Foundation Cracks & Home Inspections

Shane Serra - Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Foundation problems are a main focus of attention when performing a home inspection. While most homes do not have any serious or major foundation problems, they can occur and can be very costly to repair.

Dealing with Foundations During Home Inspections

Let’s start off with the most common topic when dealing with foundations and your home inspection that being the dreaded and awful foundation crack. Ok so most cracks are not that awful or serious, but at least we’ve got your attention now. Most cracks observed during a home inspection are in general, not a big deal. Many people assume that if the foundation has a crack that it is a major problem and they should run for the hills, not true.

Identifying the Severity of Foundation Cracks

All foundations will have cracks to some degree; it’s just part of the nature of the beast. Cracks will develop as the foundation settles and the concrete or mortar joints start to cure and shrink. Sometimes it can take up to a few years for cracks to occur. What matters is whether these cracks show evidence of serious structural movement or deficiency.

In most cases, the cracks observed during a home inspection are superficial and may only need sealing to help prevent them from leakage. These cracks are generally vertical in nature and are less the a few millimetres in width. Cracks like this can generally be sealed from the interior of the home with modern epoxy sealants which have a high success rate and are much less costly and disruptive than having to excavate and perform repairs from the exterior.

How To Tackle Foundation Cracks

During your home inspection you may observe cracks that show differential settlement, rotation or run in a more horizontal fashion, these are signs of trouble. These are the types of cracks where concern is warranted and professionals who deal with foundation repairs should be consulted as repairs may become very costly.

What should you do if cracks are observed during your home inspection? Most likely your home inspector will provide you with advice on how to move forward. In most cases, superficial cracks will require monitoring as they can potentially move and become worse, and sealing of existing cracks should always be performed and maintained to prevent unwanted leakage into the home. If the crack is more suspicious in nature or shows obvious signs of needing attention, then your home inspector will likely advise you to consult with a foundation repair specialist to further evaluate the problem and perform the necessary repairs.

The vast majority of foundation cracks observed during a home inspection are usually not serious, so try not to panic and overreact.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. performs home inspections, WETT inspections, thermal imaging and mould inspections in Barrie, Orillia, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Innisfil and across Simcoe County.

Floor Pad Cracking & Home Inspections

Shane Serra - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Floor Pad Cracking & Home Inspections

A common question asked by many clients while having their home inspection performed is whether floor pad cracks are a serious problem? In most cases your home inspector will likely say no. It is not uncommon at all for floor pad cracks to develop, especially within the first few years that a home is built while the concrete is still curing.

Identifying Problematic Floor Pad Cracks During Home Inspections

Small hair line cracks (less than a few millimetres in width) are typical and usually do not present any problems for most homes and their owners. Although some buyers or home owners may view this opinion with some skepticism, it is normal for cracks to develop and again they generally do not cause any serious problems.

There are some rare cases where floor pad cracks can be problematic and also be an indication of possible underlying problems. Cracks which are more than a few millimetres in thickness with evidence of heaving or differential settlement should be monitored very closely and if movement persists it will likely need to be addressed by a concrete specialist.

How Your Home Inspector Can Help Tackle Floor Pad Crack

Things like poor installation of substrate or high water tables can cause problems and lead to excessive cracking and potential structural problems. Sometimes alternative water drainage strategies need to be implemented, or in cases of poor quality construction, entire floors will need to be removed and redone. A general rule of thumb for thickness of a floor pad is at least three inches.

So if you observe some floor pad cracking during your home inspection, try not to get too excited as its most likely a normal scenario and nothing to get worked up about. Be sure to consult with your home inspector and listen to what they have to say before jumping to conclusions. Of course if your home inspector is competent they will let you know whether or not you really have something to address.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. performs home inspections, WETT inspections, thermal imaging inspections and mould inspections in Barrie, Alliston, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach and Innisfil.

Common Problems With Decks Found During Home Inspections

Shane Serra - Friday, April 14, 2017

Decks by far have to be one of the most common upgrades that homeowners will take upon themselves to construct. Unfortunately, decks are also one of the most common problem areas observed on the exterior of a home during an inspection.

Improper Deck Framing

Improper deck framing is a very common problem. There are many “weekend warrior” types that feel their construction skills are up to par for building a deck. Problem is most don’t have a clue, and this can lead to some serious safety issues. Improper deck framing is a problem commonly observed during home inspections.

