Families in the market for a new home are often very good at looking at the big picture—characteristics of a property that rank high on their wish list. These might include perks like a big backyard, a fully- equipped open design kitchen, an enclosed wraparound porch, two-and-a-half bathrooms, or a finished basement. Big picture items can play a major role in a family’s decision to pursue or reject a prospective home.
While certified home inspectors are also concerned about big picture aspects of a house (electrical work, plumbing, framing, foundation, etc.), they’re also experts at assessing the smaller details that would normally escape the untrained eye.
When performing a complete foundation-to-roof evaluation, there’s nothing smaller—or more critical—than fasteners (i.e., nails, screws, bolts, nuts, anchors, etc.). Frequently referred to as “hardware,” fasteners may be minuscule in size compared to a poured foundation, but their importance should never be underestimated. It’s why home inspectors, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, pay a great deal of attention to fastener defects, use of the wrong fasteners, and other issues that may be lurking throughout the structure.
Here are just a few of many examples that may be reported on by your A-Pro Home Inspector:
Deck Issues: Fastener concerns on a deck are particularly urgent because of the safety risks involved. The inspector will note deck ledgers that have been attached to the house framing using nails rather than screws or bolts in violation of building standards. This becomes an even bigger issue when the ledger is attached to a cantilever or other structure not designed to support the anticipated load. Further, even when bolts or screws have been used, their type, length, and diameter should be in compliance with best building practices. Other problems include the use of joist hangers meant for indoor rather than outdoor installation; roofing nails (rather than screws) used to fasten joist hangers to framing; and rusted fasteners that are nearing the end of their life or, in the case of those displaying red rust, warrant immediate replacement.
Roof Issues: The inspector will report on a number of problems with roof fasteners, such as staples that are backing out (manufacturers generally recommend the use of roofing nails), and exposed fasteners that have not been sealed with an approved application. When not protected by a roof sealant or silicone caulk, fasteners can rust, become loose, or back our entirely, allowing moisture penetration that can find its way into the attic or damaged roof decking. Sealing is also important for fasteners used to attach roof flashing, gutter guards, etc. Improperly driven fasteners can cause composite asphalt shingles to buckle, making them vulnerable to wind uplift. Roof trusses present their own series of concerns, such as hangers incorrectly installed with fasteners that are not rated to handle the expected load, such as roofing nails.
For metal roofs, the inspector will be checking for damaged or missing fasteners and those that have been under-tightened or over-tightened.
Framing Issues: While much of the framing will not be visible to the home inspector, several fastener issues may be noted. One of these is nail pops, in which shrinkage of framing members, poorly installed drywall, or building movement/settlement will cause a nail or screw head to “pop” and form a small bump pushing against the drywall surface. Extruded nails are also frequently discovered on a roof.
Electrical Panel: The use of sharp-pointed metal screws to hold an electrical panel cover in place is a safety hazard that will be noted by your inspector since these fasteners can pierce wire insulation upon removal, causing shock and spark dangers. Inspectors who suspect the screws are not the approved blunt-tipped type may deem it unsafe to remove the panel. Some inspectors will remove the panel but take safety precautions before backing out the screws.