Home inspectors go where none of us particularly wants to go—into all the nooks and crannies around our homes, both inside and out. So you can bet that they’ve seen it all. You know—all that stuff that you don’t want to think about happening in those dark and creepy spaces.
Wait, actually we do want to know. (Is it masochism?) So we asked home inspectors who’ve been in the biz for a long time—and boy, did they deliver, with stories ranging from Stephen King–level horror to just downright weird. Check out some of the crazy things these home inspectors have witnessed. It’s all in a day’s work!
It’s a zoo in there
“Some of the nastiest stuff we find is animals—dead ones in attics or crawl spaces, which are always disgusting, and live ones, which are always scary,” says Reuben Saltzman, president of Structure Tech Home Inspections in Minneapolis. “In Minnesota, we usually find raccoons and squirrels, and inspectors in the Southern part of the country find a lot worse.”
There have been drowned frogs under water heaters, cooked mice in furnaces, frozen porcupines in crawl spaces, and dead fish on a roof. Was it a bird that somehow dumped it there, or something weirder, Saltzman wonders?
“We’ve also found wasp’s nests the size of basketballs inside of attics, and in the basement at the ceiling rim joist, and homeowners who didn’t know they had wasps,” Saltzman adds.
Bruce Barker, founder and president of Dream Home Consultants, in Cary, NC, has collected close to 6,000 photos documenting things like fried lizards and mice inside electrical panels, snakes in basements and crawl spaces, and even a black widow spider.
“We’ve found termite tubes hanging down from the ceiling. Termites need soil to travel and live, so they build tubes out of mud,” he explains. “It looked like there were stalactites hanging down.”
Then, of course, there’s the mass quantities of bird poop, which is nasty, toxic stuff.
“One of the craziest things that I’ve ever seen was a boat trailer being used as the foundation for a home,” Saltzman recalls.
“In the crawl space, I saw a tire half-embedded in concrete. I had to stare at it for a little while to figure out what I was looking at,” he says. “And I realized the whole addition was built on top of a trailer.”
Sometimes projects are half-finished, or half-baked, like a deck being held up by a single, wobbly post.
“This puts the ‘can’t’ in ‘cantilever,’” Saltzman quips about one memorable photo featuring a doomed deck.
Perilous plumbing solutions
Saltzman frequently discovers homeowners have tried to fix leaky plumbing with whatever materials they have on hand. Contrary to popular belief, duct tape does not, in fact, fix leaky pipes, shower wall tiles, or drains, he says.
This sparked some concern.
“People will use caulk, radiator hoses, hose clamps, vice grips—just the craziest stuff—to keep water from coming out of a place where it shouldn’t,” he says.
Perhaps the most alarming things home inspectors come across involve electrical systems and outlets in a home, Barker says.
“I’ve seen people not putting the wire connections in boxes, and just leaving them hanging out. If I had a dollar for every one of those, I wouldn’t have to crawl through crawl spaces anymore,” he says, noting that this is a major fire hazard.
Also in the “What were they thinking?!” department: Another home featured rows of Christmas lights strung directly over a pool (see image above). When the water fountain feature is activated, the swimmers beneath could get seriously injured from electrocution.
One homeowner strategically placed a basketball net with its glass backboard leaning against the roof, making it the ideal magnifying glass fire-starter on a blazing sunny day. Saltzman has also seen a roof so covered in moss and plant debris, it should have been mowed.
Barker has been amazed to see turbine vents in older houses that have lost their covers, unbeknown to the homeowners, or worse, have been covered with strange things—like an upside-down Halloween candy bucket.
Makeshift chimney repairs are often laughably ineffective, adds Barker, who has seen flammable asphalt material used to fix crumbling chimneys.
Weird and wacky windows
In older homes, it’s not uncommon to find wooden window frames that have seen better days, Saltzman notes. What’s odd are the homeowners who think up outlandish ways to fix them.
“One of my favorite photos of all time was taken 15 years ago: Somebody had taken spray foam to fill in all the rotted wood, and then cut the spray foam to match the profile of the wood, which they painted to match,” he recalls.
Other head-scratching discoveries Saltzman’s team has made include a mysterious pile of leaves in the attic, scissors embedded in an electrical panel, a downspout aimed squarely at an electrical outlet, a roof fascia repaired with a hockey puck, and a bunch of unopened bags of insulation in an attic. (Pro tip: A home will always be warmer when insulation is actually laid out and not trapped in plastic.)
