Electrical Systems – Common Home Inspection Findings

Inexpensive cover plates, that a homeowner can install, on switches, receptacles (outlets), and junction boxes enclose energized components of electrical systems.  Installing cover plates is critical to ensure safe operation of electrical systems and prevent shock or electrocution, yet, It is common to find one or several cover plates either missing or damaged.

missing cover plate - electrical systems

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters GFCI’s are receptacles designed to prevent a person from receiving an electrical shock. GFCIs are commonly installed in electrical systems near sources of water, including, but not limited to, the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, garage and the exterior.  To be effective, the GFCI’s must trip when tested, and reset.  GFCIs should be evaluated, repaired or replaced by a qualified electrician.

malfunctioning GFCI

Knockouts are removable sections of an electrical panel.  The knockouts can be removed for the installation of breakers, conduit, and wires.  If knockouts are removed and the holes are not properly filled with breakers, conduit, wires, and fasteners or covered properly, an individual gaining access to the electrical panel without knowledge of the components inside of the panel could receive a fatal shock.  Missing knockouts also provide an entrance for mice and other insects.  Rodents and insects could cause major problems inside the electrical panel.  Missing knockouts should be repaired or replaced by a qualified electrician.

missing knockout - electrical systems

Following the manufacturer’s specifications and installation instructions ensures electrical systems will operate correctly.  Panels and breakers are often labeled as being able to be connected to one or two circuits or conductors.  Panels or breakers specified by the manufacturer as only being designed to accommodate one circuit or conductor should only be connected to one wire or conductor.  Adding additional conductors increases the potential for an arcing, tripping, overloading, or overheating. Double tapped breakers should be evaluated, repaired or replaced by a qualified electrician.

double tapped breaker - electrical systems

Forced Air – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning – HVAC Systems – Common Home Inspection Findings

Air flow to the air conditioner condenser, the air conditioning unit located outside of the home, should not be restricted by particulate accumulation on the condenser coils/fins. Excess particulate accumulation leads to inefficient operation of the air conditioning system.  Homeowners should routinely check the condenser unit and clean it as directed in the owners’ manual.

dirty condenser coil - HVAC systems dirty condenser unit - HVAC systems

HVAC forced air system filters should be checked every month or every other month during operation.  Keeping the HVAC systems operating efficiently is important for energy savings, comfort and air quality.  Furnace and air conditioning duct work typically contain a filter located within a couple inches of the furnace.  This air filter typically should be changed every month to two months during operation.

dirty filters - HVAC systems dirty filters - HVAC systems

Forced air HVAC systems often include a humidifier.  The humidifier typically contains a water panel that needs to be changed at the beginning of the heating season.  The water panel may also need to be changed during the season.  Refer to the owners’ manual or search the model number of the humidifier online to become familiar with operations and maintenance of the humidifier system.

Some forced air systems include an ERV/HRV (Energy Recovery System or Heat Recovery System).  These systems are designed to exchange air inside the home with air outside the home.  Filters within the systems need to be routinely checked and changed as directed.  Most ERV/HRV systems contain a set of maintenance directions inside the unit.  Refer to the owners’ manual or search the model number of the system online to become familiar with operations and maintenance.

Evidence of a leak from the evaporator coil of the air conditioning unit (portion of the air conditioning system inside the home), should be evaluated by a qualified HVAC technician as soon as possible.  Leaks may be caused by a clogged condensate line, a frozen evaporator coil, a cracked drain pan, a hole in the refrigerant line, or other issues.  If a leak is allowed to continue, more significant and costly damage to the HVAC systems can occur.



Laundry Area, Common Home Inspection Findings

Three of the most common findings in the laundry area are unsecured laundry sink legs, disconnected dryer vents, and plastic, vinyl or light-weight venting material.


If a laundry sink sits on top of legs, it should be securely fastened to the floor.  Without proper fasteners securing legs to the floor, the laundry sink may move.  Movement may cause laundry sink drain pipe connections to loosen, resulting in leaks.  Movement may also cause laundry sink water supply line components to loosen, resulting in leaks.  Many laundry area leaks can be avoided by securing laundry sink legs to the floor.

Landry Sink - Laundry Area

Dryer vents may disconnect during installation or when dryers are moved.  Disconnected dryer vents cause lint to accumulate on surfaces of a room and cause issues associated with excess moisture or humidity in a home.  Check dryer vents to make sure they are properly fastened or secured at joints and connections.

Disconnected Dryer Vent - Laundry Area

Using metal dryer vent material is important in the laundry area.  It may be easier to install flexible vinyl, flexible plastic or other light weight dryer vent materials, but the materials increase the potential for lint clogging the vent; lint accumulating and catching fire or combusting; holes forming in the material, allowing lint and moist air to escape; and the vent becoming compressed or restricted and decreasing the efficiency of the dryer or causing the dryer to overheat.

