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What do home inspectors find in Buffalo houses?

Etched Tree in Oak Door in Buffalo, NY

If you are researching home inspection companies near Buffalo you probably are getting your mortgage financing ready for when you find that perfect house.  We’ve been answering a lot of calls lately from buyers who are curious about what we find when we inspect homes in Buffalo and nearby towns, such as Hamburg and Amherst.  

Most of our clients have never had a home inspection, which makes sense considering that home inspectors in NY state have only been required to obtain a license since 2005, and those in “the 716” aren’t buying more often than once every several years, at the most.

Feedback we’ve received from our past clients has taught us that buyers really do appreciate the level of detail that we give them.  We wanted to point out a few of the most important problems that your home inspector near Buffalo might find. 

To begin with the average age of a home in Buffalo itself is 74 years, according to Bestplaces.net.  The issues that we’ll find in a typical older Buffalo home are very different from what we see  in many newer homes in outer-ring suburbs such as Hamburg, Orchard Park and Williamsville.

What’s covered in a home inspection?

Home inspections cover most systems of a house that can safely be viewed and accessed.  This includes the roof, siding, driveway, sidewalk, electrical panels, furnace, walls, floors, windows, doors, plumbing, attic and the foundation.  Garages are also included in a standard home inspection. We open electrical panels to inspect for potentially unsafe conditions and other issues. 

Furnaces and air conditioning outside condensers are inspected, but since we aren’t HVAC technicians we can’t determine if there are electrical or other specific issues with those systems.  

Plumbing faucets, bathtubs and showers are tested and assessed to find leaks or safety issues such.

Most of all, we want to make sure that the foundation walls and other visible structures are intact and free of problems.  

What are the top 10 problems that we find during home inspections?

Although every house is different, we wanted to help home buyers and homeowners understand what the top 10 most common issues are so that they can be prepared for what comes next.  These problems aren’t necessarily the worst problems, but we seem to find them a lot. We ordered this list outside of the house to the inside, then down to the basement or crawlspace.

#1 – Damaged Gutters & Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts are under a lot of stress here in Western NY, with the freeze-thaw cycle during the winter and resulting ice dam build-up.  Typical problems here include leaking steel gutters, gutter nails pulling out from the roof fascia, and disconnected and dented downspouts. 

#2 – Worn Roof Coverings

Even though this is second on our list, buyers and real estate agents are always hyper aware of the implications of a bad roof.  Roof repair can be expensive, and allowing shingles to become broken, brittle and worn-out can lead to damage of roof sheathing, and even interior areas of the home. 

Common asphalt-fiberglass composite shingles are an item that will wear out, and they must be replaced when they’ve deteriorated in order to prevent major damage.  Less common roof coverings such as standing-seam metal have a much longer lifespan and tend to suffer from cosmetic damage more often than catastrophic failure. 

#3 – Siding Damage

Homes in the Buffalo, NY area are sided with a variety of materials, from wood siding to brick and vinyl.  Since we prefer to spend the warm months of the year engaged in fun activities, siding maintenance often falls onto the back burner of our list of home repairs.  Our exterior home inspections include and assessment of the home’s siding, fascia, eaves, and window and door trims.  These inspections almost always find damage in one way or another, be it improper installation of vinyl siding or missing or broken wooden shingles.  

#4 – Poor Grading

“Grading” refers to the direction that the ground, driveways and sidewalks are pitched.  The grade near a house should ideally be sloped away from structure so that rain and snowmelt won’t accumulate near the foundation and damage it, or otherwise enter the basement.  Sometimes the grade can’t be corrected, and in those cases drainage systems and pumps can be used to move water away from the home.

#5 – Unsafe Decks & Balconies

Decks are interesting pieces of residential construction, because they can be a good challenge for weekend handyman or handywoman to build.  In this age of Youtube videos, more and more people are becoming empowered to tackle deck construction projects. But, when it comes to second-story balconies, we’ve found that many need to hit the books and research proper construction methods.  