It’s not just horrifying for the home inspectors—all this weird stuff could kill a deal. Once potential buyers see things like mushrooms growing out of a floor drain, a crawl space filled with animal excrement and spider webs, or frost in the attic, they’ll wonder what else hasn’t been maintained, Saltzman says. And often, they’ll be spooked enough to walk away.
“We’ve got about 20 inspectors on my team,” he says, “and between all of us, every day someone decides they’re not buying a house based on what we found.”
Parades and fireworks and backyard BBQ’s. With summer in full swing, the month of July can seem to zip by. Make the most of your month with these 14 to-dos from our friends at Houzz, covering everything from weekend guests to flag etiquette.
Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less
1. Clean porch lights. If you have glass light fixtures that are easily removed, bring them inside and wash in a dishpan of warm water with gentle soap. If the fixtures must stay in place, turn the power off and carefully wipe the exteriors with a damp microfiber cloth; dry with a soft cloth. When finished, change lightbulbs as needed.
2. Unfurl a flag for the Fourth. Get in the Independence Day spirit by putting up an American flag on your porch in time to celebrate the Fourth of July. Don’t have room for a full-size flag? Try lining your walkway with mini flags, or hang a pleated fan above the door instead. Whether you hang your flag vertically or horizontally, be sure you keep the union (the part with the stars) in the upper left corner.
3. Check safety devices. Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors should be tested monthly; replace batteries as needed, and replace the entire device if it is more than 10 years old. Interconnected smoke detectors (when one alarm goes off, they all sound) are the safest because it is more likely that everyone in the house will hear the alarm. Also, take a moment to check the expiration date on any fire extinguishers in the house and replace them if needed.
4. Care for furry friends. Summer poses some unique challenges for our pets, but with a little extra care, you can ensure your furry friends are healthy all season long. If you will be traveling this summer without your pet, be sure to plan ahead to set up care. Most pets are more comfortable in their own homes, so consider using a professional pet sitter rather than a kennel, which can be stressful. To keep pets safe in the heat, you should provide access to shade and ample fresh water and never leave pets in a car unattended.
Tackle These Tasks Over a Weekend
5. Clean windows inside and out. Keep that summer sunshine streaming in by giving windows a quick rinse with glass cleaner or a vinegar solution, then squeegee them dry or wipe with a clean microfiber cloth. If you want to avoid using a ladder outside, reach exterior windows with a window-washing hose attachment or telescoping window washer, or hire a window-washing service to get the job done.
6. Check window screens for holes. It’s summer, and the mosquitoes are out in full force. If you’ve been getting bitten inside the house, check your window screens and screen doors for small holes and tears. Use a screen patching kit to repair any damage, and keep those pesky bugs outdoors where they belong.
7. Refresh summer whites. Fresh, clean and crisp, nothing says summer quite like white linens. Keep your white textiles looking their best by laundering slipcovers, cushion covers and curtains, or sending them out for dry cleaning if they’re not machine washable. Keep white upholstery and Roman blinds looking fresh by vacuuming them regularly using your vacuum’s upholstery attachment.
8. Conserve water. Cut down on unnecessary water use by watering your lawn and garden during the cooler, early morning hours. If you water when the sun is high, much of the water will simply evaporate instead of sinking into the soil where the roots can access it — and it can even scorch tender leaves. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends using a WaterSense-labeled timer for your sprinkler system, which acts like a thermostat for your lawn and can reduce water use by up to 15 percent per year. Inside the house, keep an eye out for leaky faucets and have them repaired promptly.
9. Keep the landscape fire-safe. There ARE summers that are pretty dry in Missouri and Kansas, believe it or not! If the ground gets scorched from the Midwest heat, it’s important to remove weeds, fallen leaves, needles and other items that could become fuel in a fire, particularly from the area immediately surrounding your home.
10. Prepare for summer guests. Before guests arrive, be sure to clear out your own personal items, make up the beds with fresh sheets and set out a stack of fresh towels. Small extras such as bottles of water, a basket of travel-size toiletries (there are some darling ideas here!) and a card with the house Wi-Fi password will be much appreciated. If you host frequent overnight guests, consider adding a trundle bed or bunk to make the most of the space, especially if you know you’ll be having kids visiting.
Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Month
11. Check fences and repair or replace as needed. Inspect fencing and gates around your property. If you find damaged areas (for example, broken boards, sagging areas and soft or rotted wood) schedule repairs or replacement as needed.
12. Upgrade pool safety measures. If you have a pool in your backyard, it is essential to keep it securely fenced with a self-closing, self-latching gate at least 4 feet high, to prevent children from jumping or falling in. Place a safety cover on your pool when not in use, and never allow anyone to swim in your pool alone. The American Red Cross also recommends installing a pool alarm that will go off when anyone enters the pool. And if you have children, it’s important to make sure they all learn to swim well, whether or not you have a pool of your own.
13. Add shade to the yard. Make your backyard more comfortable with an umbrella or shade sail. With ample shady spots to sit, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to spend more time in your outdoor space — and shade is a must for summer backyard parties.
14. Keep your home safe while traveling. Before you leave on a trip, take some time to put safety precautions in place. Let your neighbors know when you will be away and ask a friend to check on your house from time to time. Motion-sensing exterior lighting, timed interior lighting and well-trimmed hedges can make your home a less appealing target for break-ins. If you will be away for a longer period of time, have your mail held for you at the post office and hire a lawn service to keep your yard from getting overgrown while you are away.
Upgrade your living space into a smart home without breaking the bank with our hand-picked smart home devices that include speakers, security cameras, light bulbs and more. Create a smart home hub with these gadgets that work with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant to simplify your technology and help make your day-to-day life even easier.
Whether you want to personalize and control your lighting, stream music and videos or secure your home, we’ve found a variety of top-rated smart home gadgets to help you get started building your smart home. Most of your products work with Alexa or the Google Assistant so that you can control the devices with the command of your voice. We’ve also included the Aukey Smart Plug-in our list which gives any device you plug into smart capabilities.
Read on for our list of the best smart home gadgets that include the best prices and deals that are currently available. We have a variety of devices that will fit all smart home needs and budgets.
Ring Video Doorbell Pro
Home security from anywhere
Help secure your home with the Ring Video Doorbell Pro that allows you to answer your door from anywhere. The Ring Pro works with Alexa and will send alerts to Echo devices which allows you to hear and speak to visitors entirely hands-free. The Ring Video Doorbell Pro also sends alerts to your smartphone when motion is detected or when someone presses the doorbell so you can monitor your home from anywhere. The Pro features advanced motion detection with a camera view that generates motion alerts within user-set motion zones. The Ring doorbell connects to your existing doorbell wiring so you don’t have to worry about re-charging the battery and features four different face plate options. (amazon.com $199)
Echo Dot (3rd generation)
Voice controlled smart speaker
The best-selling Echo Dot is a voice-controlled smart speaker that works with Alexa to make calls, answer questions, set alarms, check the weather and so much more. The compact smart speaker can also control your compatible smart home devices with the command of your voice. Just ask Alexa to find TV shows, turn on lights, adjust the temperature and more. You can use your voice to play a song or artist through Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and others. Alexa has over 50,000 skills so you can discover new skills that will help you with everyday tasks. (amazon.com $29.99)
Amazon’s smart speaker with Alexa
The Amazon Echo smart speaker can play music, answer questions, set alarms and more all with the command of your voice. You can also control your other smart home devices with the Alexa-enabled speaker just ask Alexa to turn off the lights, adjust your thermostat, lock your door and more. The Echo can make calls and send and receive messages through the hands-free speaker. The smart speaker features a better audio experience than the Echo Dot offering a powerful audio with Dolby technology built in to the speaker. (amazon.com $79.99)
TP-Link Smart Bulb
Voice controlled light bulb
Control your lighting from anywhere with the TP-Link Alexa-enabled light bulb. You can turn your lights on and off and adjust brightness with your tablet or smartphone using the Kasa app. You can connect the smart bulb with Alexa or Google Assistant devices and use your voice to control your lights. The easy-to-install light bulb can transform into any color to set the mood and personalize your lighting by adjusting brightness as well as light appearance from soft white to daylight. The TP-Link bulbs will also help you out with your energy costs by reducing energy use up to 80% without brightness or quality loss. (walmart.com $29.99)
TP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi Plug
Alexa enabled WiFi Plug
