in Building Inspection & Testing
DEFECT CLUSTERS - CONTENTS: Home inspector David Grudzinski illustrates the cluster phenomenon: on some homes it's just one thing after another. Examples of home inspection clues that point to improper & amateur workmanship. Examples of home inspection findings suggesting building permit & approval problems. A quick tour of a home inspection discloses numerous defects, both major and oh by the way additional findings that appear as the inspector passes through the property. Example of a $350. home inspection that discoveries $20,000. of defects: avoiding a costly surprise for the new home owner
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Home defects may occur in clusters: this article illustrates the tendency of building defects to cluster in certain homes or other buildings.
To the eye of an experienced home inspector, at some properties one item after another keep leaping to attention. Professional home inspector David Grudzinski provided a series of photographs of a series of concerns all raised at a single property during a single inspection. David calls this brief presentation "Why Inspect Homes".
We've used his contribution to open a discussion of the phenomenon of defect clustering at certain homes and building inspections. Some home inspectors understand this phenomenon as "a little old house by a lake" as euphamism for a home that is probably going to have a lot of amateur work in poor or even unsafe condition.
A professional building surveyor or home inspector should approach every assignment without bias and with scrupulous attention. Nevertheless, sometimes as you step out of your vehicle and take your first look at a building, an experienced inspector will say to himself - uh oh.
How do you know if the work in your home was
done legally and with permits and inspections? Hopefully you had a home
inspection, and hopefully the home inspector recognized the signs.
But you as
the home buyer have the right to go to the local town building inspectors
office and ask what work has been done according to their records. Now it is
not always possible for the inspector for the town, and your home inspector to
know what was done and when.
Some things are concealed, But if the city
inspector tells you that the last registered and permitted item was a roof in
1978 and the roof is new, or the furnace is new, then you have uncovered a
[Oh by the way, the cover plate is missing on that switch on the furnace.]
Now it is not always possible for the inspector for the town, and your home inspector to know what was done and when. Some things are concealed.
But if the city inspector tells you that the last registered and permitted item was a roof in 1978 and the roof is new, or the furnace is new, then you have uncovered a problem.
[Oh by the way, the water heater was leaking]
The reason for the town inspector to come and inspect the work, is to
ensure that repairs have been done according to code, and standards. I recently
inspected a home for first time buyers, and I discovered a new furnace, that
was not inspected, not permitted, and not done well at all.
How do I know?
After further inspection, the gas line was
installed with no drip leg, and there was sloppy duct work and seeping seams.
It seems that the only part o f this job that was correct, was that the heating
was in the right house. The home buyer had no idea, and the Real estate agent
had no idea, and it was up to the home inspector to catch this.
my first indication was the fresh patch of cement on the foundation where the
oil fill pipes used to be, and then the PVC pipe at the foundation, which
indicated a high efficiency furnace with direct exhaust.
[Oh by the way, another open electrical junction box - missing cover plate - amateur or incomplete electrical wiring should raise questions about other electrical wiring and devices in the home.]
I also noticed that there was no "Firematic" safety valve on the oil line.
The problem here is
that there was only one pipe, and it was the wrong size, and not sealed, that's
just for starters.
[Oh by the way, the PVC pipe on the far right should have been connected to an exterior combustion air supply source. right now it's just sucking air, and in a damp lint-covered basement.]
Once inside, there was no Emergency shut off switch at the
top of the stairs as required, and then when I got to the basement, there was
no "firematic" thermal switch, no switch cover plate, exposed wires,
and no external air supply pipe. There was no filter assembly, and what's more,
no sticker from the town inspector.
[Oh by the way, the same home had vermiculite attic insulation. Some vermiculite insulation contains asbestos and could be an asbestos dust hazard.]
[Oh by the way, the same house had a full chimney - stuffed with ash and fallen debris, and chimney cleanout door. The chimney cleanout was closed using the "slide-a-brick" methods that is leaky, unsafe, improper. The home needs more than a fire door on this cleanout opening - the chimney needs to be cleaned and inspected for safety.]
the details, it turned out that the installer was the sellers girlfriends
father, and this was before they broke up.
[Oh by the way, the home had at least one rotten window (at left) and squirrel-damaged flashing.]
He decided to stop and not complete
the job since his daughter was no longer there. Its going to be a project to
repair this heating to "Proper condition" and its going to cost
money. the inspection saved them $1500.00 just there alone.
All told this
inspection will have resulted in $20,000.00 worth of defects found for the
Buyers. Not too shabby for a $350.00 home inspection.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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