Sometimes I just want to say run!

I arranged to meet with a client not too long ago for an inspection on a log home up here in Muskoka. The client informed me the waterfront home is in a small lakeside community presently being used by the contractor/owner seasonally as a cottage, and it has been all redone inside. His description and enthusiasm made it sound really great. I asked as I usually do if he had any specific concerns he wanted looked into. He told me he was unsure about the foundation work as the home had been lifted years before but everything now was covered up by the finished basement so could I try and ensure the foundation and structure was in good condition. I told him I would take whatever extra time I needed to access any place where I could get a look and get all the information I could on it for him. 

On the day of inspection I arrived a little early as I try to do and I started the home inspection from the road looking at the roofline. No sag, no humps or waviness from a distance, it's looking good so far. As I get closer, snapping photos all the time I see the chimney looks like it is missing some flashing but I will wait to confirm this when I get up on the roof. When I set up my extension ladder and climb the roof sure enough the roof has been reshingled within the last year or two and there are missing flashings around the chimney and around the plumbing vent pipe. The electrical mast and  bolts securing it like all the other flashing points are covered with black roofing cement instead of being properly flashed. Roofing cement and caulking will fail and unless the client is willing and able to go up on the roof every year to maintain the sealant the first notice they will get is when the ceiling starts leaking. By then who knows how much damage has been done to the framing and roof sheeting. About the time I finished taking pictures of the roof the client and a realtor showed up, Time to walk the outside with the client.

I introduced myself and found out the clients were a married couple with an extended family looking to buy a cottage they could all enjoy. This home with a fully finished basement they believed would have the room to accommodate the whole family on weekends. As we started around the home I noticed and pointed out several items both good and not so good. Many of the not so good things related to poor workmanship such as caulking with clear silicone. Silicone is a very poor choice for outside use as  it has little  protection from uv rays, unlike mono types which are formulated for outside use.  I noted windows were missing dripcaps which is not unusual, however, with log construction there is no j moulding to carry water around to the sides and sooner rather than later the top of the window will leak moisture into the wall. I noted several more minor issues as we completed out tour of the exterior. The client suggested what I was seeing here was probably less than the best workmanship. I agreed and they explained they had seen some of these things on their first visit but so far thought that the family would be able to put the things I reported on right without too much effort or cost as they had some handy family members.  Time to continue on inside

The inside at first look appeared near newly redone with some slight use. There were some marks on walls, a small scratch on the laminate counter, scrape marks on the wood floors but in good condition overall. When I checked under the sink however there was a 7 dollar type cheater vent in place. This immediately told me that no plumber did this install as these are illegal, they are not even csa approved, and it told me that no final building inspection took place. That meant I needed to look even more closely for faulty plumbing. Sure enough, even though there was a vent stack through the roof outside, when I checked the main floor bathroom it too had a cheater vent under the sink. No proper venting on the main floor at all.

The main electrical panel I discovered inside one of the newer upper kitchen cabinets something that is not allowed now and since it hasn't been for some time, I had to suspect the electrical too had been completed without a permit or inspection.  I found several outlets miswired in the rooms and I checked most of them instead of just one or two per room. Normally a miswired outlet is not a big fix or problem but the evidence was mounting that I was looking at a homeowner quickie cosmetic. I had not yet opened the main panel as all the wiring going into the panel was hidden so I decided to go into the basement first and view the electrical down there. I continued to check and investigate the main floor rooms while the clients welcomed some family members who had just shown up. Again I found and photographed many small details most of which were minor in nature. These and most of the photos would just form a documental record of the home on the day of inspection rather than be reported deficiencies. As the clients took their family on a tour of the outside and waterfront I began the inspection of the finished basement.

Most of the finishes I saw appeared ok although there were lots of blemishes in the drywall work and the finished joints in the trim work were sloppy, there was nothing really bad or unsafe to be seen at first look. It's not the inspectors job to report on finishes though or their opinion on workmanship that the client is looking for. They can see those things for themselves. It's the report on deficiencies in the systems and structures of the home they need. 

First thing that I discovered when looking behind a propane fireplace in the largest room is a powerbar. It had several things plugged into it. There are two lamps and the fan unit for the fireplace. The powerbar itself is plugged in to an extension cord. The extension cord runs behind the moulding so it can't be seen and then through a wall into another room where it is plugged into a wall outlet. That's just wrong in so many ways, unsafe and a fire hazard! Clearly no electrical inspector saw this nor did a building inspector do the final inspection when this was installed.

As I continued into the mechanical rooms I finally could see some of the joists,beams, walls and support posts as these were unfinished in these areas. I first noted the support columns were set on proper footings and pinned with clips to the beam above, all good. The joists were toe nailed and had proper bridging in place where I could see it. The block wall foundation had been opened up when the lift took place and a lintel put in with a new section of concrete floor poured. All that looked good. No evidence of moisture intrusion anywhere in the basement around the windows or at he wall to floor joint so that all looked good too. I could conclude that from the evidence outside and inside the basement the foundation had been properly done when the building was lifted some years ago.

In the mechanical rooms though another story was being told as well. The hot water heater temperature pressure relief valve was improperly installed. This was another indicator that this was a homeowner install with no permit or inspection, very dangerous.  An improperly installed TPR valve can cause a tank to blow up when the heating elements overheat. This happens, that is why the valve is required by law. An associate of mine has inspected a home where they had to demolish the home after a tank blew, it caused that much structural damage.

The home had a sewage pump and tank that pumped sewage up to a septic system located on the rear lawn area The soil pipe line from the bathroom above had a standard three in abs line, however the person installing the sewage pump reduced that main line down to a two inch line prior to it entering the tank. That's something no plumber would do. It is both improper and a nasty backup waiting to happen every weekend.

In the mechanical rooms I also noted open electrical junction boxes with wires exposed and just capped with marrets, The electrical forced air furnace had also been installed improperly with its heating elements exposed to dust and dirt falling through from a floor register above. Those elements are like the ones in your toaster, only much bigger and more powerfull. Imagine if a scrap of paper or even lint fell through the register: instant fire! After inspecting this area I went back upstairs to speak with the clients who requested I not speak in front of the realtor and we arranged to send my report the next day by email. I encouraged them to call and ask any questions after they got the report.

My clients are important to me. I want them to have the best inspection so they can be fully informed about what they are getting into. I never want to see a client fooled, hurt, or caught in a money pit because they didn't get the right information.  The only thing I wanted to recommend in the email to this client was one word...RUN. That's not allowed though. As I pointed out, my job is to discover and document deficiencies, if any, in the structure and systems of the home.

The deficiencies I did find of course I reported on for the client. I also reported on the electrical and plumbing system deficiencies and that the evidence pointed towards a lack of permits and inspections on these systems. Among many others my main recommendation in the end was to require the owner to produce copies of the permits for the renovations and copies of the final inspections for those permits or to have the owner have them done prior to closing.

I know that the owner can't get them or have them done without major work on the home but that is the true state of the home. A rough estimate would be close to three figures. I am and remain unbiased while I try to serve my clients. I just tell the story the home shows me.  Hopefully the report on the truth about this home told my clients what I couldn't say