PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

[IMAGE: Maryland cape-style home image]Inspecting a Home: Inside and Out

Inspecting Indoor Household Systems

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the house's faucets and fixtures to ensure that they are working properly. Inquire about the pipes. First and foremost, pipes should not be made of lead. While many builders are beginning to install plastic PEX pipes, most existing houses have copper pipes. Beware of systems containing newer sections of piping, as that suggests that existing sections may soon need to be replaced as well. The system should have multiple shut off valves, and the water heater should run quietly. Banging noises can indicate loose pipes.

Electricity: Don't assume the home is wired to meet the requirements for your modern electronics. One hundred amps of power is the absolute minimum amount of power you will need. If you use electric heat, you'll need about 300 amps. Ask your inspector to examine your house's wiring system to ensure that each room is well served. Also make sure that every room has a generous number of well-placed outlets.

Heating & Cooling: Creating the optimal temperature balance will be crucial to making your home comfortable and energy efficient. Moreover, inefficient heating and cooling systems will end up costing you a lot of money. If the house uses a gas furnace, have it inspected to make sure the burners are free from clogs. With an oil furnace, make sure that the fittings are all in good condition and free from soot. Also make sure that the boiler is running quietly and that its controls work properly. Keep in mind that most systems over 15 years old will soon need to be replaced.

Inspecting the Exterior

Facade: Typically made of wood, vinyl or aluminum, siding is intended to enhance the aesthetic value of a house while also protecting it from the elements. Therefore, it should be as free from flaws as possible. Make sure that it is free of gaps, dents or cracks, and that there is no mildew or brown spots that could indicate water damage. Bricks should be clean, not crumbling, and the mortar should not be worn away. Fiber-cement and other composite sidings require little to no maintenance.

Windows and Doors: Windows and doors play a big role in keeping your home comfortable and energy efficient. Check that they are free of water damage (indicated by stains or softened wood) and that they fit tightly when shut. Also look for weatherstripping around windows and doors and storm windows to further insulate against the elements. Doors constructed from solid materials provide more effective insulation than hollow ones.

Termites: These wood-eating insects are difficult to avoid, but it is possible to repair much of the damage they inflict, even if it's structural damage -- although it won't be cheap. Ask the current owner if they have an inspection certificate and check for signs of infestation. Signs of current termite presence include mud tubes under porches and stoops.

Architectural Details: Aesthetic elements like porches and gables not only enhance a home's beauty, but they can also add value to the property. Be sure to note the condition of such features and if they are in need of any major repairs that could devalue the property.

Once you have checked these areas, continue with a room by room inspection.

Content updated on 8/7/2006

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