By Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona
As a home inspector, I regularly see improper work done by do-it-yourself home owners and house flippers. Some of it is cosmetic, which my home-buying clients are more likely to notice on their own, but much of it involves improper building system repairs, which can have dire consequences
Some home owners get pretty ambitious in an effort to save money, and the results bring to mind the old saying, “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.”
For instance, in the cosmetic realm, a home owner may know how to properly space the grout joint between tiles, but he starts the layout with a full-size tile on one side of a room instead of the center, leaving a sliver-sized piece on the other side. Or, he may install the baseboard first, and then the tile, leaving a grout joint all around the perimeter. If a home owner goes so far as to change a kitchen or bathroom layout, then it is common to see cabinet drawers that do not open fully because they hit the door trim. We also see bathroom doors that do not open fully because they hit the toilet.
Of course, my main concerns during the home inspection are the building systems. Most weeks, I find plenty of electrical, plumbing, HVAC and roofing mistakes.
Upside-down outlets and switches and miswired three-way switches are common do-it-yourselfer mistakes. Three-prong outlets installed without a ground wire are more serious problems, giving the impression an outlet is grounded when it is not. Other things I run across are missing outlet covers, indoor outlet plates on exterior outlets, extension cords used for permanent wiring, and light fixtures that are not moisture-resistant installed in or above showers.
I always run each faucet in a house until hot water comes out, and I do this for two reasons: first, to see that the left side controls the hot and the right side controls the cold, as a do-it-yourselfer could switch the supply lines; second, just to make sure that hot water runs to that fixture.
Home owners doing DIY plumbing repairs often do something else you wouldn’t expect a professional to do — they connect dissimilar metals. This will lead to galvanic corrosion. You often see this corrosion at hot water heaters, with galvanized pipe connected to copper pipe without a dielectric union or other method to isolate the dissimilar metals from each other.
Hot water heaters, in fact, may be the most likely place to find DIY mistakes. Not connecting a tube to the temperature/pressure-relief valve or connecting a plastic tube instead of a metal tube happens all the time. Other things to look out for are no drip leg on the gas line, lack of or improper fresh air feed, and improper flue pipe or flue pipe connection.
There is a list of mistakes I have run across with dishwasher installations: Often the dishwasher is not secured to the countertop above because the original countertop has been replaced with granite, which is not easy to drill into. Sometimes a dishwasher is installed in the process of getting the house ready for sale but is never run until the home inspection, which is when I find leaks. And often, the knockout in the disposal is not removed, so water will not drain.
DIY home improvement projects are great — just know the limitations of your skills and don’t be afraid to call in a professional to help.
Tagged: DIY, DIY fails, home improvement, home inspection, home inspector stories, Ken Roleke