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10 Most Commonly Reported Defects (Part 2/2)

This is the second part of my list of most commonly reported issues. To read the first part of the list, click here. And remember that I did not actually tally up all the defects I've ever written up, this is just my best guess, and I already know I'm going to end up adding to my top 10!

While some of the items in Part 1 can create serious problems, I understand that a few were the type that clients are willing to take a chance on (like beautiful plants against the house). And several are items that can come across as precautions, rather than defects. But the second half of my list really does deal with more serious (read: dangerous) issues. And remember, these are still from my list of Most Commonly Reported Defects, so they happen frequently.

6. Missing GFCI outlets. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (or GFCIs) are the outlets designed to offer extra protection against electrocution, especially in wet locations. Their life-saving ability is widely recognized, and thus the list of places they are required to be installed has grown. They are now required in Kitchens, Bathrooms, Outdoors, Garages and unfinished Basements (and some others). While it may seem difficult to install a GFCI outlet in every location, remember that not every receptacle must have a GFCI device to be protected. Outlets can be protected by a GFCI device “downstream,” either an outlet or a breaker. Needless to say, this is a safety issue, and I strongly recommend installation of GFCI protection in any required locations.

7. Missing Smoke / Carbon Monoxide detectors. Pursuant to California law, it is the seller’s responsibility to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the appropriate locations. And many homes were built before current regulations, when fewer smoke detectors were called for, and carbon monoxide detectors weren’t required at all! Now, there seems to be some confusion about where smoke detectors are required. Smoke detectors are required in every bedroom, with one outside all sleeping areas, with at least one on each floor of the home.

8. Problems with the TPR valve on water heaters. The Temperature/Pressure Release Valve (TPRV) is what keeps your water heater from becoming a missile in the case of a serious malfunction (see Mythbusters’ demonstration!). Your TPRV should be rated at no more than 150 psi. Further, the drain line should be the same size from start to finish (no reductions), should drain by gravity (no uphill runs), should terminate within 6 inches of the ground (to reduce risk of scalding), and the end should be visible and without threads (so that it cannot be capped). The reason the end should be visible is so that you will see if water is coming out. Even a small amount of leakage is a sign of an issue, and a qualified plumber should be called.

9. Electrical panel problems. Most people never give their electrical panel a second thought. But your panel both supplies all your electricity for your home and protects you from various dangerous conditions inherent to having electricity flowing through your home! I’d say that’s pretty important. Electrical panel issues that are common include old/unsafe panel designs (see specifically Zinsco and Stab-Lok panels) and dangerous conditions in the panel itself. Probably the most common of those is the double-tap, where two conductors are inserted into a single breaker. This can create loose connections, which could lead to arcing and possibly fire.

10. Materials containing Asbestos. According to one expert, there are over 3,000 building materials that contain asbestos, which, in contacted regularly, can cause mesothelioma, or lung cancer. That same expert summarizes his cautions by saying that if it was manufactured before 1980 and isn’t wood or metal, it probably contains asbestos! Everything from roofing to flooring was manufactured using asbestos. While the “popcorn” or “cottage cheese” ceiling is the most well-known, there are many other materials that can be hazardous.

So that concludes my list of the most commonly reported conditions in my home inspection reports. Are you surprised about anything that is on the list, or missing from the list? Let me know in the comments below. If you need more information about any of these conditions, feel free to contact us.

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