33 Surprising Signs There’s Something Wrong With Your House
A seemingly-minor problem now could mean major repairs down the line.
Your home will probably be the most expensive purchase you ever make. Even after spending an average of $379,600 on a home in the United States, buyers can’t always be assured that their dream house is as structurally sound as it initially seems. Countless homeowners find themselves saddled with serious structural and aesthetic issues to address over the years.
From uneven molding to a sloping backyard, there are a few key signs of serious structural issues. So before that minor problem turns your house into a major money pit, make sure you know these surprising signs there’s something wrong with your home.
Your doors don’t close properly.
If your doors aren’t shutting properly or are getting stuck with some frequency, don’t blame your contractor—blame your foundation. If you’re experiencing either of these issues, you may have foundation or settling issues, says Corey Fager, owner of real estate solutions company Buying Houses: Nashville.
“You’ll want to determine if your foundation is finished settling or if there are active shifts in the soil,” Fager says. “A sign of active settling or foundation shifts are new cracks in the drywall or ceiling. Settling is fairly common in a lot of areas, especially in new houses. If you see new cracks appearing or doors that are getting harder to close, you may want to call a foundation company to determine if reinforcement is needed.”
Your windows won’t open.
Similarly, if your windows are consistently getting stuck shut, the issue may be more than just ill-fitting panes. “If the windows don’t open, it can mean warped window frames and/or home settling, which can be expensive to fix,” says real estate investor Brian Davis, co-founder at SparkRental.com.
Your toilet is wobbly.
Feel like you’re doing a balancing act every time you go to use the bathroom? Well, that moving target toilet is no laughing matter. “A wobbly toilet or sponginess in any floor can indicate rotting sub-flooring, another expensive repair depending on the extent of the rot,” says Davis.
Your floorboards feel bouncy.
Having a spring in your step can be a positive thing—unless it’s your floorboards giving you that trampoline-like lift. “When you are walking in a home and the floor has a bit of bounce or give, it may indicate foundation issues,” says Nathan Outlaw, president of Onvico, Inc., a design-build firm. However, it may be more than just your foundation that needs help. “In more extreme cases, this can mean whole beams are rotten and need replacement,” says Outlaw.
Your yard has a serious slope to it.
It’s not always the interior condition of your home that indicates you might have a problem—even your yard can show that you have serious foundation issues. “If the land looks like it slopes toward the home, this may indicate water is getting under the foundation,” says Outlaw. “If the house has a crawlspace, you need to take a look underneath. If the home is on a slab, look for areas where the water is digging out underneath.”
Your house smells musty.
If you clean your home meticulously and still smell a persistent musty odor, it’s time to call in the experts. Musty odors can mean that you have mold developing in or behind your walls or under your roof. And it’s more than just an aesthetic issue—mold can cause respiratory health problems, skin irritation, and chronic fatigue.
Your ceiling is discolored.
Discolored ceilings are frequently the result of water damage, which can mean major repairs are in your future. “If there are signs of water intrusion on the ceiling, it may indicate issues with the roof or HVAC leaking,” says Outlaw. “This could also mean that there is significant water damage to sheetrock, sheathing, or other areas that are hidden from the living area.”
Your molding is uneven.
Crown molding can add some old-fashioned style to any home, but if those pieces don’t line up seamlessly, you could have serious—and potentially-costly—issues to contend with. Uneven moldings can be an indication of foundation issues or may signal that you have water damage behind your walls, causing the molding to become soft and droop.
Your house is always humid.
Even if you enjoy keeping your home warm, if you find that it’s unseasonably humid indoors, your home may be in trouble. Indoor humidity, especially if the problem persists year-round, can be a sign that you’ve got water damage.
Your home is hot—even with the AC on.
Experiencing tropical temperatures even with your air conditioning going full blast? It’s time to call an HVAC tech ASAP. “A lot of window companies like to talk about old windows as the culprit, but often the issue is not enough (or no) insulation in the ceiling and attic,” says Fager. “I inspect a lot of houses and you’d be surprised how many have little to no insulation. Another issue could be inadequate attic ventilation.”
Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple solution: “You can have a thermostat-controlled power vent installed in the attic to keep it and your house cooler.”
Your lights are flickering.
While storms can cause your lights to temporarily dim, if you find that your lights are flickering with no apparent cause, your electrical system could be to blame. Loose electrical connections are a major cause of flickering lights and may increase your risk of a house fire if not secured.
You’re seeing ants in your kitchen.
Virtually every home in the world sees a bug or two make their way inside. But persistent pestilence could be a sign something’s seriously amiss. If there is a parade of ants in your home, there are likely gaps around your windows that need to be addressed.
