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Top 10 Home Defects

1. Improper Grading around a Structure


Flat grade or grade with downhill slope toward the structure can result in moisture/water intrusion in basements and crawl spaces. This water can often lead to foundation/structural damage and mold growth. Perimeter grading should slope down hill away from the structure. If gutters are present, downspouts often deposit water directly next to the foundation. This water should be directed away from the structure using downspout extensions.


2. Non-Functioning or Non-Existent Smoke Detectors


Smoke detectors are required to be operating and located in or near each sleeping area in all residential dwellings. Many dwellings require multiple smoke detectors. Test and maintain smoke detectors often. Replace the batteries every 6 months (April and October). A chirping noise indicates the battery is low and needs replacement. Also when you purchase a new detector write the date you bought it in the side cover. Replace the unit every 5 years at a minimum.


3. Loose or Missing Handrails or Guardrails


Handrails are typically required on all stairs in habitable areas with three steps or more. Many insurance companies will require proper handrails to be installed at front steps prior to coverage.


4. Improper Venting of Water Heater


All gas appliances create carbon monoxide that must be vented outside the home using properly secured metal vent pipe. Loose, corroded or improperly pitched vent pipe can result in carbon monoxide entering household air. Screws should be used to secure all joints. Minor amounts of carbon monoxide can cause headaches and dizziness while higher levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal. Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in or near sleeping areas.


5. Reversed Polarity Outlets


Occasionally, wire conductors can be installed in reverse order. When this defect is present, electricity to appliances will continue to flow even though the switch may be in the off position. Reversed polarity outlets may go undetected and appear to operate properly until tested. Reversed Polarity Outlets present a unique danger and should be rewired by a qualified electrician.


6. Non-Functioning Safety Devices on Garage Door Operators


All garage door operators are required to automatically reverse if a closing door should hit an obstruction. Newer garage door operators may have improper 'down force' adjustment and should be readjusted. Older garage door operators may lack required safety reverse mechanisms and should be replaced. Refer to manufacturer instructions for testing methods.


7. Ungrounded Three Prong Outlet


Disconnected or non-existent ground conductors are frequently found in both older and newer homes when outlets are installed/repaired in an unprofessional manner. Ungrounded outlets may go undetected and appear to operate properly until tested. Ungrounded Three Prong Outlets present a unique danger and should be rewired by a qualified electrician.


8. Ungrounded Electric Service Panel


All main service panels must have at least one permanent and uninterrupted connection to the earth. Newer panels require two connections. Some panels may have a ground rod driven 8' or more into the ground while others are connected to underground water pipes. If a home is connected to a city water supply, a jumper wire from one side of the water meter to the other is required. This wire is frequently missing. A qualified electrician should repair this defect.


9. Decks


Many decks on older homes and many do-it-yourself installations lack proper fastening devices and support structures. Many decks also lack proper support at guardrails. Improperly supported decks pose a significant hazard of collapse and should be repaired by a qualified contractor.


10. Knob and Tube Wiring


Many older homes built before 1930 may contain knob and tube wiring. While this wiring was common in its time, modern lifestyles often require the use of many electric appliances and gadgets that were never anticipated. This type of wiring may be inadequate for these added demands on the electrical system. The presence of Knob and Tube wiring is indicated by dark single strand wire secured in place with white ceramic knobs or tubes. It can also be indicated by the use of round push-button light switches. A qualified electrician should repair any problems with this type of wiring. Some insurance companies may require knob and tube wiring to be upgraded prior to coverage.