When a good Home Inspector goes through a home he touches and looks at EVERYTHING! Every inch of the house gets analyzed, from top to bottom. Every switch, button, knob, handle and…you guessed it…Appliance. Literally everything. With such repetition we have been able to distinguish some patterns and have found the top most called out Appliances and their deficiencies (or flaws). Some of them may surprise you. And some of them may include components you didn’t even know existed!
Did you know that your refrigerator door is one of the most opened doors in your home? It’s true! It is also one of the hardest working appliances in your home which makes it a pretty common place to find deficiency callouts on a home inspection report.
This is an easy one. Anyone who opens the door can see if the inside of the fridge is lit well or not but it is often something that remains unfixed. Lighting may seem like a trivial thing to call out on a report but it is still a component of the appliances function and so it gets checked. Replacing the light bulb is obviously the quick fix and most often does the job but in rare occasions, the switch, fixtures, or internal components will need to be replaced or repaired.
Broken Ice Machine
Another easy one, maybe less obvious and more challenging to fix, but a noticeable flaw within the appliance. Ice makers are one of the most common things to fail with a refrigerator. In some systems it can be hard to identify if there is water actually plumbed and turned on to the fridge, but a trained eye will know. So when the ice maker takes a dive, call upon that trained eye to assess and repair the problem.
These are an item often forgotten about but if you weren’t entirely sure what those doohickies on the back of the fridge were, it’s the coils. Dirty fridge coils can limit the ability of the fridge to actually cool the inside. Check your temperatures regularly, 40F or below for the refrigerator and 0F or below for the freezer. If your beloved snack provider is struggling to get to its optimal temperatures, this is a good indication that the coils need a cleaning. Regular cleaning also prevents premature failure of such an important appliance. Also, overpacking the refrigerator can affect the cooling temps. And can cause food to go bad quicker because of poor circulation. Save the milk!
RANGE + OVEN + COOKTOP
This is another well loved Kitchen appliance, for those that don’t live out of pizza boxes. There is a difference between a range, oven and cooktop and they each have their own components. They also function differently depending on if they are powered by gas or electricity. The difference? A cooktop is separate from the oven and a range is both a cooktop and an oven in one appliance. Still with me? Because the pieces get a bit trickier from here.
Anti Tip Device
An Anti Tip Device for a range is exactly what it sounds like, a device so that the range does not tip forward. If missing this can pose as a serious safety hazard. Think about it, you open the door to the hot oven to retrieve grandma’s famous casserole and the whole range comes crashing down on you because of the weight of the door…not good. Or the door itself becomes the perfect step stool for a kid to reach something above, like the dinner on the stove, or the hidden candy cabinet, only to be pinned to the ground by the heavy appliance. Also, not good. A simple Range Anti Tip Bracket from your local hardware store can do the trick or you can call a qualified contractor to secure the range so it no longer tips. Either way it is a relatively easy solve and will save you from potential disaster.
The oven light is a little less noticeable than the refrigerator light but it can be just as simple a fix. This is another common call out on reports that can be repaired by just simply replacing the burnt out bulb. How many people does it take to replace the bulb? We can’t tell you. But if that doesn’t work there may be an issue internally, in which case we will tell you to call a qualified appliance repair company to assess the problem.
We also recommend cleaning the inside of your oven periodically. This can be done with the “Self Cleaning” option. Make sure the oven is empty of anything but racks and then set it and forget it. Come back once the oven has cooled and wipe away the burnt debris. You can also fill a sheet pan with hot water and the juice of two lemons, place on the center rack, and cook at 350F until the gunk and grime appears to be loose. Then wipe clean when cool. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
Oven Door Gasket
This gasket is actually the seal on the inside of the oven door to keep the heat inside the oven. It can be found damaged or in some cases even missing! And believe it or not, makes the list as one of the most common called out deficiencies for an Oven or Range. Please replace this seal if you notice any wear and tear to ensure proper and safe use of the oven. Safety and ovens really aren’t a gamble you want to be on the losing end of.
