Common concealed property defects and how to spot them
As RICS-regulated home surveyors, we regularly see a wide range of different concealed property defects. Spotting them is sometimes obvious but often requires an expert eye. Before committing to purchase a property, a home survey is a vital step to take. It’s likely to find all sorts of problems, both clear and hidden, giving you a good overview of the house you’re interested in. In this article, we’ll be quickly touching on some of the most common concealed property defects, how to spot them, and how a home survey can help.
A roof could either be damaged or incorrectly installed. Issues commonly affect the following parts:
- Roof tiles
- Timber structure
Holes or tears in the roof covering or lining could allow the weather, birds and insects into your home. One of the most common problems resulting from a broken or poorly fitted roof is water damage. Unfortunately, there’s often no sign of this damage until it’s spread to a catastrophic level. Birds and insects also like to use gaps in our manmade structures for raising their young. Not only will they make a mess, but they could also cause potential health hazards. In some cases, birds have been known to make nests on top of hot lightbulbs (such as halogen), causing house fires. As a homeowner, you could save yourself thousands of pounds with routine roof and loft-space maintenance.
When buying a house, a home surveyor will check the roof as thoroughly as possible (without being too invasive or disturbing the current occupant’s belongings). They’ll check it from both the outside and inside. Roof problems and the consequences arising from them can be challenging to spot. The surveyor will use a damp meter and torch to check the loft space for any warning signs.
Foundations can move. It’s not the nicest thought, but it’s always something to be wary of. Occasionally, the foundations themselves can fail, especially in older houses from when there was less regulation involved. Forms of ground movement such as subsidence, settlement or heave also mean the foundation can sometimes spend a long time sinking into position. The foundations of a building could also shift due to issues with an adjacent building. Tree roots are a common cause – for this, you’ll need to get in touch with a tree surgeon. Problems with drains can also lead to it. Usually, foundation movement is minor and can be addressed through an expert. Evidence of foundation movement might include:
- Cracking plasterboard (interior walls and ceilings)
- Cracking brickwork (exterior)
- Peeling wallpaper without any signs of damp
- Doors or windows getting stuck without an apparent cause
Home surveyors will pick up on anything that might signify issues with foundation movement and detail them in their report.
Sometimes, damp is obvious. There’s a massive dark patch spreading across the wall, and it’s clear where the leak is coming from. Two of the main types of damp are rising and penetrating. Penetrating damp finds its way through the walls and into the house, whereas rising damp ‘rises’ through the building materials. Penetrating damp is usually easier to spot as it forms patches on walls. Rising damp can be a little more subtle. Early signs include stains near the bottom of walls, often a form of salt. As rising damp progresses, it can cause plaster to start crumbling. Both types of damp are far more common in older properties without the modern damp-proofing techniques used in newer builds. A home surveyor checks for all types of damp, although, of course, they don’t remove any plasterboard or cause any damage. Although damp can be difficult to spot, having a trained eye look things over could make the difference.
While most of us tend to never think about drains, they’re a crucial part of the national water system and how we all live our lives. A leaking drain is a serious health hazard – it’s all waste, after all. Drains on or near properties are more likely to cause movement issues and commonly affect foundations. Part of a home survey involves a general visual check of the relevant drains (along with all other mains services). The surveyor will see if there are any leaks and will test it under standard operation. They won’t report on unseen aspects, such as the drain’s structure or installation. Aside from the obvious, there are many symptoms of drain problems. These could include:
- Slow draining from basins, sinks, showers or baths
- Terrible smells
- Flooding (including the lawn and garden)
- Strange gurgling sounds
How home surveys can help you spot hidden property defects
You’ll probably be able to spot a good number of problems by yourself. This is especially true in older properties where issues such as damp often manifest themselves in spectacular fashion. If you’re willing to be a bit nosy, too, you might find something of note. It’s important to not be rude or cause any damage at this point, of course. Getting a home survey provides an expert’s view of the property you’re looking to buy. They provide you with reassurance and confidence that you’re aware of everything you need to be mindful of by spotting both obvious and concealed property defects. For more information on how a home survey can assist you by checking for problems in a property, feel free to email us or give us a call on 03333 600 685.