So much stuff goes on in the basement that it’s a wonder why some homeowners decide to give it more burden by building something like a bar in it.
In a sense, almost every critical function of a house has it’s ugly side hidden in the basement.
Which is why from an inspection point of view, it is the single most revealing area in the house.
There are 5 key aspects of a basement that should be investigated. Especially for a finished basement.
And within each of them, there are various little checks to make to not just discover defects, but also to have a general idea of the current condition of the house.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
The most obvious items to take a closer look at are the basement walls. They support the whole weight of the house. And any serious damage should be taken very seriously.
1) Walls that look out of shape or form
If the basement is succumbing to the load the entire house is putting on it, it can show by showing signs of buckling, leaning, or bulging.
Remember that wall can be tricky as they have 2 sides to them and both sides cannot be viewed at the same time.
So don’t be surprised if you find nothing odd when walking around the exterior but observe clear problems when inside.
It takes experience to judge whether cracks are preludes to something dangerous that is brewing.
If you discover cracks with gaps that are 1/4 inch or more, please get them professionally assessed.
Visible signs of water and moisture are usually bad news.
Water seepage can be expensive problems to fix. And once the source of the problem is fixed, there is no guarantee that the source did not come from elsewhere.
Also known as mildew, mold simply loves the basement. It is a place conducive for it to thrive, especially when the walls are not doing their job in keeping moisture out.
Look for them in corners, on drywall, and trims.
5) New openings
If windows have been enlarged recently, or extra doors installed, these works affect the structure which supports the load of the house.
While these renovations make sense, they can pose a great danger to every inhabitant in the house.
When coming across such discoveries, request to take a look at building permits.
The internal structure of a basement refer to the joists, beams and columns.
If you are unable to grasp what this is, let’s put it this way.
The walls and ceiling hold up the house while the internal structure holds the walls together.
6) Lazy joists
Joists are supposed to support the floor above the basement. This is why they should not be stretched too far.
Building code actually says that they should not be more than 16 inches on center.
So if they can be observed to sag, it means that is is either no longer support the weight above, or barely getting by.
Sagging joists are common causes of slopes and uneven floors.
7) Incomplete joists
Joists are meant to be in it’s complete form. They should not be drilled or cut.
These can sometimes happen when the builder needs to make room for something else like wiring.
Joists that are tampered with are obviously not going to be as strong as it’s supposed to be.
Crack on joists are often cause by knots that weaken the wood or originate from cuts made on the notch area when joints are created on them.
9) Improvised joists fixes
DIY can be a fun hobby to fall in love with. But it should not be on something as critical as fixtures meant to support the house.
Sometimes homeowners use items as simple as masking tape to fix joists that are starting to break. Or maybe an extra joist was installed as a backup plan.
Although these fixes can sometimes do the intended job properly, sometimes they can be inadequate too.
This is not an area to fool around with.
As you might know, the basement is an area in the house prone to moisture. And when wood comes into contact with moisture, there is a tendency for it to rot.
In the event of discovering rotting joists, they need to be replaced as soon as possible.
Unless you are a qualified electrician, do not handle any fixes, modifications or improvements yourself.
Because you do it at your own risk.
Regarding electrical works in the basement, your job is just to look for defective spots. Leave the works to people who do this for a living.
Knob-and-tube wiring is an old-fashioned method of wiring that has long been left behind.
But older houses can still have these systems set up for their electrical needs.
While they can still serve their functions very well as long as the homeowner don’t overload the fuses, they should be replaced with modern wiring systems if appropriate.
It’s just taking on an extra hazard burden.
12) Aluminum wiring
Aluminum wiring presents a very real fire hazard.
A lot of household fires arise from electrical fires and overheating caused by aluminum wiring.
An expert is required to make a thorough full-scale quality check on every connection.
As long as there is a modification to the setup, an electrician should be called in to conduct an assessment.
14) Age of breaker panel
Breaker panels over 40 years old have a high likelihood of losing it’s capabilities.
The safe thing to do is not to rely on the old guard any longer.
Get it replaced.
15) Weird lighting behavior
A flickering light can be an isolated case that can be easily rectified.
However, when 2 or more lights are flickering in the pattern and timing, it is most likely caused by a damaged wire or loose connections.
