By Mitch Kuffa
When we inspect houses, it is very common to discover small items that seem to be of no consequence. But if you stop and think about it, these small items if left unattended or neglected will allow the condition to get worse. It is very common to have someone say, “I just want to know about the major things.”
The following is a list of typical items that might be considered insignificant but can lead to more expense and/or dangerous situations.
1. Small electrical issues such as loose switches, cracks in plugs, missing cover plates, fuses that blow regularly, etc., are all small items. Electrical in general can become very dangerous and any irregularity, no matter how insignificant it may seem, should be attended to. I have seen an ill taped electrical wire splice and cause a house fire. Don’t play around with electrical and if you are not sure about any irregularity, have a licensed electrician review and repair.
2. It is very common to find stairways or steps that have shortcomings such as missing assist rails, unequal rises, loose treads, open stringer details (where a small child could fall off the edge), loose carpeting, etc.. When you look at a set of steps, always think about a child or senior walking up/down that area. Our office has been involved in lawsuits that concern pedestrian traffic issues (trip and fall).
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3. Small leaks are often ignored. If you see any evidence of a plumbing or roof leak, attend to it immediately. These conditions will definitely get worse and end up damaging plaster, rotting hidden structural members, encouraging infestation, etc.. The problem so many times is that they leak into hidden areas. Also, a leaky plumbing problem can consume a major amount of water over a long period of time (which again costs money).
4. Look at loose items that were not intended to be loose. Toilets rocking on the floor can indicate a problem. Wall hung sinks are supposed to be secured to the wall. Countertops should be secured to the cabinets they are sitting on. Loose doors can rub on tracks or loosen hinges. It typically does not take too much effort to secure loose items. If it was not meant to be loose and is, neglecting it will only allow other things to degenerate.
5. Here’s one of my favorites that I commonly observe after they cause more damage. It is not uncommon to walk into a room and see a relatively large hole in the plaster/drywall behind the door because there is no door bumper. Now we have to patch a hole in the wall that could have been avoided by simply installing an inexpensive door bumper.
6. The importance of keeping gutters and downspouts clean is self-explanatory. If they are dirty they will overflow and can eventually start leaking into the basement. Approximately 90% of homes we inspect do not have the proper extensions on all of the downspouts. This item discharges water away from the building to help prevent the water infiltration condition.
7. Missing caulking, in important areas, can allow leaks, energy waste, and deterioration. The basic rule of thumb on the outside of the house is that all doors and windows located in brick areas should be caulked. Where different construction materials meet (brick to siding, wood to aluminum, etc) need to be kept sealed. It is important to caulk interior areas (where the toilet meets the floor, countertops meet the walls, around sinks, etc.). A little inexpensive caulking can save big repair bills later.
8. Don’t forget to occasionally stick your head up into the attic or down into the crawl space. It is interesting how often these areas are avoided/neglected. People do not like to explore these hidden cavities of the house, but many times there are holes, leaks, little living creatures, etc.. All of these can cause damage if not attended to. Remember that “out of sight, out of mind” can cost you money!
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Mitchell J. Kuffa Jr. has been in the construction industry since 1967. In that time, he was 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 attorney’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.