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Good home inspections find water problems

By Robert Hof

You can never be too careful! Home inspections are so very important. Another word of wanring from Mark Weisleder. Robert

Reprinted from Moneyville Magazine Fri Aug 17 2012

When you talk to any home inspector, you will learn that for resale home buyers, it is all about finding potential water problems. No one wants to move into their dream home, only to discover leaks from the basement or roof, mould behind the walls, sewage backups from the street or toilets flooding inside the house. Water damage is expensive to fix, both inside and outside your home.

That is why you need a good inspection firm. It can spot the signs that indicate whether you may have problems now or later, including when renovations may have been done to cover up old problems.

However, the home inspection industry is not licensed, so you will need to rely primarily on word of mouth. Besides your friends and relatives, ask your real estate agent and lawyer for referrals.

Alan Carson of Toronto inspection firm Carson Dunlop gives a checklist of items to look for:

1. A roof is not meant to last more than 15 years. Shingles falling off and water getting into your interior walls can get expensive to repair. Some inspectors do not even go onto the roof during the inspection, so ask them how they’re checking the roof.

2. Water in the basement is usually caused by improper grading. The ground may slope towards the house, water from the roof may not drain properly into the downspouts, and the downspouts may not point away from the home. All of these issues can cause runoff against the foundation wall over many years, which later cause leaks. Any outside cracks in the concrete can also lead to water penetration. On the inside of the house, look for signs of water marks on baseboards, rust, stains or mould.

3. Be wary if there has been a recent renovation in the basement. The seller may be trying to cover up existing problems without correcting them. In addition, take note if the seller has put up drywall and not upgraded the water pipes or the electrical wiring behind the drywall.

4. Watch out for old plumbing, such as galvanized steel for the pipes bringing water into your home and cast iron pipes that take waste water. If the basement is unfinished, it does not cost as much to replace these pipes. If the home is finished, then it will cost much more to get behind the walls. A plumber once told me that if the kitchen has two sinks, check the piping underneath to see that one pipe joins into the second pipe before going down into the floor. If the pipes join together in the middle and then go down, this is a sign of poor workmanship that usually results in clogged drains.

5. Sanitary sewer backups can destroy your basement. You can get a video made of your drainage systems to see whether there may be future problems. This $300 is well worth it.

6. Buyers should ask sellers point blank if they have had any water leakage, and ask the seller to provide a report from their home insurer confirming that no claims have been made against the property for water damage or sewage backups. Also ask the neighbours, because old outside pipes have a way of affecting other homes on the street.

Ask the right questions when you have your home inspection done and avoid a lot of headaches later.

Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at

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