By Mitch Kuffa
Let’s talk about kitchens & bathrooms. With the holidays upon us, these areas typically get more pedestrian traffic and use. What do you look for when inspecting a kitchen & bathroom? These 2 areas are the most complex of the habitable areas and the most heavily used. Here are some things to look for.
1. Are all of the cabinets secured to the walls or ceiling? This is especially important on upper cabinets or those hanging over peninsula’s or islands. Nailing itself is not considered adequate. Look inside, underneath or above the cabinet for screw heads. Grab the cabinet and gently tug. I have seen these cabinets come loose and actually fall with valuable dishes and crystal within.
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2. What is the condition of your countertops? Are they secured to the cabinets (lift up gently)? Are they sealed where they meet the walls or backsplashes (so as to discourage water from running behind)? Check the under the surface of the counter overhang, on plastic laminate tops just above built-in dishwashers. Years of steam rolling out of the dishwasher door many times has the tendency to damage the counter underlayment in these areas. Are all seams/joints nice and tight?
3. Are there at least 2 functional duplex plugs available (besides the one behind the refrigerator or range)? Are the plugs and switches secure, not worn and have proper cover plates? Today’s new construction codes require ground fault interrupter (GFI) capability for safety. These are easy to install in many instances. Discuss adding these with a licensed electrician. Always remember that anything that has to do with electrical is a health and safety concern.
4. What condition are the appliances in? Does everything work? Check all range burners and the oven. Is the range hood fan clean and functional?
5. Run the water for a few minutes. Are there any leaks under the sink? Does the water pressure remain constant? Does the disposal run normally (quiet with no vibration or leaks)?
6. How does the finish floor look? Are there any gouges or tears? Are all of the seams tight? Look around the perimeter edges to see if they are tight and secure. If there is ceramic tile, are there any loose pieces, cracks or dirty grout? If possible, look under the range and refrigerator (many times these areas are damaged, burned or have missing pieces).
7. Check cabinet doors and drawer function. See if the “lazy Susan” spins. If there are any slide-out shelves, see if they are functional and sturdy.
8. What is the condition of the sink? Is it caulked around the perimeter? Are there any chips? Are there the necessary drain stoppers or strainers? SPECIAL NOTE: Mothers, do not ever bathe your children in kitchen sinks! Steel, stainless steel or cast iron sinks conduct electricity and are within touching distance of electrical plugs and switches.
9. Is there enough working light?
10. Is the range gas or electric? Many times people buy new appliances and find out after they are delivered that they need to modify the hook-up.
1. Turn on all of the hot and then cold water simultaneously to see what impact it has on the water pressure (especially if the house has older galvanized water lines or is on a well system). Make sure to flush the toilet at the same time. Water volume and pressure should not change dramatically.
2. Do all the drains function normally?
3. Do you see any leaks or dripping faucets?
4. What is the condition of the bathtub and tub/shower recess? Make sure that the faucet handles, spigot and/or showerhead are tightly sealed or caulked where they penetrate the wall and recess material.
5. Are there any loose tiles, open seams, missing pieces or similar in the bathtub or shower recess (push on the recess walls with your fingertips)? There should be no loose or soft areas.
6. Is there an access panel behind the bathtub faucets so as to allow proper servicing?
7. Do the bathtub trip valve and showerhead work?
8. Is the vanity, wall hung sink or pedestal sink secure (give it a slight tug)?
9. Is the toilet secured to the floor (give it a gentle push with your knee)? A loose toilet can allow water to infiltrate beneath and deteriorate the sub-floor. All toilets should be caulked to the floor.
10. Is there a formal electrical outlet available with a GFI provision?
11. Does the bathroom have a heat source? Forced air heat registers should be located in the walls of bathrooms (not the floor) so as to prevent any water runoff from entering the ductwork.
12. What is the condition of the finish floor? Is there any softness underfoot (usually around the base of the toilet or the edge of the bathtub)? The area surrounding the toilet should be covered with a washable surface (for sanitary reasons). A tiled floor is preferable to carpet and the perimeter edges should be sealed and/or tight (so as not to allow water to infiltrate).
13. All bathrooms should have a functional window or draw fan in good working condition.
14. Make sure all ceramic is clean, caulked and grouted where necessary (grout has the tendency to hold germs).
15. There should preferably be toilet paper holders, towel bars, soap dishes and misc. storage (medicine cabinets, vanity, linen closet, etc.).
16. Is there any evidence of mold stains which are typically observed at the tub recess, in corners, under the toilet, etc.. These can be treated if necessary with economical products available at a builders supplier or hardware. Have a safe and happy holiday.
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Mitchell J. Kuffa Jr. has been in the construction industry since 1967. In that time, he has worked as a construction superintendent, general superintendent, and construction manager for several large developers in the state of Michigan.
He has been a licensed Michigan residential builder since 1977, was an incorporated general contractor for 11 years and has built and/or run the construction of approx. 3,500 residential houses, apartments, commercial structures and/or light industrial buildings.
In 1981 he started the first private home inspection agency in Michigan and to date has personally performed approx. 16,000 inspections for a fee.
Since 1981, Mr. Kuffa inspects properties and acts as a construction consultant for the Michigan Department of Mental Health (group homes), UAW Legal Services, numerous lenders, several non-profit organizations and for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Kuffa is a federal housing fee inspector and FHA 203K mortgage loan consultant, works with several attorneys’s as an “expert witness”, has been appointed by the Michigan circuit court system to act as a Receiver in several cases concerning construction litigation and teaches a series of construction classes (for misc. school districts, community colleges, Michigan State Housing Authority, etc.).
Mr. Kuffa has been a member of the National Association of Home Inspectors, in good standing, since 1983.