The last section of the home maintenance series is Kitchens and Bathrooms. I combined them because the common defects are the same, well… Mostly.
I guess the most common defect with regards to Kitchens and bathrooms that comes up during home inspections is with the receptacles. In bathrooms all receptacles within 6 feet are required to be GFCI protected. This is also currently required at all receptacles above the counter in the kitchen. Although, for the purposes of an older home the safety dimension is 6 feet. We talked about this in the electrical section as well.
Bathrooms have their own challenges when it comes to moisture control, it is not uncommon to find surface mold on the ceilings and walls due to occupants not running their ventilation fans long enough (or at all) while showering. If the wall stays wet, mold will grow. Many real estate people and some home inspectors will say it isn’t mold it’s mildew. Sorry, but they are the same thing, mildew just doesn’t sound so ominous.
Mold: “a furry growth of minute fungal hyphae occurring typically in moist warm conditions, especially on food or other organic matter”.
Mildew: “a thin whitish coating consisting of minute fungal hyphae, growing on plants or damp organic material such as paper or leather”.
Anyhow, running the ventilation fan for a minimum of 10 minutes after a shower is recommended to prevent such a condition. Another common area for this damage is at the lower corner of the windows. The warm moist air condenses on the glass and can cause extensive damage at the base of the window sash.
Aside from GFCI locations, the other common defects in bathrooms revolve around the plumbing, it is not uncommon to find leakage under the sink. It seems lately that the leakage I have been finding has come from the drain stopper arm where it connects to the drain, this can easily be overlooked. Monitoring your drain and supply piping in the cabinet is a good idea during your annual maintenance program. The type of drain trap used can also determine if sewer gasses can enter the space. Even though Home Depot sells them, “S” type drain traps should not be used. A suction is created that could cause the trap to be left dry leaving sewer gasses a path to the living space.
One other item in bathrooms. Probably the most common leakage I find is with the wax seal of the toilet. This little $3 part can cause extensive damage. I inspected a 8 unit apartment building in Monticello one time that had a wax ring leak in an upstairs bathroom, the unit below was unlivable. Extensive mold damage was present on the ceiling and walls of the unit below. The unbelievable part was that the tenant of that unit didn’t seem to care. He seemed to be more concerned with me looking under the vanity. To each their own I guess, to this day I don’t know how that man was not sick.
I also bought a rental property in Brodhead 4 years ago that had a wax seal leak. This was a slab on grade home with the kitchen and bathroom back to back. There were two leaks under the bathroom floor, one was the wax ring, and the other was a pinhole in the water supply line. These to small leaks actually caused the studs to be rotted off 8 inches above the floor. That wall framing was just basically hanging from the ceiling. I repaired the two leaks for under $5, but the damage cost a couple thousand to repair. A simple maintenance program could have avoided both of these situations.
As stated before, the most reported on defect is likely GFCI locations, but I’m pretty sure we have beaten that horse to death by now, moving on…
The plumbing in the kitchen is a little different than in bathrooms due to the common double sinks most homes have. Many times I find corrugated flexible drain connectors because the drains never seem to line up exactly when remodeling takes place. This type of drain is prone to clogging and damage. I often find this is the case when the drain doesn’t enter the wall before going down to the lower level. There is almost always to form this drain without using an “S” trap or a flexible drain. Another item that is so common is an incorrectly installed dishwasher drain. If the dishwasher discharges into the sink drain or the garbage disposal, an air gap is required in Wisconsin. If the dishwasher drains into a separate standpipe drain that is acceptable. Sometimes I’ll come across a high loop in the drain line where it is connected under the counter, this is no longer allowed, an air gap must be installed. Why is all this required anyhow? If your sink backs up due to a drain blockage, the dirty water could make its way into the dishwasher, contaminating the unit. The Air Gap acts as a check valve preventing this from happening.
So as far as kitchens go, it is generally GFCI locations and other items covered in the Electrical Section, plumbing drain issues, and dishwasher drain connections that become an issue during the home inspection process. Of course don’t forget the items covered last week in the Interior Section as well.
So now you have a small snapshot of items covered, checked, and tested during a home inspection. I know for a fact I have left out a ton of things, and many things require specialized knowledge, but, if you have followed along, these posts should give you a big head start if you are planning on selling your home anytime soon. They are also a great resource for your home maintenance program.
I hope these posts were informative.
As always if you have home related questions, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will help in any way that I can.
Aaron M. Zuehlke is the owner and inspector at Zuehlke Inspection Service, LLC, a full-service home inspection company serving Southern Wisconsin. Specializing in Home inspection, Radon Testing, Mold Testing/inspection and Residential Thermal Imaging. He can be reached by email at Aaron@Zuehlkeinspections.com or by calling the office at 608-931-7485.