What Does a Grow Op Home Look Like? | Fairbairn Home Inspections

A Grow Op Can Destroy a Home’s Electrical and Structure.

Marijuana grow op (MGOs) are common in the BC lower mainland, however this crime has diminished in popularity lately (most occurred in the 1990’s). They are incredibly destructive – a home may be filled with mold and hazardous wiring. If you’re buying a property in BC, this is must-read information… buying into a grow op home could spell financial disaster.

Here are a few things to look for:

1. Unusual Marks and Patches

Marijuana cultivation generates an enormous amount of hot, humid air, and the growers will look for the easiest way to vent it. Closet ceilings provide a discrete passage for ductwork. Look for circular/square patches in ceilings:

  • There may be circular cut marks between rooms, or in the floors above crawlspaces.
  • Grow lights are hung from above, so look for patterns of small nail/screw repairs in ceilings.
  • Look for circular patterns on floors – pots often leave a ring-like stain. The floor may have been painted to cover up the stains.
  • If the grow op took place in the crawlspace, check the bottom of the joists for nail holes.
  • Check for fresh paint around windows where sills may have been damaged.
  • Check for remains of red tuck tape around crawlspace and attic vents, and bits of foil (used to reflect heat from the grow lights)

A great trick: Take a flashlight and lay it sideways on a wall or ceiling – this casts a shadow on any imperfections and allows you to see past repairs. I have used this technique in thousands of homes and it works very well for seeing the wall’s history.

2. Modified electrical

Growing plants indoors requires a huge amount of power – and the operators don’t want anyone to notice. Look for evidence of tampering next to the electrical meter. Also look for high-amperage breakers (in the main panel) that don’t appear to have a purpose. If you see several 40-amp breakers, and there’s only one kitchen in the home, be careful.

At one inspection in Surrey we noticed 4-5 high voltage (240V) range type receptacles in the basement ceiling. There are not many reasons to have that much power running to a basement! (4 ovens, perhaps?)

3. Modified Fireplaces

Look for evidence of tampering with fireplaces – these provide an excellent exhaust option and are often rusty, damaged or have broken glass or missing fire logs. There may be tuck-tape or duct-tape around the flue. In some renovated grow-ops the fireplaces have been completely drywalled over to hide the damage.

4. Attic Mold

Marijuana grow-op Attic Mold

Look for staining and signs of moisture in the attic. Attics usually suffer badly – black mold and, in many cases, rotting wood, can be found. If an attic has been remediated (mold removed professionally by a contractor), there are usually still signs visible. Remediation usually leaves a white or green residue that is easily seen.

Extreme mold will show up as branch-like marks, even on the trusses. Thin, winding patterns on 2x4s and plywood indicate extreme moisture conditions.

In a particularly bad ex grow op the plywood or OSB sheathing may have been damaged to the point of collapse. In one building we inspected in East Vancouver, there were mushrooms growing out of the remnants of the attic sheathing!

5. Modified Ventilation and Ducting

Leftover ducting from a grow-op in Langleygrow-op ducting in attic

Check the attic and roof for added ventilation. A few roof vents or a turbine vent is normal; six turbine vents is not. Also, check for staining around the exterior soffits. In many grow homes there is rust-colored staining on the soffits due to the metal in the roofing nails “bleeding” through the eaves. As part of our home inspections we check the soffits carefully. Ventilation issues and condensation can usually be predicted before even entering the attic area.

6. Construction Debris

Look for electrical tape, ducting, masks, gloves, loose wiring and bags of insulation, particularly in the attic and crawlspace. Several times, we have found trash bags full of ducting and soil still in the garage. Criminals can be just like the rest of us – forgetful!

7. Unusually High Security

Grow-Operations were originally more likely to be on dead-end streets, cul-de-sacs, and forested areas with a lot of privacy. However, newer operations can occur anywhere, even in condos and townhomes with close neighbours.

Check the front door for signs of forced entry – the police may have broken down the door to get in.

Look for unusually high amounts of security such as bars on windows, security cameras and triple-locked doors.

