Home Inspection Checklist for Older Homes – Videos 1 & 2
Video 1 Transcript
Kathy: The one we were looking at before was really more of a newer home and probably has less issues. What do we look for in an older home? Now, some people get really scared of investing or buying older homes when in fact they might be built even better than some of the new homes. What should we be concerned about in these older homes and what would be a red flag?
Interviewee: Typically the older homes, the technology wasn’t what it is now. Some things they over engineered. Like I’ve seen some foundations that are put together better than anything today. They over engineered the concrete so it’s going to last forever, but some of the other technologies aren’t quite as new such as new such as knob and tube wiring. That’s not a red flag per se because that knob and tube wiring is still in functional working order. It’s just, it’s not grounded and it’s a little bit more dangerous because you do have some exposed wires and connections that you have got to watch out for.
Insurance companies get a little jolty sometimes when they know a house has knob and tube, but as long as they know about it and you can say it on your insurance form then it’s usually not ever an issue. Then, of course, some people have upgraded the wiring where there are some two prong outlets that aren’t grounded with some three prong outlets that are grounded, you should have seen that bottom middle picture [01:40] where it looks like somebody has put in some new wiring, but again, they forgot the simple task of putting on a cover over the trench and box to make it a little safer.
Then the right hand one [01:52], it’s just an outlet that in their haste maybe forgot to put the cover on it. Things like that or just small items, but not necessarily a red flag, especially the knobs and tube. It’s typical on an older house.
Then what I looked for here is the one I called out, that service line entry point is a potential for two reasons. One, you can see the covering over the wiring is a little frayed and you can start seeing the wires below it. I want to make sure, because that’s close to the ground, that some person doesn’t walk on, or maybe kids playing hide-and-go-seek or something and grabs it and can hurt themselves because the covering starting to come off.
Plus, as you can see, it looks like some of the caulking or ceiling around where the wire enters isn’t quite there anymore. Rainwater does drip down and go inside the house and I have found moisture issues inside the panel because that water just runs along the top there and the panel is right on the other side of the wall.
That’s the bottom picture, is weather heads are pretty big too, or weather heads designed to keep water off of the main service lines as it enters your house. This particular one just had a connection. As you can see it’s just sticking out and with electrical tape covering it, where a leather head you want to pointed down and there’s a loop, a drip loop there so the water drips off the loop before it hits the service wire and goes inside the house. Then as I was mentioning before that, that was a specific panel. Anytime you see that kind of panel you just immediately replace it. You just get an electrician in there and replace it. There’s not too many, but the every once in while you do run across them.
Kathy: What fireplace issues are considered red flag? [00:04:00]
Interviewee: A lot of the red flag in big ticket items with fireplaces and chimneys is again letting water into the system. I don’t have a picture on here, but if you can see the top under the inspection photos at the top right hand figure six [04:26], doesn’t have a rain cap and you can see some of the cracks in the concrete chimney crown. That can let water into the system. What happens, especially in our area, you get the freeze fall cycles going, and then water gets in their freezers and expands and cracks.
Not only the crown, but some of the bricks end up cracking and chimney repairs can be a costly item, especially if they are up and down the whole side of the house. Now, these particular ones are closer to the roofs, so rebuilding a chimney from the roof up isn’t quite as expensive, but it’s still not a cheap issue. So, anytime I see a rain cap that’s not on, or any cracks in the crown, I always recommend repair or cocking or replacing.
Kathy: About asbestos?
Interviewee: Asbestos is always a hot topic. Asbestos is one of those things that it’s not necessarily a “stay away at all costs” type of thing. Asbestos can be found around the vent. Of course, back in the older days, asbestos was a great fire retardant and insulation type of material. They put it in a lot of things. Of course, as you found out later on that when it’s disturbed and the fibers become airborne, they could definitely be a health issue.
Whenever you run across that it’s not a, “Oh my goodness. Stay away from it at all costs,” but it’s just something that you got to mitigate and cover and protect. Removal actually isn’t a preferred way to move. Actually a preferred way to mitigate the asbestos, is to make sure it gets covered and sealed and keep an eye on.
The main thing I run across floors is the nine inch by nine inch floor tiles which contain or have been known to contain asbestos. Even testing it isn’t advised, because the best thing to do with those because they’re pretty sturdy still, is just to cover them with carpet or some kind of material to keep them from breaking. You could put a plastic paint on there that helps seal it because nobody really hangs on any kind of vents to work and crack and make the fibers airborne, the main mitigation is just to protect them.
Kathy: Lead paint.
Interviewee: Lead paint, that’s always another hot topic. With lead paint, we factually known it’s in all older homes prior to, I believe, it’s 1975. Pretty much all paint back in those times and before contained some amounts to lead. Testing is not recommended with lead paint especially if you know it’s an older home and it looks like a lot of original paint’s there.
