After 10 plus years conducting building inspections in Melbourne and Bayside suburbs around Cheltenham, Mr Inspector knows that most people are not trained or qualified building inspectors and for that reason we thought we’d list a few things you can keep in mind when out there looking for your new home.
We are fully aware that some people see things and believe the house is going to fall down when in actual fact, they may be defects that are easily rectified. Other house defects, you will not get to see, including roof frame defects, insulation in roofs, sub floor dampness, rising damp, stump rot, leaks from bathrooms into flooring and termites. These areas need to be thoroughly inspected visually and using specialist equipment that you won’t have.
The most common concerns we here from our house inspection clients are –
- Cracks in Internal Walls.
- Cracks in External Walls.
- Uneven Floors.
- Uneven or out of square doors.
I’ll start with Cracks in Walls.
Some cracks in the internal wall linings are relatively minor and nothing to be overly concerned about especially in older homes. If the home was 1-3 years old and cracking was developing, this would be concerning.
Cracks in old lath plaster wall and ceiling linings is common and may be due to age, may have occurred during re-stumping or can be footings settlement. The footings will need to be assessed under the house as a process of elimination. Normally after 80 years it is advised to remove lath and re-plaster.
Cracks at plaster lining sheet joins (perfectly horizontal or vertical line cracking) is common after some shrinkage and expansion. Plaster is attached to timber and tiumber contains moisture.
Horizontal or step pattern cracks over door and window openings is of more concern and this can be something to do with our footings/foundations. The stumps would need to be assessed here to adequately ascertain the cause.
Cracks are categorized depending on the width of the crack opening and the number of cracks. Normally step pattern cracks in external walls or straight cracks through an entire wall and masonry will mean some form of differential settlement int he footings or foundations. This can be have numerous from earth tremors, down pipes not connected to storm water, tree roots.
During Mr Inspectors Building Inspection he assesses uneven floors. These could be due to footings settlement, stump deterioration or rot or the home may not have been leveled adequately during re-stumping. The latter is better as you can re-level by packing is some circumstances. The uneven floor below is from a building inspection in Cheltenham.
Rot is known in the building inspection industry as Timber Fungal decay. During Mr Inspectors inspection all rot is noted and photographed. It can be rot on the fencing, window frames, weather boards, fascia or under bathrooms in the flooring and frame. Rot is Rot, it won’t get better and it is best to remove the source of the rot and replace the affected timber members. Rot is also a conducive factor to termite infestation.
Things You Won’t See.
The above may help but there are things you just won’t see. Termites you will never see, until you put your foot 0r hand through the timber whilst cleaning the house. We need to use moisture meters and timber testing to try to find them and the best place to start is under the home as termites come from the ground. The photograph below is from a building and pest inspection in Bentleigh and shows termites coming out of a stump. We only found these b y tapping and finding that the stump sounded hollow. A small knife cut was made and the termites came out.
You won’t see rising damp if the owner has recently painted. Mr Inspector uses a moisture meter on all lower walls which will indicate a damp problem. This is normally associated with a breach in the Damp proof course or it has deteriorated in older bitumen substantiate damp course. Rising damp can be a $3000 to $20000 repair bill depending on the size of the area concerned. The below photograph was taken by Mr Inspector during a building inspection in St Kilda and you can see the paint deterioration in the lower wall. Rising Damp is often found around fireplaces as these were not normally damp proofed years ago.
Sub Floor Dampness.
I can not see anyone other than a building inspector crawling under a home during an open for inspection. This area is the most important to be inspected as rarely does it get inspected. Bathroom leaks causing rot to floor and frame is common and so is excess damp in the sub floor soil. Leaking or broken plumbing pipework is common in older homes as well. We have seen shower bases that have not been connected and shower waste is landing under the home causing mould rot. The below photograph was taken by Mr Inspector during a building inspection in Bentleigh.
There are things you will see and be concerned about when maybe you shouldn’t. There are things you won’t see that you should be very concerned about. No offence meant to any potential home buyers, but you are not experienced and you are not qualified building inspectors who have the equipment to find defects so you should leave the assessment to the experts in this field.
We seen home buyers attend the open for inspections with their builder friend which we don’t recommend. A Builder will see obvious house defects, but he hasn’t got the time in an open for inspection to get under the house, tap all the timber for termites and check walls for rising damp. In just over 10 years Mr Inspector has never seen a builder friend get in the roof, on the roof or under the home and never seen them with a ladder or torch. I know it may be cheaper to do it this way, but it’s also a good way to lose a friend if defects get missed. If he was a smart friend, he’d decline you request and tell you to obtain the services of a qualified building inspector.