This week’s featured Home Inspection is a home in the Queensborough neighbourhood of New Westminster.
Stories: 2 (Plus finished attic)
A quick look at the front and one side of the home showed no real concern – a young (less than 5 years) roof and some newer windows.
However, the south side of the home revealed a catastrophic foundation/wall framing problem. The wall was bowed considerably, and the poured concrete foundation was in pieces. The amount of lean on this wall is evident in the photo below:
This part of New Westminster is situated on the Eastern tip of Lulu Island, which is also home to Richmond. The whole area is a flood plain, and the water table is extremely high. New Construction homes in this area are now built on pile foundations due to the poor soil conditions, however, due to the age of this home, it was a typical Slab on Grade foundation. Coupled with poor drainage and surface water management, and over time the home began to sink and lean.
Here we see one of the bathrooms, where the extent of the structure damage was visible. The bathtub was pulling away from the wall. There were also gaps where the wall was breaking away at the corners…
…The tile shower enclosure was badly damaged – here’s a moisture meter reading showing complete water saturation behind the tiles.
Another problem with older homes is electrical wiring. In the basement and attic, old knob and tube wiring was present. Knob and tube wiring is an obsolete wiring material which is considered potentially dangerous, and needs to be evaluated by an electrician, particularly to keep the insurance company happy. (They are extremely careful about it)
A ceramic knob and the associated wiring is visible in the above photo. Coupled with the structural issues, this home requires some fairly major work. I recommended they contact a structural engineer, and an electrician to review the home. Safety is the top priority!
We inspected this Mobile Home in the Fleetwood Area of Surrey recently. Mobile/Manufactured Homes are interesting to inspect – the foundations, electrical and roofing systems are completely different than a site-built home.
The unit was a small single-wide, approximately 70 ft long and clad with a metal exterior, and a metal roof. The trailer featured some newer vinyl windows – a nice upgrade from the original aluminium windows.
There were a few concerns at the exterior, particularly this exposed corner that was allowing water to enter the wall cavity from above. Flashing should be added right away to prevent further deterioration.
A covered porch / workshop had been built off the side, which was starting to deteriorate and we deemed it unsafe until the rotten framing was replaced.
The porch felt spongy when stepped on – investigation below revealed several wood posts that were rotting and needed replacement. The porch was also poorly constructed, using 2×4″ wood joists which were bowing due to lack of support.
Manufactured Homes require specialized furnaces that are rated for manufactured buildings. This furnace featured a stamp authorizing it for use in this setting. The furnace was a 1983 Intertherm that was clean and operating well.
The electric hot water tank was located in the bedroom closet. At 13 years old (and starting to corrode), it had reached the end of its expected service life. These tanks typically last 8-12 years, and the GE-brand tanks tend to fail earlier due to their poor quality control. This will cost about $800 to replace.
Overall, the home was in fair condition, and the buyers negotiated to have the hot water tank replaced and the deck repair paid for- about $3000 in savings.
We inspected this home in Port Moody, BC recently. It was a 30 year-old home with a split crawlspace / basement configuration. The lot was sloped considerably, and a prior rain (the day before) provided ideal conditions for a Home Inspection.
Entering the crawlspace, there was considerable water damage and rot to the floor structure, below the base of the chimney.
Several joists were deteriorated, and heavy mold growth was found in the area. Here we can see the moisture levels showing complete saturation:
Everyone (including some contractors) initially suspected poor lot grading to be the cause, however, a close look at the area (and water testing) showed no water pooling issues in the area.
Water testing of the chimney finally revealed the culprit – a failed chimney flashing that was allowing water to enter behind the vinyl siding and ultimately winding up in the crawlspace. The water traveled two stories down, and pooled at the base. It can be seen at the top right of the below photo:
The repairs were completed by Ken Hunter from HunterStruct, an experienced general contractor who specializes in structural repairs.
The buyers were thrilled to have the work completed prior to their possession date, and recently moved in.
We inspected this property in Vancouver, which was built in 1943. Most of the home was in “original” condition, and many of the components (wiring, insulation, plumbing) were original and in need of a lot of work.
In the basement, we can see an interior sump, which were popular until about the early 70’s. The sump pit is a receptacle for rain and surface “storm” water, and is designed to overflow into the city storm drain. However, the problem with interior sumps is obvious – directing water into the basement puts the home at risk for flooding. Right away we can see that there is a moisture problem in this area, as the owner has placed a dessicant container next to it.
Inspecting the exterior, the original terra cotta perimeter drains were noted, and I recommended having a drain line scan performed. A plumber can insert a camera through the lines and determine if there are any blockages or breakage. Old terra cotta lines, while resistant to root damage, can crack or crumble below grade.
The plumbers scanned from three locations, including the drain at the bottom of this stairwell. Flooding of the stairwell was evident (not in the photo) due to a large amount of wood rot at the base of the door.
Here’s a photo from the drain camera – we can see some debris but the line is mostly clear. However, there were some issues.
1. The interior sump piping entry points were extremely high (only 4″ below top of pit), so there was almost no “buffer” should the lateral back up.
2. There was a large obstruction near the sump (photo below):
The drain in this area (below the deck) was completely blocked off – whether this was intentional or a result of construction work was unclear. In any case, it will not function and required expensive excavation and drainage work.
The plumber quoted from $10,000 – 18,000 to repair the issue, and the buyer saved a significant amount of money off the purchase price of the home.
If you’re buying an older property, I recommend having the drains scanned. And, of course, getting a high-quality Home Inspection performed by us. It pays!
We inspected this property in Port Coquitlam, BC recently. It had an illegal suite, and we found a number of dangerous electrical problems from the home owner’s “DIY” project…
The sub-panel was badly corroded and had no identifying stickers or information. We can see (photo below) that it was probably salvaged from another building where is was exposed to water. Corroded or water-damaged panels are always a safety hazard, as rusted metal can overhead or arc, causing a fire.
Next, we see a corroded lug. A quick surface temperature measurement showed it was overheating.
A double tap is an illegal repair whereupon two conductors (wires) share the same breaker. It’s usually done when there are no spare locations to add another breaker. The problem? The breaker is only designed to carry one wire. If you add a second wire the connection becomes loose and the wires make poor contact. The result is overheating, and the breaker may also not perform properly. (Tripping early or late).
Below we see the real double-tap at the red arrow. Fixing a double-tap is easy – but in this case replacing the sub panel with a larger one was the best option.
The buyers purchased the property and the electrical safety upgrades are currently under way.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!