Over spanned and over spaced joists, improper sized joist hangers, improper joist fastening, ledger boards not secured properly, improper joist supports, undersized beams, undersized beam columns, improper or damaged footings are all typical issues found during home inspections.

Some other common issues found with decks during home inspections are improper, damaged or missing railings, improperly constructed stairs, deck stairs not properly fastened to the deck itself, damaged or deteriorated treads and surface planks and rot and deterioration in general.

Implications of Deck Defects

Implications of these defects can sometimes be serious. If a deck collapses and someone becomes injured or seriously hurt, one could find themselves being slapped with a substantial lawsuit. This is why attention needs to be given to inspecting the deck to ensure it is safe to use.

More often than not, poorly constructed decks are observed during home inspections. Most homeowners also do not follow local code compliance regulations regarding proper deck safety and construction methods, again another reason to ensure your home inspector has a real good look at that deck.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. performs home inspections, WETT inspections, thermal imaging and mould inspections in Barrie and across Simcoe County.

Electrical Panels & Home Inspections

Shane Serra - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The electrical system is one of the major systems within a home and one of the systems of primary focus while performing a home inspection. Listed below are some of the most common defects observed during a home inspection in relation to the electrical panel itself.

Over Sized Fuses Or Breakers Inspection

Over sized fuses or breakers is very common. It’s not unusual for Harry the homeowner handyman to strike and install whatever size breaker or fuse that physically fits in the panel even though it may be oversized and become a potential fire hazard. It’s important to ensure fuses or breakers are properly sized for the gauge of wire they are supposed to protect, otherwise if there is a fault in that circuit, the fuse or breaker may not trip as quickly as it should, resulting in a fire. In general, correcting over sized fuses or breakers isn’t a big deal and not overly costly, but this doesn’t mean it should be overlooked and left uncorrected.

Missing Wire Clamps & Grommets Inspection

Missing wire clamps and grommets is another common defect found on electrical panels during home inspections. Same situation as above, an unqualified handyman probably doesn’t realize the value for proper wire isolation and might skip installing the proper clamps or grommets. This can lead to wire sheathing rubbing on the metal frame of the panel and someone getting electrocuted and again also a fire hazard.

Double Tapping Inspection

Double tapping or double lugging as some may refer to it is also another common defect found during home inspections. This is when someone decides it’s ok to install more than one wire end into the breaker or fuse receptacle. This can potentially lead to an overheating situation and cause a fire. In some cases double tapping is permissible if the breakers are designed for multiple wire use or where a low voltage device such as a transformer for a door bell is installed. In other rare cases double taps may be permissible if passed by a qualified electrician or electrical authority. In general it is considered bad practice though.

Incorrect Panel Cover Screws Inspection

Incorrect panel cover screws are also another common defect witnessed during home inspections. Panel covers must have flat tipped screws to avoid any possibility of piercing wire sheathing accidentally. All too often carless home owners have removed the panel cover, lost the screws and replaced them with longer wood type screws with sharp tips which may protrude into wiring.

Most of these issues commonly found in electrical panels during home inspections can be repaired usually without much grief and too much cost, so in most cases there isn’t a need to panic. That being said, they should not be left uncorrected and should be repaired by a qualified professional.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. performs home inspections, WETT inspections, mould inspections and thermal imaging inspections in Barrie, Alliston, Orillia, Collingwood and across Simcoe County.

Common Issues Found During Home Inspections – Mould in the Attic

Shane Serra - Saturday, February 25, 2017


Common Issues Found During Home Inspections – Mould in the Attic

Mould, it’s a very common occurrence in most homes, and it’s not unusual at all to discover mould growth during a typical home inspection. Mould can be found in a home due to a variety of reasons, perhaps there was a plumbing leak that soaked drywall or carpet, maybe a foundation leak into a finished basement, or maybe a venting issue inside the attic.

Many people have been influenced by sensationalized media when it comes to mould presence in their home and therefore tend to panic when mould growth is discovered when they are having home inspection. Lets discuss one of the most common mould issues found during a home inspection:

Mould Inside the Attic

There can be a few different reasons as to why mould may be present inside an attic. Perhaps there is a lack of proper venting, or someone has carelessly vented bathroom exhaust fan inside the attic, it could be due to a leakage problem or even due to a grow operation.

