Home Inspector Secrets on How to Prevent a Home From Falling Apart

Shannon Quinn - June 1, 2021
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Here at Home Addict, we’ve gathered home inspector secrets that have been shared online. When you begin to do repairs on your house, you may be wondering where you should start. Even though it can be tempting to remodel your kitchen or make things look pretty, that’s usually not the best use of your time and money. These are some of the most important things to repair and keep in good condition if you want your house to last longer.

Your roof is one of the most important things to keep in good condition. Credit: Shutterstock

30. Don’t Push Off Fixing or Replacing a Roof

The roof is one of the most crucial things to keep in good condition if you don’t want your house to fall apart. It is protecting your entire home from the elements. Without a good roof, it can lead to water damage and a terrible draft. Every time it rains or snows  on a damaged roof, it’s wearing your house down more and more. Rooves have even been known to collapse during a heavy snowfall.

It is always worth replacing your roof, especially when you buy a new house. Depending on the type of roof you install, it will last between 20 to 50 years. And if you have solar panels installed on a brand new roof, they will actually help to protect the roof for several more years on that section of the house.

It’s important to plug any holes you may find in your basement. Credit: Shutterstock

29. Plug All Of The Holes in the Basement

If there are any holes or large cracks in your basement, it’s important to repair them. This will help to waterproof the basement, as well as keep out the draft. It will also prevent any kind of vermin from coming through the cracks. This is something you should try to stay on top of as time goes on. 

According to Home Advisor, paying a professional to come in and waterproof your entire basement or foundation costs between $2,250 to $7,068. This is expensive, but it’s important to do if you want to stop your house from falling apart. Filling the holes in a basement wall will also prevent damp and mold from forming. Black mold can be toxic for your health. You also don’t want your foundation to crumble. 

The type of smoke detector you buy makes a big difference. Credit: Shutterstock

28. Get a Photoelectric Smoke Detector 

One of the most obvious ways to prevent your house from falling apart is to prevent fires from burning everything to the ground. There are a lot of different types of smoke detectors on the market. But if you want to be as safe as possible, it’s recommended to get a photoelectric smoke detector.

According to First Alert, “A photoelectric smoke detector is characterized by its use of light to detect fire. Inside the alarm, there’s a light-sensing chamber. In this chamber, an LED light shoots a beam of light in a straight light across the chamber. The alarm detects smoke; when smoke enters the chamber, it deflects the LED light from the straight path into a photosensor in a different compartment in the same chamber. As soon as light beams hit this sensor, the alarm begins to sound.”

There is no need to worry over small cracks. Credit: Shutterstock

27. See a Crack? That’s Normal (Most of the Time)

Earlier on this list, we mentioned how you should fix large cracks in your basement. However, not all of them are serious enough to make your house fall apart. As your house gets older, the walls will form cracks. These are not the most attractive things in the world, but it’s not as serious as you might think. Most of these cracks can be fixed with spackle, and a room can be repainted. Then, it’s as good as new.   

People usually panic when they see cracks in their basement floor. They assume that it could be a crack in the foundation or allow water to leak in. Most of the time, these are also normal. If the foundation was actually cracked, you’ll see a staircase shaped crack in the side of your house.

Be careful of the home inspector you choose to hire. Credit: Shutterstock

26. Don’t Hire The Home Inspector Recommended By Your Real Estate Agent

You should never hire the home inspector recommended by your real estate agent. Remember that their goal is to get the house sold as quickly as possible. So the person they tell you to hire may be willing to skim over the worst details, or lie in order to help the agent get a quick sale. It’s crucial for you to do your own research, read reviews, and find an inspector on your own. Even if you hire someone privately, don’t expect them to help with your decision-making. Inspectors aren’t supposed to give real estate advice. So you’ll never hear someone tell you, “Don’t buy this house. It’s a lemon.”

Some real estate agents might say not to hire an inspector, because they say there isn’t enough time, or that it will kill any chance you have of winning a bid. In the 2021 housing market, that might be true. Remember that a real estate agent is going to tell you the information that’s in their best interest, not yours. They’re a sales person. So they don’t want the inspection to kill the deal. But you should always hire one regardless.

