Internachi certified professional inspector
Updated Every Sunday!
Internachi certified professional inspector
There is no such thing as a perfect home, and yes that includes my own house. Here are 3 subtle defects I found after moving in (and before I became a home inspector). Can you spot the issues?
This is what appears to be plain, ordinary insulation in the basement. The problem doesn’t lie with the installation or the R (insulating) value, nor is there a problem with mold or cold air infiltration and there is nothing wrong with using the red tape. The problem lies in the fact that this type of insulation is known as extruded polystyrene, which like all plastics is derived from petroleum by-products. As such, while it can be hard to ignite, once a fire has started it burns very rapidly with highly toxic smoke. As it is located in the basement, it would be nearly impossible to detect before the fire got out of control.
Solution: this type of insulation needs to be covered by a fire barrier, such as I have done here with drywall. This simple action can greatly reduce the spread of fire, allowing for precious minutes to take action.
This is a door frame that was walled over. How do I know this was added later and is not part of the original construction? Not only is the wood slightly different, but the plastic vapor barrier is missing over the former doorframe. This barrier is designed to keep wood and concrete from making direct contact, and having moisture travel up from the concrete into the wood by capillary action, which will reduce the wood's lifespan by promoting rot and mold growth. Below is proof that moisture is travelling up: you can see a moisture content of 10% compared to 6% to a nearby section of the wall with a proper moisture barrier. Generally we start worrying when the moisture content hits 20% as that is conducive to rot and mold growth.
Solution: given how the moisture content isn't in the "danger zone" it is easier (and cheaper!) to just leave this alone, especially since this is not a new home. If this wood needs to be replaced in the future a plastic barrier such as polyethylene will be installed first.
This is from our basement where the washing machine is connected. All electrical receptacles within 5-6 feet of any water source need to have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection as water and electricity do not mix.
Solution: I replaced this receptacle with the proper GFCI unit and while you may have noticed it was installed “upside down” it is 100% acceptable to install them upright, upside down or even sideways.
I have inspected houses that appeared on the surface to be perfect, only to discover similar issues that aren't always apparent. This is just one of many example of why I love being a home inspector!
Being a professional home inspector means there is never a time where you can say that the learning stops and you know everything. If I haven't made it clear through my credentials I have an insatiable appetite for growing my understanding of all things home related that was fostered both through my late Grandfather (possibly the most skilled carpenter I have ever known) and 14 years at working with NSCC. My education continues to this day as can be seen clearly in the photo above: I especially like to learn more about topics that are only lightly touched upon in the formal home inspector programs: one such topic is marijuana grow-ops.
As everyone is well aware, marijuana has been legal in Canada for a while now and while still technically illegal throughout the entire United States, in reality as of 2021 only 5 out of 50 states have a full ban on it. One of the consequences of this is a drastic decrease in the black market and a corresponding drop in houses that are used to grow large quantities of cannabis illegally. It goes without saying that former growers generally do not advertise what the home was used for in the past and it can be difficult to identify a house that was used as a grow-op. There are a number of reasons why it is critical to know if the home was used as a grow house aside from insurance and mortgage issues:
One of the biggest concerns I see as a home inspector involve air quality and mold. What exactly is mold and is it dangerous? The most important thing to know is that there is no such thing as “toxic mold” or “black mold”. Mold is a part of the fungi family, to which nobody knows how many species of fungi exist. The most common types of indoor molds are:
The main area of concern for the home inspector are:
So, what is a homeowner to think? This topic is a perfect example of why I am a systematic home inspector and not an “electrical” or “plumbing” or “structural” inspector as these systems are all interdependent in a home. While I could lull you to sleep with my many hours of research, the biggest takeaway is that moisture control is the key to mold control. Did I mention that moisture is the sworn enemy of the home inspector?
Here are some steps you can take to keep mold growth at bay:
Molds are not generally dangerous but any signs of mold (such as black patches on the bathroom ceiling) should be handled as soon as possible. Generally, it is NOT a good idea to use biocides, chlorine, or other disinfectants as this will not eliminate the root cause, and dead mold can still cause respiratory problems. The best course of action is to prevent mold from taking foot by…. you guessed it…. moisture control. You may have noticed some similarities to this article and my first article on radon and that is no coincidence: the strategies for clean air, mold, asbestos, and radon mitigation are largely the same and can be summed up in three points: source control, improved ventilation, and air cleaners.