From our experience performing home inspections, usually mould growth inside the attic is due to careless bathroom exhaust fan venting inside the attic, or what is more commonly observed in homes constructed within the last 20 years or so, is soffit vented exhaust fans that sometimes allow moist air to enter back inside the attic space in a localized area, typically between a pair of rafters or trusses (see attached photo).

Mould Remediation

So, what are your options when mould is discovered in the attic during your home inspection? Moving forward, you always want to address the issue, in cases as mentioned above, if the mould growth is localized you probably don’t need to panic. You should at some point either remove the affected material, or have it properly treated by a qualified remediation specialist.

Removal of the affected material can be as simple as having the affected roof sheathing replaced the next time the shingles are replaced, or having a mould remediation specialist remove material through various media blasting or other chemical treatments. Depending on the situation, high cost can be a factor, but not always, so it’s best to consult with professionals to know what your options really are.

How to Prevent the Mould Problem from Reoccurring?

Once the affected materials are replaced or treated, it’s a really good idea to address the root cause to the issue to prevent the problem from recurring in the future as well. This can sometimes be as simple as relocating the exhaust vent to another suitable area or venting in another manner to improve the discharge of warm moist air away from the attic space.

In conclusion, not all attic mould growth scenarios are life threatening or severe problems, so if you are having a home inspection performed and mould is found, do not panic and take the time to consult with the correct professionals so you know what the best course of action moving forward is.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. performs home inspections, mould inspections, WETT inspections and thermal imaging in Barrie and across Simcoe County.


Carbon Monoxide and Your Garage

Shane Serra - Friday, January 20, 2017


A typical issue found in many homes during a home inspection is the lack of proper “gas proofing” between the garage and the interior of the home. Why is this so important?

Harmful Effects of Carbon Monoxide

In the past their have actually been deaths attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning due to poor or lack of proper gas proofing between the garage and the interior of the home. In older homes (prior to building codes) it’s not uncommon to have a wall which separates the attached garage from the interior that is poorly sealed or not sealed at all.

Building codes have been changed over the last number of years to address this issue and improve the sealing and separation between the garage and attached interior of the home. Things like self closing devices on inside entry doors, and properly sealed drywall between units are very common now in order to help prevent the possibility of carbon monoxide from entering into the home, should someone leave a vehicle running unattended inside the garage.

How Home Inspection Can Help Tackle Harmful Effects of Carbon Monoxide

Some common defects observed by home inspectors during a home inspection in regards to this issue are self closing devices that have been disabled or removed entirely from inside entry doors. Another common issue is poor quality drywall taping which falls off after the first few years after the home is built and leaves open seams as a potential space for gas to enter into the home.

Home owner modifications to garages can also come into play, things like poorly installed electrical wiring, central vac piping, plumbing supply lines, alarm system wiring, and dryer & kitchen vents; these must all be properly sealed at the separation wall to ensure carbon monoxide cannot enter into the home.

In most cases these issues that are discovered during a home inspection can be dealt with fairly easily and without much disruption or cost to ensure the safety of the occupants of the home. It’s surprising how many people today are still oblivious to these faux pas and wouldn’t have known any better unless their home inspector had made them aware of the situation. Just another reason why it’s important to perform a home inspection when buying a home.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. performs home inspections, WETT inspections, thermal imaging inspections, and mould inspections across Barrie and Simcoe County.


Why You Should Never Choose a Cheap Home Inspector

Shane Serra - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Many people generally view all home inspectors as the same and therefore may have a tendency to hire the cheapest home inspector they can find, big mistake! A typical observation is that most people assume all home inspectors are the same and therefore will provide the exact same level of service while conducting your home inspection. Wrong!

Unfortunately, the home inspection industry in Ontario is self regulated at this time and anyone who feels they are competent enough, can print off business cards, launch a website and plaster their vehicle with graphics calling themselves a “home inspector”. This can be a bit scary and unnerving for most folks who are looking to hire an inspector to help them make an informed decision about the home they are about to buy. Fortunately there are a few things you can consider while shopping around and interviewing potential inspectors.

What type of background does the inspector have?

Generally, a good home inspector will have some sort of background in construction or contracting, engineering or architectural disciplines. People with this type of background generally have the knowledge and experience needed to conduct a proper inspection and identify problems and areas of non performance within a residential home.

What type of training does the inspector have?

Having a suitable background isn’t enough, proper training is also required. Has the inspector worked with a seasoned home inspector and been mentored? Has the inspector taken a credible training program, such as the Carson & Dunlop Inspection Training Program? What other education and training does this person have? Be wary of so called “certified inspectors” that have taken nothing more than a 2 hour online course to get their “certification”.