But what about the seller’s PDS (Property Disclosure Form)? Doesn’t it require owners to disclose the existence of a past grow op?

While it’s true that there is a section on the form requiring the sellers of a property to disclose any latent defects or important history of the home, there are a few problems with relying on this form for accurate information:

  • The owner may be deceptive.
  • The owner may not be aware of the issue.
  • The form wording may be a loophole – many forms ask the seller if they are “aware” which may be open to interpretation.
  • They are difficult to enforce in court. If you need to sue, it may be impossible to prove that a seller was actually aware of an issue.

Do Your Due Diligence!

Have a quality, professional home inspection performed, every time you purchase a home. Your professional inspector is trained in finding problems, and can save you from potentially expensive mistakes. While an inspection can’t guarantee an MGO will be uncovered, and most SOPs (Standards of Practice) do not require reporting mold conditions, the inspector may notice signs of faulty wiring or unsafe tampering with heating equipment, for example.

Updated July 12/2016

Added more information on attic remediation residue, as well as information on drywall side-lighting tricks. Added detail to smaller sections.

Update: grow op Chart added:

How to tell if a home has been a grow-op

Tar and Gravel Roof in East Vancouver – Featured Home Inspection

This home in East Vancouver was built in 1979. The roof was original, and was ready to be replaced.

The roof exhibited some signs of failure such as blueberry blisters, ridging, and blistering. The video explains some of these issues as well as giving a good look at some failed chimney and roof flashings.

The buyer negotiated thousands of dollars off the purchase price!

Call today for your Home Inspection! – 604 395-2795

How Long Does Our Home Inspection Take?

This is a common question from clients. Our home inspections usually take about 2 hours for a condo and 2.5 to 4 hours for a townhouse or house, as well as the time spent writing and finishing the report (on-site).

Why does a good inspection take time to do properly?

There are many factors that can affect the time when performing a thorough home inspection, such as the size of the home, (the larger the home, the longer it takes for the inspection); the age of the home (older homes may take longer as there are potentially more issues that may be present); complexity (such as, number of electrical main and sub panels, water softeners and filters, pools and spa); and the condition of the home; if the home is in good repair then it won’t take as long.

Other Factors

Another factor may be whether or not the home has been a  rental property, as rentals may be neglected. Weather conditions such as snow, rain or intense heat can also add to the inspection time.

How can I make it easier and quicker for the inspector?

The inspector needs access to all the areas of the home, such as the crawl space and attic. Making sure all utilities (gas, water, electrical) are on will ensure no down-time while we de-winterize the plumbing or search for the electrical disconnect.

Making sure your questions are answered

Home owners generally have questions or concerns about the condition of their home, which I like to fully address while we are on site – this also adds to the time factor. If you have any questions, the end of the inspection is the best time to ask!


Call us today for your Home Inspection! – 604 395-2795

Can I Follow the Home Inspector?

Q: I Have a Home Inspection booked with you. Can I join / shadow along on the inspection?

A: Of course, it’s a great learning experience. I encourage our clients to attend if possible.

It’s always a great idea to hire a professional home inspector whether buying or selling a home. There are a huge number of things to consider and understand. Joining along on the home inspection will give you a better understanding of how potential defects will affect the value of your home, whether they are serious or relatively minor, and also what it would cost to do repairs.

We will also help you learn about the maintenance and care of the house.

We encourage you to take notes and photos and ask questions although, of course, we also will provide you with a digital Home Inspection report (including photos) at the end of the inspection.

And don’t worry – if you can only make the end of the inspection, we will be happy to take you on a walkthrough of the home and the issues we found.

Call Us Today For Your Next Inspection! – 604 395-2795

Vancouver Roof Missing Ventilation for 15 Years – Featured Home Inspection

I’ve written before about how getting a new construction home inspected is a great idea. Here’s another great reason why…

We inspected this property in Vancouver, on a sunny day with great visibility. It featured a concrete tile roof, which looked as though it had good ventilation. There were five roof vents that were all flashed nicely. (Not visible in the photo below)

Upon entering the attic, it was clear that there was a problem; in the photo below, we should be seeing the bottom of a vent, not concrete.

