Springtime in many parts of the country means less roaring cold, more gentle weather and a break from heating or cooling equipment. That’s great for comfort, but it can make certain home defect clues a bit more challenging to find. Never fear, there are a few tricks to the home inspection services trade.
If you want to uncover sneaky defects that can hide in mild weather, here’s how to track them down.
Inferior Attic Insulation and Ventilation
Attics are the opposite of ideal temperature conditions. They’re cold in winter, at least if the insulation is in good shape, and they can be too hot for comfort in summer. Insulation and ventilation problems need more investigation.
You can spot inadequate or poorly installed insulation at a glance. The perimeter of the attic will show whether soffit vents are improperly covered, blocking ventilation.
As for the attic ceiling vents, there’s a cheap and simple method to test them. Angie’s List suggests closing windows and doors, turning off the HVAC and lighting a stick of incense or a smoke stick. Watch where the smoke travels. With proper ventilation, it should blow away from some areas, such as the soffits, and exit the attic in others, such as a ridge or turbine vent on the roof.
Air Leaks Around Windows, Doors and Other Penetrations
If the weather was a blustery 30 degrees, you’d notice the frosty bite of an air leak around windows and doors right away. With the ever-warming weather, they’re not as easy for a certified home inspector to find.
The U.S. Department of Energy gives an ingenious tip for finding air leaks, and it’s as low-tech as it can be. Dampen your hand with water and hold it by the area you want to test, whether it’s a door, a plumbing pipe that routes through a wall or any other suspect area. Air passing through will feel chilly, even if the air is warm.
For a more scientific method, the buyers could contact an HVAC tech for a blower door test, which can also reveal ductwork leaks.
Furnace System Failures
A temperature rise test can tell you if the furnace is working within normal parameters. That’s a bit more precise than checking the thermostat and waiting for it to switch the system off and on.
Reuben at Structure Tech Inspections explains how temperature rise is calculated:
- Test the temperature inside the ductwork just above the furnace
- Test air temperature at the air return
- Determine the difference between the two, which is the temperature rise
If the number is too high, greater than about 60, he says a dirty air filter or blocked registers might be to blame. If not, the furnace likely needs the attention of a service technician.
Poorly Insulated Windows
In winter, poorly insulated windows not only feel ice cold, they can cause condensation to build. In some cases, condensation is so severe that it leaks down the wall and creates a mold or mildew problem. In spring weather without temperature extremes or heating and cooling equipment running, condensation is less likely to appear.
Look for telltale mold or mildew specks and old streaks on the wall below the windows. Fog or grime between the panes in a multi-pane window is another sign.
Loose sashes, which are a special problem in older or antique windows, mean next winter will be a chilly one indoors without a repair or replacement.
Some home defects are patently obvious, at least if you inspect at the right time of year. When the spring lamb sends the grumbly lion packing, those clues can tuck away neatly until the next winter blast. But they’re no match for you, not when you’ve got the skills and education to bring them to light.
Ready to learn more about home inspecting and carve out a new career? Enroll now with ICA School and get started right away.