While we do not always mention it, while essential to life, water is the number one item that will destroy your home. Most major items on a Home Inspection focus on water damage or preventing water intrusion. When we break the Home Inspection down to what really matters, almost all major items focus directly or indirectly on water. The only other items is focused on safety related items.
While water is an essential part of our living and remaining healthy, it is a huge destructive force that will quickly diminish the value of your home. Virtually every aspect of the building envelope is designed to keep moisture out and away from vulnerable materials and components. The best way to protect against any potential damage and loss is to ensure that the building materials surrounding the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant and in a good state of repair.
You will also need to ensure that the ventilation systems, designed to remove excess air borne moisture are working and well maintained. , The plumbing, both supply and drain also need to be operational and in a good state of repair.
Should water intrusion occur, you will need to act quickly to eliminate the problem quickly. Immediately remove any water lying around as well as any damp materials. Consult with a building professional to ensure that all has been taken care of properly. Water remaining in a house will quickly destroy building materials and lead to the growth of mold, you must react quickly.
Let’s Do Some Preventive Maintenance - Find and repair all cracks or leaks:
Water can enter the building, and when driven by wind can be pushed far into the walls and structure. Here are some common areas of intrusion and concern:
- Doors and Windows: These are designed to open freely, yet when closed have a good seal against the weather and moisture. Verify for any leaks around doors and windows. Use a smoke pencil if possible, and check on a windy day to find even the smallest intrusions. Fixing these will not only help prevent moisture intrusion, but will help with your heating and cooling energy costs as well.
- Roof Materials – Drainage & Vents: Roof slope has a lot to do with drainage, and while you can not change the slope easily, you can ensure the roofing material on your roof is correct for slope and is in a good state of repair. Drainage systems and flashing around any vents for exhausts and plumbing must also be inspected for condition and repaired when necessary. Do not procrastinate on roof related repairs, as these can quickly escalate into higher costing maintenance items in other structural areas of home. While not directly related to the home building materials, ensure no vegetation (trees) are touching the roofing material, recommended to keep back at least 3 feet, vegetation in contact with roof will cause a significant increase in degradation of materials and early failure, in fact my sons and I shingled a heated shop at a friends home a year ago and the only area which had serious shingle and roofing deck loss was where a pine tree was in close proximity with the roof.
- Exterior Walls and Foundations: While cracks in cement are common and almost unavoidable, one should be aware when cracks and holes appear in any exterior walls or foundations. While these often occur as a by-product of differential soil settlement, you should still take the time to seal them and prevent water intrusion.
- Don’t Forget The Plumbing: Leaking plumbing fixtures can quickly saturate building materials, not to mention adding to the water bill. Check for any leaking plumbing fixtures, dripping pipes and clogged drains. Fix any dripping faucets and leaking joints. The time and cost to fix small plumbing leaks is a great investment.
- Air Conditioning System: Most of our air conditioners in Canada are integral to the furnace, and operate only for a very short period of the year. These all have condensate drains, which carry away the water extracted from the air during the cooling process. I have seen on several occasions where these drains either do not flow to a proper drain or are clogged, causing water to flow into the basement. While it may not seem like much, it does not take long for this water to flow through the basement and cause serious damage to carpeted or finished areas of the basement.
As a Certified Master Inspector, I have taken many hours of training in all areas of the home related to control and containment of moisture intrusion as well as how to recognize defects and damage related to water and/or moisture. I also carry moisture meters and infrared cameras allowing detection of water or moisture which not be detectable or visible to the naked eye.
Do not ignore the importance of the professional Home Inspector in your next Real Estate transaction. The knowledge, training and specialized equipment that the Home Inspector can bring to the table can provide you with Peace of Mind for years to come.