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How to Blow $20,000 on Needless Repairs

Posted March 31st, 2011 under pitfalls, renovations and repairs, myths and truths.

Since the mid-90's, home inspections have become a standard part of buying and selling homes. Unfortunately, because home inspectors are neither licensed nor regulated, there are a few bad ones among the good.

The problem is, bad advice from a home inspector could cost you thousands of dollars!

If an inspector recommends a repair to you, make sure you understand exactly what is broken and why it needs to be fixed. Here are five areas where mistakes are often made, resulting in thousands of dollars wasted on unnecessary work.

#1—Reshingling: $4,000-$8,000

The appearance of shingles can be deceiving, and is not a reliable indicator of their remaining lifespan. Try to find out the year the roof was re-shingled (preferably with proof in the form of an invoice) and the quality of work done. This will help you to avoid an early re-shingling.

Another common mistake comes from mold in the attic. Mold does not necessarily imply a leaky roof! There are three other possibilities. First, inadequate insulation can allow the attic to get cold in winter, causing moisture to condense on the ceiling below. Second, if warm air (from a stove, dryer, or bathroom) is vented to the outside through an uninsulated pipe, condensation can collect inside the pipe and leak through the ceiling below. And Finally, if humid air is vented directly into the attic, mold can collect under the sheathing and give the appearance that the attic is poorly ventilated.

In all three cases, correcting the insulation or venting will solve the problem and avoid pointless work.

#2—Windows: $2,000+

It's easy to waste money through unnecessary window upgrades or replacements.

First, if the seal on a thermal window breaks, moisture will condense inside, which looks unattractive. However, this has almost no effect on the R-Value (insulating strength) of the window, so a replacement is purely for aesthetics and should be considered optional.

Second, an inspector may recommend an upgrade from double-glazed windows to thermal windows. The fact is, so long as the doubleglazed windows have been weatherstripped properly and there is no air penetration, the R-Value is nearly the same as with thermal windows.

#3—Wet Basement: $8,000+

When a leak or dampness is found in the basement, you may be advised to excavate the exterior of the home, install a membrane, or perform other expensive work. Before you sink thousands of dollars into this work, check for three much simpler problems: insufficient grading away from the home, tree roots (especially willows and maples) in drainage pipes, and (believe it or not!) something as simple as a clogged eavestrough.

#4—Electrical: $1,000-$2,000+

Often it is recommended to upgrade a fuse panel to circuit breakers, but this offers no real safety advantage and can waste $1,000 or more.

Another common mistake is upgrading aluminum wiring throughout the house, which can cost thousands of dollars. Aluminum wire is not any less safe than copper wiring; the problems with aluminum come from connections (receptacles and switches) that are poorly done or are not aluminum-compatible. If your connections are bad, replace those rather than all the wiring.

#5—Tub Faucet: $1,000

When a faucet is leaking, it doesn't necessarily mean the whole faucet needs to be replaced. It could be as simple as replacing the washer!

Replacing the entire faucet in the bathtub means re-tiling and plenty of labour, and can cost up to $1,000. Even a new kitchen faucet can run you $200+, so make sure the replacement is necessary.

In Conclusion...

It's easy to see how a few mistakes can lead to unnecessary repairs and upgrades totalling $20,000 or more. But why waste even $100 if you can avoid it?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If an expensive repair has been recommended, you have a right to know the exact problem that is being fixed, why it needs to be fixed (e.g. which part of the building code, or what is the safety risk), and whether there are any cheaper alternatives.

Don't feel pressured to turn a simple repair into a full-scale renovation. Stick up for yourself and you could save a lot of money!

Want to know more about home inspections? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.

--Peter

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