The Denver housing market is competitive and home buyers must take special care to evaluate properties thoroughly. This includes identifying mold and mildew, water and fire damage.
While it’s a good idea to call the experts, home buyers don’t have to rely solely on inspectors to spot warnings while house hunting.
Here’s how to spot problem areas such as mold, water and fire damage when looking for a new home.
Finding Mold and Mildew
There are more than 100,000 types and species of mold, but only a handful can be found around residential properties. Nevertheless, mold can cause mild to severe health problems, especially for people with allergies or asthmatic problems.
Mold thrives in damp conditions but can live just about anywhere. Colorado winters provide ample opportunity for mold to thrive in areas of the home including basements, crawl spaces, flooring, around leaky pipes, window seals, and more. Even new construction homes can develop mold when they’re tightly sealed and lack ventilation.
What Does Mold Look Like?
Household molds are typically green, white, black, and sometimes, a light pink or orange. While not all molds are toxic, inside a home is no place for fungi and it will require careful cleaning and abatement to ensure the health and safety of every home occupant.
Where to Look for Mold
The first thing you should do when inspecting a home for mold is use your senses. Inhale and try to detect damp, musty smells or mildew. An unpleasant odor may indicate mold or other problems. (Note: if you’re sensitive to mold or have allergies, this may be a job best left to professionals.)
Next, inspect all exposed pipework, under sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as other pipework like hookups to the washer, etc.
Check basements for mold in corners and around window seals. If there’s no basement, check the crawl space near pipework and ventilation systems.
Always ask the homeowner about previous water-related problems or mold. As a last resort, you can also hire a mold detecting company to ensure your home is free and clear of any harmful contaminants.
Finding Water Damage
Like mold, water damage can be obvious or well hidden. And because mold thrives in damp environments, it’s very possible signs of mold could point to previous water damage or vice versa.
Water damage is a result of flooding, leaky or busted pipes, or extreme outdoor conditions. While water damage isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, it’s important to understand the risks and potential damages that may be lurking beyond what’s seen.
But don’t worry, water damage can be fixed with professional repair and restoration—the trick is finding the source and learning about the problem.
What Does Water Damage Look Like?
There are four basic signs of water damage: water accumulation, discoloration, changes in texture and odor.
Standing water is a sure sign that water damage is inevitable; other signs often reveal themselves in different ways and to various degrees.
Discoloration, for example, will be plain to see on a ceiling but not easily detected under floorboards or behind cabinetry. Changes in material texture (warping, buckling, sagging, or expanding) can signal water damage not easily seen.
Finally, damp odors or mildew can seep through drywall or from other interior spaces to signal water damage that may have to be inspected by a professional.
Where to Look for Water Damage
Water damage can happen just about anywhere in a home. Here are a few areas that are most at risk in Colorado:
- Ceilings – water damage on a ceiling can indicate a few problems, namely a leaky roof or attic (if the ceiling is on the top floor of a home), or faulty pipework somewhere on the floor above (usually a bathroom or laundry area).
- Walls – discoloration and texture changes are easily detected on walls (and ceilings). Be sure to check around door and window frames for areas that may need attention. A stain on a wall may indicate problems behind or above the wall and may require expert attention.
- Floors – several things can cause water damage to flooring including overflowing sinks, bathtubs, appliances and busted pipes. Replacing or restoring damaged flooring is the best way to remedy the problem.
- Basements – since water flows to the lowest point, Colorado basements are usually the most vulnerable to water damage. Be sure to check the sump pump, any frames around doors or windows, as well as any exposed plumbing, washer/dryer or hot water hookups.
- Appliances – check behind all major appliances like refrigerators, hot water heaters, washer/dryers, toilets, sinks, and showers. A cracked pipe or hose could signal problems.
Finding Fire Damage
A fire damaged home can be a diamond in the ruff for renovators or a total nightmare for first time buyers. Knowing what to ask a homeowner will help spur preliminary investigations, but a certified home inspector is the best way to ensure a property investment doesn’t turn into a lemon.
In particular, fire damage can be patched quickly and not to code, which can result in a multitude of problems for a new homeowner. A fire can damage electrical wiring between burned walls or materials, and toxic soot not properly cleaned and abated can pose serious health concerns.
What to Ask Homeowners
Depending on when the fire happened, the damage may or may not be visible. Even without visible signs of fire, all home buyers should consider these questions:
- When (if at all) did a fire occur?
- Was it a localized fire (in a single location), or did it spread to multiple rooms?
- What steps were taken to repair the damage?
- Did the fire cause structural damage? If so was this repaired? How?
- Has the electrical wiring in the home been inspected for damage?
These questions will point your investigation in the right direction, but you’ll need to follow up with a professional inspection to ensure what the homeowners say is true.
Where to Find Fire Damage
According to the American Red Cross, the overwhelming majority of disasters they respond to are fire related. On average, residential fires total more than $7 billion in property damage throughout the U.S.
Most residential fires start in the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean fires don’t start elsewhere, like in bedrooms from forgotten lit candles, or in garages where flammable materials are commonly found.
You’ll know fire damage when you see or smell it: black soot and smoky odors typically indicate a fire-related incident. Any sign of fire damage should signal further investigation, either with the owners of the home or through careful examination by property damage professionals.
Denver homes that have suffered property damage are still viable options for new homeowners and renovators alike. Knowing what to look for, where to look, and what to ask homeowners is the best way to prepare for buying a home.
And if you’re still not sure about potential property damage, you can always call the experts at Professional Restoration to assist you. Our teams are available 24/7/365.