What Not to Miss When Inspecting a New Home During the Winter
We can’t always plan the time of year when we buy a new home. The warmer months seem like the ideal time to
buy, because with winter comes colder conditions that can make it more difficult to get your new home inspected thoroughly. Still, some parts of a home inspection are actually better during a Minnesota winter. So, despite having to work around piles of snow on the roof and ground, here’s a list of what not to miss during a winter home inspection.
This is an important, but often difficult first stop for a winter home inspection. If the roof is covered in snow, it can hide missing shingles or wood damage, but it can also tell a lot about the way the attic is insulated. Do you see bare patches that have melted quickly after it snowed? That may be a sign that the insulation in the attic is lacking and letting too much warm air escape through the roof, which can cause ice dams and roof damage. If at all possible, have the roof blown clean or shoveled before inspection.
This is actually one of the best times of year to test the home’s heating system. Since the heat will usually be on, you can make sure the temperature is balanced around the home. Unlike summer, you will be able to tell which areas of the home are cold or even feel drafts coming from windows, attics and doorways. An inspector will be able to check for carbon monoxide leaks and let you know if it needs major repairs or replacing, or if you just need an HVAC system cleaning.
The air conditioning unit can be a little more difficult to check during the winter, because if you turn it on when it’s too cold, it could cause damage to the unit. The inspector should make sure the parts are intact, free of rust and deterioration and be able to tell you the age of the unit so you can estimate how soon it may need replacing.
In the depths of winter, checking water flow for blockages and backups is fairly simple. However, when buying a foreclosed home, be on the lookout for frozen pipes. This can happen when the heat is turned off, the water is not run regularly and if the home hasn’t been properly cared for before winter and has been sitting empty for awhile.
Foundation and Drainage
Sloping floors and bowing walls are a good indication that there are foundation problems, and is something that can be seen on the inside of the home. Snow on the outside of the house may make it difficult to see, but you will want to make sure the inspector checks the deck footings and looks for cracks around the bottom of the home.
Improper drainage can lead to problems with flooding and the foundation. Many inspectors will say that cracked sidewalks, eroded soil and leaning trees may be signs of drainage problems.
A check of the main electrical panel, wiring and outlets is a must. Again, if you are looking at a foreclosed home, make sure the electricity isn’t shut off, since that will also shut down the heating system.
Ask the Expert
If concerns are uncovered – even with minor issues in HVAC, electrical, or plumbing – call in an expert for further scrutiny. Most home inspectors spend an hour or two to do the entire home. However, a thorough HVAC inspection takes at least an hour on its own, and it goes without saying that a home inspector is not as well-trained on the specifics of HVAC systems as an HVAC is.
Above all, make sure to use the inspection as your opportunity to learn about the home. Note the items brought up in the report and understand the difference between minor and major issues with the home. If you need to find a good inspector, ask friends for recommendations or try the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
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