Interior Home Inspection – 10 Most Common Problems

A major part of my job involves the interior home inspection. The interior of a home is like a big puzzle where all of the main housing systems fit together to make it work as a single unit, similar to the components of a clock. The interior home inspection provides clues to problems with the main systems, such as structural weakness due to a notched beam as an attempt to make way for plumbing, for example. The interior inspection includes major finishes, walls, ceilings, floors, trim, attached counters & cabinets, stairs, windows, doors, the attic, basements and or crawlspaces as appropriate.

There are a number of different, complex components and systems within a home. The more going on means a greater possibility of issues to be found during the interior home inspection. Some of the more common problems found during the interior home inspection include the following:

1 ~ Interior Leaks – When I look at the many areas of the inside of a home, I can usually detect leaks in the ceiling, in the basement, crawl spaces, walls and attic. The Interior inspection is usually where leakage issues are first detected. They can be caused by a number of different conditions, such as plumbing issues, roof leaks, exterior wall and foundation or cracks or drainage problems, etc.

2 ~ High moisture readings in the bathroom – When I take moisture readings in the shower or on the floors of the bathrooms, it is not uncommon to find high readings behind the finished areas. When these issues are detected in the shower, it is usually due to poor maintenance at the tub wall joints, or within the spaces between the tiles. Over time the mortar cracks, comes loose and allows water to wick in behind the walls. When left unchecked this can lead to moisture absorbing into the structure behind and mold growth. All connection points around tub/showers walls, floor/tub locations, sink surrounds and shower fixtures should be properly maintained via caulking to reduce the chance of water penetration. (This photo on the right shows evidence of moisture behind the tiles in the shower)

The other area of high moisture is usually found on the floor area around the toilet. In this case it is because the toilet is leaking or the drain connection (wax seal) has broken.

3 ~ Problems with floors, ceilings and walls – Cosmetic cracks within interior finishes, such as walls, ceilings and floors can easily be identified. Locations where cracks commonly develop are the corners of doors, windows and walls. Other common, yet less conspicuous interior home inspection issues include creaking, or sloping floors. This is commonly indicative of a structural problem involving the floor joists, beams or settlement. Amateur renovations can lead to issues in these areas as well. When you are considering a home that has been renovated, always ask for paperwork and proof of permits.

4 ~ Faulty fixtures or faucets – The numerous fixtures and faucets found in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry areas usually have at least a stopper that has been unattached, faucets that leak and cracked or broken fixtures, just to name a few during a typical interior home inspection.

5 ~ Dirty, unsafe fireplaces – Poorly maintained wood burning fireplaces can be extreme fire and safety hazards. Often I see rusted out or inoperative dampers, creosote build up (by product of combustion residue within the chimney) and moisture evidence. When dampers don’t work properly, the carbon monoxide gasses can be diverted into the living space, which can be life threatening. Creosote is flammable, and the catalyst to many chimney fires. Prolonged moisture will cause rusted out dampers and accelerated damage to the structure of the chimney. (This photo on the left shows a rusted out damper due to excessive water damage)

Gas fireplaces often have dusty or dirty components under the grill and often do not work when I test them. All fireplaces, whether wood burning, gas or another should be properly serviced for operational and safety reasons.

6 ~ Inoperative, unsafe doors and windows – As I go through the home I check doors and windows to see if they operate as intended. Typically I find sticky doors and windows.  In other cases I come across loose or broken handles.  When garage doors do not have a “self closing mechanism” this can be unsafe during a fire, or can allow carbon monoxide into the home from the garage. Another frequent issue that I discover includes malfunctioning vehicle safety doors in the garage. Vehicle doors must work as intended or people, especially children can be injured. Older style single or double hung windows can be unsafe. These windows have pulley systems to stop the window from closing due to gravity. When improperly installed or connected, they can close without warning, causing injury. Other issues I find with windows are failed seals, or moisture build-up along the sides and corners. This condition can lead to damage to the interior sills and frame when they have not been maintained.

7 ~ Dangerous or incomplete insulation – The attic and crawlspace areas usually provide the best clues to the type and amount of insulation within a home. Older homes run the risk of unsafe insulation with the presence asbestos in vermiculite (A small shiny lightweight fill insulation material) or surrounding pipes and duct work. Asbestos is dangerous when disturbed because the air borne fibers can be inhaled in and lodged in the lungs. This has and can lead to cancer. (The photo on the left shows Vermiculite insulation, concealed under newspaper in heat register)

With newer homes however, I often discover misplaced or inadequate insulation, resulting in heat increased heating costs.

8 ~ Unsafe stairs and handrails – When stairs have not been correctly measured or installed they can create trip hazards. All stairs must be constructed according to specific dimensions for the rise (height of the stair) and run (length of the stair). In addition to unsafe stairs, I commonly identify handrails that have too much space between pickets, are missing altogether, loose, incomplete or installed too low.

9 ~ Counters and cupboard issues – Although not often, I have come across kitchen cupboards that have not been properly secured to the walls. This can be a safety issue if they were to fall over. Typically however, I find broken handles, stained counter tops and water damaged counters, especially at bathroom and kitchen sinks.

10 ~ Poor venting – Venting is important to maintain proper humidity levels and to remove excess moisture and gasses from the home. Problems occur in attics, kitchens, bathrooms, laundry areas, walls (plumbing) and basements for example. Typical issues involve detached or broken vents, older, improper or missing fans and outdated venting materials such as brittle plastic vent hoses. (The photo on the right is a vent that has not been properly connected to the outside)

There are numerous possible conditions that can be discovered during an interior home inspection. The actual number and type really depends on the age, size and complexity of the home. Conditions can resurface or more can be introduced over time. As with all complex systems, the best way to reduce and manage these issues is to monitor them and follow an appropriate maintenance schedule for your home.

If at any time you’d like additional details concerning this or other topics related to home inspection, take a look at the various articles posted on my blog or call me at 604-729-4261.