Potential House Problems You Would Know Before Buying

House Problem

There are a number of potential home problems you would be aware of when you buy a home. Your real estate agent would assist you in identifying those problems and remind you of seeking a certified home inspector in case there are any signs of the following issues.

Foundation issues

The foundation is the base of the house structure.

Inward wall and cracks: if the foundation is not strong enough, the walls are pushed inward and cracks show up on the walls, doors, windows.

Door/window misalignment and Chimney sag: indicating the potential foundation issue. 

Efflorescence: the chemical reaction between cement and water, and it is a visible sign indicating moisture penetration, which may lead to a serious foundation issue.

Water inwards: If the water runs toward the house, the house foundation may be exposed to excess moisture. Moisture penetration could cause serious damage to the foundation.

Framing problem

Nailing and openings: openings in windows and doors walls, and improper closing of windows and doors may indicate the lack of or improper placement of nails during the construction.

Condensation: wall condensation during winter, and peeling paint may be signs of the condensation.

Poor quality lumber and bracing: cracked and building drywall may indicate twisted studs.

Floor problem

Springy: occur when you step on the floor, you have a pliable feeling, it is most likely due to the thin subfloor.

Squeaky: squeaky sounds occur when you step on the floor. It is possible due to the misalignment between the subfloor and the joists. 

Water-damaged floors: when the floors are soaked, they may be discolored, show a texture change, or emit a musty odor.

Uneven floors: a cosmetic problem due to the improper installation, most likely not a structure issue. But better to get the inspector to verify. 

Electrical Problem

Older electrical systems are 60 amps, which is provided from the entrance cable from the street. With the increasing demand for power, 100amp+ becomes a normal standard. If you happen to choose the old home, a possible upgrade is required, which may add on an additional cost.

In an electrical main disconnect, A 100amp system using fuses needs two 100amp fuses and matching circuit breakers.

Aluminum wiring is no longer in use. It is hard to replace and you may have to pay more premium to get insurance. In the distribution panel, a visible silver wire, or the mark of “alum”, tells the presence of aluminum wiring. 

Ungrounded outlets, without the third ground wire, could cause arcing,  sparking, etc. 

Knob-and-tube wiring is not in use either. Check on the attic or basement could identify it in the old building.

If you happen to see charred electrical outlets in the house, it probably means an issue with the wiring. 

Many extension cords may indicate inadequate outlets. Installment of new outlets may involve extensive retrofit to the wiring of the home.

Plumbing problems

Older service pipes are smaller in diameter, which can cause low water pressure. 

Lead pipes can contaminate water and make it unhealthy. 

Galvanized piping may cause insurance problems such as rejection, and a higher premium.

Kitec pipes are notable for their bright orange and blue color with low pressure and leak issues

Water collection in the basement could indicate a leak in service pipes.

Other issues like freezing, lower pressure, shared with neighbors, unpleasant odor, slow drainage, and the backup due to the combined storm and sanitary system.

Safety problem

Both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed as required.

Signs of wall problem

Rotting, wood swollen, termites, damp patches, bubbling paint, crumbling plaster, discoloration, visible nails, cracks. 

Sign of Leakage in basement


Rusty baseboard nails, electrical boxes

Mold or mildew 

Stains or discoloration

Improper ground grading

Drainage Problem

Drainage is a system of drains to remove water. 

Water build-up around the house could lead to problems in the eavestrough/downspout or window well.

Roof Problem

Ice damming occurs when snow and ice accumulate in roofs, a sign of roof system issues.

Other indicators include improper fan venting, snow melting unevenly, mold inside the attic, clogged eavestroughs, sagging soffits. 

Door problems

The door is not tightly closed. The door frame has become loose 

The door makes a squeaky sound.

Windows problems

Potential Problems include broken seals, poor insulation, foggy, improper installation, inoperable, deformed frames. 

Attention on oil and wood sourced heating system

A Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT)  and environmental regulations/authorities are involved in that installation, demolition.

Exterior wall problem

Weep holes are used to distribute water and moisture and shouldn’t be clogged or blocked.

Walls outwards could be considered cosmetic, but better make sure it is nonstructure related. 

The out-of-plumb wall needs an investigation to make sure it is a cosmic issue rather than a structure issue.

Bulges in wavy walls could compromise the structural integrity of the wall

The replacement and demolition of the load-bearing wall need to be consulted with a structural engineer and done by a certified contractor.

Environmental and health concerns

Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) and asbestos are banned to use in insulation due to the danger to health.

Vermiculite-related construction is strictly handled by trained and certified contractors.

Home change issues

When you plan to retrofit, renovate, demolish or build after the purchase, a building permit is required by the Ontario Building Code. More regulation protocols might be involved, regulated by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) and Fire Code

Smaller jobs like basement completion, plumb upgrade, fence or deck setup, also need a building permit.

The best way is to contact your local municipality to verify whether a permit is required. Otherwise, you may get the stop-work order, fines, the problem of obtaining a mortgage or insurance claim. More restrictions are applied to the heritage-designated buildings.

If you wish to rent out a basement apartment, you need to clearly know whether it comes with a permit and meets all the legal requirements.

Unusual signs for a possible grow up

Mould in upper corners

An unusual number of roof vents or signs of roof vents

Unusual changes on the electric meter 

Unusual or modified wiring 

Brownish stains dripping down on a wall

In sum

House problems could cause a lot of inconveniences and may be costly. Removing a home inspection condition on an offer may be risky unless you have to.