Home Inspections Articles
Priority Maintenance for Home Buyers
There are so many home maintenance and repair items that are important; it can be confusing trying to establish which are the most critical. To simplify things, we have compiled a short list of our favorites. These are by no means all-inclusive, nor do they replace any of the information in a home inspection report. They should, however, help you get started on the right foot. Remember, any items marked as priority or safety issues on your home inspection report need immediate attention.
- Install smoke detectors as necessary (usually one on each level of the home, near any sleeping areas). Install carbon monoxide detectors, according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Make any electrical improvements recommended in the home inspection report.
- Remove any wood/soil contact to prevent rot and insect damage.
- Change the locks on all doors. Use a dead bolt for better security and to minimize insurance costs.
- Correct trip hazards such as broken or uneven walks and driveways, loose or torn carpet or uneven flooring.
- Correct unsafe stairways and landings. (Railings missing, loose, too low, et cetera.)
- Have all chimneys inspected before operating any of these appliances.
- Locate and mark the shut-offs for the heating, electrical and plumbing systems.
- Label the circuits in electrical panels.
- If there is a septic system, have the tank pumped and inspected. If the house is on a private water supply (well), set up a regular testing procedure for checking water quality.
Regular Maintenance Items
- Clean the gutters in the spring and fall.
- Check for damaged roofing and flashing materials twice a year.
- Cut back trees and shrubs from the house walls, roof and air conditioning system as needed.
- Clean the tracks on horizontal sliding windows annually, and ensure the drain holes are clear.
- Test ground fault circuit interrupters, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors using the test button, monthly.
- Service furnace or boiler yearly.
- Check furnace filters, humidifiers and electronic air cleaners monthly.
- Check the bathtub and shower caulking monthly and improve promptly as needed.
- If you are in a climate where freezing occurs, shut off outdoor water faucets in the fall.
- Check reversing mechanism on garage door opener monthly.
- Check attics for evidence of leaks and condensation and make sure vents are not obstructed, at least twice a year. (Provide access into all attics and crawl spaces.)
Home Improvement Costs
The following costs are intended as ballpark estimates for repairs and/or improvements to a typical three bedroom home. Our experience has shown that actual contractor quotations can vary by as much as 300%. Naturally, the quality of workmanship and materials will influence costs. The complexity of the job, accessibility and even economic conditions can also alter actual costs.
Roofing / Flashings/ Chimneys
Install conventional asphalt shingles over existing shingles - $2.00 - $4.00 per sq.ft.
Strip and reshingle with conventional asphalt shingles - $2.75- $5.50 per sq.ft.
Strip and reshingle with premium quality asphalt shingles - $5.00 - $10.00 per sq .ft
Strip and re-roof with cedar shingles - $9.00 - $18.00 per sq .ft.
Strip and replace built-up tar and gravel roof - $10.00 - $20.00 per sq.ft. (min. $1000)
Strip and replace single-ply membrane - $10.00 - $20.00 per sq.ft. (min. $1000)
Reflash typical skylight or chimney - $500.00 - $1000.00
Rebuild typical chimney above roof line - $25.00 - $50.00 per row of bricks (min. $400)
Rebuild typical single flue chimney above roof line - $200.00 - $400.00 per lin.ft. (min. $1000)
Install galvanized or aluminum gutters and downspouts - $5.00 - $10.00 per lin.ft. (min. $500)
Install aluminum soffits and fascia - $8.00 - $16.00 per lin.ft.
Install aluminum or vinyl siding - $6.00 - $12.00 per sq.ft.
Repoint exterior wall (soft mortar) - $3.00 - 6.00 per sq.ft. (min. $500)
Repoint exterior wall (hard mortar) - $5.00 - $10.00 per sq.ft. (min. $500)
Parge foundation walls - $3.00 - $6.00 per sq.ft.
Dampproof foundation walls and install weeping tile - $150.00 - $300.00 per lin.ft. (min. $3000)
Install a deck - $25.00 - $50.00 per sq.ft. (min. $1000)
Resurface existing asphalt driveway - $2.00 - $4.00 per sq.ft.
Install interlocking brick driveway - $8.00 - $16.00 per sq.ft.
Rebuild exterior basement stairwell - $5000.00 and up
Build detached garage - $70.00 - $140.00 per sq.ft.