Always hire a professional to get rid of termites. Credit: Shutterstock

25. Watch Out For Termites, And Don’t Try to be a DIY Exterminator 

Termites are a bug that enjoys munching on wet wood. Typically, what happens is that if you have a leak in your roof or a crack in the basement, water will get into your wood. And once the termites get into the house, they will begin to chew into the wood and burrow holes into it. When left too long, your house will be falling apart. 

Not sure if you have termites or not? You’ll know. They leave piles of wood shavings near the baseboard of your floor. You’ll see bugs flying around the room that look like ants with wings. There are plenty of termite products in stores like Home Depot and Lowes. But trust me when I say that the majority of these DIY methods don’t work. And the longer you mess around trying to do it yourself, the longer the termites have to destroy your wood. It’s best to spend the money to hire a professional, because you’ll save money on repairs in the long run.

Asbestos should always be handled by professionals. Credit: Shutterstock

24. Test For Asbestos 

If you buy a house that was built before the 1970’s, there is a good chance that the building materials contain asbestos. This was before OSHA banned the product in the United States and across the world. In case you are not aware, asbestos is harmless when it is in solid form. However, when you start to remove it from the house, that’s where the problem begins. 

Asbestos is made up of tiny microscopic crystal fibers. If you breed them in, they can get stuck in your lungs forever. It has been known to cause lung cancer and a number of other health issues. Anyone who does construction on an older home is at risk of encountering asbestos. If you suspect that your older home might have it, contact a professional. They will have to wear hazmat suits and an N95 mask to protect themselves, and it’s a very time-consuming process. This is not some thing that you should try to attempt on your own.

When you try to DIY everything, the house will have more issues. Credit: Shutterstock

23. Don’t Try to Do EVERYTHING Yourself

There are a lot of people out there who decided that they want to do every house repair on their own, because they want to save money. Some projects are totally possible to do on your own after watching a YouTube tutorial. If you can manage to save a few hundred dollars here and there, all of this adds up. However, most repair skills require years of training and apprenticeship. Or, it could be potentially dangerous or life threatening if you attempt to do something on your own that you’re inexperienced with. So you need to pick your battles wisely. 

Here in the United States, you can do any repair yourself without penalty, so long as you get a permit. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There is a very good reason why there are certifications and licensing before you can work on someone else’s house. If you make a mistake, it could potentially lead to more expensive problems later. And it can potentially leave a huge mess for the next owner to deal with.

A drive-by-inspector doesn’t give very much attention to the issues in a house. Credit: Shutterstock

22. Watch Out For a “Drive-By Inspector”

Normally, a home inspector needs at least two hours to check everything properly. If they briefly walk through the house without really taking their time, this is called a “drive-by inspector”. They rely on new homeowners being naive about the process, and they don’t do a thorough enough job. You should stay with the inspector so you can learn and ask questions along the way. The inspector should also walk on the roof, go in the basement, and check nearly every nook and cranny of the home.

However, if you’re selling the house, and the buyer has hired an inspector, stay away. Hovering around the inspector and getting personally offended by the problems they find isn’t helping anyone. This is mainly to help the potential buyer decide if they want to buy the home or not. After you hire the professional, read the full report. Just keep in mind that the seller is not obligated to fix the problems, or lower the price when a major issue is uncovered. 

It’s important to clean out the gutters regularly. Credit: Shutterstock

21. Always Clean and Repair Your Gutters to Prevent Water Damage

Something that a lot of homeowners let go is cleaning out their gutters. In reality, you should really have your gutters cleaned twice a year. But most people let it go far longer than that. Since gutters are up near the roof of the house, it’s difficult for most people to clean them and less they hire a professional. 

If gutters are not cleaned out periodically, they will get full of leaves and other debris. This can block water flowing away from your roof and house. If water pools near your foundation, it can cause a lot of issues. This can also cause a mosquito infestation, and other critters like mice and bugs can make their homes in your gutters if you let it fo for too long. Gutters should also be replaced every 20 years. So if you’re buying a new home, the odds are that you’ll need to get new ones.

