Rich Duerkop, For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin3:54 p.m. CDT October 20, 2016
Question: I asked my home inspector what kind of warranty or guarantee he offers, and he said none. Why is that?
Answer: It is impossible for a home inspector to predict what is going to happen in the future, especially if his or her recommendations and information in the report is not followed. Here are some great examples:
- Just because a basement is dry the day of the inspection does not mean that at some time you couldn’t get water in your basement. If I see old water stains in the basement, I suggest the home buyer monitor for future moisture penetration. Another thing I look for is the grade of the landscaping on the exterior of the home. Is there a gutter and downspouts with long extensions to carry water away from the foundation and are the gutters cleaned out? Sometimes even though there are not any signs of moisture penetration and everything appears to be in line, you get a heavy rain and moisture enters the basement. It is impossible to predict.
- A water heater is another item in the report. If a water heater is nearing 10 years old I would mention it is nearing the end of its normal life span. If it is 10 years or older, I would mention it is beyond its normal life span. Industry average is 10 years. Mine went out at 11 years. I have seen some go out at 5 years and have seen some still in operation that were well beyond their industrial average of 10 years. To help extend the life of your water heater, drain a pail of water out of the spout on the bottom of the unit every month. This will help get rid of the sediment. If you hear your water heater rumbling and thumping, it is most likely full of sediment and the unit is working extra hard because it has to heat water constantly because there is very little room for the water because of the sediment. I have helped friends in the past pull a water heater out of a basement that was so heavy because it was full of sediment it took four of us to get it out and we were worried the steps might not hold because of all the weight.
- Furnaces are another category. The newer ones are especially hard to assess unlike the old ones. The new ones are sealed so the only way to assess them is by doing a carbon monoxide check at the closest register and the exhaust. The older ones are not sealed and you usually can get a good look inside for rust and cracks. If a furnace has a lot of rust flakes, I automatically recommend a clean and check. If the furnace filter is extremely dirty, that tells me it has not been properly maintained and should be evaluated by a heating specialist. I recommend some furnaces be checked and they weren’t and then they failed.
- Roofing is another unpredictable item. Sure, if they are brand new it is easy to say they are in satisfactory condition. But what if they are in mid-stage of life, 7 to 14 years old and are showing signs of heavy granule loss but are flat and show no signs of curling or cupping? I would mention in the report that the shingles are in the last stage of life and to monitor. Last stage means you might get some life out of them or you might get very little. It is impossible to predict how much life you will get out of them. Now if they are cupped and curled or they are showing open blisters they appear to be near the end of life, I recommend a contractor evaluate all roof areas. Remember never put new shingles over old ones. The recommendation is you can have two layers if the bottom layer is flat and in good condition. If they are in good condition why are you changing them? Never put shingles over cedar shakes, which I see often in older homes. I have seen up to four layers in some homes. If there are three layers on a home, even if the work was just done, all of the layers must come off.
- Another thing we don’t have is x-ray vision. A home inspection is a visual inspection only. We are not allowed to remove flooring or carpet. We do not move personal effects. If the seller has a large amount of storage, that could hinder the accuracy of the inspection, it should be removed by the seller.
You have to follow the items in the report that should be addressed. As inspectors, we try to do our best to protect our clients and do the best job possible and to offer the best advice we can, but unfortunately, we cannot predict the future.