Electric Burner Elements
Sometimes we find that one or more of the burner elements on an electric stove are not functioning properly or even functioning at all. Unless you know anything about electricity we advise you not to mess with it. Instead, let a qualified profession evaluate the problem and repair if need be.
But something you can do is remove the burner elements and clean them once in a while. This helps with longevity and avoid build up of those cooking overflows that become little fire igniters. To clean, first make sure that the burners are off and cool, obvious I know but we have to say it. To remove the burners, grip the coil and push toward the socket, then lift up and pull away. You can scrub off residue with a soapy rag or use a baking soda and water paste for the tuff stuff but do NOT soak the burners in water OR get the electrical components wet! These cleaning techniques work for the drip pans too. Or if it were us, we’d toss those drip pans once they’ve seen their day and buy them new. They are very inexpensive and can be found almost anywhere.
Ignition is a common issue with gas burners. They just fail to properly light. Cleaning the burner can help this too. Soak a rag in lemon juice and then leave it on the burner until the grease and junk gets loose, then scrub clean. Are you noticing a theme here? Lemon is magic!
Dishwashers have a lot of unseen components. We are so used to just hitting ‘Start’ that we forget about everything that’s going on when we close the door. It is important that these pieces are all working properly or the mess will be far greater than any lasagna pan.
Secured + Anti Tip Device
Just like the range, your dishwasher needs to be secured with a bracket so it doesn’t tip forward when the door is open. You can find the bracket at your local hardware store or you can call a qualified contractor to set this appliance for you. The unit just needs to be anchored to the adjacent cabinet or the underside of the counter top to be considered safe. This means that kids should refrain from climbing on the door when it’s open to “help” load and unload, as that can bend or break the bracket connection.
Missing Carriage Wheels
This just means that the wheels on the dish racks have gone missing or need replacing. These are inexpensive and can be found online or at any appliance store. Doesn’t take more than a few minutes.
Leaking can cause a huge mess to your floor and subfloor if gone unnoticed. Quite often though, the leak is minor and actually from the door seal which can typically be resolved by just simply cleaning the gasket around the door. This can be done with just the swipe of a rag. If your leak is more major than minor you may need to call someone more qualified to evaluate and make repairs so that you can avoid the mess of having to repair your flooring or sub flooring, because who really has time for that.
During a normal washing cycle, if the dishwasher doesn’t drain, there is usually some sort of blockage in the drain line. It can be something as simple as the drain plug on the garbage disposal needing to be removed or something more complicated, like a blockage inside the ejector pump. If the simple solution didn’t fix it might be the less simple option and you might need more trained (and licensed) hands.
High Drain Loop + Air Break Gap
A Drain Loop and Air Gap are simple backflow prevention systems. Your dishwasher should have one. This system prevents the backflow of water from a clogged sink from making its way into the dishwasher, which if not blocked would most certainly flood the dishwasher. Wouldn’t that be awful! Many dishwashers today have one of these systems built in already but they are typically impossible to view with the dishwasher installed. This is one of the few things your inspector is not able to visually locate, due to its placement.
Here is how they work. An Air Gap backflow problem is often caused when the siphoning effect (the pulling of water backward through the line) is compromised. It is supposed to siphon a certain amount of water and then stop at a break (or gap) between the pipe sections. After the water is siphoned, the water from the sink drains into the P-trap and then into a lower drain. When the siphoning effect is compromised, backflow can occur. Still with me? It’s a mess. So these Air gaps were designed to mount to the back of the sink and be the separator between a sink back up and a dishwasher flood.
A High Drain Loop is a much simpler system. It is likely that your dishwasher has enough drain hose to form a higher inverted U underneath the sink to act as a P-trap. Strap this hose to the cabinet at the highest possible point behind the sink and this can alleviate even the worst sink backups. To function properly the sink must fill completely before it is drained. This allows a rush of water to pour back through the hose. It is for sure the easiest method of back-flow prevention but because the bend lacks a true air gap, it does not prevent siphoning if water overflows the bend. Make sense?
Moral of the story, make sure your dishwasher has some sort of backflow prevention system! Save yourself the headache.