Aluminum wires aren’t as good as copper wires. Credit: Shutterstock

20. Aluminum Wires Cause More Issues Than Copper

According to a home inspection company called Carson Dunlop, aluminum wires don’t necessarily have to be replaced if you find them in your home. And there is a misconception that aluminum wiring is now banned. It’s not! You can still have aluminum wiring installed if you wanted, since it costs significantly less money. However, they are known for causing more issues than copper wires. If there are older aluminum wires in your home that have been there for decades, you may want to have them replaced with copper.

Here are some of the common issues with aluminum wires. First is the fact that it’s a softer metal, which means that the electricians are more likely to make mistakes by accidentally breaking the wires. They are also more likely to get damaged, which can cause overheating and hotspots. Next is an issue called “creeping”, which is the fact that aluminum wire expands more than copper. This can cause power shortages and overheating. Lastly is that it’s more likely to rust, and again- overheat. To me, this sounds like an electrical fire waiting to happen.

You can hire an inspector for almost any kind of property. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Don’t Hesitate to Hire an Home Inspector for an Apartment, Condo, or Co-Op

Not many people hire an inspector when they are moving into an apartment or condo. Even fewer people think of hiring someone when they’re moving into a co-op. For whatever reason, people make the assumption that since most of these are a part of an HOA or or part of a larger community, that means that they would be in better condition than a private detached home. However, that is not the case. There could be issues in any kind of property. You have the right to hire a home inspector before you move in anywhere, even if you’re just renting

This might come in handy if you’re thinking about moving into an older property. When I worked at an apartment complex, it was standard procedure to get a Certificate of Occupancy from an inspector before a new tenant moved on. But many jurisdictions don’t require this, which is why a lot of landlords try to get away with never getting one. A few years ago, my brother moved into an apartment in an older house. His landlord was a friend, and promised him that everything was in working order. But the reality was that the shower did not work, the oven was broken, and the electricity was on the fritz. It was awful, especially since they were friends. In most cases, you’re not going to be friends with the landlord, so you should have even less reason to trust a stranger.

Lead paint is toxic, and needs to be removed. Credit: Shutterstock

18. Test for Lead Paint

Before the 1970’s, most homes used lead based paint. However, after it was discovered to be toxic, it has been banned from being sold. But obviously, it’s still around. This isn’t necessarily going to make your house fall apart, but lead paint can lead to serious health issues, especially if you have young children.

Thankfully, it’s easy to buy a lead paint kit online, or at your local hardware store. Bob Vila has a detailed guide on how to take a sample, and test for lead paint. If you find that your house does have lead paint, you may need to hire a professional to remove it. The Environmental Protection Agency actually has specific steps that must be taken if you find lead paint in your house. So please do your due diligence when dealing with old paint.

Believe it or not, newer homes may be lower quality. Credit: Shutterstock

17. Homes Built After 1980 Might Actually Need More Repairs Than Older Homes

This next point is actually hotly debated among real estate experts. Most people make the assumption that the newer the house is, the fewer problems it will have. While it’s true that many new homes have new appliances and components, they can sometimes be built with poor quality materials. 

On a construction forum called City Data, a user called ColdJensens says it best, “Quality and especially craftsmanship have decayed since about the 1950s. Craftsmen were replaced with production line type workers. Worst decade for surviving a tornado or hurricane? Take your pick from 1970 – today. Worst decade for houses that will last past the typical mortgage? again you get to pick, late 1980s through the early 2000s. Lumber for example has gotten weaker and less reliable since the 1930s.”

The more your pets pee on the floor, the worse things get. Credit: Shutterstock

16. Don’t Let Your Pets Go On The Floor

When you have pets, you already know the woes of accidents happening on the floor. This happens to everyone, especially when you have a new puppy or kitten. However, it’s really important for you to make sure that your house is protected from their waste. Make sure that your dogs and cats are housebroken as soon as possible, even if it means signing them up for Puppy Academy. I personally know a few people who are so busy with their work schedule, they just let their dogs go on the floor, and clean it up when they get home. But if you allow this to continue, you’re only going to permanently damage your floor and make it more difficult to sell the house later on.

