Just as a fun exercise let's take a look at the house on Zillow's mobile app splash screen. Do we see any potential issues? I'm seeing a yellow flag at the foundation area. If we zoom in a little (see photo below) we see a concrete slab sticking out beyond the siding. The foundation is not supposed to stick out this way, so what is happening here? Evidence suggests this slab was an old porch/patio and the owners decided to build an addition into this area--peeking through the window it looks like it was renovated into a large open plan kitchen and dining area. I would look for confirmation of this in the crawlspace/basement- there probably isn't any access under this area. Here are a few reasons why this is an important observation:
1. Typically siding should be installed to direct water away from the framing but in this case the siding terminates right at the foundation slab. The slab is level and not sloped away from the house and water will sit there decaying the siding, sheathing and framing. I would scrutinize the outside and inside perimeter for water damage.
2. Patio slabs are usually not adequate for addition foundations. Patio surfaces are often sloped, thinner and do not have water proofing, insulation or conduits/chases for electrical/plumbing and ductwork. We do not know for certain this is the case but I would be looking for more evidence to support this theory (based on experience there is a high probability this is the case) Depending on what other defects I find I may ask the buyer to verify the construction permits for this addition.
3. I would be looking closely at how heating/cooling, electricity, and plumbing is provided to this area. I would also be looking at the framing, insulation and ventilation of the attic area. If the general contractor was careless enough to build a kitchen/dining room on a patio slab they probably made other amateurish errors and I would be looking closely for them.
Feel free to send me any other high profile house pictures that may have issues- this was fun! As always, if you are buying, selling, or maintaining a home be sure to hire a Home Inspector with renovation experience that can recognize patterns like this.
These FAILS are all from my home inspection reports, Many of these situations look harmless from the outside but in at least one example in every Fail the related damages in the finished walls, basements and crawl spaces caused the buyers to back out, In most cases the sellers lowered the asking price, sometimes by tens of thousands of dollars. All of these issues could have been prevented for cents on the dollar. If you are buying, selling or maintaining please read on and if your home is within 40 miles of Asheville consider calling us for an inspection.
FAIL #9: Splash blocks, perforated drain pipes and other fails:
Run-off should be directed at least 6 feet away from the house and splash blocks are inadequate for this purpose. An exception might be at a concrete or asphalt patios/driveways that are well-sloped away from the house. Downspout drain pipes should slope downhill and away from the house. The downspout drain pipes should not have any holes in it. The perforated types are for French drains only.
FAIL #8: Leaking gutter corners and seams:
Drip, drip, drip- it's water torture for your trim, siding and house foundation. All the seams, corners and end caps should be re-caulked or re-sprayed every 3 years.
FAIL # 7: Leaking downspout elbows and connections:
This subtle leak caused major framing damage in the crawl space- water entered between the siding and brick and down the wall. The lower section of the downspout should always be larger than the upper section. There may be leaks at the fasteners and seams. Check for corroded sections- especially with older copper downspouts. Clogged gutters and downspouts make these leaks worse.
FAIL # 6: Clogged sub-surface drains:
Sometimes all that can be seen is some erosion near the downspout. When the sub-surface drains clog the run-off typically overflows at the foundation areas. Because this can be difficult to see, the damages can be catastrophic over the years. Homeowners can test their downspouts drains by slipping a garden hose into them at full pressure for up to 5 minutes- try to find where the drain exits. The water should not overflow. Clogged black corrugated drains usually cannot be fixed or snaked- I'm seeing they have an 8 to 15 year life expectancy which is not good. I recommend upgrading with PVC pipes that do not easily break, clog or compress and they can be snaked-- these are lifetime products and well worth the minimal extra material and labor cost.
FAIL # 5: Missing splashguards at roof valleys
A lot of water collects a the roof valleys and heads toward the gutters at high volume and high speed. Splashguards help to prevent overflow and directs the water back into the gutters. The photo above was taken of a house with an expensive roof and gutter system. Overflow at the valley caused major structural damages to the main level and finished basement.
FAIL # 4: Missing, damaged, mis-aligned, and disconnected downspout drains
Any one of these is bad bad BAD for your foundation! I find these at almost every house I inspect. A little prevention goes a long way with roof drainage. Sometimes these fails can be very subtle or hidden by shrubs-- inspect these connections carefully.
