Full Text (647 words)
(Copyright The Ottawa Citizen 2003)
Your mind is made up. You’re escaping that hell-hole you live in and buying a new home, but not sure how to choose a good one. Help is at hand.
Get a hold of the Home Inspection Guide by Nathan Weinstock. It’s for buyers, sellers and owners who want to know more about the house they live in. As the book states, a home can be intimidating, overwhelming and expensive. Something like your ex.
The interior and exterior of a home are easy to inspect. You just have to look. But what about the stuff you can’t see? Structure, insulation, plumbing, electrical and ventilation systems, for example. With this guide you’ll be inspecting things you never knew existed.
Before grabbing a chainsaw and ripping open walls, note the inspection is almost entirely visual. No holes to be drilled, no floors cut. You need only your senses. As the book states, we’re not talking rocket science.
The guide is in a handy note-pad format. You simply wander about, marking whether or not things look “good or desirable.” Keep in mind they’re referring to the house.
For example, a brick exterior is good, but septic sludge percolating up the foundation is considered undesirable.
Helpful tips are offered throughout the guide, such as, “It is best to use a pair of binoculars to inspect the roof safely from the ground.” You may look pretty silly, but at least you won’t have to be rescued dangling from the eaves.
So what do you see? A gable roof? Hip? Gambrel? Haven’t got a clue? Not to worry, there’s a brief explanation of each type. If you don’t see a roof, that means it’s flat. Or it’s collapsed into the attic. Either way, you don’t want that house.
When through playing with the binoculars, step inside the home. Note the walls. Are they in good condition, or crooked with nails popping out? That gets a failing grade. As do bouncy floors with missing sections. Best check to ensure nothing’s bounced into the basement.
Look up. Is the ceiling smooth or stipple? Actually, it doesn’t matter, both are acceptable. Ceiling tiles are OK too. The only ceiling type that doesn’t earn a top rating is “not finished,” which would suggest you’re inspecting a cave.
Windows are good, but only ones that keep the balmy in and blizzards out. Vinyl frames get the best rating. Wood and aluminum are neither good or bad.
The guide gets into some areas it need not have bothered with. Take “Interior Infestations.” It’s difficult to forget cockroaches scooting across the floor or raccoons in the pantry. The inspection should end right there.
There’s a comprehensive section on “Electrical,” starting off with the unsettling reminder “Electricity can kill you.” At this point you’ll probably limit the inspection to counting smoke detectors.
Heating is straightforward enough. Furnace type and age are covered, as well as checking for dirty filters, dents and rust. Just like your car.
It then gets into areas not so familiar such as thermostats, humidifiers and electronic air filters. There are also things you probably never heard of like condensate piping.
There’s lots of bathroom reading in the book. Drains, shut-off valves, as well as gurgling and hammering issues. Sometimes the guide slips into minutia. For example, if a toothpaste holder isn’t in good condition, it’s a black mark against the home. You be the judge whether a toothpaste holder should have that much clout.
Finally the basement is inspected for structural basics. This is to ensure your new dream home doesn’t prematurely crumble into a pile of rubble.
In the end, you’re instructed to do the grand tally of all the scores. If the house survives the test, be confident no rug has been left unturned, and your home inspection will pay off in dollars and peace of mind.
David Eddy is the Citizen’s director of research