When I was in my early twenties, I worked in an apartment complex in a low-income area. There was a family who had lived in an apartment since the 1970s, and they let their dogs and cats pee all over the floor while they were away at work. The family had lived there so long, they didn’t care that they would lose their security deposit. However, the smell of the urine actually seeped into the floorboards of the subfloor. When they moved out, the apartment complex replaced the carpet and tiles, but the smell was still there. Everyone who stepped foot into that apartment for tours could smell the overwhelming stench of animal urine. The only way to get it out would have been to replace the subfloor and wooden beams.

You should still hire an inspector, even if the house is newly built. Credit: Shutterstock

15. Even Brand New Houses Should Be Visited By a Home Inspector

Most people assume that if a house is brand new, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it. However, this house could have been built by someone who bought a piece of property and then hired various contractors to build different sections of the home. A responsible home builder would hire their own inspector after every major part of the project. However, they are not obligated to do that by any sort of law. So there are plenty of people that will skip that process and put their full faith into the contractors. Because of that, you’ll find a lot of new homes are actually built very poorly.

My father used to work as a project manager for luxury housing complexes. All my life, he would point out problems in brand new homes that most people would never even think of. He would always shake his head and talk about how badly houses are built nowadays. Because of this, I have actually never wanted a brand new home. I actually look for houses that were built in the 1800s, because I know that they have been built with higher quality materials.

Pools of water in the basement can cause huge issues. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Prevent Pools of Water From Forming

If you’re not prepared, rain and melted snow can cause havoc. Water needs to be lead away from the walls. Otherwise, this creates pressure and causes leaks in the foundation. Eventually, you might discover pools of water in your basement. This can cause permanent foundation damage, but it can also cause mold and other issues. In order to prevent pools of water from forming, there needs to be a graded terrain around the house so that the water goes downhill, and away from your home. Gutters also need to be cleaned regularly, in order to make sure there is proper drainage. Also check to see if the water from your house is leading to the drains on the street.

Pools of water are also bad if they form in your backyard. Sitting water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos and other insects. Try to pour out any rain water that has gathered after a big storm. And make sure you turn over your wheelbarrows on their side so that they don’t fill up with water in the first place.

Concrete foundations are a lot better than wood. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Go For a Concrete Foundation Instead of Wood

The foundation is one of the most important parts of your home. Obviously, it supports the entire house! Whether you’re shopping for a new house or considering making a new home from scratch, it’s best to go with a concrete foundation instead of one that’s made out of wood. Wooden basements are known for being warmer, and it’s considered a good insulator for a home. However, they’re getting in contact with soil. Even if the wood has been treated, it’s far more susceptible to rot. This is especially true if there was ever a drainage issue, and the wood foundation got in contact with a lot of water.

Concrete foundations are more expensive, but they are a lot stronger and longer-lasting. If your house was made before 1965, you might see a concrete block basement. Both of these have the same pros and cons. They’re susceptible to cracks and leaks. But it’s still far better than a wooden foundation. If you bought a home that already had a wooden foundation, you may need to consider hiring an expert to pour concrete on top of it.

Load bearing walls are vital for keeping a house up. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Never Cut Into a Load Bearing Wall

On almost every home makeover show, you’ll hear someone mention to be careful not to knock down a “load-bearing wall”. In case you didn’t know, a load-bearing wall is part of the structure that holds up the weight of the entire house. So if you knock down or cut into a load bearing wall, you could very literally make your home fall apart.

It’s possible to replace a load-bearing wall, but there needs to be something like a beam to hold up the structure while you’re doing the transition. This is very tricky, and you really should hire a professional to do it. Most house flippers or new owners will find the load-bearing wall first, and know to just leave it alone. With so many other walls that you can remove and modify, it’s best to just work around what’s easily accomplished, and won’t put the house in danger of collapse.

If a house is winterized, there may be more problems then you can imagine. Credit: Shutterstock

11. You Can’t Always Trust an Empty and “Winterized” Home

If you’re considering buying a house that is currently unoccupied, beware of a “winterized” home. This is when the pipes and toilets are supposedly prepped for the cold winter months. If the pipes freeze, this can cause them to burst and flood the entire house. Unfortunately, not all real estate agents know how to properly winterize a home.

