6 Home Problems Inspectors Hate to See and How to Fix Them
Reuben Saltzman, president of Structure Tech in Minnesota, identifies potential home problems and what to do about them.
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Bulge in Washing Machine Hose
What It Means: The Hose Is Ready to Burst
A bulging washing machine hose is an emergency home problem that you must address immediately. It may burst next year, next week or right now. But it will fail and it won’t just leak — it will gush. In just a few minutes, it can do thousands of dollars in damage.
Check out this list of stuff to keep on hand in case of a major (or minor) emergency.
How to Fix a Bulge in a Washing Machine Hose
Replace Rubber Hoses With Braided Stainless Steel
Immediately turn off the valves connected to the hoses. Before your next load of laundry, you’ll need to replace the hoses. Buy new braided-steel hoses and also invest in a pressure gauge that hooks onto a spigot or laundry room faucet.
Your rubber hoses may have bulged because your water pressure was too high. It shouldn’t be more than 80 psi. If it is, install a pressure-reducing valve (PRV) before you damage other appliances and fixtures in your house. If you already have a PRV, it may be set too high or due for replacement.
Stains Around a Bath Fan?
What It Means: Condensation Is Forming Inside the Duct
The stain could be caused by a roof leak but condensation inside the duct is the most likely cause of this home problem.
If you live in a cold climate, there’s a good chance the warm, moist air from the bathroom is condensing inside the duct and the water is seeping back down into the fan housing. It’s soaking the drywall around the fan and may be ruining your fan motor or even the framing components in your attic.
How to Fix Stains Around a Bath Fan
Investigate, Insulate and Run the Fan Longer
Start by checking the damper inside the fan housing and the one on the vent outside. Vents are usually on walls or roofs, but sometimes they’re in the soffits. A stuck damper can lead to heavy condensation.
A bath fan duct that’s not insulated or poorly insulated gets really cold in the attic. A cold duct filled with warm moist air is a recipe for condensation. On exceptionally cold days, that condensed water freezes and then drips back down when the temperature rises.
Even insulated ducts get cold enough for condensation to form when the fan first starts up. If a fan is run long enough, the duct will warm up and dry out. Consider replacing the wall switch with a timer switch, which will run the fan for a set period of time.
Efflorescence on Chimney Brick
What It Means: Too Much Moisture Inside the Chimney
Efflorescence is the white material that appears on brick. It occurs when moisture moves through masonry. That moisture picks up minerals and leaves them behind in the form of tiny crystals. The minerals themselves do no harm, and a small amount of efflorescence is common.
Even more alarming, your flue liner could be cracked or broken, and deadly combustion gases from your furnace, fireplace, or water heater may be leaking into your home.
How to Fix Efflorescence on Chimney Brick
Fix the Crown or Call an Expert
Immediately have your chimney inspected by a licensed chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Learn more about chimney maintenance for your home.
Cracks in the crown allow water in (top left). Water that gets inside the chimney through cracks in the crown can cause efflorescence and damage the bricks. Seal the crown (bottom). Small cracks in the crown can be sealed with an elastomeric masonry sealer, but a crumbling crown will have to be replaced. Smear on the sealant by hand, then smooth it with a brush.
Find a crack? Learn how to repair mortar joints.
Melted Grommets on a Water Heater
What It Means: Deadly Gases May Be Entering Your Home
Exhaust from a gas water heater should flow through a duct and out of the house. But sometimes, exhaust doesn’t flow up and out. Instead, it backdrafts, spilling deadly carbon monoxide into the air you breathe.
Hot exhaust escaping the system melts the plastic grommets on top of the water heater and thus provides visible evidence of backdrafting. The damage shows that you have a home problem: Your water heater has backdrafted badly on at least one occasion — and you must take action.
How to Fix Melted Grommets on a Water Heater
Get Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Sometimes the cause of backdrafting is obvious: a vent pipe disconnected from a vent hood or a vent sloping downward. But even a properly installed vent might occasionally backdraft because of high winds or other unusual circumstances.
So, installing carbon monoxide alarms provides the surest form of protection for your family. If you don’t have CO alarms in your house, go get them today. Learn how and where to install carbon monoxide detectors correctly to make sure you stay safe. Carbon monoxide alarms save lives.
Every home with an attached garage, fireplace or gas appliances should have carbon monoxide alarms. If you already have them, be sure to test and maintain them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Here’s how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.
Install one on every level, outside sleeping areas, and within five to 20 feet of any sources of CO, such as water heaters, furnaces and fireplaces. If an alarm ever goes off, get out of the house immediately and call the HVAC repair service to correct the problem.
The symptoms of CO poisoning are dizziness, headaches and vomiting. If anyone in the house experiences these symptoms, leave the house and call the fire department.
Test for proper drafting. Close all the windows and doors and turn on all the bath and kitchen fans. That creates a worst-case scenario for backdrafting. Run some hot water and light an incense stick and see if the smoke is drawn up the vent. Bad vents cause backdrafting.
Water heater vents need to slope upward at least 1/4 in. per foot. The installer responsible for this down-sloping vent apparently didn’t know that hot gases rise.
Decking Directly Under the Door
What It Means: Rot Could Be Wrecking Your House
Decks built right up to the bottom of a door often mean trouble. Rainwater splashes off the deck up onto the door. That much water is hard to keep out.
Even if the flashing holds up, water may eventually find its way through the door components and create a significant home problem. The water intrusion can ruin the siding, door and interior flooring — or worse, destroy the rim joist and other framing components inside and outside your home.
How to Fix Decking Under a Door
Divert the Water Away
Diverting the water with gutters helps the situation. However, as long as the deck boards remain up tight under the door, water has a chance of infiltrating.
If you plan to build a deck, install it about four inches below the door threshold. And never let snow pile up against the door.
How to Fix a Water Meter That Never Stops
What to Do: Look for the Leak
Indoor leaks usually create obvious signs of a home problem. Look for water stains on walls or ceilings or a puddle on the floor. Also, listen to toilets — a worn-out flapper on the flush valve creates an audible hiss. The resulting slow, constant flow wastes water in many homes.
Outdoor leaks usually seep into the ground and can go on for years without being noticed. If your water meter is outside the house (warm climates only), check the water line between the house and the meter. Shut off the main water valve at the house and check the meter. If it’s still registering water flow, you need to locate the leak between the meter and the house.
Fixing this problem will likely require some excavation. A leaking water spigot may go unnoticed if an attached hose runs out into the yard or garden. If you find one that keeps dribbling water, a new valve seat washer often solves the leak. If the spigot leaks at the top near the handle, replace the packing nut washer.
Irrigation systems supply another cause for hidden leaks. Check for irrigation leaks by shutting off the valve in the house that feeds the irrigation system. If the meter stops spinning, you’ve found the problem. Narrow the search even more by looking for wet spots in the yard or areas of grass that appear especially green. A malfunctioning zone valve is usually the cause.