As a home inspector, I frequently see the same issues on houses new and old. While some are issues that are best left to the experts to repair (electrical… ), some are simple maintenance issues that a homeowner can take care of themselves for minimal cost. Here are several issues that can be easily repaired, so that I don’t have to put them as issues when I inspect your home:
1. Loose Toilets: Your toilets should be a solid throne, not a rocking/swivel chair. When the toilet loosens from the toilet flange, the movement causes damage to the wax ring that forms the seal between the toilet and the flange (the drain pipe). This can quickly lead to sewage leaks. If your toilet rocks when you sit on it, or if you can swivel it easily, it’s time to pull it up, replace the wax seal, and reset the toilet. As a DIY project, all you need is the wax ring, which should cost you under $10.
2. Leaking Sinks: Another common source of plumbing leaks is under sinks. These leaks sometimes stay hidden until I come along and really put the plumbing to the test. To properly test your sink, put the stopper in and fill it up… almost to the top. If it has an overflow drain, let a good amount of water run into it, caulk substitute since these are often either plugged or leak. Once the sink is full, pull the plug and watch under the sink with a flashlight. If you see any water dripping down, it’s time to either tighten things up a bit, or it may be time to replace the drain piping. If you decide to fix this on your own, make sure you use the right materials, and check for leaks afterwards, and after using it a few times.
3. Caulk/Grout in Tubs and Showers: Even though the tubes of caulk say they are good for 20-30 years, it must be tested under absolutely ideal conditions. I have received several complaints from the seller’s side about being nit-picky on caulk and grout, but these two things are your first-line defense against water intrusion into the walls behind your shower.
The good news is, removing old caulk and replacing it is quite easy, and cheap. Grout takes a little more skill, but it’s still not hard, or expensive. As a side note, grout does not do well in corners, but most grout makers have matching caulk that can be used in the corners of your shower.
4. Downspout Extensions: I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the water away from your foundation, even if you don’t have a basement. And by away, I mean 6-8 feet away. This means that those plastic splash blocks you can put at the bottom of the downspout aren’t enough. Get the extendable hoses and stretch them out (under $10 each). Also make sure that the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation, at least 6 inches over the first 10 feet. If you have underground drains for your downspouts, make sure they work. During a steady rain (not a thunderstorm), go outside and make sure they aren’t backing up where the downspout connects. If it is, it’s time to have them cleaned out, because this is just dumping a lot of water right next to your foundation.
5. Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Please, please make sure these are working! They save lives! If you haven’t already upgraded to the units with the 10-year battery, make sure you change the batteries in all of your alarms every 6 months. If you have gas/oil appliances (furnace, water heater, stove, etc), a fireplace, or an attached garage, you should have Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors as well. One on each level with a potential CO source, as well as one in the hallway outside the bedrooms. I can’t emphasize this one enough, not just to help the inspection, but to save your life in an emergency.