The other thing with testing lead paint, if you can test all you want in a room and you might just miss the one spot that actually has lead paint on it. It’s almost an impossibility to test the whole house for lead paint without removing every single bit of paint and testing it. Then you got a cost factor. The mitigation of lead paint is pretty simple. You just need to make sure that it’s covered with newer paint that there isn’t any chipping or peeling and no friction surfaces.
With lead paint, you just need to make sure that the potential lead paint is covered and sealed. Then, if you have old window frames and they aren’t working condition, then the best thing to do is just replace the window frames with newer vinyl window frames. It’s just one of the things that you just need to make sure you know what you’re doing with it and make sure you mitigate it.
Then, of course, disclosure is a big thing with lead paint too. When you know it’s in the house, you just have to disclose it. It’s basically a disclosure for the life of the property, as long as it exists.
Kathy: More red flags on the older homes?
Interviewee: Again, this one talks about the roofs, flashing, boots around plumbing vents. You need to make sure the flashing is ok. A lot of the older homes have cast iron vent pipes. Those are always hard to get boots around. You find a lot of people will just put a roofing tar around it, which will work for a while but there’s actually a little bit more maintenance to get up there and check and make sure that it doesn’t crack because that tar will last for a while but once it starts drying out, it cracks pretty easily. Silicon caulking is really the preferred method of making sure everything’s caulked properly.
With just older homes, of course, you get some chimneys, some older brick chimneys that may have started to deteriorate because of the water getting into the system in freeze fall. Whenever they install a new roof, you just got to make sure that the flashing that they put around the chimney is sufficient and it’s sealed properly.
Of course, you get some gutter issues that you should look at. Make sure that the gutters are the right size for the house. You don’t want a smaller gutter for a large house, where it becomes overwhelmed during a heavy rain. You want to make sure it’s fixed properly and that there’s no holes in the gutter because you want the water to go down the drainage system properly.
Interviewee: Yes, and here again, we talked about some of the issues. On the right hand side, you can see a stone foundation where it’s not really a red flag. We just got to expect every once in a while, that some moisture is going to get in. The big thing there is just, don’t ever store anything down there that could get wet or put anything right up against the wall where you can get mould issues or anything like that.
The other ones, these are some typical cracks that you find in the foundation and it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. You can take steps to mitigate any moisture issues like cocking. In these particular ones, I would recommend cocking those with some silicon cocking and just keeping an eye on it. Big thing you want to do is try to monitor it from the inside of the house, if you can, to make sure every so often that water isn’t getting through, or the crack isn’t getting bigger.
Kathy: Out of curiosity, if you’re purchasing a property that has supposedly been renovated, do you find situations where it might just be temporarily fixed but not really fixed, a lipstick fix up?
Interviewee: Yes. You could see, like that last slide, somebody could just put regular cocking in these cracks, and that’s a lipstick issue. However, in these particular ones that may not be too much of issue. It depends on what goes on, on the inside. Go to the next slide. Those two middle pictures, that top one at twelve o’clock, and one at six o’clock [12:45]. Those are acceptable repairs.
The top one, with the little nobs sticking out, is injection. They put it to a plastic tube and it pushes the material that you’re cocking the crack with way inside the wall. They fill it from the inside and the outside. It’s actually stronger than the actual concrete. If you see those in a house, you know that there’s probably some been some moisture in the past, but those look like acceptable repairs.
That bottom one is the same thing, I’m not sure if that was an injection repair or not, but you can definitely tell it’s been repaired. Usually, vertical cracks like that are very typical. It’s when you come across the horizontal cracks, which I believe maybe on the next slide, is where you get some more of the issues.
That one there with that level [13:50], that’s actually a house I did, where everything looked normal, but the more I looked the more I noticed that, “Hey, that’s a vertical crack.” Then I put the level up there, and sure enough, [00:14:00] it’s hard to see from that area, but the bottom is pretty much flush with wall. Then on the top, there’s a little bit of a gap. You can see that there’s definitely been some vertical water pressure or forces pushing on that wall that is giving you a horizontal crack.
The top one is the same house and as you can see where I drew that red arrow from the brick to the door. You can see the distance growing, as you go up. That crawl space block foundation was below that porch there, and since that wall was bending in, actually you could see issues that could look from the outside and above ground, that you could see that there’s definitely been some settlement. That wall is basically the cause of that crack or that door, that sliding glass door, not being straight anymore and again, the door isn’t sliding as it should because it wasn’t a true 90 degree angle anymore.
Then, we also look for other issues like, there are cracks in the bricks. Usually, you can get some cracks and some step cracking in the mortar, and that’s just some typical settlement. When you see them going through bricks like that, you look for more issues, foundation issues and make sure everything’s still in good shape inside.
That top left corner, well, that’s more of some termite damage that we look for in basements too.
Kathy: Okay, because it could be either termite or water damage or the ground being too dry that really affects the foundation generally, right?
