Successfully notating and describing observable conditions is the first step in the analysis and reporting of deficiencies. A second and equally important task it to successfully communicate to clients the implications of those conditions if not corrected in a timely fashion. In some instances, the home inspector may caution the client concerning additional hidden conditions that may currently exist as a result of the observed deficiency. In other instances, the home inspector may be describing what could result in the future if certain deficiencies are left unaddressed. In either case, a proper understanding of the implications of defects is important for setting repair priorities, which could save the client money in the long run.
Again, it is not within the scope of a property inspection for the home inspector to verify if hidden conditions are present at the time of the inspection. The key is to be cognizant of possible implications and be effective in describing related conditions. In order to this effectively describe such implications it is good for the home inspector to be aware of the associations between related defects and building systems interact. This starts with a basic knowledge and will expand over time with experience. Below is a discussion of some common associations between building components that can point to implications.
Separated Caulk Joints and Missing Sealants
Separations in caulk joints at window and door casings can lead to moisture and pest intrusion. Excessive gaps, especially on facades of the home facing the direction of predominant weather patterns, can result in extensive moisture damage and rot over time if not corrected. Likewise, separated grout and caulk joints in bathroom enclosures and at countertop backsplashes can result in hidden moisture damage and promotion of fungal growth. Missing or deteriorated sealants at wall and roof penetrations can also result in moisture and pest intrusion.
The absence of proper weatherstripping at exterior doors or doors leading to attic spaces can result in the loss of thermal gains as well as allow pest or water intrusion. Consequently, missing weatherstripping can negatively affect the performance of heating and cooling equipment, lead to mechanical stress, and reduce the life expectancy of certain systems.
Damaged or Missing Roof Coverings
Widespread or localized damage to roof coverings can result in water damage to interior ceilings and walls and lead to fungal growth and wood rot. Excessive moisture can cause the atmosphere in the attic to not function properly which can lead to improper attic ventilation, the loss of thermal gains due to compromised insulation, and cause HVAC systems to underperform. Damage to roof coverings are one of the leading sources of the ripple or domino effect across multiple building systems and components.
Rusted or Raised Flashing and Dead-End Valleys
Deficiencies at the roof level involved coverings and flashing can have an adverse on attic system and interior finishes. Rusted or raised flashing is susceptible to wind driven rain and can lead to moisture damage, increase humidity, and promote fungal growth and wood rot. Dead-end valleys or roof flashing configurations with level or negative slope can result in the collection of organic debris that roof surface drainage to enter the structure at various points as well as material failure due to rust. Each of these conditions can have adverse effects on building systems and components beneath the roof level.
The absence, improper installation, or failure of safety pans can result in damages to building materials and interior finishes. A malfunctioning air conditioner emergency condensate drain pan can result in damage to attic materials, ceiling and walls, and even create dangerous conditions at electrical fixtures. A missing water heater safety pan in the same manner can result in damage to adjacent interior finishes.
Venting Terminations to the Exterior
When mechanical venting system do not terminate to the exterior of the structure or improper termination caps are installed, the implications can be serious. Vent terminations in attics or crawlspaces can promote wood rot, fungal growth of the collection of flammable materials such as dryer lint. Gas burning mechanical systems with improper ventilation to the exterior is a safety hazard and can result in deadly conditions of home occupants. These implications should be reported by the home inspector to all parties involved, the client, real estate agents and homeowners. In some cases, it is prudent to turn off mechanical systems until the vent deficiencies can be corrected.
Electrical deficiencies and missing electrical safety features can result in damage to related building systems, but more importantly, can lead to safety concerns. The risk of electrocution from inoperative electrical components such as ARC-fault breakers and ground-interrupter receptacles is a related concern. Moreover, malfunctioning or missing warning detectors such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors pose a life safety hazard to home occupants. The implications of the defects or missing components should be thoroughly stressed to home inspection clients.
Negative Drainage or Improper surface
The typography of the landscape and lot slope surrounding a home can effect the performance of related systems such as the foundation. Negative drainage against the side of a house can result in damage to building materials related to wall structures and floor coverings. Damaged gutters and downspouts, gutters with negative drainage, or missing diverters can affect the performance of exterior components and systems such as air conditioning and heat pump condenser units and electrical service main and remote panels.
Active leaks in plumbing supply lines and drainpipes can result in significant moisture damage over time. Fungal growth and rotting wood are possible implications for such conditions. Even small leaks over time in the wrong location can cause tremendous damage. For example, a supply line or drainpipe leak under a slab-on-ground foundation can cause the slab to heave leading to adverse performance.
Vegetation, including bushes, shrubs and trees, while not structural components of the house, if not maintained regularly can cause damage to various building components and materials. Tree limbs can damage roof coverings and soffit systems. Tree limbs in contact with electrical service entrance conductors can lead to lose connections and frayed coverings. Vegetation in contact with exterior walls can cause mechanical damage as well as provide an avenue for pests.
Rodent and Pest Activity
Signs of rodent and pest activity can negative affect a myriad of building systems. Ant overwintering in wall cavities, for instance, can lead to moisture retention and bred fungal growth as well as moisture damage. Conducive conditions such as high soil lines at exterior walls can or wet wood can lead to the infestation of wood destroying insects such as termites. Excessive gaps at soffit and roof interactions can result in rodent and varmint intrusion, which in turn can result in damage to additional building materials.