Light Weight Dryer Vent Material Light Weight Dryer Vent Material, Restricted Dryer Vent Bent/Restricted Dryer Vent - Laundry Area

Aluminum, steel, or other metallic dryer vent materials that are smooth on the inside and typically semi-rigid are available at hardware stores.

The Attic – Common Home Inspection Findings

Most homeowners rarely enter the attic.  The access is typically located in a difficult to reach closet ceiling, garage ceiling or wall.  The door/hatch/panel is often small.  Many access points are surrounded by insulation, the walking space or crawl space is low.  Navigating through the space is tricky because one has to find framing components to walk across.  In some instances, navigating an attic is impossible due to the depth of insulation.

The most common home inspection findings in an attic are displaced insulation, low level of insulation, and vents that terminate in an attic.

No Insulation - The Attic. Low Level of Insulation - The Attic

When HVAC, tv antenna, venting, or other electrical work is performed in an attic, insulation must often be moved for installation or repair.  In some instances, insulation is not returned to the original position, leaving an area above the ceiling with very little insulation cover.  The low level of insulation cover reduces the R value of the insulation and the energy efficiency of the home.  Homeowners, who find that insulation has been displaced, can add new insulation or return displaced insulation to the area.  If the displaced insulation is in an area of recessed lighting, Bvents, or exhaust vents, contact a qualified insulation contractor to determine whether insulation should be added to the area.  These components often require adequate clearance from insulation to avoid potential fire hazards.

In the past, a few inches of insulation may have been sufficient in an attic when the home was built.  As the demand for energy efficiency of homes and the desire of homeowners to decrease utility bills increase, the recommended depth of insulation for attics increases.  Four to six inches of insulation above a living space is a low level of insulation that has very low R value and energy efficiency.  The R value and depth of insulation recommended to achieve desired R value and energy efficiency varies among brands and types of insulation.   Most homes are insulated with loose fill insulation in the form of fiberglass or cellulose.  Some homes are insulated with fiberglass batt insulation.  Combinations of insulation brands and types are also often found in attics.  Homeowners should contact a qualified insulation contractor to evaluate an attic with a low level of insulation to determine the type and amount of insulation needed to adequately insulate an attic space.

Inserting oven/range venting through a ceiling, attic, and roof is common.  Inserting bathroom venting through a ceiling, attic, and roof is also common.  Either oven/range venting or bathroom venting that terminates in the attic rather than passing through and above the roof can cause serious damage to an attic space.  Some terminated vents may have been installed by homeowners or installers that were unaware of the damage it could cause.  Some terminated vents are the result of couplings or other components of the venting coming loose or detaching, resulting in pipes or venting falling into the attic insulation.

Disconnected Vent - The Attic abandoned vent

Is is critical that vents pass through and above the roof and discharge warm, moist air to the exterior of the home.  Vents that terminate in the attic, discharge warm, moist air.  Moisture condenses on trusses, rafters, OSB sheeting, plywood sheeting, other faming components, and insulation.  Moisture condensing on wood can cause the wood components to deteriorate, compromising the utility of the framing materials.  Excess moisture can also cause mold to grow.


Open Joints – Common Home Inspection Findings

Properly filling open joints can save a homeowner thousands of dollars in costly concrete or pavement repairs.  The joint, where the concrete or paved driveway meets the concrete garage apron or floor, should be properly filled to prevent or reduce water from seeping through the joint.  Joints also exist where a concrete step or stoop meets the concrete walkway, where a concrete patio meets the foundation, etc.  Typically the joints are filled with a foam or fiber type filler.  In some instances, the filler that was originally installed in the joint may have deteriorate or fallen below the surface of the joint.

Stoop - Open Joints Garage Floor - Open Joints

If the grade of the concrete or pavement slopes toward the home, excess rain water can seep through the open joint.  Homes lacking gutters or plagued with clogged gutters may have excess rain water falling in the vicinity of the open joints.  In general, rain or surface water seeping through joints poses a problem.

If rain water or melt water containing salts from snow melting off cars in the garage seeps through the joint it may cause the soil below to become saturated and settle.  The settled soil may leave a void below the garage floor slab and/or the driveway surface.  When a heavy vehicle passes over, the concrete may crack and settle, leaving the homeowner with uneven concrete.  Saturated soil that freezes and thaws may increase the possibility of concrete or paved surfaces cracking, heaving, and settling, causing uneven surfaces and tripping hazards.

