Home Inspectors Share The Most Horrible Building Flaws That Almost Went Unnoticed

Home Inspectors Share The Most Horrible Building Flaws That Almost Went Unnoticed
KJ Styles/Unsplash

If you don't have any experience with construction, it can be pretty interesting to watch those reality HGTV shows (I know I'm addicted at this point). Some of the best episodes can be the one's where they open up the walls to find the builder didn't do anything right, causing a huge blow to the budget. The drama!

As someone who doesn't know much about building, and is dreaming of homeownership, Redditor Vast_Recognition_682 asked a question I wish I had thought of first.

Redditor Vast_Recognition_682 asked:

"Home inspectors of reddit, what are some horrible things that almost went unnoticed?"

Here's some horror stories that shed a little light on the home owner unknowns.

Behind the closet wall.

"Going through a home with [the] home inspector, didn't find any issues, bring my dad in to look through the house too and he was [incessantly] checking everything. Looks at the Zillow listing with the floor plan, measures the basement, finds out the actual measurements smaller than the floor plan which led us to go looking in a closet and realize they finished a wall and closet around the old oil tank, never decommissioned it, never planned to tell anyone about it, and we would have had to rip walls out to get to it to remove it. It was a non starter and we walked away. So happy to have my dad's sharp eye while home shopping."

- TidalDeparture

If you need a good prank idea when you're renovating, here's one:

"I saw a post once, this guy said his dad's house had a diagonal outer wall and he was installing a combination wall and bookshelf to square the room. Since there was a small dead space on one side, the dad (who was a doctor), got a life-size plastic human skeleton from work and tossed it in there."

"So if someone tore the wall out to remodel in 30 years or whatever, they'd see it and freak out."

- RealisticDelusions77

Man cave mayhem.

"Not a home inspector, but I did ask our home inspector what crazy stuff he had seen over the years. He had two stories."

"He inspected a modest three bedroom house and found that were very strange structural cracks in the walls. The area where the house was built is primarily clay soil which leads to a lot of foundation issues, but these were really abnormal cracks. He headed to the attic to wrap up his inspection; it was located over the garage so there was absolutely no structural support there. He poked his head up into the attic and couldn't believe his eyes: the owner had a fully furnished man cave in the attic over the garage. It had a couch, big screen tv, weight set, and a huge gun safe. He said he had no idea how in the world all of that stuff didn't come crashing down through the garage ceiling or how the guy had managed to get the giant gun safe up there without some sort of elaborate winch system. He said it was only a matter of time before the house collapsed."

"The only other weird thing he encountered was a cistern (an old well) in a crawlspace underneath a house. He said he was crawling along on his stomach when he almost fell into it; it was left uncovered."

- ozarkbanshee

A rats nest of wires.

"I'm sure there will be some stories about wiring above drop ceilings. When I was looking at houses, I saw (not the home inspector) one once where like 10 different wires came into one rats nest of a cluster. To make it even better, there was a regular lamp cord that ran from it to power the hanging kitchen light above the table. And if you want whip cream and sprinkles on that.... the power came into that mess through knob and tube."

- stickpoker

"I am an apprentice electrician and this comment just made my soul cry."

- Saesama

"I found an uncapped steel conduit with live wires behind my sink while remodeling. There wasn't even a cap on the wires."

- StabbyPants

"While ripping out our old kitchen we cut the old crappy countertop with a sawzaw, to our surprise saw a spark and blew a breaker. some mother f**kers who previously renovated this kitchen ran the wiring for a new outlet on the wall around the studs in a crevice in the back of the countertop...."

- totallybag

"The guy who built my parents house did all the wiring himself. Using only one colour wire for everything."

"Mine doesn't have a drop ceiling, but in the smaller bedroom (which is smack in the middle of the house) they used the overhead light as a junction box. The wires that provided power to the living room overheads were run through the fixture box. The wires that supplied the overhead light for the "guest" bedroom had been twisted around the metal edge of the overhead fixture in lieu of using a wire nut to connect them.

So very lucky that I decided I didn't like that fixture and I replaced it before we hooked up the power. Had all the wiring professionally checked after that fun little discovery."

- pokey1984

Ceiling Lasagna.

"My family flipped a house a few years ago. There were four ceilings, each a couple inches lower than the one before, and all but one had old wiring in it. It was like cutting into a weird lasagna, trying to find the studs in that house."

- Sethrial

"Grandma was shrinking with old age, but her kids didn't want her to realize."

- WimbleWimble

"Not me, but one I spoke to. Place almost passed, until out the corner of his eye... bam... jack stand holding up a beam under the house."