Turn your electronics and appliances into voice and app-controlled devices with the Kasa Smart WiFi plug by TP-Link. The smart plug works with Alexa and the Google Assistant so you can turn your devices into a hands-free experience. You can turn on lamps, appliances and more from anywhere on your smartphone using the Kasa app. You can also schedule the smart plug to automatically turn on and off when you’re away and reduce your energy by managing devices that use the most power. (amazon.com $13.99)
Nest Learning Thermostat
Change the temperature from anywhere
Control your thermostat from anywhere with the 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat. The smart thermostat uses technology to learn your habits and adjust automatically to help save you energy. On average the Nest thermostat saves 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills so the Nest will pay for itself in no time. You’re able to control your thermostat from anywhere with Nest app using your phone, tablet or laptop. The smart thermostat also works with Alexa so you can adjust and control the temperature with the command of your voice. The Nest thermostat features a thinner and sleeker design than previous models and comes in four different colors. (amazon.com $199)
iRobot Roomba 960 Robot Vacuum
Wi-Fi connected robot vacuum
Clean your floors with the command of your voice and completely hands-free with the Wi-Fi connected iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum. You can use the iRobot home app to clean and schedule your vacuum from anywhere and receive notifications when the job is complete. The Roomba 960 can continuously clean for up to 75 minutes and will automatically recharge. The robot vacuum features a three-stage cleaning system and a high-efficiency filter that captures 99% of allergens, pollen, and dust. The Roomba is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant so you can control the vacuum with your voice. (walmart.com $549)
Amazon Cloud Cam Security Camera
Works with Alexa
The Amazon Cloud Cam is an indoor security camera that monitors your home in 1080p full HD. You’ll be able to watch your home from anywhere at any time with the compatible Cloud Cam app. You can view live streams, replay clips and get alerts when the camera detects activity. You can customize your alerts so you’ll only get alerts that matter. The Amazon camera features night vision so you’ll also be able to monitor your home in the dark. The Cloud Cam also offers two-way audio so you can speak to guests in your home through the app. The security camera works with Alexa so you can use your voice to show your live feed on the Amazon Fire TV, Fire Tablet, Echo Show, or Echo Spot. (amazon.com $119.99)
Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt
Alexa enabled deadbolt with built-in alarm
Secure your home the smart way with the Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt. The Schlage connect features a touch screen keypad which allows for keyless entry. This lets every member in your family have their own 4-digit code that will be easy to remember. You can also create temporary codes for visitors and never have to worry about replacing locks or exchanging keys. The Schlage Connect is Z-Wave compatible and connects to your home automation system which allows you to lock or unlock your door remotely. You can also use your voice to control the lock with any Amazon Alexa compatible device. The deadbolt features a built-in alarm that comes in three different modes that will alert you when someone is coming or going and communicate any potential security threats. (homedepot.com $184.29)
There’s nothing more trustworthy than a good, hardy perennial. These plants might go dull in the winter, but you can rest assured they’ll return faithfully the following year. Perennials have the power to keep your landscape alive with new colors, fragrances, and wildlife all season long — as long as you treat them well. While they’re well-known for their minimal maintenance, there are still some things to keep in mind.
When to Plant Perennials
Planting is both an exciting and stressful time for plants. Most perennial plants need a modest amount of moisture to survive, especially when they’re just trying to establish themselves. The best time to plant your perennials is during the transitional seasons: spring and fall.
In our area, we fall into hardiness Zone 6a, and, lucky for us, perennial plants tend to do very well in this zone! However, spring carries with it a lot of cold weather. If you plant too early and your young plants are caught in a particularly bad frost, they may not grow at all. Avoid a disappointing garden by paying attention to frost dates. The last frost in Missouri and Kansas typically happens in mid April (but lately, we have had some pretty crazy weather!), so wait until after then to plant new perennials. Even then, check the forecast and be wary of the conditions your new plants may be subject to. It’s best to err on the side of caution and plant when you’re confident that the weather is going to cooperate.
Of course, the ground has to be unfrozen to plant anything in it. One test to see if the soil is workable is to grab a handful of it and squeeze it tight. If your soil sticks together, it’s a little too wet. If it crumbles, it’s in workable shape and you can start planting!
Any perennials you plant in summer will need a lot more attention and water to encourage growth. Avoid digging up perennials in bloom during this season. Just let them do their thing.
