You should always have a professional inspect a house that you are planning to buy. That being said, you can perform your own house inspection using the following list. These inspection tips are good for a house you may be interested in buying, as well as for the house you currently own.
In fact, it’s a good idea to perform some of these inspections annually to make sure your house is ready for winter weather.
* Bad Shingles: Use a ladder or binoculars to check asphalt shingles for curling, blistering or other signs of wear. (Should be done annually.)
* Gaps Around Doors: Uneven spaces around doors and windows can indicate shifting of the foundation. (Should be done annually.)
* Clogged Gutters: With gutters and downspouts in good shape, it’s rare to get water in the basement. (Should be done annually.)
* Pushy Plants: Branches can form a bridge to the attic for squirrels, raccoons and other critters. Overgrown shrubbery near the house encourages mildew to grow on siding—and can conceal human intruders. (Should be done annually.)
* Cracked Caulk: The sealant around doors and windows is vital in keeping water out. (Should be done annually.)
* Peeling Paint: It not only looks bad, deteriorated paint also exposes wood to weather damage. (Should be done annually.)
* Bad Grades: Soil needs to slope away from the house at a grade of 3 in. for every 5 ft. to avoid basement flooding.
* Truss Trouble: Any tampering with an engineered roof truss compromises its strength and can create a dangerous condition. If you notice that truss elements have been cut by a previous homeowner to make more headroom, call in a structural engineer—this is serious.
* Leaky Roof: During a downpour, climb into the attic to look for leaking around chimneys, plumbing stacks, vents and skylights. Scan the underside of the sheathing for water stains.
* Overused Insulation: Batts that cover recessed lighting fixtures are a fire hazard, unless the fixture is “IC” rated. And blocking soffit vents can drive up energy and repair costs.
* Heat-Leaking Attic Stairs: Are pull-down stairs letting heat pour into the attic? Turn on the attic light, close the steps and look up to check for a loose fit.
* Shaky Toilet: A toilet that wobbles can break the wax ring at its base, leading to major water damage.
* Misdirected Vents: Dryer vents should exit the building envelope, not lead into a basement, garage or attic.
* Overworked Wiring: Bathrooms in older homes are notoriously ill-equipped for the power demands of hair dryers and other modern gadgets, leading to flickering lights, tripped circuits or even dangerous overheating. At a minimum, a bathroom should have a dedicated 15-amp circuit.
* Moisture Buildup: Mildew and peeling wallpaper indicate poor bathroom ventilation. Make sure the exhaust duct leads outside. Also, the CFM rating listed on the fan should at least equal the square footage of the bathroom.
* Stuck Doors and Windows: Jamming can point to whole-house shifting. Also look for cracks above doors and windows, indicating the possibility of structural problems.
* Water Stains: Don’t mask brown stains on ceilings or walls with primer until you find the cause. The likeliest source? A leaking pipe or shower pan. However, a persistent yellow-brown stain and off odor might mean that squirrels or other critters are living in the attic above.
* Faulty Grout: Shower leaks can lead to rot in studs and wallboard. Run the butt of a metal flashlight across the bottom few tile courses and listen: Click, click, click, thud. The deeper sound indicates a tile is loose or the backer is wet.
* Loose Railings: Give stairwell railings a good tug. You don’t want your mom or a child grabbing it and it falls off the wall.
Basement or crawl space
* Rotted Wood: Probe joist ends and sill plates with a screwdriver or an ice pick. Soft spots may indicate wet or dry rot, especially if the floor above sags. (Should be done annually.)
* Holey Joists: Poorly placed drill holes or notches for wire, pipe or duct can reduce a floor joist’s strength. What’s safe varies by manufacturer, but here are some rules of thumb: No holes or notches in the top or bottom flanges of an I-joist. Even big holes could be okay in the center, but not the ends, of the framing. Drilled holes must be at least 2 in. from top or bottom and no greater than one-third the depth of an I-joist. Notches in a conventional lumber joist should not exceed one-sixth of its depth or penetrate the center third of the joist span.
* Termite Tubes: Pencil-thick tubes snaking along joists may mean trouble. Break the tubes. If termites spill out or the tube is repaired in a few days, call an exterminator. (Should be done annually.)
* Heater Noise: If you hear your water heater gurgle, pop or snap, it’s time to drain out sediment. Flushing 3 to 4 gallons prolongs the life of the heater.
* Shoddy Splices: Spliced wiring outside electric boxes is a sure sign that an unskilled electrician has been at work—and a good reason to check out the rest of the home’s wiring.
* Foundation Cracks: Hairline cracks in a block or poured concrete foundation are nothing to panic about. But watch for cracks that are both horizontal and vertical, or ones that are growing. Keep track of how wide they are–if they get bigger, call in a pro.
Have you inspected your house within the past year? Is your house ready for winter?