Common Issues with Older Homes

As home inspectors, we see a ton of these issues all the time and today, we’d like to talk through some of them so that you can be better informed on which areas of your home might need a little more attention.

A historic home

Roofing and Furnaces Last About 25 Years

If your home was built in the late 80’s or early 90’s, then it’s possible that your roof might need to be replaced. Though replacing your roof is probably not something you ever thought you would do, experiencing roof failure is definitely something you don’t want to do. Like roofs, furnaces can also encounter serious wear around the 25 year mark. As the winter kicks in and the temperature drops, you’re not going to want to weather the season without your furnace!

We’ve Changed the Way We Build Houses

Much in the same way we don’t use asbestos, there are many other materials that we no longer use in houses. For example, we no longer use aluminum for our electrical wiring and if your home still has some within its walls, it will almost certainly pose a serious fire hazard. Similarly, we stopped using Polybutylene plumbing pipes in 1995 following a class action lawsuit. This type of pipe is known to fail prematurely and if the piping is within your home, this can spell disaster. Steel yard lines that bring the water into your house should also be replaced, as they are likely at the end of their lifespan.

Poorly Finished Basements are a Big Problem

Sometimes, homeowners will renovate parts of their home before they sell. One renovation that people like to do is to finish the basement. In some cases, to save a few extra dollars, homeowners will opt to perform the renovation themselves. The problem with this is that most homeowners are not licensed contractors, which means that the basement may not be up to code. Worse than that, their various parts can fail, which can result in serious damages down the line.

Get Your Home Inspected and Rest Easy

If you’re not sure about the integrity of your home, then have it inspected. We’ll take a look at all of the important components of your home, consider their age, and advise you on how to avoid disaster. For more information, check us out on Youtube or contact us today to schedule an appointment for your home inspection.

Is Your Heat Pump Performing Properly?

Cold weather has finally arrived and that means that it’s about time to turn on the heat. To heat your home, it’s time for your heat pump to get to work if you have an all-electric house. However, once the temperature dips lower than 30°, your heat pump will run into some trouble keeping your house warm.

To learn a little bit more about your heat pump, read on and check out our video. 

A heat pump outside of a house

Check #1: The Thermostat

Make sure your system is calling for heat properly by setting the thermostat to a higher temperature than it is currently set to. If you do not hear the heating system kick on within a few minutes, there might be an issue with your heating system. If the thermostat doesn’t seem to be calling for heat, it might need new batteries. You can also check the circuit breaker to make sure it hasn’t been tripped.

Check #2: The Filter

A clogged air filter in your HVAC system can greatly decrease the heating efficiency and if not replaced can cause further damage to your heat pump. Your filter should be inspected once a month and changed no less than 4 times a year. If you notice your filter getting dirty often, it’s advisable to switch to a new filter once a month. Having pets who shed can cause this.

Check #3: The Unit Itself

There’s a very simple way to check in on your heat pump and make sure that it’s running properly. Head on outside and take a look at the unit itself. When you approach the outdoor unit, you’ll see a pipe that leads into your home easily identified with black insulation. Pull that insulation back and touch the copper pipe. If the heat pump is functioning properly, the pipe will be almost too hot to touch. If this is not the case, then it’s time to call in a professional to address the problem.

Neglecting to address your heat pump can lead to expensive bills come the Spring. It’s far better to avoid those surprise bill spikes by taking care of the issue now.

Winter Energy Efficiency Tips

  • Draw curtains and shades away from sun-facing windows during the day to bring in small amounts of heat that natural sunlight provides.
  • Check windows and doors for drafts and re-seal or re-insulate problem areas.
  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat that allows you to give the heating system a break when no one is home.
  • Have your heating system inspected by a professional before the weather gets cold to ensure your heating system is running efficiently and is in great shape to keep you and your loved ones warm all winter long!

Looking to buy or sell a home and in need of a Maryland Home Inspection? Contact the professionals at Highland Homes Inspections today!

Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs?

Sometimes during a home inspection the water will smell like rotten eggs and that is an unpleasant situation.  It can also be unnerving to a prospective buyer.  This issue is most common in well systems; not so much in public water in this part of the country.  The smell is hydrogen sulfide gas which is produced by anaerobic bacteria in the water and it normally originates in the water heater.  An easy way to check is to run just cold water and then just hot and see when the water smells.

In water heaters there is something called a sacrificial anode that is made of magnesium or aluminum and that is what the water reacts with to make the hydrogen sulfide.  Its purpose is to reduce the risk of corrosion in the water heater, so you can’t just remove it altogether.  But sometimes replacing the sacrificial anode will eliminate (or reduce) the problem.  Another possible solution is to remove the anode rod and pour a quart of peroxide or chlorine bleach into the water heater (peroxide is safer).

It’s one thing to find smelly water during a home inspection, but this problem became personal when my hot water started smelling bad.  I have a 16 year old high efficiency gas water heater and I know better than to try replacing the anode rod on something that old.  Fortunately, I couldn’t even find the anode rod so that possibility was eliminated.  So, I tried the simplest solution.  My hot water temperature was about 125 degrees F; that’s good to prevent scalding and plenty hot for a shower, but it is not high enough to kill the bacteria.  So, I simply turned up the temperature to about 145 degrees which is high enough to kill the bacteria.  It worked!  Of course, the risk of scalding is higher now but I can always install a tempering valve which mixes a little cold water with the hot to knock the temperature back down.  It’s nice when something simple and free works.


That’s all for now from the Helpful Home Inspector! Happy home-owning.