How to Plant / Balancing Bloomers
The term ‘perennial’ encompasses thousands and thousands of plants. Naturally, they don’t all bloom at the same time. The key to keeping an interesting garden all season long is to interplant species that flower at different times in the summer. That way, you always have something new blossoming in your garden. It’s those little pops of new color that keep something exciting happening all the time. Here are a few model varieties of gorgeous perennials that bloom at different times in the summer:
Late Spring / Early Summer Bloomers
For your early summer flowering perennials, consider giving these plants a try:
Clematis: Creeping up several feet tall, clematis produce single, colorful flowers in shades of blue, pink, red, and white. They continue to bloom all the way into fall, and they prefer lots of sunlight and damp soil.
Caesar’s Brother Siberian Iris: This deep violet flower rises up on tall, poker-straight stems that really stand out along borders. They thrive in moist soils better than most, and are extremely resilient and adaptable. Just make sure you water them regularly, especially during hot dry weather.
Peony: This lush, romantic flower is very popular for wedding bouquets and decor. Its massive blooms are a true work of art and some of our favorites are Sarah Bernhardt, Bowl of Beauty, and Bartzella Itoh. Their stems are nice and sturdy, so you won’t have to worry about staking them to keep them upright.
Creeping Phlox: This fabulous groundcover plant spreads like wildfire and is great for rock gardens, as it creeps its way up rocks and rough terrain with ease. Its densely packed flowers create a carpet of vivid color that’s truly breathtaking. So long as it has full sun and is watered regularly, it will thrive beautifully.
Midsummer Flowering Perennials
These flowers bloom beautifully in the prime of summer:
Balloon Flowers: Balloon flowers are easy to care for, and are named as such because their buds balloon before blossoming. Among a few different colored varieties, balloon flowers can come in a very striking, deep blue.
Coreopsis: These sun-lovers come in bright, warm colors and attract all sorts of butterflies. They make great cut flowers.
Salvia: Tall stalks of blossoms adorn this beautiful plant in all different shades of blue, purple and red, with a few less common varieties in shades of yellow and white. It’s actually a member of the mint family, and its aroma is absolutely divine.
Lavender: With a pleasant fragrance and characteristic purple color, you can’t go wrong with growing some lavender in your garden.
Monarda: Also known as bee balm, these vibrant flowers lure in pollinators like a magnet. Planting monarda in either spring or autumn will give you the best results. Some varieties can grow up to 4 feet tall, and they spread quite a bit, so dividing the root ball and replanting every 2 or 3 years will save it from getting overcrowded.
Late Summer / Early Fall Perennials
These plants are perfect reminders that summer is still hanging on:
Aster: Asters provide great coverage in your flower beds, and bloom small flowers in reds, blues, and purples. They grow easily enough in a richer soil without much maintenance.
Chelone Hot Lips: This mounded plant has gorgeous blue-green foliage that contrasts beautifully with its pink clusters of flowers. It makes a great border plant, reaches to around 2 feet tall and spreads 2 feet across.
Lobelia Cardinalis: The bright ruby red racemes of this fabulous perennial can be seen from miles away! It does best in moist clay soils, so if your soil is very loamy, make sure to water is generously.
When Fall Arrives
These are just a few of the endless perennial plants that can complete your garden. When fall rolls around, pay attention to any perennial pruning and winter protection needs. It’s also the perfect time to plant new perennials, as your soil is in ideal, moist conditions. You can use this season to also divide up some of your perennials, so long as they aren’t still in bloom.
Planning ahead for this season will reward you kindly. Be adventurous, and be sure to plant perennials of all different kinds during this time. A higher volume of plants will provide for more color and texture in your garden and culminate in an exciting new growing season the following summer!
Win home shoppers over before they even think about stepping foot inside.
A polished home exterior creates an inviting experience for visitors or passersby, which is especially important if your home is on the market.
Check out our tips to get the most curb appeal for the lowest cost — while turning your neighbors’ heads and getting prospective buyers to your door.
The easiest way to enhance curb appeal is dedicating a weekend to deep cleaning your home’s exterior.
Sure, you’ll want to trim bushes, sweep and mow your lawn, but there’s more to curb appeal than keeping a tidy front yard. Turn the nozzle on your garden hose to the strongest setting and clean off your driveway, sidewalk, windows and fence.
If dirt and grime are caked on your home’s exterior, you can rent a powerwasher for around $50 to $75 a day. Just avoid areas with caulking, like windows and doors, because you can strip some of the sealing. And as tempting as it may be to powerwash your roof, don’t do it — you may damage the shingles’ coating.
