How to Look

at a House


A blog with answers
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HOME INSPECTION
and HOME MAINTENANCE

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Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

    This fact is often repeated as the main problem with modern homes, but it is also why they are more comfortable to live in than their predecessors; and it is not accurate to blame everything on houses being “built too tight.” Here’s our list of other factors that have changed over the years and contribute to a higher likelihood of moisture and mold problems occurring in a newer home:

  1. Bullet Every plumbing fixture in a home is a potential location for leakage, either of incoming water or outgoing waste. Most older homes had plumbing at only two places inside the home: the kitchen and a single bathroom. The water heater and laundry were often in a utility room behind the carport or an attached laundry shed. Today’s homes have at least two bathrooms, a dishwasher, water and ice service at the refrigerator door, an indoor laundry and water heater. That’s the basics. Then there’s the optional spa tub in the master bath, wet bar, and laundry sink.

  2. Bullet Manufactured roof trusses, beginning in the 1960s, made it easier for a builder to make complex and appealing rooflines that would have been prohibitively labor-intensive to construct on-site previously. But that means more flashings at the intersections of all those gables and hips that are usually the first place to fail on an older roof. Add in a few skylights and you’ve got more potential locations for water intrusion.  Any roofer will tell you “it’s not if a skylight will leak, it’s when.”

  3. Bullet Construction materials are constantly being improved, but not all new building technology holds up over the years. Wonder materials of a few decades ago, such as polybutylene piping and composition wood  siding, proved to be water-intrusion headaches still lingering around in some homes. Complaining  homeowners and lawsuits eventually removed them from the market.
        Synthetic stucco, also called “EIFS,” is a newer exterior siding material that got off to rocky start and, after widespread incidents of wood rot and mold behind it from water entrapment, the installation specs were changed to allow drainage behind the material.

  4. Bullet People today are more conscious of  the potential danger of living in a house with mold. Growing up in South Florida in the 1960s, we were both used to hearing “Oh, honey, that’s just a little mildew. Nothing to worry about.” Not anymore.

  5. Bullet A big advance in efficient home construction was the concrete floor slab, which became the norm by the end of the 1950s. It’s faster and much less expensive than framing an elevated wood floor over a crawl space, but that air gap provided a barrier to water intrusion from the ground and an easy way to verify if there is a moisture problem under the floor.

  6. Bullet Landscape sprinkler systems are standard-issue for new homes in Florida, except for the low-end of the market. Without regular maintenance adjustment, they start spraying on the walls of a home. When we see wood rot at window trim, we turn on the sprinklers to see which one is soaking down the wall.

  7. Bullet Pressure washers are really better labeled as a “hand-held hurricane.” They are great for driveways, but terrible for houses. When a homeowner uses this popular power tool on the exterior walls of a home, they force water at high-pressure into siding and loosen window caulking. Plus, the pressure often pops the seal on double-pane insulated windows, making them lose their insulation ability and eventually turn cloudy between the panes.
        Pressure washing an asphalt shingle roof loosens the tab adhesion at the leading edge of the shingles and blasts away surface granules that protect the shingle from sunlight UV-deterioration. Granddad didn’t have one.

    A lot of good research has been done to improve air exchange rate and indoor air quality, while keeping homes weathertight. We think that’s great and don’t want to go back to the the old days. Just want to point out that there are more reasons for moisture and mold problems in newer homes than simply that they need to “breathe.”


While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
© McGarry and Madsen Inspection