CSI “Construction Site Investigation”


Everything that is built has a useful life expectancy, and your home is no different. Investigating your home once or twice a year inside and out with an eye towards preventive maintenance is no different from the preventive maintenance you perform on your car. You have considerably less invested in your car and you get the oil changed, tires rotated, and cooling system flushed you even wash it in an effort to care for it. Why should this type of preventive maintenance be performed on your car and not your home?

Every home should have a CSI at least once a year by a trained expert. This trained expert can spot problems in their infancy before they cause thousands of dollars in expensive repairs. Not every builder, remodeler, or even home inspector has the knowledge to perform this type of inspection.

I have spent over 40 years remodeling, building, inspecting, and figuring out what makes buildings tick.  I can tell you without a doubt that water infiltration is the number one issue I find over and over. The water can come from the outside, in the form of rain, or improper drainage, or from the inside, sudden or slow leaking water lines or leaking drain lines.  For a real example of water damage from improper drainage, see my article on the ContractorJohn.com blog “Proper Grading around Your Home”

Some of the damage that occurs from these inside leaks are very easy to see, but other hide damage for sometimes years before it is bad enough to be detected by the untrained eye. Here are a couple telltale signs of an interior leak.

Slowly scan the ceiling under the bathroom for any signs of discoloration or sagging of drywall. A telltale sign of sagging drywall is dimple in where a nail head would be. This short video clip will show you how soft drywall can get from prolonged exposure to moisture.

This was from exposure to moisture not direct water contact.

Another area to look at is at the cabinet floor under the kitchen and bathroom sinks for any signs of stains, softness or humps. A lot of cabinets are made of particle board, and when particle board gets wet it swells, which makes it easy to see.

If you keep a rug around the toilet or along the tub, look at the back of the rug for stains, or watermarks. If the floor around the tub has settled over the years, water may run on the top lip of the tub and spill out over the front edge onto the floor. If this happens and is not corrected, it will weaken the floor structure, causing more outward slope, making the condition worse.

Look in the attic, especially by gable wall vents and roof vents. If either type is damaged it can rain and/or snow to enter.

An example of hidden occurred in a home where we were remodeling the hall bathroom. We had stripped the tile and wallpaper off the walls and were getting ready to install new tile on the walls the very next day. Near the end of the work day the customer asked us to check a leaking valve in the basement her husband had noticed. It was actually the line to the ice maker on the refrigerator. The shutoff to the line was in the crawl space, and while in there I noticed a large dark spot on the concrete floor. Shining my flashlight up to the bottom of the floor I saw water staining and rotten plywood, so rotten I poked my finger through it. We followed it upstairs to a corner in the bathroom that showed no signs of a leak until we tore the drywall off the wall. Investigating further led us to find to bad roof flashing on a wall between the first floor and second floor.  The dark spot on the floor in the crawl space could easily have been overlooked by an untrained eye, the bathroom finished and the damaged are growing larger every year.

Take your time while doing your investigation, make notes and take pictures so you can refer back to them the next time you do your CSI, and protect your investment.


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