As we have seen in part 1 of this 3-part article, once you identify a home that feels right for you, diligent observation of key features and areas of the property will help you determine whether this prospect is worth pursuing. Then, you can rest assured that the cost of a professional home inspection is a worthwhile expense also.
In the previous article, we identified the grounds and structural cues that reveal a home’s integrity. This article identifies cues related to electrical and heating systems, as well as insulation.
2- Systems & Insulation
Examine electrical outlets and the circuit breakers. This includes ceiling fixtures. Ask if vintage fixtures still have the original wiring. Are wall and ceiling fixtures steadily secured and installed properly? Remember to examine outside outlets also. Are the locations and number of outlets adequate? Is the main circuit breaker easily accessible? Is it securely wired and marked at least “100 amps”?
Now, to the heating system. Are any rooms not heated and what would be the cost and effort of heating them? What type of heating system is in use? Does the seller have the operations and specifications manual? If not, is it available? When was the heating system last serviced or cleaned? Do registers appear adequate for heating each room? Scrutinize any air conditioning system also.
Insulation is rated in terms of thermal resistance. This is called R-value. It indicates the resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. In moderate climates, insulation rated R-19 (such as 6-inch fiberglass) is generally a minimum. Up to R-38 (12 inches) is required in colder climates. To see wall insulation, remove the cover of a perimeter wall outlet. Be ready to climb into the attic or bring along an agile helper if you are not able to do this.
Though this is by no means a comprehensive investigation of a home’s systems and resistance to the elements, when you begin to notice each detail you will instinctively sharpen your observation skills. When you find “fault”, doo keep in mind that sellers are generally honest. It is possible that issues you identify have not appeared obvious to them. Selling a house can be as overwhelming as shopping for one. There is much to think about and to add to one’s daily routine.
In the next article, we will take a look at workmanship and fixtures.