Is the inspector a full time inspector or just doing it part time to supplement their income? This is important because many people perform home inspections on a part time basis and have little to no vested interest in their business or their clients should something go wrong. Someone doing inspections on a full time basis will surely have much more experience than a part timer.

Is the home inspector insured?

This one is really important should something unforeseen or big happen. Humans can indeed make mistakes, therefore it is imperative that the home inspector be properly insured, carrying both general liability and error and omissions insurance.

What type of report is provided?

Gone are the days of chicken scratch and checklist style reports. A quality report should include photos of problem areas in an easy to understand and read computer generated format.

When looking for an inspector consider these tips and factor them into your decision making process for hiring your inspector. If you are shopping home inspectors and one is much cheaper than the other you must ask yourself, why? Chances are you won’t be getting the service you require and the few bucks you saved will end up costing you in the long run. Don’t make your decision based solely on the inspection fee alone.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. provides home inspections, WETT inspections, mould inspections and thermal imaging in Barrie and across Simcoe County.

Three Reasons Why You Should Get a Home Inspection

Shane Serra - Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why get a home inspection? One could spend a lot of time debating why they should have a home inspection performed prior to purchasing a new or resale home. Here are three solid reasons for why you should consider having a home inspection if buying a home.

Gives You Peace of Mind

First good reason to have a home inspection performed is for peace of mind. There are so many things that happen during a real estate transaction; it can easily become stressful and overwhelming. With all these distractions hitting you from all angles, it can be difficult to have a really good look at the home your thinking of buying with all this background “noise” stealing your attention. While some people may have the amount of knowledge and experience needed to really have a good look at that house you want to buy, it is a fact that most buyers will not have the skills needed to conduct a thorough inspection that will give them the peace of mind they want prior to finalizing their purchase. Hiring a professional home inspector eases the burden on the people buying the home knowing that a second set of qualified eyes is checking that house in your best interest. Regardless of what the outcome of the inspection is, you get peace of mind knowing it was inspected by a pro.

Helps Make an Informed Decision

The second good reason to have a home inspection performed is to help you make an informed decision. Again, regardless of the results of your home inspection, good, bad or somewhere in between, you now have as much info about the home that you can reasonably expect when working through the transaction process. This in turn will help you make an informed decision and will help you set a realistic expectation for what to budget for if you decide to purchase the home. Perhaps the outcome isn’t to the buyers liking and this will also help them move forward in their search for the right home.

Get a Non Biased Third Party Opinion

The third reason to have an inspection performed is to get a non-biased neutral third party opinion about the condition of the home. Most people won’t argue that emotions can have a significant impact on ones decision making ability. If you take that emotion out of the equation it can provide a sense of clarity prior to making that final move on whether to go ahead and seal the deal on the home. Hopefully this provides some insight as to why one should seriously consider having a home inspection conducted when buying a new or resale home.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. performs home inspections, WETT inspections, mould inspections and thermal imaging in Barrie, Alliston, Orillia, Collingwood and across Simcoe County.

Common Misconceptions of What Is Included In a Home Inspection

Shane Serra - Friday, January 15, 2016


You’ve just bought your new home, time to get that home inspection booked, right? Most people make the assumption that a home inspector is going to check every little thing inside and out of the house and everything within the property itself.

WRONG! Let’s go back a second here and start again. You are going to book a “home inspection”, right? Okay, so that would mean an inspection of the home itself, not everything on the property and under the sun. Clear as mud yet? Let’s dig a bit deeper here...

A home inspection can be defined as such:

“A general home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property, performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by set Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector”.

Now without turning this into an explicit multi page document, basically a home inspection is just that, an inspection of the home itself, nothing more, nothing less.

Many people assume that a home inspector will inspect items such as pools, saunas, hot tubs, irrigation systems, water filtration systems, wells, septic systems and outbuildings among many other things. While some qualified inspectors may offer to inspect some of those items listed (of course for an extra fee), inspection of these items is not typical and not required by any known and recognizable standards in the industry. Some people may ask, why is this?

Why Home Inspections?

If we take a moment to ponder why, we quickly realize that it would be next to impossible for one person to carry enough knowledge and experience with them to facilitate thorough inspection of all of these items noted above. Furthermore, with the typical inspection window allotted of about 3 hours for most homes, it would be impossible for one to inspect all of the extra items in the time allowed for most residential inspections.

