Home and Property Owner Frequently Asked Questions

Back to FAQS

Q: How does a home “shows its age”?

A: New Home. With the purchase of a new home, expecting a finished product free of major problems is justified. However, minor repair items often found in a new home may include incorrectly wired circuits, cracked roof shingles, missing miscellaneous hardware, binding doors, paint touch up, cracked window panes, dirty HVAC vents and filters, scratches in finished wood, and drywall nail pops. A new house should not show any signs of foundation settling, water intrusion, soil erosion, or improperly functioning appliances or mechanical components.

Two to Ten Years Old. A house that is 2-10 years old may begin to show routine wear and tear, but should be structurally and mechanically sound. Most foundation settling will occur by now (however, if a drainage problem is left unresolved future damage may occur). Caulking, painting and other routine items should be checked. A review of the electrical and mechanical systems should also be conducted to assure proper operation.

Eleven to Twenty Years Old. A house that is 11-20 years old will begin to show additional signs of age and degradation. There may be a need to repair and replace some components such as wood rot, sealant, roofing shingles, and cosmetic surfaces. If the appliances are original, they may be nearing their expected service life. The structural elements, as well as the major electrical and mechanical equipment, should still be in adequate condition at this age.

Up to Forty Years Old. As a building ages, it is common to experience some settling or movement in the foundation, floors, walls, ceilings and other areas. Anticipate replacing some major systems and components such as heating and air conditioning equipment, roofing materials, major appliances, and some electrical and plumbing fixtures.

Historic Buildings. When purchasing a historic home be aware that there might be significant structural issues, as well as outdated construction techniques and components that may need addressing. Mortar may be failing and fireplaces may not be safe to operate. Settling, spauling plaster, binding doors, inoperable windows, inadequate electrical and heating components, and inadequate insulation are common with homes of this age. Extensive repairs and upgrades should be anticipated and budgeted.

The above generalizes the anticipated conditions for homes of various ages. A professional inspection can inform a homebuyer of important issues. An inspection consists of a thorough visual examination of a home’s structural components including the foundation, superstructure, and roofing systems, where accessible, plus the major electrical and mechanical components. Much of what an inspector points out is for the buyer’s edification and not intended to be a catalyst for immediate repair. The role of the inspector is to provide potential homebuyers with accurate information on the property so that they can make an informed purchase decision.

Back to Top

Q: How important is it to have clean ducts in my home?

A: Home owners need to be aware of potential health hazards from the accumulation of dust and filth in a home’s ductwork. While not the case with all forced air systems, in many homes, occupants are unknowingly breathing air that has been circulated over layers of visible filth.

Although the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not address duct cleaning, air ducts provide a common harbor and distribution mechanism for biological air contaminants. In many older homes, forced air heaters may have been operated for years with dirty filters or with no filters at all. The accumulated dust on the inner duct surfaces is often oily or moist and may contain mites or various species of molds or fungus. In newer homes, where air-tight construction methods are employed for enhanced energy conservation, the growth of mold spores has become recognized as a significant indoor air quality hazard.

The EPA reports that molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance when moisture is present. Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce, just as plants produce seeds. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, even dynamite. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

Molds can trigger asthma episodes in individuals with an allergic reaction to mold. If mold is a problem in your home, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture. Recommendation by your professional inspector to clean you air ducts should be heeded to help provide a safe and healthy home.

Back to Top

Q: What are the pool fencing requirements for homeowners?

A: Homeowners should take pool fencing requirements seriously. According to recent studies, more than half of all pool drownings that occur in the U.S. involve children under the age of five. Attention to pool fence and other safety issues is a vital imperative for everyone owning or living near a pool or back yard spa.

Requirements for pool fencing are not as rigidly set as most other standards in the Uniform Building Code because they are contained in the appendix portion of the code, rather than the main chapters. Municipalities that adopt the code into law have the option to include the fence requirements in the appendix or to write specific standards of their own. It's wise to consult your professional home inspector or local building department with regards to pool or spa safety.