Cracked Concrete Garage Floor

The salt water from snow melting off cars combined with additional rain water may cause increased deterioration of concrete block foundation below the surface of the garage floor.

Homeowners can fill open joints with foam backer rod and the proper concrete caulk or sealant.  These materials can be purchased at hardware stores.  If the homeowner is not a do it yourselfer, then consider hiring a qualified contractor to complete the repair.

Windows – Common Home Inspection Findings

Windows are a very important element of the home.  Homeowners expect them to easily operate and want to see clearly out of clean glazing (window).

The most common home inspection findings related to windows are inoperable hardware, windows that are difficult to open or close, cracked glazing, broken seals, deteriorated rails and stiles, and deteriorated exterior window trim.

Hardware may be missing or broken.  Handles, arms, bushings, rollers, locks, and hinges may be missing, damaged or broken resulting in an inability to easily open, close or lock them.  Windows in homes built several decades in the past, may contain a pulley, chain or weight system that assist a person opening or closing a window.  Often the pulleys or chains are separated from the weights.

Frayed Window Cord - Windows Inoperable Window Latch - Windows

Some are difficult to open or close.  The operator may have to apply significant pressure to open or close them.  Structural movement of the home may shift components, the force of which prevents it from opening or closing.  Installation may have been improper, and components of the window may shift or move. In some instances, it may not open due to paints or finishes that seal windows shut.  In addition, windows may have been installed that were constructed with products that may not withstand intense sunlight or extreme temperatures.

Glazing or glass components may be cracked, broken or missing.  It is common to find one or two glass block basement windows, within a set of windows, cracked or broken.  Glazing of a single pane or double pane window may be cracked, broken or missing.  Offset breaks or breaks in a window that can be opened and closed may pose a potential for injury.

Broken Window Glazing - Windows Broken Window Glazing - Windows

The majority of double and triple pane windows contain sealant around the edge of the glazing or glass.  They often contain a gas that is inserted between the window panes; the gas increases the energy efficiency of the window.  If the seal breaks or sealant no longer adheres to the glazing or glass, moisture and other particles in the air may seep between the double panes, resulting in water vapor or water droplets that adhere to the inside of the glazing or glass.  The residue that is left behind cannot be cleaned and windows begin to discolor or cloud.  The homeowner will no longer have a clear view through the window.  Energy efficiency of the window also decreases.

Broken Window Seal Evidence of Broken Window Seal - Windows

Windows containing wood components, especially exterior wood components, may be susceptible to deterioration from moisture.  In some cases, wood rails and stiles, the frame around the window, may deteriorate.  Opening one with a rotted component may result in a window breaking into pieces.  Some manufacturers have recalled windows with rotted components due to issues discovered in the window manufacturing process.

Rotted Stile

Components of exterior wood trim exposed to rain or moisture and not routinely properly painted or sealed may deteriorate.  Deterioration of the exterior components will continue unless the trim components are properly repaired, painted or sealed.

Deteriorated Window Trim Deteriorated Window Trim

Repairing damaged hardware may be relatively inexpensive if replacement parts can be found and easily replaced.  Some may be repairable and a qualified window repair contractor may be able to fix rather than replace them.  When windows are unable to be repaired, replacement of windows may need to occur, which is usually the most expensive option.  In some instances, components of the window may be replaced.  In other instances, the entire window may need to be replaced.

Weatherstripping – Cracked, Deteriorated or Missing – Common Home Inspection Findings

Weatherstripping around home entry doors and garage doors is built into the doors or has been added to doors to limit or prevent air from passing through the spaces between the doors, jambs, and threshold.  It also prevents rain and insects from entering the home.

In the summer, weatherstripping limits the amount of conditioned or cool air from escaping the home or garage and the amount of warm air from entering the home or garage.  In the winter, it can limit the amount of warm air from escaping the home or garage and amount of cool air from entering the home or garage.  Maintaining it is important in maximizing energy efficiency of a home.  Replace cracked, deteriorated or missing sections.

Cracked Weatherstripping Cracked WeatherstrippingMissing Weatherstripping

Not only will inexpensive weatherstripping maximize the energy efficiency of a home, it will improve the appearance of a home, keep out unwanted insects, and prevent rain water from entering around doors.

Chimneys and Facades – Common Home Inspection Findings

Cracked Bricks and Deteriorated Mortar/Cement on Chimneys, Brick Veneer and Facades, and Decorative Architectural Features

Water and the Minnesota weather freeze-thaw cycles may deteriorate brick veneer surfaces and components of chimneys.  The older the home, the more likely it is to find that brick components of a home have begun to deteriorate.

The chimney is often an element of the home that is out of sight and out of mind.  Due to the inaccessibility of many chimneys, homeowners rarely inspect them.  Deterioration is commonly found in chimneys over 40 years old.

