December 27, 2017
At this time of year, with dramatically swinging temperatures and all the freezing, thawing, and re-freezing, one of the biggest concerns for anyone in the housing market is finding potential water problems. No one wants to move into their dream home only to discover a leaking basement, roof, finding mould behind walls, sewage backups or toilets flooding. Water damage is expensive to fix both inside and outside your home.
A home inspection can and will give you some peace of mind. A good home inspector can usually identify whether you may have problems now or later, including when renovations may have been done to cover up old problems, so ask your Realtor for a referral if you don’t already have an inspector you trust.
Here is a checklist of a few water-related items to have your inspector look out for:
- Despite some claims to the contrary, a shingled roof will usually not last much more than 15 – 20 years. Curling or missing shingles can often allow water underneath and into the interior walls – an expensive proposition to repair! Inspectors will typically go up onto the roof during the inspection whereas some don’t. Ask them ahead of time how they go about checking the roof (especially in winter).
- Water in the basement can be another expensive repair. Often caused by improper grading, ground sloping towards the house, even slightly, can cause water to collect near the foundation walls. Clogged eavestroughs and downspouts either plugged or not pointed away from the home can also cause runoff issues and leaks, worsening over many years. Any outside cracks in the concrete can allow water penetration to the inside of the house. You and your inspector will want to look for signs of efflorescence (white chalky powder often found on basement concrete and block foundation walls) water marks, rust, stains or mould.
- In the case of a recent renovation in the basement, especially if it’s a DIY, the seller may have covered up an underlying existing problem without correcting it. What’s behind the drywall? In the case of an older home 40 years or more, the water pipes or wiring may not have been upgraded to today’s safety standards.
- Older exposed galvanized steel and cast-iron pipes can be replaced at far less cost than if the home has a finished basement. Sanitary sewer backups can destroy your basement. If you do suspect a potential problem there are companies who can create a video of your drainage systems to see whether there may be future problems and costs much less than you might think. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- As a buyer, why not ask sellers point blank if they have had any water leakage? A previous water issue doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house. If there was a previous issue, determine whether it was serious enough for an insurance claim. It may have been something minor and remedied easily by the owner. If you’re still in doubt, ask your Realtor to have the Seller provide a report from their home insurer confirming that no claims have been made against the property for water damage or sewage backups.
Be proactive with your home inspector, ask questions, and get recommendations for any abnormalities or future repair considerations. Often Buyers attending a home inspection appointment with their Realtor will spend that 3 hour period discussing paint colours and envisioning where to place their furniture rather than going through the home with the inspector. Don’t think of your home inspection as just something you need get through as quickly as possible. Being hijacked by your excitement and enthusiasm could end up costing you a lot of money in repairs down the road if you’re not paying attention now.