One of the most basic projects of home improvement you can undertake is to avoid home deterioration. Things do have a way of wearing down and when they do so it is generally a slow process that you don’t necessarily notice, until, all of a sudden it turns into a rapid process and you have a big problem on your hands. It is a good idea, once every year, perhaps the first long weekend of the spring, to do a thorough review of your home. This Annual DIY home inspection check list provides a useful guide for ensuring that your yearly look at your home covers all the bases. This list is long enough to make it a two part check list. In this first part we’ll look at the electrical, exterior, plumbing, including bathrooms and laundry and water and septic. In part two, we’ll cover heating, interior, doors and windows, the attic, garage and kitchen. Each inspection item has a field box for you to make notes on your own inspection needs.
Your Annual DIY Home Inspection Check List
Inspect all trees around the house. Ensure that they’re not threatening to any wires.
Open your electrical panel: do you see any scorch marks around breakers or fuses. Also check outlets for scorch marks. Such scorch marks could be a sign of loose and sparking wires.
If you find any loose outlet covers, receptacles, and loose boxes, they should be refastened to the studs. This of course should be done with the power turned off.
Test all GFCI outlets by plugging in a lamp and then hitting the test and reset buttons to see if it turns the light off and then on again.
Go around with a electrical tester (or lamp) to make sure all outlets work
Check for any cracks in your asphalt or concrete. Look closely at the driveway, sidewalks, and any paved paths on the property. Not only can these create a tripping hazard, but they water buildup that can do much more damage during the colder months.
Inspect retaining walls for bulges or loose areas. Neglect in this area could result in one especially heavy rain or snowfall leaving you with a mud slide on your hands. Make sure the weep holes built into the wall are clear.
Examine porches and decks for sagging ceilings, loose rails or boards, and damaged steps. Are the posts are still firmly in the ground? If not, why not? This could be a sign of rot in the footing.
Inspect fences, stone walls, and their gates for leaning and loose parts, which could fall or detach during a storm.
Look for stains on the house’s siding. Finding some could be a warning sign of a water problem or a roof issue.
Are there any insect or bird nests in soffits, eaves, or attic vents? Be alert for any animal droppings. If you find any, do an especially vigilant job of nest searching.
Take note of peeling paint, missing brick mortar, or cracking stucco.
Inspect the chimney. Is it leaning? Is the flashing in good condition, and not peeling up or missing?
Check gutters and downspouts for debris or improper pitch, especially during a rain storm. Look for stains on the soffit, which could be a sign of a leak.
Examine the foundation for cracks and bulges.
Inspect the sill for rot and insects. Especially look for raised mud channels. These are a sign of the presence of termites. Use a sharp knife or other probe to see how much the wood gives.
Ensure the grade of the ground around your foundation slopes away from the house.
Inspect the roofing. Look for cracks, missing shingles, or crumbling pieces. Check asphalt for dry, blistering, alligatoring, or curling shingles; wood for rot and splits; slate and tile for broken pieces; and flat roofs for holes. Particular vigilance is required for areas under trees, where falling branches or jumping animals could have done damage. Once the leaves have fallen, look more closely at where branches touch the house.
Examine the flashing and vent/chimney caps for missing or damaged parts. Look for rust.
Look for moss and other debris on the roof.
Plumbing (including Bathrooms and Laundry)
Inspect all exposed pipes for signs of leaks. Also look at those areas where pipes run through the walls or foundation.
Look for corrosion. If you find any, this could indicate a problem with the water, or with the pipe itself. Green stains around brass and copper fittings and on shutoff valves is a sign of either corrosion or electrolysis caused by mismatched metals. This could result in leaks if left uncorrected.
Check the water pressure. If it’s low pressure there could be a problem with the line or maybe a sediment buildup in the faucet aerator or shower head.
Check drainage speed: slow drains may have a clog or a blocked vent pipe. Also, look for a full swirling drain; bubbling drains are a sign of a problem.
Open up the toilet tanks and look for worn or missing parts. Flush it once then wait for a few minutes to see if it runs after a pause. If it does, it could be a sign of a slow leak.
Inspect the inside of the burner chamber of the water heater for rust flakes. Check the flame; it should be an even blue, with no yellow. A yellow flame indicates soot or a problem with the gas-air mixture, meaning the jets need cleaning.
Drain the water heater to remove sediment that has settled to the bottom. Leaks in faucets can be caused by hard water wearing out the washers.
Are there any cracked tiles in the shower area or around sinks? Tap on tiles to find loose or hollow ones. They could be masking rotted backboard behind them.
Check on the caulking around the tub and shower caulking. If it’s cracking, you’ll need to replace it.
Look for evidence of mildew anywhere water stands for longer periods.
Manipulate the toilet base to be sure it doesn’t rock, which might mean a leak has damaged the floor around it.
Check for stains in toilet bowls and sinks.
Slide shower doors back and forth to check for sticking, rust, or obstructions. Examine the gaskets around the door glass for gaps and tears. Turn on the shower and bath faucets and check for leaks around handles and valves. If they are stiff to turn, check set screws around escutcheon plates. Unscrew the shower head and look for collected sediment. This could lower the water pressure. Examine vent fans for obstructions or dust. Turn them on and listen for loudness. If they run very loud, the bearings may be worn out or a flapper may have gotten stuck.
Check washer hoses for signs of aging (cracks or brittleness) or leaks.
Inspect dryer vents for tears. Remove lint from hose and around lint screens inside unit. Look for lint around the floor or on the wall, indicating a clog in the vent hose.
Water and Septic
If you have a well, send a sample of well water to your country cooperative extension to test for chemicals and bacteria.
Make sure that the well cover is tightly sealed, while still having access to the pump.
Check the sump pump by pouring water on it, to see if it turns on automatically. Look around your septic tank/field for soggy ground or overly lush vegetation, which could mean the tank is full or failing.
We hope this first part of your annual DIY home inspection check list has been helpful and allows you keep on top of potential problems from daily wear and tear in the house. Watch out for part 2 coming up soon!