Common problems found while inspecting older homes


Landscape grade sloping back toward the home:

  • Negative grading toward the home can lead water into the basement or crawlspace, foundation movement, settling and/or cracking.
  • If water begins to wick up through the foundation it can also lead to water damage and wood rot to the building materials, as well as mold.

*Some signs indicative of foundation movement are: Doors and windows out of square, uneven floors, and cracks in the foundation.


Roofing materials:


  • As a roof ages it becomes prone to leaking.  
  • The average life expectancy for a well maintained asphalt roof is between 20 and 30 years. 
  • As a roof ages, the shingles become brittle and more prone to damage during severe weather.
  • An older shingle roof will show signs of cupping, curling, and granular loss.
  • It is better to replace a roof too soon than wait until it is too late.
  • You don't want to be in a position where you will not only have to replace your roof, but pay to have interior water damage fixed as well.

Wood Shingles and Shakes

  • Wooden shingles are machine cut while wooden shakes are traditionally hand split or mechanically split.
  • Wood shake/shingle roofs will show some of the same signs of aging as asphalt roofs.
  • Curling, cupping, insect damage, wood rot, and splitting.
  • Wood shingled roofs last between 30-40 yrs.
  • A shingle/shake roof life expectancy can be extended by performing routine maintenance.
  • If you see any shingles that are badly damaged, you should have them replaced.
  • It is also important to keep your roof clear of organic debris, moss, and algae.

Slate tiles

  • Slate tiles have a life expectancy of 35-100+ years.
  • Typical life span;  Pennsylvania slate 35-75 yrs, Vermont Slate 100 yrs, Virginia slate 175 yrs.
  • Lower quality slate begins to flake and shale.
  • The biggest problems with slate roofs is that the nails that hold the tiles in place rot and the tiles slide out of place.
  • Any material used to repair these roofs should be of the highest quality because it will have to last an extremely long time.
  • Copper and stainless steel nails last longer than galvanized nails.
  • Walking on this type of roof is extremely harmful to the material, therefore the entire roof inspection should be done from a ladder or with binoculars.

 Concrete and Clay Tiles

  • These are high quality roofing systems with 50-100 year life expediencies.
  • This roofing system has many of the same problems as slate roofs.
  • The common problem with this roofing system is the fasteners wear out before the tiles.
  • Expansion and contraction caused by the seasonal change in the North East can cause these tiles to crack or become loose.
  • Walking on this type of roof is extremely harmful to the material, therefore the entire roof inspection should be done from a ladder or with binoculars.


Electrical wiring

  • A common cause for house fires is faulty electrical wiring.
  • Older homes were not wired for today's power needs.
  • If a home's interior doesn't look like it has been updated since "Leave it to Beaver" was on the air, you can be sure the electrical wiring hasn't either.
  • Extension cords are not an answer to a lack of outlets.
  • Homes should have a minimum of 100 amp service.
  • If you are frequently forced to turn your circuit breaker back on, it is time to call an electrician.
  • *It is important to realize that when you decide to finish your attic and/or your basement, you are expanding the livable space in your home.  Your electrical, heating, and air conditioning systems should all be upgraded in order to handle the extra living space.*
  • I commonly find electrical wires spliced together with only electrical tape, in garages, attics, and crawl spaces.  This MUST be fixed by a licensed electrician.
  • Houses that were built between 1880 and 1950 use knob and tube wiring.
  • Knob and tube wiring is considered inadequate to cover today's electrical loads and can be a safety hazard.
  • Houses that were built in the 60's and 70's generally used aluminum wiring.
  • Aluminum wire expands and contracts significantly more then copper wires, this can lead to or arcing at the aluminum wiring connectors.  As a result, connections will begin to overheat and cause a fire hazard. 
  • According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fires and even deaths have been reported to have been caused by this hazard.


Heating and cooling 

  • Having your HVAC system serviced yearly is a great way to prolong its life.  
  • It is also a good way to show your prospective buyer that you are a responsible home owner.
  • Improper installations, improper venting, under sized units, inadequate maintenance, and aged components are very common.



  • When someone decides to add extra plumbing fixtures themselves, they very rarely properly vent their drains.
  • As a result you have very slow drainage.
  • Heavily corroded shut valves are very common.. You don't know how bad you need them to be in working order until it is too late!!
  • Leaky shower pans are very common.  If you ever notice an access panel on the ceiling it is usually right under the drain of a shower pan.
  • Galvanized steel piping was common until roughly 1950. 
  • This type of piping typically lasts 40-60 years.
  • If you see it in your house, you should call a plumber.



  • Common problems with fire places are creosote build up in the chimney.
  • Disregard of combustion clearances around the fireplace opening (example: combustible molding to close to the heat source.)
  • Damaged damper.
  • Cracked fire bricks and missing mortar.


Dear Customer,

Home inspections are a great way to make sure you are making a sound investment while also learning more about your future home.  By the conclusion of a Higher Standard Home Inspection, my clients usually know more about the house than the current owners.  I urge all of my clients to attend the home inspection, or at the very least, meet with me at the end so that I can debrief them on any defects that were found during the inspection.  If there is something that you see that concerns you, I will make sure to answer any questions you may have.


Lucas Frank