By Margarette Burnette
(MCT)—Many homeowners are perplexed when they see defects in their homes. If there is a water spot on the ceiling, does it mean a few shingles on the roof need to be replaced? Or does an entirely new roof need to be purchased?
Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Springfield, Va., says it is important to thoroughly assess any defects in a home.
CRACKED CONCRETE: Thin cracks along a concrete foundation could be the result of settlement in the concrete and may not necessarily be a cause for concern, says Kathleen Kuhn, president of HouseMaster Home Inspections in Bound Brook, N.J.
But homeowners need to pay attention to the shape and direction of the divide. Long, horizontal splits in the concrete could indicate pressure from the outside — possibly from saturated soil — that needs to be repaired.
Regardless of shape, any cracks that leak water or are wider than one-fourth of an inch (some experts put the limit at one-sixteenth of an inch) should be inspected by a structural engineer immediately, Kuhn says.
“If moisture gets inside a small crack, it can cause the steel inside to rust, which could cause further deterioration,” Marston says.
Cost: According to Marston, the cost for a structural engineer to assess a property is about $300. If the expert finds major structural damage, the repair would be costly.
“Typical bills range from $10,000 to $30,000,” he says.
WORN-OUT DECKS: One low-tech way to test the firmness of a wooden backyard deck—assuming it’s safe to stand on—is to hit it hard with your foot and listen to the sound it makes, says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Castle Rock, Colo.
“If you hear the board beneath your foot vibrate, the deck is still probably solid,” Bennett says.
Marston says if the deck is fairly new, it’s probably structurally sound.
“When the wood is under 5 years old, then even if the lumber is discolored and there’s a little cracking, it’s generally not a cause for concern,” he says. “The solution could be as simple as cleaning it, re-securing the nails and adding a sealant.”
Cost: Marston says the cost of a cosmetic repair could range from $200 up to about $1,000, depending on whether the owner makes it a do-it-yourself project or hires a contractor.
If the deck is older than about 15 years, however, it is probably past its life expectancy and should be inspected by an experienced, licensed landscape contractor, Marston says. Replacement cost ranges from $5,000 to about $20,000, he says.
CEILING WATER STAIN: After spotting a water stain, homeowners should consider where the possible source of the stain is, Kuhn says. If there’s a bathroom above the water spot, the leak may be a plumbing issue. That could be a costly repair, she says, because a plumber may need access to an interior wall to repair the leaking pipe.
If the water spot appears to be rainwater coming through the roof, it’s not necessarily a major expense, especially if the roof is fairly new, Marston says. It could simply be a nail that popped through a shingle on the roof, or flashing (which secures pipes to a roof) that hasn’t been caulked properly, he says.
“Those problems are relatively simple to fix,” Marston says. “They usually cost a couple hundred dollars for a roofer to repair.”
Other problems could be more expensive to fix. For example, if the roof is 15 years old and several shingles have blown off, the roof is probably in poor condition and requires a complete replacement, Marston says.
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