On a forum for home inspectors called Inspection News, professionals shared a lot of photos of houses that were supposedly “winterized”, but it was actually a huge disaster. This typically happens when a property is now owned by a bank. They have thousands of foreclosed properties, and are not checking on them as often as they should.

If you try to do your own electrical work, expect to run into problems. Credit: Shutterstock

10. DIY Electrical Work Is a Fire Hazard

You should never, ever try to do electrical work on your own. Sure, you might be able to get a permit. And it may be legal to DIY in your area. But just because you could do it doesn’t mean you should. First and foremost, changing your electrical work on your own is a safety hazard. It’s also a fire hazard.

Licensed electricians need to go to school and earn certifications before they can do this job properly. They also have rules and standards of how to arrange wires, and more. So if you DIY your own electrical work, you’re also going to make it more difficult for a professional to come in and help later. 

Flippers may or may not do a good job with the house before selling it. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Be Careful of Homes Sold by a Flipper

When you’re looking into buying a new home, always check the sales history to see how long the last owner had the house in their possession before putting it back on the market. It’s very clear in the title when someone bought the house as a flip project. The reason why you may not want to buy a house flip is that the previous owner was trying to fix as much as possible in a short amount of time so that they can profit from the sale. They haven’t actually lived in the house.  More often than not, they are trying to make things look pretty enough to sell. But that doesn’t mean that it’s actually ready for someone to move in. 

For example, I know of several houses in my town that were bought by flippers just before the housing market went crazy, and they were quickly re-listed and bought by families who didn’t know any better. One house in particular sold for only $60,000 in early 2020. The flipper spent roughly three months giving it a new roof, siding, and kitchen. Then, they sold it for $260,000. Unfortunately, the new owner jumped into buying the house because of the panic buying during the pandemic. They probably didn’t hire an inspector, because there was a lot wrong with that house. That new owner ended up spending an additional six months on repairs for crucial safety issues before they could even move their family into the house. 

Don’t forget to change your furnace filter. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Change the Furnace Filter Every 90 Days

It’s very important for you to change your furnace’s filter every 3 months, or 90 days. This is what is filtering the air through your home. So if you let it go for too long, you may be unwittingly pumping dust and dirt into your house. And with the dawn of Covid-19, people are more serious than ever making sure a house has an up-to-date filtration system.

On top of having better quality air to breath, changing your filter is also going to help air flow more freely, which will help your heat bills go down. If you want to know more about it, or learn how to change your filter, check out this guide by Bob Vila.

It’s important to insulate your attic door to keep the draft out. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Insulate Your Attic Door or Hatch 

Most people already know that it is important to insulate your attic. Without insulation, you’re going to lose a lot of heat in the winter time, and let in a lot of warm air in the summer. But the one thing that a lot of people forget is to insulate the attic door or hatch. If you forget to do this, your house isn’t going to fall apart. However, it could be letting out a lot of energy from the home, and you could end up paying a lot more in your heat or air conditioning bills.

If you’re interested in trying to protect your home from drafts coming through the attic door, check out this detailed guide by Happy Hiller on how to fix the problem yourself. This is one of those projects that you actually will be able to do yourself without hiring a professional.

A Home Inspector can help keep a new home build on track. Credit: Shutterstock

6. If You’re Building a House, Bring in a Licensed Inspector After Every Major Job

With the current housing shortage, more people than ever are willing to buy a vacant piece of land in order to build a brand new house. Because of this, a lot of people are going to be building houses from scratch even if they don’t have the experience. If this is your situation, you should highly consider hiring a licensed inspector in between every major job. Whenever an issue is discovered immediately after it has finished, you can ask for the contractor to fix the issue right away.

The various parts of your house build are going to be done by different crews of construction workers who specialize in different things. And all of these different pieces of the puzzle need to work in symphony in order to have a well-built house. According to The Balance, some of the most common problems found in new homes are foundation cracks, leaks in the windows, drainage issues, a poorly installed HVAC system,  electrical problems, and plumbing issues.