There is a lot here and I kind of got lost but i am not a great reader so im sure its great.
Microwaves really are one of science’s greatest gifts. There is a lot of controversy around them but the fact is they were a great invention. I mean, how cool that they heat our food on a molecular level! The Micro Waves stimulate the molecules in the liquid that’s present and get them bouncing around like crazy and then the friction between these molecules is what heats your food. Like, what?! Mind blown.
Not a lot you can do about this simple wear and tear on an appliance. But if damaged microwave controls are not something that is repaired or replaced it will be called out during an inspection, as the Microwave controls are a component of the appliance itself. Sorry for you. A neat thing about your controls though is that it actually takes more electricity to power the clock than it does heat your food. Hows that for an interesting nugget. Look it up.
An insufficient performance deficiency just means that your microwave is not functioning properly. Or more specifically, it failed the wet paper towel test. We wet a paper towel and place it in the microwave for 15 seconds. If it comes out at a temperature of 140-170 degrees the microwave passes the heat test. If not, it fails. These are components we would not recommend fixing on your own unless you are qualified to do so. On a side note, did you know that grapes, chili peppers and eggs cannot endure high temperatures like our trusted paper towel? When they are exposed (or “cooked” in the microwave), they explode…and sometimes catch fire! There are a few different reasons why this happens but this may take a possible science experiment of your own, maybe? You didn’t hear it from us.
Cleaning the microwave regularly is important to performance as well since the micro waves are actually bouncing off the metal frame. It Is important that the inside box is clear of food and debris. This always seems like a daunting task but it is actually pretty painless and can also be done with the science of food! Try squeezing lemon juice into a microwave safe bowl and placing the squeezed lemons into the same bowl. Microwave for 4-5 minutes and let the hot water and citric acid do the work! This sweats out the microwave with the lemon juice and loosens up food from leftover explosions as well as sanitizes everything. Win! Win! Oh the versatility of lemons. Finish it off with the clean wipe of a damp cloth and your microwave will be shiny new and smell great too!
The garbage disposal does some dirty work but it is important that we maintain and take care of it, just like everything else. Some of the deficiencies we see on a daily basis can be avoided by simply using the device properly. We have some tips on how to do so.
Debris Inside Disposal
It is super common to find debris left in the disposal. The trick to avoiding food left behind is to use plenty of water. Every time you run your disposal, leave the cold water on while the food is being chopped up. After you hear the grinding of the motor turn into a soft whir, turn off the device and let the water continue to run for about 10 to 20 seconds. The running water will carry any remaining particles out of the disposal and flush the pipes more completely. Cold water is key! Hot water won’t damage the parts, but hot water will liquefy any greases and fats, which isn’t really something you want. When they are in liquid form, grease adheres to the blades and builds up on them making them less efficient.
Also avoid hard or fibrous foods like onion skins, egg shells, celery stalks, corn husks, etc. These smaller fiber pieces can get wedged underneath the blades or wrap themselves around the blades causing them to jam. Disposals are for foods that grind into bits and pieces easily. Hard seeds, popcorn kernels, peach stones, apple seeds, or bones don’t grind very well either, if at all. So what foods can you grind? Everything else!
Over time, it is natural for sludge to build up on the sides and blades of your appliance too, which can also affect performance. This is why cleaning the inside of your disposal periodically is important maintenance. Harsh chemicals can damage some of the pieces and parts of your device but you can get a natural chemical reaction by putting baking soda down the drain and pouring vinegar on top of it (think science fair volcano). Another easy method that combines both cleaning and sharpening of the blades is by throwing about a cup of rock salt down the drain when you grind up your ice cubes. And when you want to neutralize the smell, you guessed it, LEMONS!
Stuck + Seized
When your garbage disposal gets stuck or seized whatever you do, do NOT put your hands in the disposal! Especially if it is stuck! I shouldn’t have to say it, but you’d be surprised. When food that has been wedged is suddenly removed, the immediate release of tension can make the blades spring into action and cause injury. Try using pliers instead. If that doesn’t work, a plumber should be contacted for repairs.
