Home Interior Inspection
Home Inspection Agency – Salem, MA
Click the links below to learn more about the inspection of each specific area. We also discuss maintenance tasks.
- Walls & Ceilings
- Fireplaces & Wood Burning Stove Chimneys
- Smoke Detectors
- Aluminum Wiring
Most wood floors have or will develop squeaks; even in well-built homes. To remove these squeaks, try applying graphite or talcum powder between the floor boards and the floor joist, if they are accessible. Sometimes, cedar shims can be lightly driven into these spaces to solve the problem. Another method is to drive a screw of the proper length through the floor joist and into the floor boards – drawing the boards down firmly.
Periodically, check the floors in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry areas for signs of leaks or excessive moisture. Undetected water damage can lead to deterioration of floor coverings or structural framing members. Also, excess moisture can promote mold, fungus or bacteria, and provide nesting areas for insects.
Steps should be of a uniform height and soundly constructed. Do not allow household items or toys to be stored on stairways. Check handrails periodically and tighten them to the wall as necessary. Handrails should be at a uniform height (usually 30 to 34 inches above the leading edge of the treads) and should have a ½ inch space between the rail and the wall. Railings should be checked occasionally to be sure they are secure, and the upright pieces (called balusters) should be constructed so that a sphere larger than 6 inches will not pass through.
Walls & Ceilings
Most wall surfaces constructed of drywall or plaster will develop cracks. Houses are like people – the older they get, the more they show their age. Many buildings constructed prior to about 1935 had plaster applied over wood strips, call lath. Over time, the lath may pull away from the framing members due to the nails rusting through. It is usually not possible to correct this condition, but sometimes new drywall can be laminated over the plaster and secured with screws.
Buildings erected with walls constructed of drywall, prior to about 1980, may be subject to a condition called “nail pops.” This condition is caused from the normal expansion and contraction of wood framing. To correct this condition, drive the nail back into the drywall (a new nail may need to be installed above the “popped nail”), spackle and paint. Newer installations of drywall frequently used special screws and/or adhesive between the drywall and framing, or in many instances, metal framing is now used, making the nail pop problem less common.
Plaster on gypsum boards was commonly used in well-constructed buildings between about 1935 to about 1975. It is seldom used today, even in premium quality construction. If cracks are present in plaster surfaces, the loose material can be removed by scraping it out with a standard screwdriver. Spackle and paint surface as necessary. Larger cracks can be repaired by installing a special mesh-type tape in drywall joint compound and feathering the edges out for a professional looking job. A broad blade (about 6 inches or wider) putty knife will make the job easier.
Check the bath tile joints especially around plumbing penetrations, windows in the shower area, or towel bars and soap dishes. Remove any loose grout or caulk and replace as necessary. Even hairline cracks in the tub or shower area can allow undesirable water penetration, cause mold or mildew to form, and damage surrounding surfaces.
Interior doors require little routine maintenance. An air gap of ½ to 1 inch at the bottom is usually desirable to permit proper airflow or circulation for heating and cooling systems. Lubricate knobs, locks and hinges with a silicone type spray as needed. Occasionally it may be necessary to tighten the screws in the latch striker plates so the doors will close properly.
The primary purpose of a window is light and ventilation. The second, and possibly more important, purpose is that windows are usually provided as an emergency means of egress, especially in sleeping areas. For this reason, windows should remain accessible and operate freely. If windows are painted shut, they can be freed up by cutting through the paint with a think putty knife. Wood frame windows should be kept well painted to prevent the intrusion of water and moisture. Remove loose glazing compound (putty) and reglaze as required.
Routinely remove food particles and debris from the sump area in the bottom of the tub.
Should be used sparingly when the building is served with a private waste disposal system.
Ranges and ovens become cosmetically obsolete long before they are functionally obsolete.
Clean the refrigerator back and bottom yearly.
Many newer installations have ductless model fans, which seem to do a relatively good job of removing odors and smoke. The charcoal filters need to be washed regularly, depending on the amount of use.
Check washer shut off valves periodically for leaks, and keep both supply valves shut off when the washer is not in use to prevent burst hose flooding.
Dryers should be vented to the exterior to prevent excessive moisture conditions. Clean dryer vents and ducts periodically.
Estimated life expectancies represent averages and can be greatly affected by amount of usage, relative care, the mineral contents or acidity of water and luck.
Fireplaces & Wood Burning Stove Chimneys
Solid fuel device chimneys should be professionally cleaned on a yearly basis to remove excess build-ups of creosote. The old time chimney sweep is back and is probably best qualified to perform this work. Creosote can cause a chimney fire if not removed on a regular basis. Pine and other softwoods tend to cause more of a problem with creosote than do hardwoods like oak and maple.
Most regulatory agencies now require a smoke detector within a bedroom and/or near the furnace equipment. Fire department officials are now unanimous in their appeal that smoke detectors be used in all residences, apartments, houses and motel/hotels. Smoke detectors should be checked every 30 days to verify that they are performing as intended.