You can choose to get your own inspection done before selling a home. Credit: Shutterstock

5. If You’re Selling a House, Hire an Inspector Before Putting it On the Market

When a house goes on the market, it’s the potential buyer’s job to hire a house inspector. However, if you are thinking about selling your house, you might want to hire your own home inspector, too. There could be an issue with your house that you are completely unaware of until you get the information from an inspector. If you know the issues ahead of time, you can potentially fix those problems before any potential buyers even see the property. When the problems are fixed ahead of time, it is much more likely that someone will buy the house quickly.

Some people might disagree with this., because they want to push the responsibility off on the buyer. After all, if you’re about to move, why would you take the time to spend all that money to fix something up? Doing these repairs might substantially increase the value of your home. For example, if you find out that the house needs a new roof, it might cost you $8,000. That’s a lot of money. But if you can then add $30,000 more to the asking price, you’ll profit. And a potential buyer will be much happier to hear that it has a brand new roof versus hearing from their inspector that your roof is falling apart. What you need to remember is that most people would be willing to borrow more on their mortgage for the convenience of having a home that is move-in-ready.

If the washing machine is banging, you may need to level it. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Level Your Washing Machine

Vibrating washing machines are a common problem. Sometimes, this can be temporary, if you have loaded the machine with too much laundry on one side. Other times, the machine vibrates and shakes for no good reason. This isn’t just a harmless quirk. Excessive vibrations can cause damage to your appliances, but it can also damage walls and floors. This can also cause future leaks and other mechanical problems. 

Use a level to check if the washing machine is perfectly level. If not, this may mean that your floor isn’t perfectly level. Believe it or not, your washing machine legs change in height! You can adjust the height of the legs so that they are perfectly level. Check out the full DIY guide from The Spruce on how to level your washing machine.

Old knob and tube electricity needs to be changed. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Never Keep Knob-and-Tube or an Undersized Electrical System

From the 1880’s to the 1930’s, electricity was called “knob and tube”. At the time, it was one of the cheapest options for installing electricity, which is why it was very popular. Most electricians will tell you to completely replace the electrical system, because it’s not going to work very well with modern appliances. Think about it- these were back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s where the most you would use is a small kitchen appliance and lightbulbs. Now, we have so much of our lives running on electricity, a large family trying to run their lives on knob and tube just isn’t going to work.

There are some contractors that claim that you can possibly save money by keeping knob and tube wiring, especially if you’re trying to maintain the historic value of a home. I have personally met a 90-year old man who kept his knob-and-tube electrical system. But he didn’t have an air conditioner, TV, or any modern appliances and comforts. The vast majority of experts would disagree with keeping it. It’s a fire hazard. Your modern appliances are not going to be compatible, and it can over-surge and overheat. Without the ground wire, and when insulation is near the knob and tube, it can cause a fire as well. There are so many potentially dangerous issues, you really need to get rid of it if you’re upgrading an older home.

Don’t leave your HVAC alone. Credit: Shutterstock

2. The HVAC System Is Usually The Last Thing Homeowners Think to Repair

One of the most expensive things to have installed in your home will be an HVAC system. The average HVAC systems last between 15 to 20 years. But different components of the system have different lifespans. It’s recommended to service your HVAC every 6 months. Some people don’t even have it looked at by a professional every year. 

The more often you have your HVAC serviced, the longer it will last. It’s like a car. As long as you keep up with the maintenance and keep it in good condition, the more money you’re going to save overall. But if you let it go for too long, you may end up spending thousands of dollars at once to fix a major problem.

Even in an apartment, you can use circuit testers. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Use a Circuit Tester On the Outlets 

Having a properly functioning electrical system is incredibly important. Obviously, you don’t want to deal with a faulting system that will go on the fritz when you use multiple appliances at once. But you also want to prevent electrical fires. Since electrical work is something that is very expensive, you want to make sure the circuits are in good working order when you find a new home. 

Most people would never think of bringing a circuit tested with them on a house tour. But it’s an easy way for you to check the quality of electricity in your home. Even if you’re touring an apartment building, you can totally check this, too. Check out this guide from The Spruce that goes over all of the different types of electrical testers, and when you might need to use them in your home.

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