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Common issues found during building inspections

When you are purchasing a home, obtaining a thorough professional inspection before settlement is a essential. While you may be all set to sign on the dotted line and move your stuff in, sometimes inspections can uncover serious issues. An independent building inspector will be able to identify what those are. If you suspect there are serious structural problems you can make the sale subject to a satisfactory report from a structural engineer. The following are common issues identified in building inspections:

1. Asbestos

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was widely used in the manufacture of building materials and other products. Asbestos was processed and mixed with materials to produce a variety of products. The most common product used in residential properties is asbestos cement. Asbestos cement products typically contain 10-15% asbestos.

Asbestos cement products pose little risk to health when they are in good condition and undisturbed. However, homeowners must take precautions when removing the products, renovating or doing maintenance work.

If you are buying a pre-1990 house, ask that asbestos containing products be assessed as part of the building inspection report.

2. Foundation issues

If the floor is uneven to an extent you can easily see and feel while walking the home, the foundation certainly requires a thorough inspection by a structural engineer. But there are less obvious signs that commonly manifest themselves inside a home too.

Doors and windows that stick or do not latch properly can be caused by foundation issues, as can drywall cracks, especially over doors and windows. By executing a quick exterior inspection, you can check for bulges in foundation walls, or any section that does not appear plumb. Hairline cracks in concrete are not usually indicative of a major problem, but an inspection by a certified structural engineer is the only way to know for sure whether something is an issue.

3. Poor drainage and waterproofing

What is that musty smell in the basement? Probably mould. Back in the old days, neither underfloor drainage nor perimeter drainage was provided in a manner equivalent to what is done today. With waterproofing of foundation walls and slab floors, it is the same story.

Issues usually do not materialize in just a few years, but if your home is 50 or more years old, the perimeter and underfloor drainage is likely laughably insufficient by today’s standards, and unless it has been resolved and updated, is very likely to pose a problem at some point — if it hasn’t already. For many older homes, perimeter and underfloor drainage was not provided at all. You might see signs of mold on the walls of an old home, but more often you will smell the musty gasses released by mold hidden in walls, attics and underfloor framing. Much has been written about the dangers of mold to the health of a structure and, more important, its inhabitants.

If you smell the noxious, gassy byproduct of the mould anywhere, consider a thorough inspection by a professional. This can potentially be a major issue, as the cost to remove mold and properly install new drainage and waterproofing in a very old structure sometimes is not economically feasible.

4. Roof Issues

Water intrusion is the death of a house over time, so the soundness of a roof is critical to the health of old and new structures. From the interior of the home, water spots on the ceiling are an obvious sign of water intrusion, but this is not always indicative of roof problems. Plumbing leaks and window leaks can also result in these stains. Water spots on exterior walls can be a sign of flashing issues on the roof, and a quick inspection of the roof shingles or tiles can reveal common problems, such as unsecured flashing, cracked shingles, cupping and missing tiles.

5. Plumbing Problems

Last but definitely not least is the house’s plumbing system. Large problems can not only be costly, but like the other issues previously mentioned, can cause a host of health-related issues. Plumbing issues such as leaky faucets, water heaters, shower stalls, or toilets are common, but usually fixed fairly easily. A more significant problem occurs in the long term when water intrudes behind tiles, and shower or tub surrounds. These can be more costly to fix.

All these problems are easily avoided by sealing grout lines with grout or caulk, and repeating the application as needed. These simple measures can save thousands in unnecessary repairs and prevent the mould problems that often result, too (image courtesy of

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