With the exception of homes in the sunbelt, all the finished rooms in the house should have provisions for heating. Depending on the type of heating (see chapter 14), look for a radiator or heat register. If you don’t see any, ask the owner how the room is heated. It might be heated by radiant panels in the floor, walls, or ceiling that would not be visible. If there is no source of heat, record the fact on your worksheet. Adding heat to a room by extending the existing heating system can be costly. If there is a means of heat supply, is it properly located? For maximum efficiency, radiators and heat-supply registers should be located on an exterior wall, preferably below a window. This allows the heat to mix with the cooler outside air that normally infiltrates the interior from around the windows.


Although the condition of most of the windows is checked during the exterior inspection (see chapter 5), the condition of the windows on the upper levels and the operation of the windows should be checked during an interior inspection. Also, if the windows are the casement or awning type, the storms and screens are often not visible from the exterior and should be looked for during the interior room inspection.

Real Estate Home Inspection photographs of house defects

Fig. 10-4. Rotting and delaminating section of raised wood floor in finished basement. Condition is caused by constant wetting from water seepage into the basement.

The cost of repairing a broken window frame or replacing a broken pane is usually not high on an individual basis unless the window is one of unusual design or a large thermal pane (double or triple glazing). Keep track of the number of windows that need repair or rehabilitation. It is surprising how fast the dollars add up when you multiply the cost for one repair by the number of windows that are faulty.

Specifically, check the windows for cracked and broken panes that require replacement. BB holes or small cracks in the corner of a pane can be overlooked, providing that the window is covered by a storm pane. Is the putty around the pane cracked, dry, chipped, or missing? If so, the window joints must be reputtied. Look at wood window frames and exterior sills for cracked and rotting sections. Some windows have metal frames. Metal frames get quite cold during the winter in the northern part of the United States and have a tendency toward excessive condensation. This can cause peeling and flaking paint or disintegrating sections of plaster near the window frame.

Real Estate Home Inspection photographs of house defects

Pay particular attention to steel casement windows. These windows are usually a problem. They rust easily and must be painted every few years to prevent deterioration. In many cases, they do not close properly, a condition often caused by a sprung frame or excessive layers of paint around the joints. Also, almost invariably you will find cracked panes. Usually casement windows are crank-operated. Check the hardware. Sometimes the cranking mechanism is not operational.

Open and close the windows. They should operate relatively easily without sticking or binding. Double-hung windows should not rattle in the channel and should stay in a fixed position when opened fully or partially. Many older double-hung windows use a counterweight to hold the sash in a fixed open position. The weight is usually tied to a sash by a cord or a chain. If a cord is used, check to see if it is broken. Broken cords are not uncommon and should be replaced. If the cord is frayed, you can anticipate its early replacement.

When looking at the windows, check to see if the glazing is a single pane or a thermal pane. You can tell by looking at the thickness of the joint between the pane and the frame. A single pane is usually no more than 3⁄16 inch thick; a thermal pane is about 3⁄8 inch to 1 inch thick. You can also tell by looking very closely at the pane. Usually, you can see dust or dirty spots on the opposite side that reveal the thickness of the pane. Sometimes fixed-pane windows and sliding glass doors have thermal panes, even though the openable windows throughout the house have only a single pane. One of the well-known trade names for thermal glass is Thermopane. If the windowpane is made by Thermopane, you will see the name in the corner.

Thermal-pane windows are fabricated by hermetically sealing dry air or an inert gas between the panes. This is done to eliminate the possibility of future condensation problems between the panes. When the seal breaks, accidentally or otherwise, water vapor can enter the space between the panes. Look at the windows for signs of a faulty seal. If a portion of the window appears cloudy (FIG. 10-5) or there are water droplets between the panes, the seal has been broken. Although the insulating characteristics of a thermal-pane window with a faulty seal are at least as good as a storm window, the pane is not desirable from a visibility and a cosmetic point of view. If you see a thermal-pane window with a faulty seal, record it on your worksheet. The window requires replacement.

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