By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina
From this home inspector’s perspective, one of the scariest things about many home inspections is what I can’t see. As you probably know, a home inspection is a “non-invasive” inspection of readily-accessible components and systems. That means that the things hidden inside walls or other inaccessible areas are not inspected. If a home inspector had X-ray vision or some other super-power, I feel sure that inspection reports would list a lot more areas of concern. Here are a three “real life” examples of what I’m talking about.
Several hundred homes in a nearby housing development were constructed 20-30 years ago. Almost all the homes were clad with composite hardboard (Masonite type) siding, and no re-siding has been done on approximately half the homes. A small percentage of the homes now have cement-fiber siding, and the remainder are now clad with vinyl siding. It’s pretty common knowledge that most 20-30 year old composite hardboard siding has some amount of deterioration, and a lot of it is badly deteriorated……maybe to the extent of allowing water to reach the structural components and cause decay and other moisture-related issues….and this development is no exception. (Of course, there’s also plenty of decay typically found in the window sills and trim, door jambs, etc. on these homes.) When inspecting one of these homes with deteriorated hardboard, it’s easy to report the defects and indicate that there could be structural damage due to water intrusion. The scary homes in the development are the ones that have vinyl siding and aluminum trim installed. You just have to suspect that the newer surface treatment was installed right over whatever deterioration and decay existed, without much thought of whether any underlying damage was present. Unfortunately, there’s not much to report here, as long as the siding and trim is intact and installed properly, and there’s no other evidence of structural problems.
Occasionally, we’ll inspect a home with an area (such as a basement) that was obviously finished by the homeowner. (Well, maybe they did invite some friends to join in and provide some pizza and beer.) It seems that most of the time, we’ll find some kind of electrical deficiency (such as a spliced electrical cable not enclosed in a junction box) in an accessible area of the same home. You just have to wonder if similar conditions exist behind the finished walls or ceilings. Again, there’s not much to report unless you can see it.
Many homes (especially older homes) have portions of the crawl space that are inaccessible, due to low clearances, ductwork, etc. It’s not uncommon to find structural problems, electrical problems, etc. in the accessible areas of these crawl spaces. So, why would I think that everything is “just fine” in the areas of the crawl space that I can’t inspect?
The “gut feeling” that goes along with inspecting a property like this is not the best. You want to make sure that the condition of the property is as accurately represented as possible, and your gut tells you that there are probably some hidden items that need repair. I guess that the best we can do is just try and make sure the client knows that there are areas in the home that we can’t see or inspect.
Tim Shuford is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Jamestown, North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 336.823.6605 to schedule your home inspection with Tim.
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