Interviewee: Yes. We talked a little bit more about termites. This slide one talks about crawl spaces [16:00]. In crawl spaces we run especially in older houses– Back in the days, they just build the crawl space and then let it go, but nowadays we know that we want to make sure that all the debris is removed and that there should be a moisture barrier to keep the humidity level underneath the crawl space to a minimum because that’s where the moisture comes from, it’s from the ground. You want to make sure that there’s a good moisture vapor in there.
Also, insulation either along the walls or on the bottom of the floor. If it’s a living area above will help with the cold and heat in the summer and the winter and it’ll help make your house a little more efficient, so we look for that as well.
Video 2 Transcript
Kathy: The final section, as you were saying, is the termite inspection.
Interviewee: Yes. And I know that could be a hot topic here. I guess the main difference with the termites East Coast versus West Coast is how you mitigate the situation. Here we have subterranean termites, and the best method is actually putting chemical on the ground to surround the foundation that either kills the termites or deters them away. I know out in California they use a tent system. I believe they apply the chemical to the wood that sticks to the wood and either kills or deters the termites from attacking there.
But here, and at least in Ohio, all termite issues come up from the ground. That’s another thing maybe I could bring up too, looking at the outside of the foundation, a lot of plants on the ground that touch the foundation, or wood, or any kind of where the foundation ends in a brick, or bottom begins. We look for any kind of path for termites to enter. Because termites don’t like to crawl out in the sunlight here, it kind of kills them. So they try and sneak up in a shaded or by maybe vines that are growing up alongside of the house. That’s one thing we call out is if we see trees or vines that grow up the side of the house, while it may look beautiful, it just gives them a highway to enter your house and cause damage.
A lot of things we see, especially with slab foundations is, they put the slab and then the bricks so low to the ground and then you decide to put some mulch on your bushes, and then they accidentally take the mulch and put it up over the foundation line, and it kind of gives the termites a pathway into your house too, because mulch deliverers don’t charge you anything extra to bring termites to your house. So we try to make sure that level is kept below the foundation line.
Kathy: In a recap, home inspectors will find needed repairs. Everything is repairable, that’s good. Life safety versus nice, so safety items first need to be fixed first. And expect what you inspect, what do you mean by that?
Interviewee: Expect what you inspect is basically you want to make sure you want a second set of eyes on the inspection, or on your purchase. Whether somebody has rehabbed the house, and they obviously do the best job if they can. But you want to have a second set of eyes to look at and double check somebody else’s work, and make sure. There’s just always something that might have been missed, because the rehabbing a lot of the houses takes a long time and they’re under a time constraint, and easy things could get missed.
Kathy: I cannot emphasize the importance of that enough, and please, please, anybody looking to purchase property, always take the time and spend the extra money, which is not very much money, to protect yourself and get an independent inspector.
Let’s go back on where people can find the qualified inspectors. Because, like you said, in some states, someone just can put a sign on their car and they’re an inspector, whereas they may not be certified and they may not have standards that they need to live up to.
There are a lot of pretty advanced things that you mentioned in here that the average guy might not know. If you’re ever going to buy anything through our RealWealth, we have a list of inspectors who are certified. But if you’re going to go out on your own, and do this on your own, and find someone in the phone book, what should they be looking for in an inspector?
Interviewee: Well, I really think it’s all a personal, how you feel. It’s the same thing as hiring a contractor to put tiling your house or a new roof on, and you just talk to them and ask them some questions. Ask about their experience, what kind of training they’ve had, if they are certified or belong to a niche company like ASHI or NAHI. There’s a lot of niche-like companies that you can know that they go through the same kind of training and are accountable to somebody. And WIN Home Inspection is one of those. Like I said, we are pretty much across the United States. So if it’s not here in Ohio, you can look up to see if there’s a WIN home inspector in the area that you’re purchasing in. We’re always willing to drive to get to an inspection and help you out. The nice thing about getting in a network like this is, you know you’re working with somebody who’s been tested, and put through the ringer, and their work has been scrutinized. People want to know who they used, and why, and know if there’s any kind of past issues with them.
Kathy: That’s right. Yes. I think that’s really the power of the network and the power of Real Worth Network, the power of the referral, right? If we have hundreds of investors who have bought property through a particular vendor, or they’ve had their property managed by a particular company, and that’s going really well over many years, that’s a pretty good referral. In the case where you have inspected properties for the turnkey providers in our network, what has been your experience when doing that? Are most of these issues already taken care of or do you find something from time to time that still needs to be fixed?
Interviewee: Yes. I mean, I do find some things from time to time that need to be fixed, and that’s why you want a second set of eyes is to find those. One thing I’ve found is, any kind of issues I find, or even ones that I’m kind of like in a coin toss, whether they are a big issue or not. If I just mention it or if I have a question, they always err on the safe side and say, “Okay, it’s just not worth the risk of not repairing it. It’s just easier to repair it and take care of it than to take a chance.”
Kathy: Especially when the turnkey company that’s selling the property is also going to be doing the ongoing management. And if we’re talking about a small repair that could turn into a really big problem, they don’t want to have to manage that problem. So, yes, absolutely. It makes sense.