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Troubled Houses - The Home Owner's Resourcesm - Poor Choices

We see many interesting adverse conditions during our inspections, partly because of the unlimited number of ways people can mess up a house, but also because we do a thorough inspection to reveal these adverse conditions. We hope these stories and illustrations help home owners avoid these costly conditions by learning about causes, preventions, and remedies. A home purchase can create opportunities for the new owner to improve the home, possibly increasing its value, durability, and usefulness.

NOTICE TO BUYERS & SELLERS: This site does NOT encourage or discourage the purchase of any individual house, or style, age, location, or condition of house.  Conditions shown and/or described in the following articles may have been remedied at the house where these conditions were found.  These conditions typically can be remedied by qualified contractors. The presence of these conditions in any house is comparable to any other real estate consideration such as price, size, or location.  Consult a qualified home inspector before purchasing any house, and consult a qualified real estate agent for more information on how to handle a real estate transaction where adverse conditions are reported in a home inspection.   This site does not describe any house by address or knowingly show a readily identifiable exterior image.  Further, no home actively listed for sale  will be described on these pages at the time the article is posted.

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Learn more about our services, which now include IR Thermography, radon testing, and carbon monoxide tests. All photos copyright Roger Hankey. All rights reserved. Licenses to use these copyrighted images can be arranged by contacting

"Troubled Houses - The Home Owner's Resource" is a SERVICE MARK of Hankey & Brown Inspection Service Inc.   List of topics and all articles in this resource. 

Sometimes the conditions we find need very few words of explanation.  Our customers often ask "Why did they do it that way?"  Our humorous first response is often, "We don't do why, we do IS!"  The real answer is that improper work is usually done for one or more of the following reasons:  haste, attempted cost savings, or ignorance.  We aren't interested in blaming whoever did the work, we simply recommend corrections by qualified contractors.

Poor Choices shown below:
       Clothes closet built around an electric service panel
       Non-recommended furnace filter installed contrary to CAUTION label
       Gas clothes dryer disconnected and removed without capping the gas line 
       Don't fence me in!  - Egress window
Hole, what hole!
       Dangerous Electric Service
Furnace filter loose? Add 2 bricks!
       For want of a nail...
       Inspection humor - Outside edition.

                            ACCESSIBLE? Only if you squeeze past the clothes

       Electric service panel in a clothes closet. Poor choices - Troubled Houses. (C) ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO
There really wasn't anything wrong with the electric service except that someone built a clothes closet around it, creating a potential for fire and greatly reducing access to the panel.

Please read and follow the directions!

                     1" pleated paper furnace filter installed where a 4" filter is recommended and where the label warns against using these filters. Poor choices - Troubled Houses. (C) ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO
This heating contractor clearly labeled the furnace filter rack with their recommendation AND a warning about the consequences of using 1" filters.  Sadly the annual costs of using the non-recommended 1" filter is probably more than the annual cost for a 4" filter. (shown below) 

                         4" pleated paper filter recommended by many HVAC firms. ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO

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                                  Take the dryer. Install a cap. 
Uncapped gas line where clothes dryer was removed.  Poor choices - Troubled Houses. (C) ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO
Moving day is hectic and sometime small details are overlooked.  Unfortunately, people who disconnect and move gas clothes dryers often don't take the time to cap the gas line.  Sadly, this error has the potential to cause very serious damage and injuries if the valve is accidentally left slightly open.  Home sellers, real estate agents, inspectors, or any other party involved in the move or the real estate transaction can be brought into a lawsuit as defendants if injuries or damage occurs from a gas leak explosion.  Be sure the line is properly capped.   

                                         Don't fence me in!
   Chain link fence enclosing a basement egress window well.  Poor choices - Troubled Houses. (C) ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO 
Here again, WHY did they do this seems like a good question, but lets simply recommend that an EGRESS - ESCAPE window not be prevented from serving its intended function - allowing the basement occupants to escape or be rescued by firefighters.  Take down the fence or change to an unlocked gated enclosure. 

Hole, What Hole?

Thermostat wire passing through a return air duct formed by engineered wood I joists. Poor choices - Troubled Houses. (C) ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO
The small wire running through the hole is a thermostat wire (low voltage).  There is no reason it could not have run alongside the yellow gas tubing and the AC refrigerant lines left of it.  Making a hole in the engineered I joist was easy since they are prepunched, but the joist is ALSO serving as the side of a return air duct.  The return air duct should be AIRTIGHT to function properly.  This is a case where the poor choice was made by a trades person without knowledge or respect for the function of the overall system.


 Electric service panel with jumpered main breaker. Poor choices - Troubled Houses. (C) ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO
The yellow cables in the top portion of this panel are used to JUMPER around the main circuit breaker.  We don't know WHY a misguided person choose to make such a potentially dangerous modification, but a qualified electrician is recommended to remove the jumper as soon as possible.  

                                        Furnace filter helper 
Alternative furnace filter using two bricks for partial support. (C) 2011  Troubled Houses photo by Roger Hankey ASHI Certified Inspector in Winter Park, CO
This furnace originally had a metal basket style furnace filter with a blanket of fiberglass filter wrapped on the bottom of the basket.  Those are difficult to maintain so homeowners often attempt to use alternate filters.  The two brick method didn't work.  Dirty air bypassing the filter has the potential to clog the cooling coil above the furnace.

                                            For want of a nail
Deck joist hanger with missing nails.. (C) 2011  Troubled Houses photo by Roger Hankey ASHI Certified Inspector in Winter Park, CO
All the joist hangers for this deck were installed with less than the proper # of fasteners. This is easy to correct, but until corrected, the deck will not support its rated load.

Inspection Humor  (Outdoor edition)

 Handrail installed on the outside edge of a guardrail.  Poor choices - Troubled Houses. (C) ASHI Certified Inspectors in Winter Park, CO

You will either laugh or shake your head in wonder once you realize the mistake the carpenter made on this wood porch entry steps.  Clue: The end is not painted.


Answer:  The guardrail didn't have a handrail.  Someone was assigned to install a handrail but that person did not have enough experience, common sense, and supervision to put the handrail on the step side of the guardrail.   

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