When it comes to your windows, spraying them with a garden hose isn’t enough. For maximum sparkle, clean your windows outside and inside. Instead of relying on a glass cleaner, try a mix of detergent diluted in warm water.
Shutters are an easy way to accentuate the size of your windows. They make your windows look larger and add visual interest by disrupting a bland exterior wall. For maximum curb appeal, choose a shutter color that contrasts with your home’s color to make it pop.
Paint accent areas
Paint is a quick and easy curb appeal booster. Instead of painting the entire exterior of your home, focus on the trim, door and shutters.
You can typically find a gallon of exterior paint for $20 to $30. But before you decide on a color, consider home exterior color trends, along with your home’s natural style.
Give your door a face lift
If you don’t love your front door, you don’t need to dish out loads of money to replace it. Think beyond paint — consider adding molding, which offers a decorative frame for your door that welcomes visitors.
You can also add metal house numbers, which you can find for as low as $5 a number. And if seasonally appropriate, consider adding a wreath to your door as a bonus.
Replace your house numbers
If you’d rather not add house numbers to your freshly painted door, here are some alternative DIY ideas:
Paint a terra-cotta planter with your house number and place it by your doorstep.
Add house numbers to a post planter near your front porch.
Use your front porch stair riser’s real estate by hanging or painting numbers there.
Update your light fixtures
Replacing your exterior light fixtures is another curb appeal must. You can usually find outdoor sconces for around $20 at home centers. Just make sure your new light fixtures have the same mounting system. And if you want to save on lighting, a fresh finish can do wonders. Try spray-painting them — a can of spray paint costs around $10.
Keep porch furniture neutral
Just as you would aim to simplify the interior of your home so shoppers can envision themselves living there, the exterior of your home should be neutral and welcoming too.
Put your pink flamingo and wind chime collection into storage, and focus on porch decor that offers pops of color and character. You can find brightly colored outdoor chairs or throw pillows for $20 to $30 each.
Don’t forget the small things
These low-budget fixes make a big impact, so don’t forget the little details!
Upgrade your mailbox: Install a new mailbox for under $100, or spray paint your existing mailbox.
Plant a tree: A charming tree can up your curb appeal for as low as $20.
Build a tree bench: If you already have a tree you love, build a bench around it! Great for napping, picnicking or just hiding exposed roots, a wraparound tree bench costs only what you spend on boards and screws.
Install flower boxes: For around $20 each, flower boxes are a quick way to add some life and color to your windows. If flower boxes sound like too much work, try a container garden in pots by your front porch.
Hide eyesores: Place a small lattice fence or a side of paneling around your air conditioner, and hide your trash bins behind a small fence. You can also hide your hose in a pot or storage bench.
What does a home inspection involve? Standards and specifics vary from state to state, but in general, the inspector is responsible for making sure there are no glaring, obvious issues with a home that’s being bought or sold. Sellers can hire an inspector before listing the home to ensure they tackle anything major before putting it on the market, and a buyer’s mortgage loan will almost always require a home inspection so that the lender can feel confident that the home is in good shape and habitable.
There are dozens of features that a home inspector will examine to ensure the home’s safety and habitability. Here are some of the things you can expect your inspector to look at — if it’s at all possible, it’s always best for a buyer to be present during the inspection so that the inspector can explain any issues in person and so the buyer can ask questions (although it’s usually best to wait until the inspection has concluded before you bombard the inspector with queries).
Puddles or standing water outside
The inspector will check outside the home for a number of things, including whether there are any puddles or standing water that could indicate a drainage problem. Water is an element that can wreak havoc on a home, and standing water or puddles are a sign that there could be water damage inside the house, or that the foundation is faulty.
If there are sheds or other storage buildings on the property, the inspector will take a look at those to ensure they are safe — no crooked or leaning walls, solidly built, and with doors that open and shut smoothly. After all, you don’t want a shed falling down on top of you while you try to stash your lawn tools.
Pathways, retaining walls, and fences
Any pathways to and from the house, retaining walls, or fences should be inspected to ensure that they are in good shape; buckling in a pathway, or a leaning retaining wall or fence, could be other indications that the ground underneath the house isn’t entirely stable, and that’s a red flag for inspectors.
Decks and patios
In addition to making sure that decks and patios don’t have any holes or aren’t skewed in a dangerous way, inspectors will take a look at the railings on your decks and patios to determine how safe they are. Decks or patios without railings or with large gaps in the railings might need to be repaired, and it’s the inspector’s job to check them out and decide whether they meet safety requirements or not.
