Q26: Is there a working exhaust fan vented to the exterior of the building?

Have you ever seen the video clip of the poor lady who has something burning on the stove and turns on the exhaust fan only to find out that the smoke is billowing back into the kitchen because her fan doesn’t have an exhaust pipe that flows all the way out of the house?

Take note…. Open the cupboard doors, find out where that fan is ultimately venting out. If the fan vents back into the house it isn’t going to do you much good if you get into a smokey mess one day while making grilled sandwiches that got a little too done!

Fixing a vent problem isn’t cheap, but it isn’t one of those major make or break type projects. It’s best to contact a remodeling contractor or visit your local home improvement store for a recommendation on how to fix it and what the cost will be.

Q27: Are there Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) installed for electrical outlets within 6 feet of the sink(s)?

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are a device that protect us from electrical shocks from faults in the electrical devices used in our homes. It essentially shuts of an electric power circuit (or outlet) when it detects that electrical current is flowing along an unintended path—such as through water or a person. This outlet is constantly monitoring the electricity that is flowing through it and will automatically shut off the current when that unintended path is detected. It’s not our indentation here to provide electrical engineering education, however we can all be very grateful to xyz.

According to the 2014 version of the National Electrical Code, all 120-volt, single phase, 15 and 20 ampere receptacles in dwelling units, serving countertop surfaces are required to have ground-fault protection for personnel. So, the American version interpretation is that any countertop surface is required to have the GFCI receptacle—and we would go so far as to sat that this not only means kitchens but bathrooms too! As a matter of family safety, if it is within 6 feet of a sink or dishwasher, make doubly sure that that little lifesaver is there.

You can spot the GFCI outlet by the “test” and “reset” buttons on their face. If you press the test button on the outlet, it will shut off the current to the outlet. By pressing the reset button, the electric current should resume to the outlet. If you’re looking at a newer home, you will most probably find these outlets in all kitchens and bathrooms. However, if the home is older than 1970, and hasn’t had the kitchens or bathrooms updated, you may want to consider having an electrician install these outlets if you plan on purchasing the home.

Q28: Does the dishwasher operate properly – no leaks and drain operates properly.

A dishwasher used to be a convenience—however with the family pulled in a hundred different directions and commitments that take us near and far, a dishwasher has become an essential in the American kitchen. The first thing you want to do is open the front door of the unit and inspect the rubber seals – do they look like they are intact and still serve their purpose? Or, do those rubber seals appear to be dirty or pulling/falling off the door? Do the dish racks pull out easily or do they get caught up and stop as you roll them out? If you look at the bottom of the dishwasher where the spinning arm and drain are, does it appear clean—or is there food debris left? These few conditional items tell you a lot about the care the homeowner took of the appliance.

Next, if you are interested in a specific home, ask if you can run the dishwasher in the rinse cycle. The homeowner or their realtor should have no objection to you pressing the button to start that cycle. Listen to how the water flows into the machine. Once it starts, pause it to see how that situation would work (I always find a dish or utensil that can still fit in!!). Let it run at least 5 minutes into the cycle while you look at the rest of the kitchen but purposely notice if there is water that has leaked onto the floor or inside the abutting cabinets. If this dishwasher was one of the rollovers, watch the faucet connection for leaks if improperly installed.

Depending on the type of service the dishwasher provides (what else does it do besides WASH and sanitize the dishes??) if this one didn’t work or leaked, you’re looking at under $750 to replace. However—if it did leak, watch for other signs of water issues like the floor buckling, the abutting cupboards having water stains or the lower level floor showing signs of water leakage as well.

Q29: Is the area under the sink free of any indications that pipes leak or are decayed?

In addition to noticing if there are leaks from the dishwasher (Q28) inside of the cupboard, you need to look very specifically at the sink base/bottom, the drainpipes, and the water lines (both hot and cold). Whether you are looking at PVC or metal pipes under the kitchen sink, you are looking for apparent signs that the pipes are well sealed, they are free from rust or corrosion and that water isn’t leaking from the sink drain into the cupboard base or worse to the floor itself where it could rot the subflooring. If you see any signs where there was warping on the bottom/base of the cupboard, look further – does it appear that the drain pipes are properly attached and sealed? Is the wood of the cupboard itself soft from being water logged? Does the back wall of the cupboard have any signs of dripping or leaking water or other liquid?