Typical issues that we find with decks and balconies in parts of Western NY such as Orchard Park include unsafe screws in joist hangers, amateur and unsafe posts and footings and dangerous stairways.  

Loose Deck Post Cap
Several vinyl post caps were loose on this deck

#6 – Leaky Plumbing

We’re always amazed when we open kitchen and bathroom vanity doors and find drips coming from the plumbing.  Generally speaking, plumbing leaks aren’t expensive or complicated for repair for a handyman or plumber, yet they are so often neglected and allowed to fill up buckets.  Many times it seems that we were the first person to look under a sink in decades. For this reason, we suggest that those who are getting their house ready to sell have a pre-listing home inspection.  This type of inspection is tuned for you as a seller, and will provide you a great list of items to fix before the buyer’s home inspector finds them. We’ve also written an article on common plumbing problems with Buffalo homes.

Disconnected Plumbing Vent Pipe in Attic
This leaking plumbing vent pipe was found during an attic inspection

#7 – Poor or non-Existent Bathroom Ventilation

Showers produce a lot of steam, and if a bathroom doesn’t have good ventilation that steam will want to escape somehow.  In houses with attics, it’s typical that we find areas of condensation in the area immediately above bathrooms that don’t have ventilation fans or windows.  The worst offenders are usually in new additions or bathroom remodels that include large showers but no ventilation fan or windows. In this scenario it’s not uncommon for us to find condensation and mold immediately above the shower area in the attic.  If you think you might have a mold or moisture intrusion problem, schedule a mold inspection in Buffalo with us.

#8 – Loose and Old Furnace Filters

Forced-air furnaces are designed to pull air from throughout the home, heat it and then push it through ductwork into the livable spaces of the house.  If the filter is old, loosely installed, the wrong size or if the furnace plenum isn’t designed to snugly hold the filter then you may have a less effective furnace that possible.  Read our article on furnace filter problems to learn more.

#9 – Unsafe Electrical Outlets

There are few common electrical problems with electrical receptacles (or outlets).  The most dangerous condition that we usually find with outlets involves where electricity and water come into close proximity, namely the bathrooms, kitchen and basement.  In these areas, modern safety standards suggest that a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet or breaker is installed, which will cut power to the outlet within milliseconds after water comes into contact with the “hot” wire of the outlet.  Home inspectors aren’t code enforcement officers, but for new construction a code inspection would require GFCI protection for bathrooms, kitchen counters, unfinished basements, garages and outdoor outlets. GFCIs are easy and inexpensive to install by a qualified electrician, and can save a life.

#10 – Sump Pump Problems

In many of the towns near Buffalo, particularly towns such as Amherst and Orchard Park, the water table during the winter is so high that without a sump pump installed in the basement, flooding would almost certainly be a regular occurrence.  We test sump pumps, and make sure that the discharge plumbing goes where it should. Sump pump installation is another one of those weekend warrior projects, and sometimes those warriors do strange things with the discharge plumbing. We inspect the pipes to make sure they discharge water far away and (ideally) downhill from the house. We also check to make sure that the sump pump is plugged into a GFCI outlet, and that a check valve is either part of the pump itself or is installed in the plumbing.

Wrap-up

Alto Home Inspection, LLC is a professional home inspection company based near Buffalo, NY.  We offer home inspection services for buyers and sellers, mold testing services and radon testing & lab services in the greater Western New York area. 

We started Alto Home Inspection purely in order to help home buyers and sellers in Western NY make smart and informed decisions about their new homes.  Our goal is to educate you about the home, and not to scare you away from it or induce panic and anxiety.  

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About the Author:

Bradley Beck

Bradley is owner of Alto Home Inspection, LLC.  He lives just south of Orchard Park, in Western New York’s Southtowns, and inspects homes throughout the Buffalo area, and is NY Licensed Home Inspector #16000086029, NY Certified Mold Assessor #MA1606.  He also serves as Technical Director of Alto Home Inspection’s Radon Laboratory.

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