So, you’re about to purchase a dream home (or have already), and it looks like a sound investment … but as the old adage goes, ‘Buyer beware!’ As a responsible and smart buyer, one thing you should not skip is having the property thoroughly inspected by an expert for damage and pests. Unfortunately, in Australia, many houses and apartments are bought without the purchaser having had the home inspected for structural damage or pest problems. In fact, 80 per cent of Australian property transactions take place without such checks. If the building has timber floors and stump foundations, then it’s important that you hire a qualified building and pest inspector.
Only with a proper building inspection can you guarantee that your property is not on shaky ground – literally. Sure, a simple walk-through of the building might tell you if the timber floors are springy or uneven; there are obvious indications of these, such as wobbling tables and loose floorboards. But how would you know what kind of damage there is and to what extent? What caused the problem? You would need to answer these questions in order to find out the best way to remedy the problem. And only professional building inspectors will be able to provide you with the right answers, in a neat and comprehensive report which will include the specifics of the problem, photos, as well as recommendations for the best solutions.
Some homeowners, however, believe they can easily rectify the problem themselves, as shown in the photo above. But structural problems should never be treated lightly. Uneven floors due to stump deterioration, for example, can become worse if the issue is not fixed properly straight away. Opting for a quick fix can lead to further damage, such as worsening of floor unevenness, subsidence (or the gradual sinking or caving in of the ground underneath), and cracking of the foundations themselves. Severe damage to timber stumps often also cause misalignment of door frames and window frames so that the doors and windows can no longer be closed properly.
Damage may also be caused by timber pests, such as termites or white ants. Timber stumps are particularly susceptible to these pests, as well as rotting from exposure to dampness or moisture. The damage could be contained in one area of the floor; or it could affect a large portion of the building’s sub-floor, which would usually cause the floor to slope in one direction.
Long-term exposure to the elements, particularly in older properties, can also cause decay in timber floors. Exposure to seasonal changes, dampness, moisture, and heat sources also results in alternating expansion and contraction of wood flooring, which then cause gaps, unevenness, and tenting. Wooden floor damage, even in newly built properties, have also become more common because some contractors use low-durability imported timber.
You do not want to increase the risk of potential hazards by an increasingly unstable property, whether it’s to your family or tenants. In addition to hiring a licensed building and pest inspector to properly assess the overall condition of the property – ideally, prior to purchasing it – you should also ask the seller (or previous owner) for permits and other proof of any building repair works done on the property. These precautions are especially important if the building is an older one, has wooden floors, and was built on timber stumps. Modern suspended floors now use concrete stumps and do not develop the same problems.
Hiring a building and pest inspector is a smart investment in your property.
While concrete stumps are more durable, natural timber floors still offer more advantages than any other type of flooring. When they are well-maintained, wooden floors substantially increase the value of a property. Natural timber floors are also the most environmentally sustainable option: they make homes more energy efficient; they are a sustainable resource; and they use less energy and produce less greenhouse gases in the course of their production. A house with wooden flooring is also more welcoming and calming.
If you’re lucky enough to find a property with beautiful timber flooring, do your due diligence and make sure it’s been well-maintained and is in good condition. Hire a qualified, reputable, and properly accredited building and pest inspector to perform a meticulous assessment. Again, this is especially important if the property also stands on timber stumps. Paying for the services of an inspector should be part of your budget; it’s a smart investment that can save you tons of money on unexpected damages and repairs that could come out of the woodwork in the future – pun intended.
A good building and pest inspector will provide you with a detailed analysis of their inspection; an accurate evaluation of the overall condition of the property, and the floors, specifically; and expert recommendations on the best ways to resolve any issues, how to minimize further/future damage, and proper care and maintenance.
If issues are discovered which would necessitate repairs, you should also inform the seller/previous owner as the building’s contractor may have to be informed of the situation. If you had the foresight to have the property inspected prior to closing the sale, the seller may be agreeable to addressing the problem themselves as part of your negotiations.
If the building inspector’s report reveals that the damage/s were the result of materials used or workmanship, the contractor may also have to be contacted regarding repairs. Having a written report from a licensed inspector will provide you with an essential tool to negotiate with the contractor the costs for repairs.
Buying property is a huge investment and, as such, you should protect it at all costs. The cost of a building and pest inspection will not only go towards the reinforcement and improvement of your property, but also towards your sense of safety and security.