If you are having a home inspection in preparation for putting it on the market or are a buyer who ordered a home inspection to evaluate the condition of a property, the inspector may flag the floors within the report. Sometimes an inspection will reveal visible symptoms that the inspector believes warrant further investigation by a qualified contractor or flooring professional. In that case the report will mention those and recommend that you have the potential issue evaluated in more depth, and you should always heed these suggestions from your inspector. Don’t be alarmed, because some potential problems have really easy solutions. But do take the report seriously, because if the issues turn out to be serious they could impact your health and safety, as well as the value of the home.
Common Issues with Floors
• One issue that often surprises homeowners or buyers is when the inspection reports asks for an environmental inspector to evaluate the flooring materials for the presence of asbestos. But in older homes it was not uncommon for the linoleum-style flooring tiles to be made with asbestos fibers, which used to be added to give building materials more structural strength and durability.
• The problem, of course, is that if those fibers become dislodged they can get into the air and, when breathed, pose a serious health hazard. That can occur, for instance, if a tile is broken or if you break up the flooring in order to remove it or put a new floor on top of that old one.
• With ceramic tile floors, there may be tiles that are cracked, which typically occurs because the tiles are not completely level when they are installed, or because the adhesive used to install them has gaps or voids in it. Not only can this create trouble because those tiles can crumble or just look unsightly, but ceramic is a type of glass. If you have cracks, even tiny ones, the edges may protrude enough to cause cuts if you walk on them barefoot. That’s also a tripping hazard.
• Another telltale sign of problems is warping, particularly with wooden floors, because that normally happens when water seeps into the wood. It could be from flooding of the room or it could indicate that a plumbing leak has caused water to migrate underneath wooden flooring or into the wooden supports or sub-flooring beneath the floor.
• If the home has wall-to-wall carpeting, then the inspector may point out issues such as threadbare sections, rips, or wrinkles in the carpet that might pose tripping hazards. This is particularly common when stairs have been carpeted but have come loose or were not properly secured during original installation.
• Another issue related to flooring is the architectural molding attached where the flooring – regardless of what kind of flooring or floor covering it is – meets the walls. Oftentimes it is called “quarter round” molding, depending upon the particular profile or shape of the molding, and people may consider it a decorative touch. Moldings can certainly add to the visual appeal of the decor, but the ones where floors meet walls also help to secure the flooring so it doesn’t curl up, move, or leave flooring nails exposed that could injure someone.
What to Do Next
Read the report and if you have any questions or need clarification about anything, ask your inspector. When flooring issues have been identified, follow the recommendations – which usually advise that you call the appropriate flooring specialist or contractor and have them take a closer look. They can identify the extent of any problems and explain remedies. In some cases the repairs may be very simple and easy, but in other situations the outward symptoms may represent more complicated problems that necessitate work that extends beyond the flooring. If repairs are needed you should solicit written bids from 3 or 4 contactors.
When Repairs Are Needed
If repairs are warranted and the inspection was for a pending sale, the buyer and seller will have to decide whether they need to be done prior to closing or whether they can be postponed. They will also need to negotiate regarding any costs for repairs that are necessary. Normally either the buyer will pay them or they will give a discount to the seller to offset that expense, unless both parties agree to another financial arrangement. It is also a good idea to have your inspector return for a follow-up inspection to ensure that whatever repairs were done are adequate and were completed in a professional manner.