TIP: Turn off your flashlight in the attic. Do you see daylight? You should, but only at the eaves (soffits) at the lower edge of the roof, and the roof vents. If you see daylight anywhere else, it may be a leak waiting to happen.

The underlay had been cut, but from below, only the bottom of the concrete tiles were visible. No roof vents.

After going outside to measure, then back into the attic, it became clear that the original installers had misaligned every roof vent. This attic had no ventilation!

Even more surprising? The house was built in 1998. It had been that way for fifteen years!

UPDATE: I returned to this property a few days ago, and the seller had called a roofer to install new metal roof vents. And this time, they were properly lined up! The buyer who hired us ended up saving about $2000.

UPDATE AGAIN: Some neighbours nearby spoke with the sellers, and noticed that their attic vents were also missing. They are currently working on repairs.

Call us for your next Vancouver Roof Inspection – 604 395-2795

How to Tell if You Have Mold in Your Home

Air Quality Testing – The Ultimate Mold Detection Technique

If you suspect mold in your home, there may be a number of reasons – a damp or mildew odor in the home, visible mold growth, or health problems (coughing, headaches, nausea). In obvious cases, you may be able to see the mold, however most of the time it may be hidden. Plus, not all mold growth is visible. A wall may be covered in mold and you may not notice.

When moisture conditions are right, mold can begin growing in 24-48 Hours. Once the mold begins reproducing, spores will be released at 10-14 days after the initial growth.

Mold spores can be breathed in and cause multiple health problems.

…So How Can We Detect Mold Spores?

An Air Quality Test is the ultimate tool in mold detection. By pumping air through a spore trap, we can capture floating spores. These traps can then be taken to a lab and analyzed for certain types of spores.

How Long Does it Take?

Air Quality Testing is extremely fast – in as little as 30-45 minutes, we can take all the air samples we require.

What Report Do You Receive?

We provide a certified Lab Report with a breakdown of the exact genus of Mold found in the home. The report is extremely detailed and we help with interpreting your results.

Call today to book an Air Quality Test – 604 395-2795



Water Damaged Brick Wall in Cloverdale – Featured Home Inspection

We inspected this home in the Cloverdale area of Surrey, BC.

Like many homes built in the 1980’s in this areas, the front of the home featured a brick veneer wall. Brick veneer walls are excellent, if they are installed well. Generally, the design sheds water through a drainage cavity behind the brick, and out through weep holes along the bottom course. However, this wall had a few problems which were causing leakage.

This particular wall had been damaged mechanically and was cracked in multiple areas. Cracks and damage almost always lead to water intrusion.

Several bricks were loose and falling off the wall.

The soldier course window sill was poorly flashed and directing water into the wall cavity. Sealant should have been installed here to prevent water damage.

The front garden bed soil was piled above the bottom weep holes. A blocked weep hole can cause moisture to be held in the wall cavity, and contribute to rot and decay of the wall sheathing or framing.

Inspecting from the crawlspace, we removed some insulation from the back of the wall. Here we can see rot of the OSB (oriented strand board) sheathing. Moisture damage was evident from both the top and bottom of the wall.

Call us today for your next Home Inspection – 604 395-2795

Langley Crawlspace Flooded with Water – Featured Home Inspection

This house in Langley was inspected about a week after a huge rain storm.

Around the exterior I found a number of downspouts that were either broken or directing water against the side of the foundation.

This condition seems minor, but it can be the difference between a wet and dry basement. I recommended the owner extend the above downspout away from the home by six feet, or install a splash-block to divert water away from the foundation.

When we entered the crawlspace, there was a some insulation lying on the ground that was wet – a big red flag.

The crawlspace opened up to a nearly seven-foot “basement”. However, note the high water mark and standing water around the deep end:

Even seven days after the last rainfall, there were still several inches of standing water. I also found a large (1/4″) crack in the concrete foundation wall which appeared to be moving, probably due to the water ingress issues.