16) Empty switches
Sometimes, homeowners get fixtures or appliances removed. Leaving behind switches that don’t power up or down anything.
It must be ensured that the wires are properly capped off for safety.
17) Junction box
A junction box is basically a box that protects the connection between 2 or more wires.
They can pose a fire hazard. And in some cases, even the possibility of electrocution.
The box should not be open. And never hidden from view.
18) Insufficient power outlets
With the amount of electricity we consume each day, outlets never seem to be enough.
Yet we make do with multi-plugs and extension cords.
Not having enough outlets mean that the remaining outlets are probably overused from taking on so many devices.
It can lead to electrical overload.
19) Outlets neat water source
It goes without saying that electrical outlets should never be anywhere near water with the exception of a GFCI receptacle.
20) Electrical permits
Permits need to be approved for electrical works in the basement.
If you find clues that the wiring have been modified an any way, do request to see the relevant permits and documents.
Most modern home designs attempt to hide pipes within the interior because of how ugly they make a house look.
But the basement is usually where the ugly side of plumbing is acceptable.
21) Lead piping on main supply line
The number 1 concern with piping these days is lead. Lead is a health hazard and is a material often used for pipes in the early century.
If the main supply line is made of lead, it effectively means that every ounce of water your are using and consuming is polluted. Some people call it poisoned.
22) Size of main supply line
The main water supply line should be at least 3/4 of an inch in size.
This is to ensure adequate water pressure even at the floors at the very top of the house.
It not uncommon to find them in 1/2 an inch in older homes.
23) Joints of galvanized iron and copper
The areas where these 2 materials meet are prone to rusting as they interact with each other.
24) Slow drainage
Look out for sinks and toilets that drain slowly.
It is an indication of a problem with venting.
25) Floor stains
If a serious water problem had occurred in the past, the floor will contain the most obvious signs of it.
26) Seams of water heater
These are the most common places for corrosion and leaks to appear on heaters.
27) Maintenance date
Just like a car service log, maintenance people will usually paste a sticker stating the date they serviced the unit.
If you cannot find on or find a date that is very long ago, it can mean that the unit has not been serviced for a while.
28) Shut off valve
As you should know, if anything, the water heater is one of the last appliances you want to malfunction.
And if it does do the unthinkable, you’d want to know where the shut-off valve is.
Some systems don’t have a valve like this.
Heating is essential for families living in colder climates. So essential is this that landlords have been taken to court for not providing proper heating for tenants. Creating an unlivable house.
29) Age of furnace
In general, forced-air furnaces have a lifespan of between 20 to 30 years.
So look out for those that are dying soon.
30) Excessive vibration
A furnace is not a tank. So you should expect it to vibrate as if running along a terrain.
At the same time, it should not be making too much noise too.
Excessive vibration and noise can mean a faulty unit.
31) Corrosion on the inside of furnace
It is somewhat expected that the inside of a furnace would be vulnerable to rust or dirt.
But it is also expected that a homeowner would clean and maintain the equipment to minimize these issues.
32) Oil leak
If you find oil leaking from the oil tank, it should be fixed immediately.
33) DIY ductwork
Ductwork extensions are often built by homeowners to provide heat to and expansion of living space.
Take note that furnace units are manufactured to provide heating for a limited amount of space. If there are more space, it often means that a furnace with a high capacity is required.
So if there is additional ductwork, you have to ask the question of whether the existing furnace has the capacity to heat the whole house.
34) Vents without air
For one reason or another sometimes, some vents will not have any air blowing.
This is something you have to investigate further should you come across a situation like this.
35) Age of compressor
In general air-conditioners last for typically between 10 to 15 years.
So do inquire about it’s age.
36) No cold air
One of the most annoying things is when you get home from a hot summer day, switch on the AC and find the room warm.
The maintenance crew has to be called in.
37) AC master switch
While each indoor unit will have it’s own remote control, there should be a master on/off switch present.
This is so that it can be turned off in times of emergencies.
38) Age of boiler
Boilers can last for a very long time. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t need to know it’s age.
39) Water damage of floor
If there are signs of water damage on the floors around the radiators, it is an indication that the bleed or control valves are leaking.