In our third and final installment of what a home inspector looks for when checking out a kitchen, we explore common defects found with built-in microwaves, cabinetry, drawers, garbage disposals, and countertops.
As we’ve noted in previous posts covering GFCIs, dishwashers, ovens, kitchen exhaust systems, and ranges, home inspectors perform basic functionality and observational assessments of appliances to make sure they work and have no major visible defects (i.e., severe corrosion, missing parts). Whether a microwave can thaw a frozen dinner per the package’s instructions or if the garbage disposal can send last night’s watermelon rinds down the drain will not be part of the evaluation.
Based on 27 years of performing thousands upon thousands of complete, foundation-to-roof inspections, the team at A-Pro Home Inspection presents this brief checklist of common defects found when inspecting a kitchen (part 3):
Countertops: A frequent issue found in kitchens are backsplashes that are not properly sealed at the seams and along the wall (a defect discovered in many bathrooms as well). In backsplash areas, gaps between the wall and countertop will invite moisture penetration that can lead to structural damage. Your inspector will likely recommend that cracked, poorly applied, or missing sealant should be repaired, though large gaps may require more invasive modifications.
Case in point, a subtler but just as common issue is the inexact installation of the base cabinetry below the countertop and backsplash. If not level and plumb, or if not properly fastened to the wall, cabinets can shift and affect the structures above. Other possible causes include age-related shrinkage of cabinetry or wood shims. In addition, floor and/or wall framing shrinkage can lower cabinetry, causing movement that can result in a separation of the countertop and backsplash. As home inspectors often discover, gaps between a backsplash and countertop are not simply problems in older homes, as shoddy workmanship and material shrinkage can affect new construction projects as well.
Cabinets: Your inspector will open and close kitchen cabinet doors to test for proper operation. Doors that are not in alignment, stuck, warped, or are missing hardware will be noted in the report. In many cases, simply tightening fasteners can remedy door problems. Obvious defects such as cabinets that are not sufficiently secured to the wall will also be highlighted. Inside the cabinets, the presence of mold and mildew will be cause for concern since they indicate either current or past moisture penetration. Further, cabinetry with internal holes and animal droppings signify rodent and possible insect issues. Drawers will also be pulled out and pushed in to check for smooth operation.
Microwaves: Your inspector will check microwaves that are built into a cabinet or installed above a range, for example. Countertop units are commonly not included as part of a traditional inspection. Among other checks, the microwave’s door will be opened and closed to determine if it operates smoothly and latches as required. There are several methods for testing whether the appliance works, including a simple check to see if it can heat up a cup of water in an allotted time. The inspector will also note other defects: broken glass in the door, an inoperable turntable, missing knobs, non-functioning lights, and rust.
Garbage Disposals: Your inspector will run water and listen to the operation of the garbage disposal, checking the sink and drain pipe for leaks. The disposal will not be fed to test its ability to grind waste. Among other questions, the inspector will ask: Does the disposal make uncharacteristically loud or strange noises when operating? Does the disposal make no sound—a sign that it may have become stuck?
In addition to aspects of the inspection that are unique to the kitchen (dishwashers, range exhaust systems, etc.), the inspector will note common problems that may be found in other parts of the house, such as ceiling and wall stains (signs of possible roof leakage, poor venting, or humidity concerns), non-functioning light fixtures, wall cracks, bowed walls, uneven flooring, damp subflooring, stuck or rotting windows, and damaged kitchen doors (both internal and external).