Inspect your house like pro and save money
Category Helpful Hints
14 Oct 2015
The importance of having a professional home inspection done when you first buy a property cannot be understated.
“Doing an annual maintenance inspection yourself will highlight most problems before they become costly repairs,” says Graham.
This is according to John Graham, founder ofHouseCheck and principal of South African Home inspection Training Academy (SAHITA), who says although this is important, you can inspect your house yourself to prevent costly problems arising.
“Doing an annual maintenance inspection yourself will highlight most problems before they become costly repairs.”
Graham gives the following advice for inspecting your home like a pro:
1. The exterior
He says to inspect the exteriors first. If you are not comfortable with heights, it is better to leave climbing on the roof for the pros and to use a pair of binoculars.
Graham says the following is important when inspecting the exteriors:
Check for broken or missing tiles or roof sheeting, or anything which may compromise the weather protection of your home. Check for tree branches growing over the gutters and roof, and trim back and clear these.
- Chimneys and pipe penetrations
Look for anything that might be blocking the chimney opening. Inspect the bricks and mortar around the chimney, especially the crown (top) and the base of the penetration. There should be no cracks or broken pieces that allow water to seep in.
- Gutters and downpipes
Check for sagging or blocked gutters and damaged joints. These problem areas often allow water to run down walls and into the foundation, which can cause major damage.
Check for peeling paint as it can be a sign of moisture penetration.
- Walls and foundations
Check for cracks which can be either a sign of minor settlement, or something more serious. Slight settlement cracks are fairly normal in many areas of South Africa because of the problem soils on which most of our cities and towns are built.
Significant cracking can be caused by foundation movement, which is often connected with water seeping under the foundations, especially if there is clay soil.
Make sure that there are no areas where water is ponding against the foundations of your house. Correct the drainage if you find this. If you are worried about any cracks, call in an expert or at least monitor the cracks for continued movement.
- Windows and doors
Graham says to check for sagging or blocked gutters and damaged joints. These problem areas often allow water to run down walls and into the foundation, which can cause major damage.
Look for rotted seals around the frames. Poor sealing around window and door frames and around glass panes is one of the major causes of water damage.
- Driveways and garage
Check the paving. If you have an automatic driveway gate or garage door, use your hand to do a force test and to ensure that the safety auto reverse has been installed and is working. Gates and garage doors that do not have a functional auto reverse are a serious safety hazard, especially for small children.
- Pool, decking and paving
These areas require regular maintenance and it’s important to inspect above and below the surface. Look for loose and broken boards and lifting paving. Inspect for signs of ant and termite damage.
2. The interior
Use a torch when inspecting the inside of a home. This will allow you to spot problems within the roof cavity, under the sink and inside cupboards.
- Walls and ceilings
Dark blackish stains can mean mould from poor ventilation. Brown marks indicate a water leak from a broken pipe or a problem with the roof.
- Kitchen splashbacks and counter
Look for spaces between the tiles and the counter near the sink. This could allow water to drip behind the cupboards or sink.
Damaged grout and cracked tiles are entry points for water getting into the walls. Feel for loose tiles around a bath, shower, basin or sink.
Check the condition of caulk around the bath, shower, basin and sink. If it’s deteriorating, water can get into the subfloor or walls.
- Electrical installation
Check the distribution board (DB), switch and plug covers for signs of rust, which indicates water is getting into the panel. Don’t forget to check sub DB boards at the pool or in the garage. If your electricity trips regularly, or if you see exposed or dangerous wiring, call an electrician immediately.
Graham says interior wall surfaces should be clean and smooth. Blistered paint may indicate damp, so try and find the source.
Interior staircases and balustrades should feel solid under your feet and in your hands. Look underneath staircases for wood rot and damage.
Older homes may have railing widths that are too wide (more than 100mm). This can be a hazard for small children.
- Interior Paint
Wall surfaces should be clean and smooth. Blistered paint may indicate damp, so try and find the source.
- Roof cavity
Check for water stains on the roof timbers as these are signs of a water leak. Look out for other signs of visible damage to the roof structure. The entire floor surface of the roof cavity should be insulated, including the corners and around vents.
- Hot water geyser
Check for water collecting in the drip tray and any broken or missing overflow pipes. Make sure that the electrical inspection cover is in place and that there are both electrical isolator switches and cold water stopcocks within easy access, in the event of an emergency.
Check for cracked and lifting floor tiles and damp smells in the flooring. If there is a suspended wooden floor and you can access the subfloor, check that there is adequate ventilation.
Poke up at the subfloor with a screwdriver. It should be hard and solid. If it’s soft or squishy, the wood is rotted.
Turn on the hot and cold water at the sink and basins and look underneath for leaks when the water is running. Flush the toilets and check for leaks. All pipes should be dry. Rust and discoloration are signs of a water leak.
- Sewerage and drains
Check for bad smells around drain pipes, rodding eyes and manholes. Lift any inspection manhole covers to look for root encroachment into the sewer system.
Check and clean where necessary appliances such as stove hobs and smoke extractors.
- Safety alarms
Check the operation of the electric fence, intercom and burglar alarms.
If you are too busy or if you don’t feel up to it, Graham says you should consider employing a professional company to do a comprehensive inspection of your home every couple of years.
“The purpose of a home inspection is to locate trouble spots early on. This is the best way to prevent major problems down the road,” he says.
Author: ohn Graham, founder of HouseCheck and principal of South African Home inspection Training Academy