FAIL # 3: Gutters, gutters, gutters!!
Trees over or near a house often create maintenance issues for the gutter system. Arborists should be hired for regularly trimming at houses with trees in close proximity. Old asphalt roofs shed granules which can also clog gutters. Clogged gutters overflow and damage the siding, trim, and foundation areas. Gutters should be cleaned in the Spring and Fall, sometimes more than once a season depending on the conditions. Check out this excellent article on gutter guards by Tim Carter: https://www.askthebuilder.com/gutter-protection-vs-gutter-cleaning-cost-analysis/
In most cases gutter installation is an art best left to the professionals. Gutters should slope adequately toward the downspouts but not too much or they will overflow. Special flashing is required where gutters terminate at walls and the gutter should always be spaced 1" from the siding. Loose gutters will allow water to damage the trim and framing behind the gutters.
FAIL # 2: Defective rain catchment systems
There are a lot of DIY and amateurish rain barrel systems out there. I am seeing that over 90% of them are creating big issues for the homeowners. Usually they don't have a very good overflow system (what happens to the water when the barrel fills?). In the example in the photo the finished room at the other side of this barrel needed to be fully gutted.
FAIL # 1: Missing gutters and downspouts
Even small sections of roofs without gutters can cause oversized damage to the home. Gutters and downspouts are really inexpensive compared to the damages that improperly managed roof drainage can create.
In Asheville rain catchment systems are a popular and eco-friendly way to capture and use rainwater- primarily for irrigation. The main advantages are that the water doesn’t contain chorine/fluorine added by county treatment plants and the homeowner can reduce their public water consumption and expenses.
Unfortunately most of the installations that I see while performing home inspections in the Asheville area are defective and can, if left un-repaired over many years, cause structural issues, water penetration, mold, rot, and air quality issues in the crawl space/basement. Before installing a rain catchment system homeowners should understand that they are modifying important components of the house drainage system- the downspouts and sub-surface drains- which are designed to protect the home from water damage. It’s not enough to run downspouts into a barrel because they will inevitably overflow during big rain events. Improperly installed systems will negate any water savings by causing expensive foundation repairs which is why a licensed landscaper and/or a rain catchment specialist should install these systems. Owners of these catchment systems should budget for regular maintenance and repairs and they should inform gardeners/maintenance workers, and renters/occupants about how the system works so they don’t move or damage the components.
The picture was taken at the Asheville Earth Fare at the Westgate Mall (a local institution and one of my family’s favorites).
According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau's data, an American's median net worth at age 70 is $225,000, but excluding home equity that number drops to $69,000. As the graph shows, Home Equity is, by far, the largest contributor to our net worth across all age categories.
This is why Buying, Selling and Maintaining a home are the most important financial decisions we make in our lifetime.
A house is a sanctuary and can also be a vehicle to real wealth if we take care of it. Unfortunately homes with undiscovered issues can lead to financial calamity. For example, un-checked water penetration and structural issues in a finished basement can lead to repairs in the 6 figures (quite common in our area). These costs could wipe out a homeowner's entire retirement savings.
Beyond considering location, valuation, timing, and cash flow Americans should consider the 3 Don'ts of Real Estate to enjoy the full financial benefits of home-ownership and minimize risks:
The 3 Don'ts of Real Estate:
Before buying or selling a home, or letting another year go by without a maintenance inspection, a home owner should hire a qualified Home Inspector to prevent and anticipate expensive issues When it comes to an objective and knowledgeable evaluation of a house, the independent Home Inspector is the homeowners best ally. Not all home inspectors are the same-- a good home inspector has real renovation and construction estimation experience and can recognize the difference between easy fixes and costly repairs.
Once defects are discovered, the home owner should work with a qualified general contractor to help prioritize, budget and to generate a repair plan.
It's hard to put a price tag on the enjoyment we get from our home but statistics also show that more than any other asset class every dollar and drop of sweat invested in our homes will pay us huge dividends later in life, especially for those that buy, maintain and sell well.
Owner of Builder Buddy Home Inspections
An Asheville area Real Estate Agent and Home Inspector tackle the question