Build retaining wall (wood) - $20.00 - $40.00 per sq.ft. (min. $500)
Build retaining wall (concrete) - $30.00 - $60.00 per sq.ft. (min $500)
Painting (trim only) - $2000.00 - $4000.00 and up
Painting (trim and wall surfaces) - $5000.00 and up
Underpin one corner of house - $5000.00 and up
Underpin or add foundations - $300.00 and up per lin.ft. (min. $3000)
Lower basement floor by underpinning and/or bench footings - $150.00 - $300.00 per lin.ft. (min. $5000)
Replace deteriorating sill beam with concrete - $60.00 and up per lin.ft. (min. $2000)
Install basement support post with proper foundation - $800.00 - $1600.00
Perform chemical treatment for termites - $2000.00 and up
Repair minor crack in poured concrete foundation - $400.00 - $800.00
Upgrade electrical service to 100 amps (including new panel) - $1200.00 - $3000.00
Upgrade electrical service to 100 amps (if suitably sized panel already exists) - $800.00 - $1600.00
Upgrade electrical service to 200 amps - $1700.00 - $3500.00
Install new circuit breaker panel - $700.00 - $1400.00
Replace circuit breaker (20 amp or less) - $100.00 - $200.00
Add 120 volt circuit (microwave, freezer, etc.) - $150.00 - $300.00
Add 240 volt circuit (dryer, stove, etc.) - $300.00 - $600.00
Add conventional receptacle - $200.00 - $400.00
Replace conventional receptacle with ground fault circuit receptacle - $70.00 -$140.00
Replace conventional receptacle with aluminum compatible type (CO/ALR)(assuming several are required) - $60.00 - $120.00 ea.
Upgrade entire house with aluminum compatible receptacles, connectors, etc. - $1000.00 - $2000.00
Rewire electrical outlet with reversed polarity (assuming electrician already there) - $5.00 - $10.00 ea.
Replace knob & tube wiring with conventional wiring (per room) - $1000.00 - $2000.00
Install mid-efficiency forced-air furnace - $2500.00 - $5000.00
Install high-efficiency forced-air furnace - $3500.00 - $7000.00
Install humidifier - $300.00 - $600.00
Install electronic air filter - $800.00 - $1600.00
Install mid-efficiency boiler - $3500.00 - $7000.00
Install high-efficiency boiler - $6000.00 - $12000.00
Install circulating pump - $400.00 - $600.00
Install chimney liner for gas appliance - $500.00 - $1000.00
Install chimney liner for oil appliance - $700.00 - $1800.00
Install programmable thermostat - $200.00 - $400.00
Replace indoor oil tank - $1200.00 - $2500.00
Remove oil tank from basement - $600.00 and up
Remove abandoned underground oil tank - $10000.00 and up
Replace radiator valve - $300.00 - $600.00
Add electric baseboard heater - $250.00 - $500.00
Convert from hot water heating to forced-air (bungalow) - $10000.00 - $20000.00
Convert from hot water heating to forced-air (two storey) - $15000.00 - $30000.00
Clean ductwork - $300.00 - $600.00
Add central air conditioning on existing forced-air system - $3000.00 and up
Add heat pump to forced-air system - $4000.00 - $8000.00
Replace heat pump or air conditioning condenser - $1200.00 - $2500.00
Install independent air conditioning system - $10000.00 - $20000.00
Install ductless air conditioning system - $3000.00 - $7000.00
Insulate open attic to modern standards - $0.80 - $1.60 per sq.ft.
Blow insulation into flat roof, cathedral ceiling or wall cavity - $2.00 - $4.00 per sq.ft.
Improve attic ventilation - $30.00 - $60.00 per vent
Replace galvanized piping with copper (2 storey with one bathroom) - $2500.00 - $5000.00
Replace water line to house - $2000.00 and up
Replace toilet - $500.00 and up
Replace basin, including faucets - $750.00 and up
Replace bathtub, including ceramic tile and faucets - $2500.00 and up
Install whirlpool bath, including faucets - $3500.00 and up
Retile bathtub enclosure - $1000.00 - $2000.00
Replace leaking shower stall pan - $1000.00 - $2000.00
Rebuild tile shower stall - $2500.00 - $5000.00
Replace laundry tubs - $400.00 - $800.00
Remodel four-piece bathroom completely - $6000.00 - $50000.00
Connect waste plumbing system to municipal sewers - $5000.00 and up
Install submersible pump - $1000.00 and up
Install suction or jet pump - $700.00 and up
Install modest basement bathroom $6000.00 and up
Add drywall over plaster - $4.00 - $8.00 per sq.ft.