"It was in fact a car jack stand. It was a small home."

- cburgess7

"Same with a house daughter was interested in. The place was a flip and totally redone. Beautiful. And down in the basement was a brick holding up a big beam."

- gouf78

This inspector had a full list.

1. "Furnace exhaust flue inlet at the attic furnace disconnected and a dead bird below it. Would have dumped all the furnace exhaust straight into the attic area. Obvious safety implication."

2. "Long time vacant house in a very secluded area. Reeked of cat p*ss and burnt plastic. No cats or cat feces in sight and no entry point for cats. Found small balloon in the corner of the floor where the fridge would be. Picked it up (with gloves) and white powder came spilling out. We came to the conclusion there was possibly the presence of methamphetamine in the home at some point and in some fashion."

3. "5 year old house, nice neighborhood, great shape, vacant. Everything looked good visually. In the attic, just after it had started raining heavily, a slight but constant drip was noticed from the roof sheathing in one area. Got lucky on that one. Sunny day, there would have been no evidence of any issue whatsoever."

4. "Homeowner DIY replaced the microwave and thought it would be 'clever' to run the exhaust vent into the wall cavity between the kitchen and adjacent laundry room. Just dumped the moisture into the wall. Mold city after a while if you do a lot of cooking while using the exhaust fan."

5. "60s house, well renovated. Range was a gas/electric dual fuel setup. Noticed broiler took forever to even start to warm up and never got hot enough that I couldn't touch it real quick (they usually glow red after like 30 seconds). Found out the range was plugged into a 110v outlet (enough to power the control panel and light) and not the proper 220v outlet (not even present). Oven was essentially useless. That one also had an incomplete drain line from a bathroom sink dumping everything directly into the crawlspace."

6. "New build. Got into the attic and just a quick 360° scan, something was off. Looking closer found a truss web beam that was completely gone, just ripped out (gusset plates bent to hell). Probably knocked out by the framing crews crane or something and they thought no one would notice. Time is money right? Lol"

- rr3dd1tt

"#4 resonates with me. I live in a pre-war co-op apartment. Previous owner included the washer/dryer stack. They had been venting the dryer right into an interior wall, and had filled it with a few years of lint. It was a gas dryer too. Thanks but no thanks. I replaced it with an all electric pair with a condensation dryer."

- ImGumbyDamnIt

People Describe The Worst Adult Tantrum They've Ever Witnessed | George Takei’s Oh Myyy

They saved the day with this good catch!

"I used to work in a hospital, in IT. We were in a back corner of the oldest building. I used an out of the way stairwell, that had a 4 inch cast iron sprinkler main running through it."

"One day when I was leaving, I noticed a little tiny bit of water on the outside of the pipe. I went back to my desk, called maintenance, and asked them to send someone down so I could show them what I noticed. Walked the guy down to the stairwell and showed him, went on home."

"The next day I get to work and there's a letter on my desk. I open it, and it's from the director of maintenance. Seems that they shut down and depressurized the sprinkler line, and when they went to disconnect the section with the leak, the pipe just crumbled. They figured that my call prevented a major flood in materials management (which backed up to the stairwell on the floor below us) as well as a FD call-out, as the alarm would have gone when the pipe ruptured and water started flowing. The director sent me a very nice thank-you, and referred the situation to the cost-saving committee to see if they could get me a bonus based on preventing an accident."

- abbarach

Here's some larger issues from commercial work.

"I have done numerous inspections on commercial properties, but I also do occasion residential evaluations for friends who are looking at buying or fixing up their residence. My expertise is focused on electrical. However, I usually can evaluate the basics of mechanical and plumbing after being in the commercial MEP field for awhile (and having many contractors in my family)."

"Commercial work:"

"1. Very large medical facility. One of the mechanical/electrical rooms had a leaking oil filled transformer and there was a huge condensing unit which was not properly draining; so, there was about a half inch of water and mineral oil in a room that fed almost all the original facility. Same place had an electrical panel that was underneath a 10" sprinkler main that had leaked so that the entire bottom was rusted out and the bus bars exposed. They also had a panel located in a rehab pool area that was completely rusted out due to the chlorine and humidity. Last big problem with the building was there was a hidden 400A electrical tap under some 1600A switchgear that had no protection and no one know about which meant no one could ever turn off if they ever needed to."

"2. Very very expensive country club had an indoor rated panel with no panel cover in an outdoor alcove underneath a sprinkler main. It fed a mostly unused portion of the building, but the breakers and bus bars were so corroded and overrun with mineral deposits that we were worried about arc flash even 3 ft in front of it."