Wet basements can be caused by poor drainage, bad grading (slope of ground above), underground streams or high water tables. In this case, we discovered that the home originally was designed to have a full basement, but was changed to a half-crawlspace due to city restrictions. However the buried perimeter drains in the basement area were kept at the crawlspace depth, well above the footings. Water was seeping in below the drain tile.

The client saved a considerable amount of money by having a quality home inspection performed, prior to purchase.

Call us today for your next Langley Home Inspection – 604 395-2795

How a Bathroom Fan Caused Mold in a Vancouver Home – Featured Inspection

This townhouse inspection in Vancouver was in a newer development, and the unit was occupied by a large family. It was also home to one of the worst cases of mold growth I’ve ever come across.

As soon as I arrived I noticed the moisture on the inside of the windows – a warning sign of poor ventilation.

The bathroom fans in these units are controlled by a timer, located in the bedroom closet. The building code, at the time the building was constructed, required one exhaust fan to run for at least 8 hours a day. This is important – newer buildings are more air-tight, and require mechanical ventilation to prevent humidity buildup. The timer switch was hidden behind some items in the closet, and it was turned off. Apparently the family never ran the fan during showers, either:

A bathroom fan timer can often be found in a closet or laundry room.

Condensation and humidity levels in the home were very high, and mold growth was found on the walls and windows. Thermal imaging (below) showed extreme levels of condensation at the colder exterior walls.

This bay window was soaked with water and growing black mold.

There was a closet located right next to the washroom, which is a bad design to begin with – We pulled one suit jacket from the closet, and this is what it looked like:

That white powder was thick mold growth, which covered most of the clothes in the closet, and several pillows, blankets and the carpet.

The owners had to perform a full mold remediation of the home, and dispose of many personal belongings. They also had to remove and replace some affected drywall.

Always run your bathroom fan according to the builder’s directions!

Call Today to Book Your Home Inspection – 604 395-2795

Selling a Home? Here’s How to Pass the Inspection

In my line of work, I sometimes feel like I come across the same few issues, inspection after inspection. Some of these issues are so common, I’m amazed that anyone still allows them to happen. And many of these mistakes are deal-killers and can cause a home buyer to walk away from a deal

Here’s a list of the most common problems I find. Avoid these, and your buyers will feel more comfortable with what their inspector says:

Electrical Safety Issues

Among the most “called out” items from my inspections. If you’re going to wire up a receptacle, or add a light fixture, make sure it’s done to current standards. The inspector is going to test the outlets and look inside the panel, and if something is wired wrong, he’s going to find it. When he reports it, it will likely be in bold letters with the words “Safety Hazard” on it. This scares the heck out of buyers, even if it’s an easy repair.

Bad Plumbing

Fix all leaking sinks and faucets. If you’ve done “DIY” plumbing, have a plumber come and bring it up to code. Nothing makes a nice house look shoddy faster than a leaking sink. Even worse, if a drain trap is installed incorrectly, the inspector will write it up as a safety hazard.

Roof Leaks

If you have an old roof, or a chimney that’s been leaking every spring for the past four years, make sure to let potential buyers know about it before the inspection. You may know the history of the roof, but the buyers may be surprised when the inspector points out a prior repair. In our area, a new roof can easily run $10-15,000, and the buyers may automatically assume the roof needs replacement, even if it just requires some new flashings.

Attic Mold

Before you sell your home, look in the attic. Is there any visible mold or moisture damage? Check the entire attic for nests, mice or rat droppings. If you have bathroom fans, make sure they’re not spilling hot air. Attics can be a scary, mysterious place for a first-time home buyer, and the issues affecting them are often misunderstood.

Hot water Tanks

A hot water tank usually lasts from 8-12 years. Check your tank age before the inspection. If it’s 20 years old, the inspector may recommend replacement. This is an easy issue to prevent – a new tank is fairly inexpensive, and you can advertise a new tank as a feature on your MLS listing.

Call us today to schedule a professional pre-listing inspection – it may save your deal! (604) 395-2795

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