In the last couple of blogs we looked at how home inspectors use their senses of smell and hearing to detect problems in a home. Today we turn our attention to another invaluable tool in the inspector’s arsenal—the sense of touch. As we’ve discussed, sometimes a visual evaluation alone doesn’t provide concrete evidence of a problem.
Based on more than 27 years of service and many thousands of inspections performed by the certified team at A-Pro, here is a brief checklist of some of the defects home inspectors find by using their sense of touch, from the obvious to the harder to detect.
Hot and Cold Water: Let’s start with one of the obvious problems: “hot” faucets (left) that flow cold water and “cold” faucets (right) that flow hot water, or tub and shower fixtures that are installed backward. Your inspector will check all faucets to make sure hot and cold lines have not been reversed and that fixtures have been properly installed. The inspector may also find hot water coming out of the cold tap. There may be several explanations for this, such as excessively high water pressure, a defective thermostat in the water heater, a poorly installed heat trap, and hot water pipes that have been installed too close to cold water pipes. When there is a lack of hot water from the appropriate faucet, problems with the water heater may be the culprit (leaks, aging equipment, sediment buildup, etc.). While determining the root cause of hot/cold water issues is beyond the scope of an inspection, fixtures that do not flow hot or cold water as they should will be noted in the report.
Moisture: Uncontrolled high humidity in a home is never a good thing. Walls that sweat or are damp to the touch are a major indicator that the home (or particular room, such as a bathroom, kitchen, or attic) has too much moisture—an issue that can lead to rotting of wood framing, damage around window sills and doors, floor buckling, and other potentially costly problems. Damp walls are often accompanied by other signs that the home has moisture issues, including wallpaper and paint that are blistered or peeling, wall and ceiling stains, and mold and mildew growth. A simple touch of a damp interior wall will raise serious red flags for the inspector.
Damp patches may be a sign that water is getting inside through exterior gaps and cracks, window frames that are not sufficiently sealed, leaks in the roof, or due to generally poor ventilation. Moisture concerns may not always be obvious. A basement or crawlspace, for example, may not reveal the presence of water, but your inspector will take this visual assessment a step further by feeling the walls to determine if they are damp. By touching water stains, such as those in a cabinet under a sink or on carpeting, the inspector can assess whether it has been caused by active leakage. Even when a surface is dry to the touch, a moisture meter may be used to determine if there is hidden dampness in areas where a problem is suspected.
Other dampness issues include floor joists that are wet to the touch (a sign of an excessively damp crawlspace); and moisture on insulation, which can become a prime breeding ground for mold, mildew, and insect infestations, in addition to lessening its ability to effectively perform its job.
Electrical: An electrical outlet that is hot to the touch will be reported, as it could be due to a number of concerns, including too much demand on the circuit or wiring damage. A circuit breaker or electrical panel box that is hot to the touch is a cause for major concern and may demand immediate intervention. In some cases, an inspector’s sense of touch will tell them that a system or appliance is not safe to evaluate or operate.
HVAC: When operating the home’s HVAC system, the inspector may find, by using the palm of their hand (in addition to technical equipment), that there is limited or no airflow coming through registers in the home or that the air isn’t warm (when checking heating) or cool (when checking cooling). Low or no flow could signal a number of issues, such as a malfunctioning furnace fan, a crushed duct flex, an undersized system that may serve some rooms but not all, clogged or leaky ducts, a dirty filter, frozen evaporator coil or dirty outside condenser unit in the A/C system, and other possible issues.