"3. Numerous instances of shared neutrals with no tie circuit breaker. Electrical panels located in ceiling spaces. Receptacles with no GFCI protection located next to sinks."

"4. Refrigerant lines routed directly over large condensing units which means the refrigerant never could get below a certain temperature and was horribly inefficient."

"5. HVAC system where the facilities person opened an outside air damper 100% and left it for a decade so that the system was always fighting against a gaping hole bringing air into the building."

"6. A 5000V campus electrical distribution network was put in 10-15 years ago, and the electrical engineer specified underground vaults with no drainage. Every vault on the site was filled up almost to the top with stagnant water and completely submerging the wires under a few feet of wire."

"7. A pharmacy had the original cast iron sewer line completely rot away because they were dumping acid down the drains. The entire run had to be jackhammered up after the floor collapsed in the corridor outside."

"8. More of a design issue. Worked on a natatorium where the equipment room was below the deck level of the pool. A single 1/4" tube caused an incident where the ~15'x 15'x 8' equipment room flooded and a mostly full 55 gallon drum of chlorine completely dissolved. Every piece of equipment had to be scraped, and even after 2 weeks of airing out, it was still hard to breath in the room without a mask."

- Hersey2112

A dishonest homeowner.

"Not an inspector but I went to look at a house once that was for sale. The house was looking good until I looked at the bathroom . The toilet tank was really crooked, it was angled about 15 degrees. Anything you might sit on it would've slid right off. It looked ridiculously bad."

"I asked the wife owner 'Any idea why this toilet tank is so crooked?' She was silent for a long pause and said 'No, it's it's not crooked....' She lied right when I'm looking at it."

"To be nice I looked at the rest of the house before leaving. Her husband calls a few hours later, 'Um the floor is rotten under that toilet, that's why it's so crooked. My wife forgot. We have a guy fixing it right now.'"

"Even if they fixed it, they already lied to me once. How do I know there wasn't something else wrong with the house they were hiding?"

"The only way I noticed the tank is because it was so badly crooked."

- GrandUnhappy9211

"First rule of home inspecting is to completely ignore whatever bullsh*t the current occupant/owner is trying to tell you about what great work has been done during renovations."

- FileError214

"Yeah if they say a 'handyman' did it, I assume it wasn't a professional and it was done poorly. Though there are some good handymen out there."

- GrandUnhappy9211

"When I first looked at my house the disclosure form said something like 'roof leaked last year but has been repaired' and left it at that. When I got it inspected the guy took one look at the roof and was like 'uhhhhhhh this needs to be replaced pretty much ASAP.' You couldn't clearly tell from the ground but when you're walking on it the shingles just crunched under your feet. And you know what? The owners knew this. When it leaked they put in an insurance claim for repairs, insurance gave them $1000, but every contractor told them it was in such bad shape that they couldn't do much short of a complete replacement. They insanely assumed that every single one of these contractors was lying to them just to take their money so they did nothing."

"Fun fact, though: you're not allowed to lie on disclosure forms. And this came up after my offer was accepted but luckily before I actually signed. So part of my negotiations involved them giving me a chunk of cash to pay for a new roof."

- HooBoy401

Brown liquid from the walls.

"I was a tenant, not the inspector, but a house I rented some years ago was being sold as the owner had died. I stuck around while the building and pest inspector did his thing."

"In muggy weather (summers in SE Qld), we often got brown liquid running in drips down the fibro inside walls. We'd reported it to the agent, but nothing was done. We had wondered if there were possums peeing in the roof or something. So I asked the inspector. He said it was tar coming out of the walls after heavy smokers had lived there. We (non-smokers) had been there for two years, so goodness knows how long ago the smokers lived there!"

- SereniaKat

If this wasn't bad enough, checkout another subreddit.

"Just go to r/homeowners and you'll find new owners who are aghast that the inspector didn't find that if you take a 2 hour shower the hot water heater runs out of hot water or if there's 20" of rain overnight the yard floods and who can they sue for not disclosing this."

- TheBimpo

"Lmao. Next house I do I'll take a nice long shower and nap afterwards, maybe make a sandwich and watch some TV as well, just to be thorough. Wouldn't wanna leave myself open to a lawsuit."

- rr3dd1tt

The internet might just save homeowners on a whole lot of money by taking a closer look during the inspection. Thank goodness for this Ask Reddit post shedding light on the horror stories of homeownership and renovation mishaps.

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