Between 1965 and 1972, 1,500,000 homes were built using aluminum wiring for the lower branch circuits. Many other homes were remodeled or added onto during this same period. Many home fires have been related to the use of aluminum wiring. The hazard occurs at connections at the outlets and at the switches. Aluminum tends to oxidize, which causes increased resistance to the flow of electricity, and in turn, causes overheating. If aluminum wire in the lower branch circuit is found, we recommend that a qualified electrician review and repair as required. The only repair recognized by the Consumers Product Safety Commission (C.P.S.C.) is known as the crimp connector repair. A copper wire is attached (pigtailed) to the aluminum by means of a specially designed metal sleeve and a power-crimping tool. This forms a cold weld, which is then covered with an insulating sleeve.
Knob & Tube Wiring
In homes build between 1900 and 1930, the wiring was made with two single conductors. A ceramic or porcelain tube was then used at the framing penetrations, or a knob was placed where the wires changed direction. Knob and tube wiring may still be used if in service, but most local jurisdictions require that it be removed when the electrical system is remodeled.
The GFI or Ground Fault (circuit) Interrupter reduces the hazard of electrical shock. This device senses an imbalance in the flow of current – if there is a ground fault – and immediately (in a fraction of a second) shuts off the electricity. Code requires that all residences be equipped with a GFI on all 120-volt phase 15 to 20 ampere circuits leading to outside receptacles and on all bathroom receptacles. This is only required on new wiring installations, however, not on existing installations. These devices may be installed as outlets or breakers.
Central Heating System
Gas or Oil Gravity
Usually old or wood furnace converted to gas or oil burners. Very inefficient system. Generally resembles an octopus. Large ducts that may be wrapped with asbestos.
Gas Forced Air
Most common type or air furnace. Relatively maintenance free. Maintain at least 12 inches of clear space from combustibles. IMPORTANT: furnaces require an ample supply of air for proper combustion. Do not close off or restrict the air supply to the furnace.
Oil Forced Air
Most are pressure or gun types, but some older versions that use a vaporizing or pot type burner still exist. We recommend yearly professional maintenance.
Hot Water System
Steel 15-25 years
Cast Iron 40-60 years
May be gas, oil or electric fired and may be a one or two pipe system. Water flow is accomplished by gravity or a circulating pump, which is controlled by an aquastat. All oil fired boilers or furnaces should have yearly professional maintenance.
Cast Iron 40-60 years
May be oil, gas or electric fired. Most are a one pipe system. If it has a sight glass, it’s a steam system. Yearly professional maintenance is recommended.
Relatively maintenance free and dependable. Usually more expensive to operate. Generally sized in 5-kilowatt increments from 5KW to 40 KW with 10 KW equal to 34,120 BTU.
Electric Heat Pump
Basically a reverse cycle air conditioner. Domestic units are always designed for the cooling loads. Relatively economical to operate. Should have yearly, professional maintenance.
No pipes or ducts required. Each unit is individually controlled by a thermostat.
Electrical Radiant Heat
Generally electric resistance coils, embedded in plaster on ceilings. Each room is individually controlled by a thermostat.
Estimate life expectancies represent averages and can be greatly effected by amount of usage, relative care, the mineral contents or acidity of water and luck.
Air Conditioning Compressor
An air conditioning compressor has a normal life expectancy of 8 to 12 years. Compressors need to be serviced once a year. Manufacturer warranties require that at least 12″ clearance be maintained on all sides of outside units, and at least 4′ clear space above the unit for proper operation and air circulation. The life expectancy of the unit may be diminished and higher energy costs will result if the unit cannot breath properly.
Air filters should be cleaned or replaced, depending on the type, every 30 to 60 days. Dirty filters reduce the efficiency of furnaces and air conditioning systems and increase energy costs. Especially for an air conditioning system “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” as a dirty filter can cause the evaporator coil to become matted with dirt and lint, and can lead to expensive repairs.
These devices add needed moisture to the air during the heating season. Clean and maintain these units every 30 to 60 days. We recommend that a tablespoon of fabric softener be added monthly to the pan to reduce the build up of mineral deposits. Shut off the water supply to the unit when not in use.
The life expectancy of a water heater is 5 to 10 years. Water heaters generally need not be replaced unless they leak. CAUTION: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that general purpose water temperatures be no hotter than 130 degrees F. Water temperature above 120 degrees F can cause severe burns or scalds where small children or invalids have access to hot water taps.
Galvanized water supply piping has a life expectancy of about 40 to 60 years. This type of piping generally becomes encrusted inside due to mineral deposits and rust, which adversely affects the functional flow of water. In areas where high acidity or mineral content are present in the water supply, the galvanized piping may clog up at an even faster rate.
Copper piping is a sign of quality plumbing, even today. It is generally more expensive to install and has a long life expectancy. However, acidic water which may be present in well systems, can attack the pipe and cause the entire distribution system to need early replacement. Signs of small pinhole leaks along the length of the pipe (indicated by bluish deposits) can cause copper pipe to fail in less than 25 years.