Trees and shrubs
Inspectors aren’t arborists, but they’ll still take a look at the trees and shrubs on the property and check for any obvious issues; if there are branches overhanging the roof or falling off a tree, or it looks like it’s about to come down on top of the house or the driveway, the inspector will note the safety hazard in the inspection notes, and it will probably need to be addressed before sale.
A cracked or shifting foundation can mean big trouble for a house, so expect your inspector to spend some time taking a look at the foundation and determining whether it’s stable — and dry, too; a wet foundation means there could be water seeping in (or out) from somewhere, which could potentially undermine the home’s stability in the future.
Mold and mildew
Not all mold or mildew is toxic, but in general, it’s best not to try to cohabit with spores, which can irritate lungs and trigger allergies. And some mold and mildew is toxic, which poses its own set of problems. Inspectors will look in several places in the home (notably the foundation and attic) to see if there are any signs of mold or mildew present.
Basements and crawl spaces
Basements and crawl spaces are areas that can be subject to both moisture damage and pests, so inspectors will check for signs that either moisture or pests are present, but the inspector will also look for adequate ventilation, ensure that any exposed pipes are insulated, and check to make sure the insulation is sufficient.
The attic is a part of the house that can show if there’s damage to the roof or leakage from outside, so inspectors will spend some time looking for evidence of moisture or water seepage, including stains that might indicate water penetration. There shouldn’t be any open electrical splices or plumbing, exhaust, or appliance vents that terminate in the attic, so inspectors will look for those, too; there also needs to be adequate ventilation and sufficient insulation that’s been appropriately installed in the attic.
Windows and door frames
Windows and door frames can be places where foundation issues emerge, so inspectors are going to make sure that the windows and door frames are straight — not askew or bowed in any way — and will also check the caulking and glazing on the windows, in addition to ensuring that the window glass isn’t broken and is the appropriate type for the climate and area.
Depending on how tall the house in question is, the inspector might or might not actually get up on the roof to look for signs of damage or any problems — if the home is three stories high or taller, then the inspector might use binoculars and other tools to make the best assessment possible from the ground. They’ll use different criteria depending on the roof material, but in general, they’ll want to make sure there aren’t any holes, that there isn’t any decay, look for stains, and make sure that any vents are clear and clean.
Gutters and drainage
The gutters need to be well-built and securely fastened to the house, with no decay, rust, sagging, or missing pieces. Gutters should also be clean to facilitate good drainage, and the inspector might also check to make sure that the gutters are draining away from the foundation just for good measure.
There are many different materials that can be used to construct a house, and the specifics of the inspection are going to depend on the type of siding material used. In general, the inspector is going to look for any stains and signs of damage, ensure that the walls are straight and not bowed, and ensure that there are no cracks in the siding. Vines and flaking or peeling exterior paint are other items that an inspector might look for to ensure the home’s structure is solid.
Inside the home, the inspector is going to look at the walls to see if they’re straight or if they happen to tilt one way or another, or whether there are cracks — all signs that the foundation might be problematic. The inspector will also look for any stains or signs of water damage or even smoke damage on the walls, especially if it hasn’t been reported by the seller.
The ceiling should also be level and stain-free, with no cracks, and any trim should be installed properly and in good condition. Again, the inspector is looking for any indication that there might be leaks or water damage happening somewhere in the home, which often manifests on the ceiling.
Inspectors clearly aren’t going to tear open your walls to ensure that there’s insulation and that it’s adequate, but they will look for clues that the walls are well-insulated and that the insulation has been installed correctly.
Depending on the climate, the inspector is going to check for both heating and cooling sources in habitable rooms; in most of the country, a source of heat will be critical (after all, even in desert climates, it gets pretty cold at night).
The fireplace and chimney
If you have a working fireplace and chimney, then it might be worth having an additional and more in-depth inspection done to ensure there aren’t any issues with it, but the home inspector will take a brief look at the fireplace to check for cracks or damages, and will typically shine a light around to make sure the flue is clean and lined.
Range hood or exhaust fan
The range hood or exhaust fan in the kitchen need to be checked so the inspector can ensure that the fan or hood is vented to the outside of the building and that either the hood or fan (or both) is working correctly.