The crown of a chimney should be free of cracks.  Proper seals should be installed around the clay or metal flue/vent to prevent water from seeping into the internal components of the chimney.  Brick should be free of cracks/deterioration and mortar/cement should be free of cracks, disintegration, or separation from bricks.  Chimney repair, fireplace, or masonry contractors often repair or replace cracked crowns, cracked bricks, and deteriorated or separated mortar/cement.

Deteriorated Chimney Brick and Mortar Cracked Chimney Crown

Brick veneer or facades of a home may also contain cracks and deteriorated/separated mortar/cement.  Cracks are often found near the corners of windows and doors.  Cracks spanning several courses should be evaluated by a qualified mason.  Cracks may continue to increase in size and compromise the veneer/façade or decorative architectural features if water infiltrates cracks and freezes/thaws, or movement of foundation/structural components continues.  Significant deterioration of mortar/cement may cause brick components to become unstable and fall.

Loose Brick Facade. Cracked Brick Facade. Brick Facade with Deteriorated Mortar

Routine homeowner inspections and proper maintenance of brick components of a home may preserve chimneys, veneers, facades, and decorative architectural features of a home.  Hiring a qualified contractor to properly repair cracked bricks and deteriorated mortar/cement on chimneys and brick veneer can save thousands of dollars in future repairs.  Preventing significant deterioration of mortar/cement may reduce the possibility of brick components becoming unstable and falling to the ground.

Caulk and Sealant – Common Home Inspection Findings

Preventing rain or melt water from intruding behind siding and roofing coverings is important.  Water damage can cause deterioration of OSB, plywood, buffalo board and other construction materials.  During new construction, residing or reroofing projects, contractors apply new caulk and sealant around siding and roofing penetrations.  Common penetrations through siding include electrical conduit, cable, gas lines, and air conditioning refrigerant lines.  Some siding installations require it to be applied to joints.   It is often applied to nails and other fasteners used to secure vents and flashing to roof components.

Deteriorated Caulk and Sealant Missing Caulk and Sealant Deteriorated Caulk and Sealant

Sunlight and Minnesota weather cause caulk and sealant to weather, crack, separate and deteriorate over time.  It is used to cover roof flashing/vent fasteners and fill gaps between siding materials and electrical conduit, cable, gas lines, and air conditioning refrigerant lines, etc. eventually deteriorates, cracks, or falls out of the opening.  Rain or melt water may seep through the cracks and holes and cause deterioration of interior components.  Insects may find the holes and enter the interior.

Once per year, check penetrations and joints for deteriorated/separated caulk/sealant.  Homeowners can proactively maintain it by properly applying recommended products to penetrations and joints that show evidence of cracking or deteriorating.

Leaks and Inoperable Plumbing – Common Home Inspection Findings

Leaking Drain Pipe - Plumbing Leaking Faucet Handle - Plumbing

Many plumbing issues, leaks and inoperable plumbing, can be found by running water in tubs, showers, and sinks.  Look at the handles, pipes, faucets, shower heads, etc. above, below and behind coverings to identify leaks.  When necessary, contact a qualified plumber to repair the leaks.

The most common plumbing issue found in bathroom sinks is an inoperable drain stop.  Drain stops stop water from flowing through the drain so that a sink basin holds water. Typically, inoperable drain stops are relatively easy to fix and can be repaired by locating the drain stop components below the counter and making the necessary adjustments using common tools.

Leaking drainpipes are commonly found under kitchen, bathroom, and laundry sinks.  Sometimes a homeowner may be able to fix the issue by simply tightening/adjusting joints/connections. If tightening/adjusting connections does not work, contact a qualified plumber for repairs.

Leaking Drain Pipe - Plumbing

Shower head leaks are common at connections.  The homeowner may be able to fix the issue by simply tightening connections or replacing a relatively inexpensive shower head.  When necessary, contact a qualified plumber for repairs.

Leaking Shower Head Connection

Faucets and handles often leak.  Water usually drips or trickles around the valve or is found at the base of faucets or handles where they are secured to countertops, tubs, showers, tile, etc.  If not repaired, water may drip or trickle under the base and along water supply lines.  The trickling water can cause damage to drywall, floors, sink cabinets etc.  If the homeowner is unable to properly repair or replace the leaking components, contact a qualified plumber.

Leaking Faucet Handle

White or green deposits on pipes and valves may be an indication of past or present leaks.  Most leaks should be repaired by a qualified plumber.

Corroded Copper Pipe

Water supply lines that are not properly secured may move.  Movement may result in leaks forming at joints or connections.  Properly installing fasteners/brackets to secure pipes can prevent future leaks.

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