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Florida Home Inspections: Common Issues

May 30, 2008
What's the most important consideration when buying a home? Price, location, size? Most people won't ordinarily think a home inspection is particularly crucial--it's something that most of us do, but we don't necessarily stop to consider just how important it is. The home inspection gives you a complete idea of what problems are present in the home, and what's needed to fix them, so it is a vital part of buying a home.

There are certain problems that are commonly found in home inspections that, if left undetected, could mean thousands of dollars worth of repairs for an unwary home-buyer. In addition there are issues that are unique to states such as Florida, due to our distinctive climate. These are definitely worth paying attention to, particularly if you're relocating from out of state and haven't considered the problems that a warm, moist climate can present.

Water Damage

The Florida climate is absolutely brutal in terms of the damage it can do to wood and wood-based products. Regular maintenance of paint and caulking will eliminate 90% of the potential problems, but for many homeowners that maintenance just doesn't get done.

Wooden doors without rain protection, siding in contact with grade, and poorly protected trim or siding are all vulnerable to water damage. Even stucco homes are vulnerable if stucco begins to crack and allow water access to the frame beneath. The damage done to wood framing on stucco homes can be huge, because the stucco hides what's going on in the wood.

Application and regular maintenance of caulk and paint will prevent these issues (or help prevent them worsening if the home you buy is affected by water damage). Alternatively, consider whether you'd be better off with a masonry-built home with aluminum, stucco, and other materials in place of wood siding, framing, and trim.

Electrical Issues

Electrical problems are often caused simply by aging, damaged wiring, but that's not the biggest problem your home inspection might uncover. More problematic than an older wiring system is the damage that a homeowner can do if they hire a non-licensed electrician, or even worse, do the work themselves without prior experience or knowledge.

Common issues found in these situations include exposed wiring without the necessary conduit protection, outlets with reversed polarity, junction boxes left open in attics or behind walls, double-tapped circuits, unsafe exterior wiring, and badly-constructed GFI outlets. Often, such issues arise when a homeowner decides to remodel their kitchen or bathroom, but fail to check out current code requirements. The result is that the modifications may not be up to code (this is more likely for older homes, as electrical codes have changed significantly in the past couple of decades).

Plumbing Problems

Plumbing issues such as leaky faucets, water heaters, shower stalls, or toilets are common, but usually fixed fairly easily. A more significant problem occurs in the long term when water intrudes behind tiles, and shower or tub surrounds. These can be more costly to fix.

All these problems are easily avoided by sealing grout lines with grout or caulk, and repeating the application as needed. These simple measures can save thousands in unnecessary repairs and prevent the mold problems that often result, too.

Aging, Damaged, or Leaky Roofs

Florida's climate and weather isn't particularly friendly to roofing materials. Materials such as metal panels and concrete tiles will tolerate the weather as long as they're installed properly and conform to manufacturer's requirements. Shingles, however, are almost guaranteed to start taking damage soon after installation.

Harsh winds are part of the problem, but the main culprit is actually the hot Florida sun. In general, a shingle roof will last around fifteen years (even if it has a 20, 30, or even 40 year rating).

Roof failures are usually on the perimeters of the roof, or anywhere where the roof is penetrated, such as around chimneys, plumbing vents, or attic vents.

Air Conditioning Problems

Air conditioning issues might not be a big deal in all states, but people in Florida use their AC systems ten months out of the year--more than anywhere else in the country. Despite the fact that so many people rely on their AC so heavily, they don't often get regular maintenance. In fact, the number one reason that AC systems experience problems is simply poor maintenance, rather than a mechanical failure.

Home inspections usually find leaking ductwork, dirty air handling coils or filters, and low refrigerant levels, any of which can lead to an inefficient, badly-running AC system. Changing filters regularly, plus annual servicing will keep your AC running well for a long time to come.

Problems in Low-traffic Areas

Those are the top five, but those aren't the only issues a home inspector is likely to come across. Home inspectors don't just take a tour of the most frequently-used areas of your home--they'll want to look at attics, crawlspaces, and other hard-to-reach places that often get overlooked when it comes to maintenance. These unused places are all prime locations for termite and pest damage, water damage, plumbing, insulation, or electrical defects, structural damage, and HVAC problems.
About the Author
Calum MacKenzie is Broker/Owner of Real Living Southern Homes a leading Tampa real estate company serving the Wesley Chapel real estate and New Tampa real estate markets.
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