Outlets by the kitchen sink
Any electrical outlets by the kitchen sink will need to be checked for a ground fault circuit interrupter, a safety precaution, so you can expect the inspector to spend some extra time and attention on those outlets.
The kitchen sink itself
Water flow, leaks, and stains are going to be top priorities for the inspector when checking out the kitchen sink; the inspector will spend some time looking underneath the sink for any signs of leaks or stains, and will check for rust or deterioration in any garbage disposals or in general around the sink.
Does the dishwasher drain properly and close all the way, and does it leak? Does the stove, range, and any other built-in appliances operate properly? The inspector will look for any signs of problems in the kitchen appliances and note them in the report.
Cabinets and drawers
If kitchen cabinets or drawers don’t open or close correctly, or all the way, this can be another sign that the foundation or stability of the house could be compromised. The inspector will ensure that the cabinets and drawers are in good condition and that everything opens and closes the way it should.
Not only should toilets operate correctly — flushing when you press the flush mechanism — but toilets should also be securely fastened to the floor: no rocking or looseness, and there shouldn’t be any stains around the base of the toilet. Inspectors will check all of those factors for each toilet in the house.
Inspectors will check drains in sinks, tubs, and showers throughout the house to check for any blockages or potential issues, and inspectors will also check the drainage pipes that lead to the sewage or septic system to ensure that the pipe slopes appropriately and that there is no evidence of leaks or stains around the drain pipes.
Showers and tubs
As you’ve no doubt learned by now, water can present a serious problem if it’s somewhere it’s not supposed to be in the house, and showers and tubs are a danger zone for water leaks and issues. Inspectors will check to make sure the walls, tiles, flooring, and caulking is stable and in good condition, and that there are no stains or signs of leaks around the tub or shower; inspectors will also check the shower or tub’s drainage.
If there’s any visible damage to the plumbing pipes, or it looks like there are stains on the materials around the pipes, those are two indications that the plumbing might need some attention before the sale closes, so you can expect the inspector to check for those.
The size of the water heater is one thing that inspectors will check to make sure is correct for the size of the home and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the house, but inspectors will be looking for more than that — signs of rust and proper ventilation included.
Water temperature and pressure
Hot water should be hot, but not too hot; inspectors will check the water temperature and pressure to ensure that the water heater works and that there’s adequate pressure for the home. (Sellers may want to set their heater to between 118 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit if they happen to have it hotter than that, so the inspector doesn’t have to do any investigation into why the water is too hot — or even worse, come back a second time after the temperature has been adjusted.)
Visible wiring isn’t a dealbreaker in and of itself, but it needs to be appropriately wired and cared for — there should be no visible splices, and any cables should be secured and protected. If the visible wiring is in good condition, then you should be all set.
Some electrical panels don’t have adequate capacity for the size of home they’re servicing — a scary but true fact. Inspectors will make sure that the panel is sufficient for the size of the house and will also make sure there are no overheated fuses or breakers, in addition to checking the connections of any cables running into the panel.
The inspector will look to see if there’s an adequate number of outlets in each habitable room, for starters, but you can also expect the inspector to spot-check outlets here and there to see if they’re working properly, and to ensure they’re of the correct three-pronged type.
Light switches might seem like a small thing to worry about, but inspectors will nonetheless check to make sure that the light switches are working in the house. Sellers should do a self-check before the inspection and swap out any problematic light bulbs, and possibly even label a light switch if it connects to an outlet (with a floor lamp, for example) instead of an overhead light.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
It might get loud when the inspector checks the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but of course, you’d rather know those are working well before the house sells. Expect the inspector to check and even trigger the alarms to make sure everything is in good working order.
Floors and stairways
Inspectors will determine whether floors are level and look for any cracks, stains, or signs of damage; the inspector will also want to make sure that stairs have hand railings (if necessary) and that the treads and risers are solid, with no loose boards or other issues that might literally trip someone up.
In addition to checking for structural issues and leaks in the garage, inspectors will want to make sure the garage door is in good working condition — it opens and closes with no problems, and that automatic garage doors stop where they’re supposed to stop.
If it sounds like there’s a lot involved in a home inspection, well, there is! The inspection is one part of the process that’s helpful for both buyers and sellers in terms of protecting everyone’s interests, so ask for references (and even a sample inspection report) when choosing an inspector, and do your best to be present for the event itself so you can hear firsthand about any issues uncovered.
(Originally published – Realtor.com)