How To Check a House For Water Problems
Earlier this summer, I was with my client on a home inspection. The home was a Baltimore rowhouse on Federal Hill, built in 1900. After discovering that three of the four walls of the house were wet and there was mold in the crawlspace under the kitchen, my client voided the contract.
The sellers said they were not aware of water issues in the basement and offered a home warranty to the buyer.
However, no home warranty could fix this problem. The moisture in the basement walls had been there long enough to buckle the drywall. The linoleum flooring was peeling up in the corners. And where there was wall-to-wall carpeting, it felt damp to the touch.
We used the walk away option in the home inspection addendum and the home inspector did not charge my clients.
I hope the sellers used the information in the home inspection report to address the serious water issues but we will never know for sure. I did notice the house was back on the market just a few days after we voided our contract. This is one of the main reasons why we, almost always advise our clients to use a home inspection addendum in their offer. In rare occasions, when there is competition for a good condition condominium, we will recommend waiving the home inspection contingency but we still recommend having one for informational purposes.
We will never know if they corrected the water intrusion problem because we walked away from the deal.
On a home inspection this week, the inspector used a moisture meter on the back wall of the house. The meter turned yellow indicating that some moisture was present. We walked outside to check the grading against the back wall and sure enough, it wasn't done properly. With this property, my client decided to stay in the deal. He plans to properly grade the yard and caulk around the windows to keep moisture out of the home.
What should you look for while touring houses?
Look at the soil around the base of the house.
You want to see grading that moves water away, not toward the exterior walls.
Are there low areas next to the exterior walls like in the picture above? If so, the area needs to be filled with dirt and graded so it slopes away from the house.
Are the downspouts directing water away from the home?
If there is a patio or concrete walkway next to an exterior wall, is the seam properly caulked? Anywhere there is a crack or open area between concrete and an exterior wall, there is an opportunity for water intrusion.
Look at the roof. Are the shingles curled? If so, the roof may be old and near the end of its useful life.
Is there a sump pump in the basement? This is good since the pump works to move water from under the house to the outside.
Check under the stairs in the basement. Look for any original or older wood to see if water has wicked up from the floor.
How does the house smell? Moisture has a distinct smell so pay close attention to what your nose is telling you!
Look up! Check the ceilings in every room to see if there are water stains or recent patching.
Beware of flipped properties!
The bad flips always update the kitchen and bathrooms and ignore the HVAC, roof, water heater and electrical panel.
In other words, some flippers focus on what catches a buyers eye. They’ll install granite countertops in the kitchen, subway tile in the bathroom and leave the old HVAC, roof and water heater. In many older homes, flippers will leave the old 100 amp electrical system and opt to save money not installing a heavy up for the house. A heavy up increases the amperage coming into the house at the service panel or electrical box. This means the electrical system in the house can handle the needs of current homeowners today.