What you DON'T want to See on a Home Inspection Report
So you are ready to buy a home! Luckily you’ve been well guided to get a Home Inspection even if it is not mandatory; it does protect you from risky unexpected major repairs down the line. Although the industry of home inspection is unregulated in Canada, in Alberta it is mandatory for Home Inspectors to be licensed by Service Alberta. That means they require completion of all forms, criminal background check and proof of education. So as an Albertan you can rest assured that your inspector will be competent and skilled in home inspection.
A home inspector will provide a contract that outlines the terms and conditions related to the inspection. The contract will outline the scope of the inspection and the limitations. Some of the areas you can expect them to cover include:
- Electrical wiring
- Heating systems
- Windows and doors
- Ceiling, floors and walls
- Air conditioning
- Gutters and downspouts
- Foundation and grading
A home inspection may not cover separate structures like pools, decor fixtures, and the implementation of building codes. Also not covered are hidden fixtures or inaccessible parts such as inside walls.
For wood-burning appliances such as fireplaces and wood stoves, an inspection can only be done by a WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) certified inspector.
There are many issues you do not want too see on a report that vary in severity, let’s go through them so you know you are purchasing a safe home.
Structural damage: This includes cracks in the foundation, walls, or ceilings, sagging floors, or signs of significant settlement. Structural issues can be expensive to repair and may affect the overall stability of the house.
Some things to watch for that can speak to structural damage is sticking doors. If a door was once easy to open and close but suddenly won’t shut, it could signify a problem. Cracked windows (especially in basements), called “pressure cracks,” the fissures may first appear as a single crack running from side to side on a window. Mud tubes along the foundation wall can indicate termites. If you notice bouncy floors this may be related to undersized floor joists or trusses.
Particular foundation cracks that are wider at one end than the other, or if they run diagonally are a major concern. As well as any indoor ceiling cracks that are wide, or when a ceiling crack transitions to a wall crack can indicate a structural problem. Make sure there’s a 6 foot downspout pointing away from your home, as water build up around the foundation is a good sign of past flooding.
Roofing problems: Look out for missing or damaged shingles, signs of leaks, or improper installation of the roof covering. These issues can lead to water damage, mold growth, and further deterioration if not addressed promptly.
If you find you have greenery growing on your roof or animals have been living there awhile, this is the best visual that the roof is in desperate need of repair. Also water staining along exterior or interior walls can indicate leaks and mold. A common cause of leaks in Calgary roofs is deep snow on top of houses during the winter can led to roof leaks. Sometimes also the roof leaks if the seal gives out on ventilation or plumbing that is extending out onto the roof. Watch for tree debris near the roof, which can cause pooling over time and damage. Gutters ripping away from the roof as well as curling shingles are also signs of concern.
Check out the chimney flashing. Installed around the edges of a chimney as a means of preventing water from dripping through from the roof, issues with the metal flashing could bring that unwanted rain leakage inside the home.
Plumbing issues: Leaks, corrosion, low water pressure, or poor drainage can be indications of plumbing problems. Faulty plumbing can result in water damage, mold, and costly repairs.
Finding leaks around sinks and around toilets are highly common. Whether these crop up due to damaged seals, poor workmanship or the use of improper materials they need to be dealt with immediately because it risks larger damage on all the surfaces below the leaks creating large repair costs.
Electrical deficiencies: Outdated or inadequate electrical systems, improper wiring, exposed wires, or malfunctioning outlets pose safety hazards. Ensure the electrical system is up to code and functioning properly.
Watch for heat at the outlets and switches (they should never get hot), flickering lights can indicate a loose electrical connection especially if it is multiple rooms. Aluminum wiring, although considered safe in the 70s the problem found now is that exposed aluminum oxidizes far more rapidly than copper, building up heat and leading to fire risks and should be updated now. A burning smell can indicate heat is building up and melting the plastic sheath on wires, creating an immediate risk. If you touch a metal object connected to your home’s mechanical system and receive a shock, it’s a strong sign that your electrical system is not properly grounded.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) problems: Inadequate heating or cooling, malfunctioning HVAC equipment, or poorly maintained systems can affect comfort and energy efficiency. Additionally, check for signs of carbon monoxide leaks and the condition of air filters.
Watch for moisture buildup on windows or walls and smelly or stuffy air. Lingering home odours are another indication of a ventilation problem. Make sure dryer venting is up to code as this causes fires quickly.
Insulation and energy efficiency: Insufficient or poorly installed insulation can lead to energy loss and higher utility bills. Look for proper insulation in the attic, walls, and around doors and windows.
Watch for poor or degraded caulking around windows, large gaps in walls requiring spray foam, and degraded weather stripping for air leaks around doors and windows. Sadly, many homes in Calgary have been found with poor amounts of insulation in the walls, discovered by the thermal imaging home inspectors use.
Pest infestation: Look for signs of pests such as termites, rodents, or insects. Pest infestations can be the cause of electrical, structural, and ventilation issues in the home, not to mention the health hazards of bacteria, feces and urine. Some pests you may not think of are Voles, they make their way through yards by burrowing tunnels and you can often see the evidence when you're looking at your yard (lawn runways).
Bed Bugs, watch for ink dot looking marks (feces) on mattress or bed frame edges, picture frames, or any thin cracks. Also look for grease tracks and marks as mice leave tracks along the routes they take regularly. If you see residual wood dust and debris around the foundation and sill plate of the home, this could be material removed by the ants as they bore tunnels in your home's framing, look closely for ant lines in the basement.
Safety concerns: Ensure the property has functioning smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, handrails on staircases, secure guardrails on balconies, and other safety features as required by Alberta building codes. Also watch for DIY projects past homeowners may have been quite proud of but in truth, may be very risky.
As you can see, it is worthwhile to have a professional check out any home you plan to buy so you don’t have big surprises later. It is always recommend to have your Realtor accompany the inspector to have a good idea of what to expect from the inspection report.
As a buyer the other benefits to getting a home inspection is it can give you bargaining points during negotiations. As a seller a home inspection can give you marketing power, attracting more buyers supporting a strong sale when you catch and fix any property liabilities in advance.