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Are you currently in the process of purchasing a home? If so, congratulations! The home hunt isn’t easy, and having an offer accepted is a major accomplishment. While some of the hardest parts of the process are over, there’s still a large hurdle to clear: the inspection.

A thorough home inspection can help you avoid unpleasant surprises—and provide you with peace of mind as you start an exciting new phase in your life. An inspection report is especially useful if the home you’re purchasing is older. But how should you interpret the results?

We get this question all the time. Home inspection reports contain a ton of useful information, but they’re not always easy to understand—especially if you don’t know what to look for.

If you’re wondering how to read a home inspection report, here are the major items you should pay attention to…

Home Inspection Report Red Flags

In our experience, it’s rare for a defect to be so serious that it derails a home purchase. That said, you should be aware of any big issues with the property you’re planning to buy. When you know about existing (or future) problems, you can better budget for repairs—or negotiate to have the seller take care of them for you. Here are some of the red flags you should watch for that may require further investigation.

Structural issues in the home

Homes shift and settle over time. While structural cracks are often nothing to worry about, they can also signal more serious problems. For example, more than one vertical crack in a home’s foundation could mean that its footing is broken.

If your home inspection report mentions the presence of cracks, read the inspector’s notes carefully. It might take an expert—like a foundation engineer—to figure out whether these defects are pointing to a bigger issue.

Mustiness in a finished basement

There’s no doubt that musty smells in a basement are unpleasant, but are they worth worrying about? It depends.

Mustiness usually means dampness, and it’s important to know where dampness is coming from. Is there a burst pipe somewhere? Perhaps moisture is coming in from outside, in which case poorly-done renovations or a missing vapour barrier (damp proofing) could be to blame.

One of the first questions you should ask is whether the basement is finished or unfinished. If it’s unfinished, you should not worry. It’s very common for moisture to come in through an exposed foundation.

Knob and tube wiring

Knob and tube wiring isn’t installed anymore, and many insurance companies won’t provide coverage for homes that contain it. That said, it can be safe when it’s well maintained (though problems sometimes arise in houses where homeowners have tried to repair the wiring on their own).

So, what should you do if your home inspection report notes the presence of knob and tube wiring? First off, don’t panic! Old wiring shouldn’t be a deal breaker and there are insurance providers that offer appropriate coverage (albeit at a higher rate). If you are planning on renovating in the near future, you should budget to remove the knob and tube. If k&t is discovered in the home inspection, it’s important to ask the seller’s agent some key questions about how much knob and tube may be in the house and to budget for it accordingly. If the seller doesn’t know, budget higher to ensure you aren’t shocked.

Roofs, eaves, and downspouts

Replacing a roof is expensive. Depending on slope and size, this major upgrade can set homeowners back anywhere from $4000 to $7000. Given the cost involved, you should know if you’re buying a home with a roof that’s near the end of its life.

Though they’re not as expensive to replace, eaves and downspouts also play an important role in protecting your home from the elements. If your inspection report mentions any issues related to a home’s roof, eaves, or downspouts, take note. Be sure to ask follow-up questions about any potential points of confusion.

Other Considerations of a Home Inspection

Some issues that come up in a home inspection report require more attention than others. For example you’ll want to take some type of action if you find that you have knob and tube wiring (whether that means committing to rewiring your future home or finding an insurance provider). But some items in a home inpsection report fall into the “good to know” category—meaning you’ll want to plan for them, but you don’t have to consider them red flags. Here are a few examples.

Your A/C and furnace or boiler

Just like people, homes age. Your heating and air conditioning systems will need to be replaced at some point—that’s a given. But knowing how soon these replacements need to happen can help you budget more effectively. And when you’re putting down roots in a new home, that’s a definite plus.

When you’re reading your home inspection report, look for any information regarding the age or condition of your HVAC system. If any items are in need of immediate repair, you may be able to negotiate with the seller to make it part of the deal.

Plumbing in the home

Figuring out the condition of a home’s plumbing can be tricky. An inspector can’t go into the walls to look at the entire system. What they can do is look for signs of potential problems—like leakage that could indicate a broken pipe. It’s also worth noting that most homes contain a mix of old and newer plumbing.

Asbestos in the home

No doubt you’ve heard the term “asbestos”. And if you’re like many homebuyers, it probably makes you want to turn and run. But the fact is, many homes built prior to the mid-1980s contain some form of asbestos—though it’s rarely visible, and a lot of the time it’s not harmful if it’s left undisturbed.

The bad news is, many home inspectors can’t check for asbestos. The good news is, if they do find the substance, it can be removed and discarded safely.

The bottom line

Time and again, we’ve found that a thorough, professional home inspection gives buyers peace of mind. But remember: no inspection is perfect.

If you’re wondering how to read a home inspection report, the best advice we can give you is to treat it like a budgeting tool. Every home has its quirks. The right real estate agent can help you understand how much those quirks could cost you when it comes to repairs and ongoing maintenance.


In process of buying a home? If you have questions about home inspection or the buying process, we’d love to answer them. Give us a call at 416-909-1602 or email us at

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