5 Expensive Defects to Look For

When you view a property what are you looking for? The state of the décor shouldn’t concern you too much as even if it is well decorated you will probably change it within the first couple of years. What you should be looking for are serious or expensive defects that could cost thousands of pounds to rectify. Here are 5 that are relatively easy to spot.

Probable Dampness

Rising dampness is relatively rare. What you should be looking out for is penetrating damp or bridging of the damp proof course (DPC). The external walls of a property should have a DPC and the external ground levels should be at least 15cm below this DPC. What often happens is that a home owner employs the services of an inexperienced builder to relay the patio and rather than dig the old one out thoroughly the new one gets lad too high. Reducing the height of a patio can run in to several thousand pounds.

Roof Covering

Replacing a defective roof covering on an average size house is likely to cost between ten and fifteen thousand pounds. A layperson should be able to judge if a roof requires re-covering. Bring a pair of binoculars with you as this is how your surveyor will make a judgment. What you are looking for are areas of unevenness, missing or cracked tiles or if it is a slate roof look for metal fasteners used to fix replacement slates. Try and get in to the loft and if possible shine a torch on the underside of the covering, has it been felted? If it is tiles, are the nibs of the tiles perishing? If you can do all these checks you should be able to form an educated judgment of how close to the end of its lifespan the roof covering is.


Repairs to chimneys are expensive because of the difficulties involved with access. For anything other than a minor repair the area will need to be scaffolded out which is expensive. First, stand at the front or rear of the property in line with the chimney stack to see if it’s plumb. Chimneys in older properties can start to lean if one side is constantly exposed to the elements and the other is reasonably sheltered. Next, get your binoculars out again and look closely at the brickwork. Is the pointing intact and what is the condition of the bricks? Chimneys are generally more exposed to the elements than the rest of the property and therefore vulnerable to frost damage. When a wet brick freezes the surface can delaminate and fall away.

Electrical Installation

Because cables need to be hidden in walls and floors re-wiring normally goes hand in hand with complete re-decoration. What you should be looking for is clues to how old the installation is and whether and additions have been done in a professional manner. Start by looking at the consumer unit; if it is metal and has ceramic wired fuses it is probably at least 25 years old. This is not to say that it is necessarily dangerous but it is probably insufficient for modern usage and so may have some add-ons.   Look for evidence of testing. When an installation is tested the electrician will normally label it with a sticker recommending when the next inspection should take place (normally 5 years later). Finally, look out for earth bonding. This is the yellow and green wire that should be clipped on to metal pipes in exposed areas such as the bathroom. If several of these deficiencies are present you are probably looking at re-wiring.

Gas Central Heating

If the property has gas central heating first try and establish what type of boiler is fitted. There are two types; system boilers work in conjunction with a cold water tank (usually in the loft) and a metal cylinder and combination boilers (often called combis) supply heat and hot water as it is required. If you are unsure ask the owner or if the property is vacant turn on a hot tap and see if the boiler fires up (if it does it is a combination boiler). As a rough guide combination boilers have a lifespan of around 10 years and system boilers about twice that. If you are not familiar with the appearance of boilers through the ages you may not be able to tell how old it is by looking at it. Take a note of the make and model and either go onto some of the internet forums or contact the makers to try and establish the age. All replacement boilers must now be “condensing” which are more expensive than the traditional type.

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