In my experience, the big five are:
- Water heaters: basement floor drains may be clogged, floor coverings
can wick water long distances, water wicked to walls can wick up. And,
people store a lot of valuable stiff and/or absorbant materials on
- Washers, with and w/o functioning drain pans. No functioning pan: see
above. Pan: hose leaks at connection to plumbing, water sprays beyond
pan, see above. Special case, washers in hall closets above first
floor, and condos. If the latter, and a unit above: pan or no pan, the
first place to look is UP.
- Kitchens: dishwashers and refrigerator ice-makers. Ever see a drain
pan under one of those?
In my rental units, I use these:
- AC condensate drains, especially air handlers in attics: Almost never
inspected by homeowners. Primary drain clogs, secondary is not
installed and no cut-off switch or switch, or switch not properly
installed or connected, or secondary drains out of plain view, or
people don't pay attention when it starts running. Condensate is now
running down on or into walls.
- Condensate pump at furnace w/o functioning cut-off switch for
furnace / AC. Pump fails: condensate now draining on or into
Then, when things get wet, people go crazy over mold: "I saw this house
on Sixty Minutes...."
IMO in most cases this isn't the homeowners fault - the problem rather
is that there is little incentive for the manufacturers or installers
of such systems to think through the longer-term implication of
failures, so the level of protection provided is unusually the minimum
specified by building codes, if that.
So, stuff "floods".
As a home inspector I can (and should) note if a structure is a
vacation home, and ask if someone's job is likely to mean the house
will be unoccupied for substantial periods, and if so point out that
if so there is an increased risk of water damage. And I can verbally
note the lack of pan on a washer, or even the lack of an auto-shutoff
on a dishwasher during an inspection, and/or include it as an item in
the "suggestions an comments" section of my report.
But as a comment in a three hour inspection, or a 30-40 page report,
the reality is that only a minority of buyers will absorb this advice.
And of those, on a tiny minority of cash-strapped home buyers would
make avoiding what they perceive as relatively low-probability event a
priority - I'm pleased if they seem to taking my comments about the
much larger risk of a 20 year old water heater located nowhere near a
drain seriously - maybe they WON'T be stacking boxes with last years
financial returns or irreplaceable family letter and photos on the
floor next to it, after all...
Paragon Home Inspection, LLC