Inspecting older or historic homes
I can tell you, this is quite a challenge. Most of them were built before modern building codes, with different techniques and materials.
When I do an inspection, the age of the home will not influence me pointing out defects or safety issues. There’s no excuse for a missing balustrade or smoke detectors. Sometimes I hear “it was good for the last 100 years”, maybe true maybe not.
Do you know for sure that nobody died of smoke inhalation?
Building codes and standards are a learning process and an attempt to make a home safer, healthier and more efficient. In older or historic homes, modern building codes can’t be applied. The main stairs might be not wide enough, the foundation is different and this list is going on and on. If changes can be made - great, if not you should at least know about it.
So, why would I point out a very small stairway going to the attic space? In case of a fire, a fire fighter cannot get through. Sometimes, small staircases are a trap for them.
In older homes, you will find different materials, some perform really well, but unfortunately, some should be removed, or secured.
Did you know that the old thermostats have a mercury bubble?
That almost all of the older paints contain lead?
Old wiring and pipe insulation were made out of asbestos? Some roofing materials and siding as well.
Should you panic if I point that out? Not necessarily!
But some corrections would be good idea to keep
you and your family safe.
One of the big myths is that you always have mold in older houses. That is actually true, you also have it in newer houses. But older houses are built different, you have more air circulation, moisture can dry out. The newer homes are more energy efficient, they are sealed and there is no margin for mistakes. Again, older houses are more forgiving.
It all comes down to that you need a good home inspector who understands this, and that he understands how every part of a home acts or reacts to any changes. For example, modifications and add-ons, these are the biggest problems – unless you have a really good contractor.
I love the challenge of inspecting older, historic homes and currently I’m renovating one of them.
Almost all manufactured homes or trailer homes I’ve inspected, had the same defect.
We all know that moisture will damage or destroy building materials and create all kinds of problems.
A good home should be built with materials and techniques that minimize or eliminate moisture problems. It is very critical to have a good working moisture barrier on the subfloor; especially if it’s built over a dirt floor or a bad installed ground moisture barrier, which is most likely the case.
Manufactured homes have a factory installed moisture barrier on the floor. It’s the black plastic you see.
If you have a double wide, the seam at the moisture barrier is usually taped; as well as all damages and openings. Unfortunately, this is quite often overlooked, or the tape fails. The result is, your floor insulation hangs down and this area is not insulated anymore. Insects have access to the floor area and the interior of the modular home, and of course moisture.
Defects like this are going unnoticed for a long time, because nobody really wants to go in a crawlspace. This is why you need a good home inspector, who’s not afraid to enter, inspect and report defects. This is what we do!
A home inspection, or a limited inspection, should be arranged before you sign for a new construction, before you buy or even list a home, or after major repairs. There are no excuses, your money – your choice.
Our reports tell you what’s going and help you to make the right choice.
Unfortunately, they fall short during most inspections I make. There are two very common issues
The typical roof of a manufactured home has asphalt shingles and a pitch of 2/12.
First of all, no roof construction is water proof; a good roof is water resistant. A roof sheds water, so it’s not 100% water proof and all roofing materials have a limit when it comes to how they perform under certain conditions.
One of the important parameters is selecting the right material and the roof pitch. The Roof pitch is a measurement that indicates how steep your roof is. This is regulated by building codes, HUD regulations, industry standards and roofing material manufacturers.
Minimum roof pitch for asphalt shingles is 2/12, and this requires 2 layers of underlayment, like roofing felt etc. Two layers protect better than one layer; underlayment - NOT two or more layers of asphalt shingles!!
Recently I inspected two modular homes with a 2/12 roof pitch and only one layer of underlayment. One of them had even 4 layers of shingles installed. These are serious defects and a correction requires re-roofing and substantial costs.
The question is, who is responsible? Even if the installer, and most times this is the modular home manufacturer, forgot to install the second layer, the buyer or the seller are stuck with the costs.
The question is not if your roof leaks, the question is when it will leak.
In the next post, we will cover the subfloor moisture barrier. Stay tuned.
Hi - this is Werner with Home Inspection Tennessee