Notice the connections for the drain pipes themselves. There have been plumbing situations completed by non- professionals where the piping was “fitted” into each other rather than sealed. A little too much water pressure or a clog in the drain and the next thing you have is a water situation where you never expected.

You’ll want to notice if there are stains from leakage of the sink drain or the faucet and hot and cold water lines. If the sink has a garbage disposal unit, turn on the faucet and let water stream into the drain, then turn on the disposal to see if it works. Please—no hands or ANYTHING near that disposal while the switch is on! Remember to turn off the disposal switch and turn off the water before walking away as well. You’ll want to look under the sink to see if there are any signs that water is leaking or dripping,

Q30: When the water is turned on, does it flow easily down the drain?

If a Seller has listed the house with a Realtor, most Realtors have taken a little walk through the house to flush every toilet, turn on every faucet and ensure that they work. However, there are times when at the very last minute, there appears to be a clog in the drain and the water backs up. While a clogged sink probably won’t be the deal stopper, you will want to make sure that if you do make a Purchase Offer, you also include that there is a Home Inspector visit included in the conditions of the Purchase Offer.

When you enlist a Home Inspector and accompany them to the “official” inspection, that you make a special trip to that sink again and see if they’ve addressed the issue. If they have, BRAVO! – it could have been a number of things – from a grease clog to a piece of broccoli that got stuck. They were probably very embarrassed when they came home from the open house to find that the sink was backing up and they make have lost an entire group of prospective buyers. If the sink is still clogged the second time around, bring it to the attention of the Professional Home Inspector and see if he takes one of his tools to probe for a reason it’s clogged – you’ll know by his response if it’s an issue for concern.

Remember too, there are ways to unplug those clogs even without harsh chemicals! If the sink has a garbage disposal unit, turn on the faucet and let water stream into the drain, then turn on the disposal to see if it works. Please—no hands or ANYTHING near that disposal while the switch is on! Remember to turn off the disposal switch and turn off the water before walking away as well. You’ll want to look under the sink to see if there are any signs that water is leaking or dripping,

Q31: Is there sufficient pressure from the faucet?

Everything is relative, right …. What’s sufficient to you may not be sufficient to someone else. There is no tool that will measure the water that comes out of the faucet, however the key here is to get you to turn the water on and just NOTICE. Is it a blasting stream that will not only rinse the dishes but possibly break them or is it just a trickle that will take hours to fill a simple cup? Of course you want somewhere in between! But while you’re at it, does the water look clear or is it dirty? If the house has been empty a while and the water hasn’t been flowing through the lines, there may be reason for some concern if what you see coming out of the faucet has a brownish tint or smells rotten. In that case, if you’re really interested in the house, we would highly recommend that not only do you make any purchase offer contingent upon having a Professional Home Inspector give the entire place a good look over but that you also include a condition that it passes a water test. At least with both opinions you can make a more informed decision before forging ahead.

Q32: Are cabinets in good condition with drawers and doors that operate properly?

If you are looking at a serious fixer-upper type home and have every intention of gutting the kitchen and replacing the cabinets with the newest thing in the Kitchen Store, then just ignore this question and select the N/A option. However, if you don’t have the money to update the kitchen immediately OR the house is in pretty decent shape, you should not hesitate to open and close every cupboard drawer and door. I had gone to an Open House where the realtors had done a fantastic job of “staging” the home except for the utensil drawer… I pulled ever so slightly hoping that the inside was going to be nice and clean and OOOOOPs- not only did it have the ugliest stuff still sitting there but the front face of the door almost fell off. Needless to say, I left it in the open position hoping that whomever had done the house cleaning would be prompted to come back and finish the job right!

You may have to put up with the fact that the cupboards for the first home you’re coming into owning aren’t the new century model, but if the home has been cared for, they should slide in and out and doors shouldn’t knock each other. Look at the frames themselves; are they glued together and made from pressboard or are they solid wood with tongue and groove connections?

Again, if you can manage in your budget to plan 2 or 3 years down the road that you’ll put $10 -15,000 into remodeling the kitchen, then this might not be a deal breaker. However, be aware of what you’re getting yourself into because you will probably be in that room at least twice a day and for 6-8 hours on holidays!