This is why home inspections have a very specific scope of work that focuses on inspecting major and expensive components of the home. Otherwise a home buyer would likely have to hire a team of people to inspect the various items in and outside of the house and the rest of the property. This would cause the inspection process to be much lengthier and drive the cost into a territory that would not be very feasible for most buyers.

We also have to remember, the home inspection is performed prior to taking possession of the home, so this presents many limitations as well.

Home inspectors are generalists, not experts in one specific craft or trade, although some may have previous experience in one particular field of work or trade which can help them excel at being a home inspector. Think of it this way, your home inspector is much like your family physician.

Say for instance your hip is giving you trouble. Off to the family doc to have it checked out right? Now chances are your family doctor is going to send you to a specialist to get that hip checked out.

Same scenario can be played out for other medical ailments as well right? This is because your family doctor for the most part can relate to the “generalist” approach mentioned earlier.

Your doctor has pretty good working knowledge of the entire human body, but doesn’t act as an expert in one particular area. Your home inspector is similar in the sense that they have a pretty good working knowledge of homes in general, but they can’t possibly know every single detail about every single different item inside or outside of the house. They have a good idea of when something needs to be replaced or repaired, or when a more serious matter might be present.

This is why the focus of the inspection is placed on major systems of the home and not much attention is given to minor defects or imperfections. In a perfect world a thorough home inspection would reveal every single defect present in a home, however reality is much different.

Inspectors have to contend with all sorts of things than can make a home inspection very challenging. It’s for these reasons that home inspectors have a very specific scope of work that details what they will and will not do during an inspection.

If you’re about to have a home inspection performed, it’s a really good idea to review the scope of work with your inspector, especially if you’re not sure of what is or is not included in your home inspection or if you have a specific concern about the home.

Any good inspector should provide you with this prior to the inspection taking place. Here is an example of what to expect from your home inspection.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. has been performing home inspections in Barrie and across Simcoe County since 2006.


WETT Inspections – Chimney Sweeping

Shane Serra - Friday, October 16, 2015

Quite often during a WETT inspection the client or homeowner will ask us when is the best time to have the chimney swept. While there is no perfect simple answer for this, if we apply a little bit of common sense and consider the follow, it should help you decide when is the right time for you to have your chimney swept.

Here are some simple things to consider when trying to figure out when is the best time to have your chimney swept:


How often does your fireplace or woodstove get used? Some homeowners will only use their fireplace during the holidays or at family gatherings, mostly for the “feel” or ambiance, some will only use their woodstove during really cold periods to supplement their main heating source. The bottom line here is, the more often the fireplace or stove gets used, then the more often it should be cleaned, this includes the chimney and its flue or liner.Also, if the unit is used sparingly, then you better do a cursory inspection of the chimney flue if it’s been sitting idle for some time to ensure there are no obstructions (critters) which can lead to spillage back into the home.

Fuel Type

Most people just assume that you burn whatever wood you have and that’s the end of it. WRONG! Anyone that is well versed or experienced in using wood heat will tell you it’s a bit of an art choosing which fuel to use. Ideally you would only burn well seasoned hardwood, for some of us this isn’t feasible, so mixed wood may be used. It’s important to understand how burning soft or unseasoned wood (or other undesirable items such as garbage, a big NO NO!) can lead to excessive creosote buildup which can lead to a chimney fire. Bottom line here is if you have less than ideal fuel, you should consider more frequent inspection and cleaning of the chimney to prevent excessive creosote buildup which can lead to expensive and potentially life threatening situations.


Here is where a bit of experience comes into play. Ideally you want to get a good flame established quickly and get the chimney up to operating temperature to prevent smoldering and spillage into the home. Once the fire is established, it is best to maintain a steady and slow burn of the wood to prevent excessive wasteful heat while still maintaining high enough chimney flue temps that creosote will be less likely to accumulate.

So when is the right time to have your chimney swept? It depends on how often you use your wood burning unit, what type of fuel used and the burn cycles the unit sees. For most users, a chimney sweeping once a year in the spring will be the ideal. For users that burn lots of wood and depend heavily on wood heat then a bi-annual cleaning may be the best idea. Units that are used rarely may only need cleaning every few years, but these units should be checked regularly to ensure critters haven’t got into the chimney during periods of dormancy.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. offers WETT inspections for all wood burning appliances in Barrie and across Simcoe County.