers that make circuit breakers that are designed to hold two conductors are Square D (QO and HOM Series) and Cutler Hammer (CH Series). Earlier some Square D HOM series breakers were made, but were only rated for ONE conductor. This is a change that has been made over time. The breaker would still say how many conductors it was rated for. Currently General Electric (GE) and Siemens breakers are not rated for double tapping conductors.
Why is "double tapping" a problem?
If the circuit breaker isn’t designed to hold two conductors, the conductors could come loose at some point in the future, even if they feel very tight today. Loose conductors can lead to overheating, arcing, and possibly a fire. This is a particular concern when two conductors that are not of equal size are landed under the screw of a breaker that IS NOT double tap rated.
Now, how can this defect be corrected? Here is where the licensed electrician comes in and should be doing the work.
1. Pig Tail:
The most common repair is a pigtail. The two conductors under the screw of the circuit breaker are disconnected from the circuit breaker and tied together with a new single conductor under a wire connector rated for the number and size of conductors. This wire connector is commonly called a "wire nut". Your electrician will know what to do. I just want to point out that it is a simple repair.
2. New Breaker:
Another remedy would be to replace the circuit breaker with a type that is designed for two conductors, as long as the panel is designed for it. The breaker MUST be the same manufacturer as the panel. DO NOT MIX AND MATCH BRANDS.
Why Does This Happen:
If there are more problems going on besides just a double tap, the remedy might require more investigating and work. I have seen this happen because of some of the following reasons.
Can this be repaired?
As stated before, this article is for education purposes only. Do not attempt to make these repairs or diagnose electrical issues if you are not trained and licensed. If you have questions contact your favorite home inspector or electrician.
Call Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC for your home inspection in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Parkersburg, Charles City, Manchester, Independence, Waverly, Dike, Hudson, Jesup, Center Point, New Hampton, Oelwein, West Union, Decorah and other areas in the Cedar Valley.
Before The Levy Breaks
Plumbing has always been one of the most frequently referred subcontractor when my customers and friends call me for "who do I call". Naturally, if the sink is stopped up, you have a leak, toilet does not work, OR WORSE you want it fixed, and fast.
That’s why I advise homeowners to establish — before a plumbing emergency — a connection with a highly rated local plumber. I also urge you to find your home’s main water shutoff valve (it’s usually near the water meter, by the way). Quickly turning off water to your home could forestall extensive water damage from a leak or overflow that isn’t stopped by shutting off an individual toilet or appliance’s water supply. Let your kids know where it is too. Don't pile stuff in front of it. When you need it -- YOU NEED IT.
Set aside money each month in a home maintenance account. Have the plumber come one a year ( or while they are there for something else), and exercise all the valves in the house, tighten connections, drain the water heater of silt, tighten the toilet bolts to the floor, and a host of other very easy things that they can do very quickly and not add a lot to the bill. Your plumbing is a system and keeping that system in good working order can help keep costly drywall, carpet, and structural damage to a minimum later.
Always follow the tried-and-true advice of only hiring plumbers who are appropriately licensed, insured and bonded and who have positive consumer reviews on a trusted online site and ESPECIALLY from a good contractor who uses top subcontractors on a normal basis.
I can also identify these items as part of an Annual Home Maintenance Inspection. If you have lived in your home for awhile and don't know what to look for or have questions about how your home's systems work, you can call me and we can review them together. As part of the process you will receive a booklet that help you track maintenance items and plan for future items.
What Really Matters in a Home Inspection
by Nick Gromicko and Ben Gromicko
Buying a home? The process can be stressful. A home inspection is supposed to give you peace of mind, but often has the opposite effect. You will be asked to absorb a lot of information in a short time. This often includes a written report, a checklist, photographs, environmental reports, and what the inspector himself says during the inspection. All this, combined with the seller's disclosure and what you notice yourself, makes the experience even more overwhelming. What should you do?
Relax. Most of your inspection will be maintenance recommendations, life expectancies for various systems and components, and minor imperfections. These are useful to know about. However, the issues that really matter will fall into four categories:
Most sellers are honest and are often surprised to learn of defects uncovered during an inspection. Realize that sellers are under no obligation to repair everything mentioned in the report. No home is perfect. Keep things in perspective. Do not kill your deal over things that do not matter. It is inappropriate to demand that a seller address deferred maintenance, conditions already listed on the seller's disclosure, or nit-picky items.
Has your GFCI outlet tripped and you didn't know it and your food spoiled in the refrigerator or freezer? What if you heard an alarm to warn you? Easy fix.
GFCI protection is vital to ensure electrical safety in both residential and commercial settings. A power interruption due to a ground fault provides important protection to people but can shut down freezers, sump pumps and other necessary equipment if left undetected. Often, however, GFCIs in garages, basements or large commercial kitchens may be located in an out-of-the-way place such as a back corner or storage area making daily visual checks for tripping unlikely. The new SmartlockPro Slim GFCI with Audible Alert is the smart solution.
When a condition exists causing the SmartlockPro Slim GFCI with Audible Alert to trip, users will be alerted by the sounding of an audible alarm. This audible alert indicates that power has been disconnected from loads plugged into or fed from the GFCI so users can immediately assess the reason and reset the device. The GFCI with Audible Alert offers all the outstanding benefits you expect from SmartlockPro products, including our patented reset/lockout feature. Plus, the slim profile is compact and easy to install in any wallbox, even shallow ones.
Think of it this way, wouldn't you like to know that your half a beef in the garage or basement freezer that you don't get into everyday, but just walk by is in danger of being a real mess just because the outlet tripped? I know what I am installing the next time I go to the big box store. I recommend that YOU call an electrician. It will still be cheaper than replacing the beef.
Call me for a Home Maintenance Inspection and together we can identify this and other needs in your home to save you money and possibly save you money before the unexpected happens.
Hitting Home Blog
Jon Bronemann - author of "The Hitting Home" blog. Check it out and you will see what I see everyday and why hiring a quality contractor is so very, very important. Seeing is believing and it really does "Hit Home".