Statistically, the kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a home. In a typical house—especially one with a couple of teenagers—you can expect a steady parade of hungry snackers opening and closing the fridge; a dishwasher cleaning dirty plates; an oven, range, and microwave performing their morning, noon, and evening functions; and a sink that gets a good workout throughout the day.
If you’ve watched enough home improvement shows, you also know the kitchen is the room that new homeowners most often want to renovate, replacing cabinetry, ripping up flooring, and knocking down walls to turn a tight area into an open space. In many cases, a kitchen that doesn’t meet the aesthetics of a home shopper can be a deal killer.
From a home inspector’s perspective, all this traffic, built-in appliances, and the presence of water make the kitchen a key part of an inspection. As we’ve discussed in past blog posts, water is enemy number one for a home, and a kitchen offers several ways water can cause damage, from a leaky drain to a kitchen skylight that’s letting in rain.
Whether a kitchen has an expensive granite countertop or an open space concept is not of interest to a home inspector, who will be making sure appliances are functional, electrical outlets are properly placed, flowing water stays within pipes, drawers smoothly slide open, and cabinets are free from water stains and mold.
Here is a brief home inspection checklist covering three parts of a kitchen inspection: the exhaust system, plumbing, and the dishwasher. We’ll address other elements of the kitchen inspection (ovens, microwaves, garbage disposals, cabinets, drawers, electrical outlets, etc.) in our next posts.
Kitchen Exhaust: Your inspector will make sure that the fan housed in the range’s exhaust hood switches on and operates at its various settings. The system will be evaluated to ensure that ducting/venting is in place to move steam, smoke, airborne cooking byproducts, and odors to the outside, either through the side of the house or the roof (ducting that terminates in the attic, crawlspace, or between floors will be cited for needed remediation by the home inspector). Strange humming or other odd noises during operation may signal a struggling motor or clogged ducts. In the most egregious cases, the inspector will report on the complete absence of a kitchen exhaust unit—either a ducted system or ductless type, which sucks up the air, filters it, and recirculates it back into the kitchen.
A Small Appliance with a Big Impact
Research has found that an absent, malfunctioning, or inefficient kitchen exhaust fan is a major contributor to poor indoor air quality. Most alarming, a recent survey found that only 13% of homeowners use the kitchen exhaust most of the time.
Your inspector will check to see if the unit is mounted the proper distance above the stovetop and that the area where the exhaust system penetrates the ceiling is completely sealed, as well as making sure the filter is clean. Filters that are dirty and clogged with built-up grease can decrease efficiency in addition to posing a fire hazard. Further, your inspector will determine if the exhaust unit is properly fastened, outside dampers freely open and close, and exterior venting is a recommended distance from air inlets.
Plumbing: The inspector will fill the sinks and check to see how well they drain, run the garbage disposal, look underneath for obvious leaks, and touch connections for evidence of moisture that might escape the naked eye. The floor of the cabinet below will be inspected for signs of old water stains and any moisture resulting from the sink drain test. Among other possible defects, the report may note corroded or deteriorated pipes; slow drainage; failure to hold water in the sink; missing or incorrectly sloped traps; the presence of “S” trap drains (not allowed under the Uniform Plumbing Code because they can release sewer gasses into the home); loosely mounted sinks; outdated, corrosion-prone galvanized pipes; double-trapping (a code violation in most instances and a sure way to add resistance to flow); and other issues.
Dishwashers: It is not the inspector’s job to judge whether the dishwasher leaves your stemware spot-free and sparkling. You’ll have to wait for your first dinner party in your new home to find that out. But the inspector will operate the dishwasher (along with other built-in appliances) to see that it fills up, runs through a cycle, and drains. The inspector will also look for signs of leakage such as water-damaged flooring and cabinetry in the immediate vicinity; check the condition of the drain hose; make sure the drain hose is properly clamped; report on the condition of the dishwasher’s water supply line and determine if it’s made of recommended material; check that the dishwasher is firmly mounted and level; test the door; open and close the internal flap door, and examine the inside for corrosion and other damage.
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