In jurisdictions where standard fence requirements are in force, there are ten basic rules to keep in mind when fencing an area around a pool or spa:

  • bulletFencing should totally surround the pool area.
  • bulletFencing should be at least four feet, but preferably six feet, in height.
  • bulletThe bottom edges of fencing should be within four inches of pavement or within 2 inches of unpaved ground.
  • bulletTo prevent children from squeezing between vertical components of a fence, the spacing should not exceed 4 inches.
  • bulletFencing should provide no footholds or handholds that would facilitate climbing.
  • bulletDiamond-shaped chain-link fence openings should be no larger than 1.75 inches, or have inserts to prevent climbing.
  • bulletPedestrian gates should be self-closing, self-latching, and latch mechanisms should be out of reach of small children.
  • bulletPedestrian gates should swing in a direction away from the pool (so small children do not push them open).
  • bulletGates for non-pedestrian use should remain locked when not is use.
  • bulletWhen the exit doors from adjacent buildings enter directly into the pool area; each such door should be equipped with a self-closing device and an audible alarm.

Pools and spas can be very enticing to small children, sometimes with tragic results. By following these basic standards and consulting your local building department for additional requirements, your pool area should be reasonably protected from child access.

In addition to these guidelines, an inspection by a professional home inspector may determine if the pool or spa is equipped with an anti-vortex drain cover. This inexpensive, yet important device, helps prevent children or small adults from being trapped by the suction of the pool drain. Other areas inspectors review may include diving boards and/or slides, which may be "fun", but can produce serious injuries. Hand rails, steps, gripable coping, GFCI protected lighting and general foot traffic issues are also important safety aspects of a pool and/or spa that a professionally trained home inspector will review.

Back to Top

Q: What is the safe and proper way to care for washers and dryers?

A: Check your washing machine water supply hoses regularly. The hot and cold water supply hoses to your laundry washing machine are under constant water pressure 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year unless you turn off the water supply valves between loads (which many folks do not do). Like anything else, hoses wear out and burst…often at the most inconvenient times such as while you are on vacation. The flood damage can be very expensive.

TPREIA recommends you give serious consideration to replacing hoses at least every three years with the improved steel-strengthened type. When leaving on a trip make sure to shut-off the valves and leave a note reminding yourself to turn them back on when you return with the inevitable loads of laundry.

Check your dyer’s venting system. Terminating a dryer exhaust beneath a home is a common construction defect and is prohibited by the Uniform Mechanical Code. There are two reasons for this prohibition: continuous lint build-up in the subfloor area poses a fire hazard, and moisture condensation beneath the structure can cause damage to the wood framing. The warm most air produced by the dryer is conducive to the cultivation of mold and the encouragement of wood destroying organisms and pests.

Crushed and blocked clothes dryer ducting can result in a home fire. Without adequate release and dispersion to the exterior lint trapped within the ducting may catch fire or at the very least cause longer drying cycles thereby raising the cost of energy to dry your clothes. Because many ducts pass through combustible wall framing and through the foundation crawl space it is imperative that during normal homeowner maintenance these duct be checked and cleaned as necessary.

To vent your dryer properly, the use of four-inch diameter smooth walled rigid metal ducting is advised. The duct connections should be secured with tape, not screws, because lint built-up on the screw ends can restrict the free flow of air. A dryer vent hood should be installed at the exterior of the building to prevent back drafting and pest access. Also, make sure to check the overall length of the air duct. The maximum allowed length is 14 feet. Some floor plans do not enable compliance with this requirement, but keeping the duct as short and straight as possible minimizes airflow resistance. Dryer ducts running upward through the roof require closer attention and more frequent maintenance.

Back to Top

Q: What do I need to know about stucco?

A: Stucco adheres best when applied directly over cement-based materials; a stucco color coat, when correctly installed, should be expected to last for 20-50 years, or more. Stucco problems can arise as a result of money-saving shortcuts that occurred in the stucco application. When stucco is installed over paint, adhesion is compromised, resulting in chipping and peeling. Adequate surface preparation should include the removal of old paint by means of sand blasting, or application of a special primer. Failure to sandblast or prime is a sign of faulty workmanship. Stucco applied to paint is a substandard condition that creates ongoing maintenance problems due to continued delimitation. Periodic patching will be needed to maintain a presentable appearance, and disclosure to prospective buyers will be necessary when the property is sold.

Not every stucco crack is an indication of a serious problem. When you see cracks in newer stucco finish, it does not necessary imply trouble. Only when cracks are large and excessive is there likely to be a problem. Some pre-1950's homes have fewer cracks than their newer residential counterparts. This is because the studs used were larger, came from more mature trees, and were kiln-dried.

Back to Top