With the generous number of foreclosure homes and short sale homes on the real estate market today, they are often found without heat due to one or more disconnected utilities. This is a serious concern in the colder parts of the country.
While everything may appear fine, freezing conditions may have caused major damage. Often a property will have notices posted that it has been winterized. However, I have seen many a home that was not properly winterized or winterized only after cold weather has set in.
Plumbing and hot water heating systems are the number one concern that is affected by freezing due to lack of heat. Additional defects that often prevail are mold growth, damaged sheet rock and buckled floors. The mold growth can occur as an unheated home will gain a substantial amount of moisture. And when warmer weather returns, mold will have its way.
In severe cases, foundations have even been lifted by frost heaving of the soil. With a heated home there always is some warmth escaping adjacent through foundation which maintains the nearby soil from freezing. With an unheated home now the soil next to the foundation can freeze and if wet, can raise the foundation often causing severe structural damage.
Sometimes defects are apparent as in the home I inspected this past Monday. The property was posted as winterized. Nevertheless, most of the hot water heating system radiators and a baseboard heat unit showed severe freeze damage that will warrant replacement. There is also a high probability that hidden damage may be present to the hot water boiler, hot water boiler piping, water supply piping and plumbing fixtures. Often it is not possible to have the utilities turned on prior to closing. In any case, choose a highly experienced home inspector and prepare for surprises.
Below are photos showing freeze damage to one of the radiators and a baseboard heat unit.
Glen Fisher email@example.com