Common Home Inspection Deficiencies

Double Taps in Panel –  A double tap in an electrical panel refers to added wires at fuse connections so as to increase the number of circuits that are available to the electrical system.  This is accomplished by connecting two conductors (electrical cables) to one terminal of a circuit breaker, and or two neutral conductors under one screw at the neutral bar.   Cutler Hammer and Square D both make a circuit breaker on which it is permitted to attach two connectors, these types of circuit breaker are clearly identified on their labels.  The best solution to this problem is to have a licensed electrician install another circuit breaker and remove the double tap connection.

Vermiculite Insulation –  Many older homes have had vermiculite insulation added to their existing insulation.   The vermiculite insulation that originated from Libby Montana was found to have traces of asbestos present.  The only way to determine if vermiculite has asbestos is by sending samples to a lab for testing.   Having vermiculite insulation removed can cost a home owner of an average house between 8 and 15 thousand dollars.  Having your home properly inspected can prevent you from having an expensive asbestos removal bill after taking possession of your new home.

Window Sill Mortar Cracks –  This is one of the most common deficiencies found during a home inspection, concrete split window sills with cracked or missing mortar.  On newer homes the builder will typically put caulking over the mortar seam between two pieces of concrete sill.  Over time the caulking shrinks and allows water and moisture to start attacking the mortar seam.  Once the mortar is cracked the natural thawing and freezing action in winter starts to break up the mortar and the moisture proceeds down to the brick below the sill.  Even on fairly newer homes it is common to see the brick mortar under a window sill starting to crack, and in some cases the moisture causes damage to the brick by spalling.  Spalling is when the brick (typically clay brick) absorbs moisture and then freezes,  the freezing action causes the moisture to expand, blowing of part of the brick finish.

Chimney Caps –  New homes have to have a one piece cap installed, no more mortar chimney caps which usually have many gaps and cracks.   The requirements for a chimney cap are to be one piece and they must have a drip edge installed.  The top of the cap is required to slope away from the liner.  Jointed precast chimney caps are also required to have flashing installed extending from liner to the drip edge.  A bond break is required between liner and cap which is comprised of a non-bonding sealant that can expand and contract with the liner.  Older caps usually had two piece caps which were then sealed with mortar.  Unfortunately the mortar tends to easily crack and allow water to penetrate.  Failing to keep the chimney properly sealed can lead to damage to flue tile and eventual repair of some or all of the flue liner.   Most people opt to insert a stainless steel chimney liner when water damage has affected their clay flue tiles.

Leaking Thermal Seals –  Energy saving windows and doors have thermal sealed glass units installed which provide an air gap for insulation.  Signs of a leaking seal are foggy or moisture droplets on the inside portion of the thermal unit.  Most window units leak from the bottom section of the window where the support blocks are located.  Cheaper builders grade windows have smaller and less support which can lead to  a puncture of the sealant material causing the leak.  Some people, usually sellers, will call in a company to drill holes in exterior glass unit and then clean the window interior with alcohol type product which will easily evaporate or be absorbed by the desiccant material most windows have in the bottom section.  This is not a great fix as you lose your thermal seal and you might as well just break the outer glass and remove it and save yourself some money.   The recommended way to repair a leaking thermal seal unit would be to remove the glass unit, slider or casement etc., and take it to a local glass repair shop.  Some companies will repair the existing thermal unit while others will replace unit with a new one.

Attic Insulation –  Telling potential home buyers that there is rodent trails in their attic insulation is not a pleasant experience.   Women are especially concerned about the thoughts of sharing their home with some mice.  Unfortunately almost 95% of brick homes that have fiberglass insulation will have mice running around in their attic.  Mice can walk up a brick wall as easily as we walk on a sidewalk.  They can also compress their heads allowing them to access the attic through any small hole or crack.  Vinyl clad homes do not have this problem as mice are unable to climb on the vinyl material.   Cellulose insulation, which is re-cycled paper treated with fire retardant chemicals, does not attract mice and when an attic is inspected there is no visible signs of rodents in the insulation.  My solution on my own home was to blow in approximately 6 inches of cellulose insulation over the existing fiberglass.   I have not seen a mouse since then but I would not guarantee that there was no mice living under the cellulose in the existing fiberglass insulation.  Rodent trails have also been found during inspections in attics with Roxul and Rock Wool insulation types.

Reversed Polarity – Many times when a home owner has done their own renovation of a basement there are a lot of electrical outlets with reversed polarity or open grounds.  This creates an immediate problem which has to be explained to the potential home buyer.  When the electrical work was not done properly it indicates that there was not permit taken out for the work and it was never inspected or passed by the approving electrical authority.  If this was found in a renovated basement then it usually is a safe bet that there was never any permits taken out for any work including plumbing and framing etc.  When buying properties for myself I always assume that if there are visible defects in workmanship found then there will be others that are hidden by drywall, paneling and ceilings.  A buyer has to weight the benefits of ignoring the fact that there was no permits or inspections performed against the possible liabilities.