When home inspectors talk about inspections being “observational,” that may imply that the professional who checks out your home from roof to foundation only uses their sense of sight to assess the property. While reporting on defects that an inspector can see is a major part of a complete inspection (e.g., observing missing shingles, corroded pipes, negative grade, wall cracks, etc.), certified inspectors, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, are trained to use all their faculties and knowledge to provide their clients with a comprehensive picture of the house.
In other words, a visual evaluation alone won’t tell a prospective buyer the whole story when deciding whether or not to go forward with a purchase bid. Today, we’ll be looking at how the best inspectors employ their sense of hearing to evaluate a number of concerns that can end up in the final home inspection report. Here is a brief noise-related problem home inspection checklist:
Creaking Doors: No, a creaking door does not indicate that the house is haunted, but it may be a sign of aging, humidity-related problems, foundational shifting, or installation issues. For example, a bottom shim touching a hinge may produce noticeable sounds upon opening and closing. The problem may be something as simple as dirt, grime, dust, and grease buildup on the hinge pin, or a lack of lubrication causing spooky noises produced by metal rubbing on metal. If a creaky door (or window, for that matter) is also difficult to open and close, has latching problems, or signs of distortion, larger foundational issues may be at play.
Floorboard Noise: While some home-shoppers may incorrectly view creaky/squeaky floorboards as an annoying but minor problem, there is a possibility that the noise you hear when walking upon them could be due to a number of more significant issues. These include changes in humidity which have caused the boards to expand and contract, leading to loosened fasteners; shoddy workmanship and use of substandard materials; and, most troubling, foundation problems—all issues that could affect both older and newer homes.
When making an assessment that a sinking or settling foundation is the root cause of squeaky floors, the inspector will factor in other indicators, such as uneven, sagging, or sloping floors; stair-step cracks in masonry; cracks in tiling; cracks at the juncture of the ceiling and wall and at the corners of windows and doors; wall and foundation bulging; offset cracks; stubborn doors and windows; and other conditions. When noisy floors are present along with these defects, the foundation may be singled out in the report.
Appliance Noise: Your inspector will pay particular attention to noises emitted from appliances after turning them on. Noises that go beyond what is normally produced by an appliance (e.g., loud humming, rumbling, squeals, rattles, pops and bangs) and signs of struggle will be reported by the home inspector, as they may be an indication of a broken part. These include loud buzzing noises from a dishwasher (possibly a worn or failing wash pump or drain pump motor bearing), rattling from an air conditioner condenser fan motor that may be nearing the end of its useful life, or a clanking furnace that may warrant further investigation.
A high-pitch sound coming from air vents may be an indication of an HVAC system that has undersized or improperly installed ductwork, or a blocked air filter. Ductwork rattling may be due to debris and dust inside. Please note that it is beyond the scope of the inspection to pinpoint the exact cause of appliance noise, and inspections do not include freestanding appliances.
Structural Pops and Cracks: Not every sound in a home is cause for panic, such as the cracking and popping a house often makes in the winter. While it’s unlikely an inspector will be present when it occurs, these noises are just the home’s wood or steel framing materials contracting due to the drop in temperatures. When dissimilar materials rub against each other and one of the joints slips, the result is a loud pop or crack. Loud bangs and cracks coming from ceilings and walls may be the result of a phenomenon known as “truss uplift,” which may also present itself in the form of ceiling cracks. This results when the truss’s insulated bottom chord is subject to different temperature and moisture conditions than other parts of the roof truss.
Other Issues: Among other checks, your inspector will also listen for toilet gurgling, which can be an indicator of a clogged drain, blocked vent stack, or restricted main sewer line; scratching or chattering in the attic or behind walls—signs of a possible critter infestation; or cracking or bubbling when operating a hot water heater (possibly due to sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank).