Internachi certified professional inspector
Welcome to Nova Scotia
Welcome to Nova Scotia! There has been a recent spike in people who have chosen to make our city home from both across Canada and around the world and it is wonderful to see the vast and growing cultural diversity when walking around town. My son will get to grow up in a community that is much more welcoming of diversity and valuing of inclusion and I am happy to see our city change for the better.
However, as a professional home inspector based in Halifax and having grown up on the Dartmouth side of Halifax Harbour, I see a lot of misconceptions about homes in our community. The overwhelming majority of professional home inspectors in the world are in either Canada or the United States and this is not a coincidence. North America is certainly an economically strong region but there is a common misconception that homes are virtually maintenance free. This is FAR from the truth, and I have never inspected a home that did not have at least one issue (yes, even brand-new homes).
Homes in North America are NOT Built Like Tanks
There is a commonly held belief that houses in Canada are well built using strict building codes. This is only partial correct: while major structural issues (such as catastrophic collapse due to high winds) are extremely rare, modern homes are often built as cheaply as legally possible. This means that engineered components that while affordable, need to be properly installed to be effective and have limited lifespan that can be greatly reduced under certain conditions (like moisture penetration), such as roof and wall components. Unfortunately, on many building sites these can be installed by subcontractors not as familiar with proper installation techniques.
We Have Mild Winters (and That’s a Bad Thing)
While compared to the world at large we have brutally cold winters, looking at just Nova Scotia we typically have warmer winters than the rest of Canada. This means we usually get 8-10 mini winters with rain and warmer temperatures in the middle. As a homeowner I appreciate the snow being cleared but as a home inspector this is a challenge to work around. One consequence of our weather is that the frequent freeze/thaw cycles can cause significant destruction to homes through the expansion of water as it cools. Once water gets into building cracks, it can quickly cause further damage. This is one reason with Stucco-cladded homes are so rare in our province.
Homes are Usually Built as Single-Family (3-4 people) Homes
Until recently, it was considered unusual in North America to share a home with another generation or family. Once children reached their 20s, it was commonly expected that they would move out on their own. Today, it is very common to see 6 or more adults living under a single roof. While this is a great way of sharing resources, this is a concern to home inspectors.
Put simply, modern homes need to be carefully balanced: HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems that work great in a 2-person household can experience significant issues in an 8+ person household and can experience major problems that never existed before.
Beware the Flipped House
I have seen many newcomers buying flipped (homes bought, renovated, and quickly resold) houses that I can see have major structural issues. While not all flipped houses are bad, I have seen far too many recent new arrivals pay a premium for homes that still have major and very expensive issues, such as electrical and plumbing problems. Home inspectors as a rule have an overall negative view of flipped homes as many are renovated as cheaply and quickly as possible. Remember, a home inspector is trained and experienced in telling the difference between a cheap cosmetic flip and a high-quality renovation.
There is no question that houses are not nearly as plentiful as they should be, but you should still get all the information about your new home before making that financial commitment as it could cost you a lot more in the long run.
I am always looking for ways to further advance my goal of providing the best value in town and accordingly recently added another service to our repertoire. After months of training and testing I launched our sewer scope services in October of this year.
What motivated me to finally launch this service? I was driving down a street just off the Halifax Peninsula and saw a home’s front yard being torn up, after noticing how the street nearby had more patches than actual pavement from recent sewer work. I have also seen the results of sewage backup in a commercial building and thank my lucky stars I have never experienced it at home. I also remember that, as a high school student in the 90s, I lived in a neighbourhood that had constant issues with what I now know were Orangeburg sewer pipes, it was a running joke about trying to predict how long until the next lawn was going to get dug up as it seemed literally every week (often during the winter) the excavators would be out in full force. Of course, sewer backups don’t wait until a convenient time to appear, and you won’t have time to carefully vet contractors or price shop for the best deals.
There is a common misconception that a sewer failure will be paid for by insurance or by the local utility (in our case Halifax Water). Unfortunately, standard home insurance usually does NOT cover sewage system failures. Of course, contact a licensed broker since we are home inspectors not insurance representatives for information specific to your home.
It has also been claimed that only older homes need a sewer inspection. While it is certainly less likely to see problems in more recent homes, I have known from other home inspectors that even brand-new homes can have sewer problems such as poor installation (in one case the sewer line just randomly ended before reaching the street!) and tree root infiltration. While I always suggest a sewer scope just for peace of mind alone, if you have any of the following:
It is HIGHLY recommended by professional home inspectors that a sewer scope be performed both at the time of inspection AND at regular intervals. While sewer failures seem sudden, they almost always develop slowly over a long period of time and can usually be detected with a quick sewer scan. Here are a few samples of what a sewer line looks like: don't worry about being grossed out: the lump is just a hairball, and the yellow streak is simply ABS cement that holds two pieces of waste pipe together: the installer likely used a little too much and it dripped down, but this is not a defect or an issue whatsoever.