Corrosion + Damage
So the garbage disposal has signs of corrosion. Bummer. Our best recommendation is that you monitor for leaks. Oftentimes parts can be found to repair this but generally it is better to just replace a garbage disposal rather than repair one.
These are the only appliances located outside of the kitchen that get negative attention from Home Inspectors on a regular basis. It is probably because they are just another appliance that does a lot of service for individuals and families alike. And if it stops functioning properly it is a HUGE inconvenience! So pay attention to these deficiencies and avoid a car load of stinky socks and a baggy full of quarters.
Sometimes your washing machine can have an issue with its discharge pump. The pump will just not pump out the basin and drain the water from the washer. Frustrating, but if this is the case, call a licensed appliance repair tech and let them run you through your options.
Missing Drain Pan
It is suggested that the washing machine be installed inside of a drain pan in case the machine were to flood. This is to not only to protect your wallet but, most importantly, to protect any livable space or finished floors that are directly below the washing machine. A water leak detection alarm is another handy tool to install in the pan to help identify if and when a leak begins to pool inside of the drain pan. This acts as an early indicator so the leak can be addressed before any real damage can be done. You want this!
Out of Balance
Just like everything else we test the washing machine too by running a quick cycle to monitor performance. During this test we can watch for flaws in the device, such as being out of balance. This may be remedied by just simply adjusting the feet of the washing machine. Or even, on normal cycle usage, adjusting the clothes inside will fix the wobble. If the problem persists, call your appliance repair tech to further evaluate the counterbalance system. It’s all about troubleshooting.
After the washer comes the dryer. Although hanging your clothes on the line sounds dreamy, who really has time for that?!
Not Heating Up
Another test done during the inspection is to run the dryer and check for proper heating. If, after a reasonable amount of time, the dryer produces less heat than normal there may be a problem with one of its elements. Either a clogged lint trap, clogged duct work, or malfunctioning heating element. This is when you bring a pro in for further evaluation.
Lint makes for the perfect kindling and kindling is a fire starter. This is why we recommend cleaning the dryer lint screen after every load to prevent build up and potential fire. When the lint screen is removed it is also a good idea to occasionally vacuum out the lint trap itself with your hose attachment on your vacuum to prevent further build up.
To clean the dryer ducts themselves start by unplugging the dryer, run outside to your vent cover and insert a long brush into the duct (a toilet brush works great!). To catch the lint on all sides of your duct, rotate the brush and pull out. This is an easy job but a messy one so stand back and wear a mask if you’re sensitive to dust. Repeat until the duct looks clear. If needed, remove the vent cover for easier access. Another tip: Wool dryer balls produce a lot less lint than dryer sheets. You’re welcome.
For a crushed duct it is best to move the dryer from the wall so you can get a good look at it, or replace it if necessary. A crushed or kinked dryer vent can reduce the operational efficiency of the dryer. Which means the dryer runs but the clothes don’t dry. This can lead to a build up of lint inside of the venting and that increases the chance of a fire. A hazard to definitely avoid.
A poor connection can mean that the dryer venting is disconnected and is venting into the crawl space or attic or behind the dryer itself. This can blow an abundance of lint into these areas and may increase the chance of pest, moisture, or a fire. Not ideal by any stretch. Of course the first recommendation is to install or replace the ducting to properly exhaust outside. If you’re replacing with your previously used ducting make sure it gets a good cleaning first.
These appliances work hard for us every day. They provide us with comfort and convenience and are meant to make our daily living easier. All we have to do is maintain them, use them properly and pay attention to performance. Because a lot of these flaws we see on a regular basis can be avoided by just simply being observant. We can be honest, some of these deficiencies are silly, and yet we see them day in and day out. Replacing a refrigerator light isn’t a difficult task, but we avoid it. Replacing the wheels of our dishwasher rack is a super inexpensive fix, but we avoid it. Even cleaning the microwave, not particularly challenging, but we avoid avoid avoid! It’s just another one of those life things where if you invest the time now you will save it down the road, or when you’re trying to sell your house. So our advice, take this list and do a little mini inspection of your own. Address what needs addressing and save yourself the headache later.