Sand and refinish hardwood floors - $2.00 - $4.00 per sq.ft.
Install replacement windows - $40.00 - $120.00 per sq.ft.
Install storm window - $200.00 - $400.00
Install masonry fireplace (if flue already roughed-in) - $3000.00 and up
Install zero-clearance firelace (including chimney) - $3500.00 and up
Install glass doors on fireplace - $300.00 and up
Install skylight - $3000.00
Remodel kitchen completely - $10,000.00 - $110000.00
Install gas fireplace - $3500.00 and up
Undertaking a Home Repair
Let's start by differentiating between a home improvement and a home repair. A home improvement, as the name implies, means improving something. It is usually a renovation to create more space, change the layout of the house, improve energy efficiency, or to make aesthetic changes. This report will deal with the simpler topic of home repair--basically replacing things that are worn out or fixing things that are broken. Here are some very basic rules to follow.
- Know what you want done
If you are replacing a worn out furnace, for example, do some research to find out whether you want a mid-efficiency furnace or a high-efficiency furnace. If you are repairing a roof with a leaking valley flashing, determine whether you want the valley flashing replaced or just patched to last a few years until the whole roof needs re-flashing.
If you know what you want done, you can compare apples to apples when reviewing quotations. Otherwise it would be very hard to compare various quotes if every contractor has a different repair strategy.
Be prepared to stick to your guns. Many contractors will tell you that the job is much bigger, much harder, or it must be done his way (because if you don't, it will be dangerous, or much more expensive the next time).
As home inspectors, we are often faced with contractor opinions that differ drastically from the recommendations in our reports. In most of these cases, the contractor is proposing unnecessary work.
- Find at least 3 experienced, reputable contractors who are capable of doing the work
This may sound easier than it is. While it is best to rely on personal referrals from people you trust, these referrals must be taken with a grain of salt. Former customers of contractors are not usually in a position to comment on the quality of the installation of a furnace, for example. Also be sure the type of work that you are planning to have done is similar (in size and scope) to the work done for the person providing the referral. Many contractors who are geared to do major renovations are not well suited to do minor repairs and vice versa.
- Obtain 3 written estimates
Our experience has shown that contractors quotes can vary as much as 300% on any given job. This is sometimes due to different perceptions of what needs to be done. This can be avoided by following Step 1 carefully. However, sometimes the variance is simply the result of how busy the contractor is.
- Get three references from each contractor
Better than three references is a list of the recent clients that the contractor has worked for. That way you get to choose who you would like to select as a reference. Follow up with these references bearing in mind the comments in Step 2.
While you are at it, ensure that the contractor has appropriate licenses and insurance.
- Choose the contractor
Don't necessarily base your choice on price alone. Look carefully at what has been included in the estimates. Select the contractor with the best reputation, provided that the price for the job is fair. Avoid paying cash. The benefit of a cash deal is typically far greater for the contractor than it is for the homeowner.
- Have both parties sign a contract
The contract should include a complete description of the work. It should also include details as to who is responsible for obtaining permits (if there is any doubt regarding the necessity of a permit, contact your local building department).
The contract should have a start date and a completion date. (On larger contracts, sometimes a penalty clause is included for each day the job extends beyond the completion date.)
The contract must also contain a payment schedule. The schedule should not demand very much money up front and the payment should be based on stages of completion as opposed to pre-determined dates.
Remember to hold back 10% of each payment for 45 days after the completion of the job to determine whether any liens have been placed on the property (as a result of the contractor not paying his sub-contractors).
Also, don't expect much in the way of a guarantee if you are simply asking a contractor to undertake band-aid repairs. Many contractors will not simply patch a damaged valley flashing, for example, even if they are 95% sure that the repair will work. This is because there is still a 5% chance that they will get complaints to fix a subsequent leak. In fairness, the leakage is not their fault. They just do not want the hassles. Consequently, many contractors will suggest repairs which are overkill (replacing the entire side of the roof, for example) to reduce the potential for complaints. A significantly lower price can be obtained, if you explain to the contractor that you expect him to do his best, but you aren't going to make him responsible for the future of the entire roof based on a $300 repair.
- Expect delays
Any type of home repair seems to take longer than was first predicted. If the repairs involve any sort of interior demolition, expect divorce dust.
- Have a contingency fund
Many home repairs end up unearthing something else that requires repair. While this is very common, ask lots of questions if your contractor is proposing additional work.
We trust that the above information will help people in their dealings with contractors, realign expectations, and perhaps avoid pitfalls.