“Your windows may not have sufficient foam or caulking around them, which is an easy pathway for bugs to find their way to your kitchen,” says Fager. “Sometimes trim needs to be removed to expose these holes, and sometimes you can simply caulk around the cracks, both on the interior and exterior.” And for more ways to keep your house pest-free, check out these 25 Genius Hacks for Mouse-Proofing Your Home.
Your pipes make banging noises.
While even properly-installed plumbing isn’t universally silent, if you notice that there’s a cacophony behind your walls every time you wash your hands or take a shower, your pipes may need reinforcement. “When you shut the water off, the pipes bang because they’re not secured properly in the walls,” says Rick Ingersoll, owner of New York-based Thomas Harkins Plumbing and Heating.
Your house smells of smoke.
If you’ve scrubbed every inch of your home and it still smells like stale cigarettes, the problem is likely more severe than meets the eye. “Whether you bought the house with the smoke smell or smoked in it yourself, smoke can penetrate deeper than you might think,” says Fager. “In addition to walls, ceilings, window treatments, and floors, smoke can soak into carpet padding, ductwork, insulation, studs, and even the dirt in your crawlspace,” leading to third-hand smoke exposure, a potential health hazard.
Your countertops are cracked.
If you installed pricey granite or marble counters only to find them cracked after just a few years of use, that can often be a sign of a shifting floor resulting from foundation issues, which may require a costly fix.
Your new home only has one freshly-painted room.
Be wary of houses with a single freshly-painted room or wall. “A new paint job in a single room or wall could be a sign that something is amiss underneath, so ask the selling agent,” says Dan Meyer, co-founder and CEO of Pocketdoor, a company that provides consumers information on renovations and other home projects. “There may be a good reason for the fresh paint, but now is your chance to ask.”
You have grease on your kitchen cabinets or walls.
That greasy film covering the counters, walls, or cabinets in your kitchen isn’t just a sign that you need to be tidier when you’re cooking. When your range hood, which is designed to pull grease particles from the air, isn’t working properly, it may lead to a build-up of those particles on the surfaces around your home, especially in the kitchen where they originated.
You have a hard time plugging in your electronics.
Ever feel like you’re playing a game of Operation trying to get your power strips to plug into your outlets? If so, it’s time to call an electrician. Difficulty plugging your electronics into your outlets could be a sign that your wiring is loose, increasing your risk of an electrical fire.
Your paint has bubbles in it.
Bubbling paint doesn’t mean that you’re not quite as handy at redoing your rooms as you initially thought. “If you see what looks like large popped, paint bubbles on the wall surface or chipping paint, it may be a sign that the outside of the wall is not properly protected from water intrusion,” says Robert Taylor, also known as The Real Estate Solutions Guy. And if moisture’s not to blame, you might want to have an exterminator drop by—termite infestations often cause similar issues.
Your drywall seems to have been repaired multiple times.
While you might think it’s a good sign that your home’s previous inhabitants were diligent about repairing their drywall, the fact that they needed to do so may indicate some serious problems with the house. “Are there signs that the sheetrock or exterior have been repaired several times in the same place?” asks Taylor. “If you see new cracks in the sheetrock or stucco that appear to have been previously fixed, the house may have structural or foundation issues.”
Your chimney is turning white.
That white build-up on the outside of your chimney—also known as efflorescence—may be a sign of normal wear and tear, but if those white spots keep growing, something is wrong with your home. That white coloring may be an indication that you have a serious moisture problem in your chimney system, potentially due to cracks in your bricks or mortar, or an improperly-placed or damaged liner.
Your deck is damp underneath.
If the area under your deck is as damp as a steam room, you may have serious—and costly—repairs ahead of you. Dampness under your deck can mean your house or decking has insufficient drainage or ventilation, which can lead to mold or rot over time.
Your floors have a significant slope.
While the settling of an older home may lead to some variation in its flooring, if you could downhill ski from one side of your home to the other, that’s an issue that needs attending to ASAP.
“Walking through older homes can be a real treat and often feel like walking through a funhouse,” says house-flipper and realtor Jodi Moody of Smoky Mountain Realty. “Floors that have ‘whooptidoos,’ or up and down hilly floors, are often a sign of floor piers placed too far apart. Back when codes didn’t exist, floor beams and piers were put further apart to save money and wavy floors are a sure sign a building is not properly supported.”
Your washing machine hose looks lumpy.
If your washing machine hose looks lumpy, it’s time to get a plumber to your house as soon as you can. Bulges in your machine’s hose can mean that the hose’s walls have weakened, meaning it could burst and cause a flood if it’s not fixed.
Your roof cap is out of place.
The cap on your roof serves an important purpose: to ventilate your home and help you maintain a more comfortable interior temperature. However, if your roof cap has moved from its original position or looks lopsided, that’s a sure sign your shingles have shifted, meaning there’s either a problem with your roof itself or possible foundation issues.
Your walls have cracks in the corner.
Whether you have drywall or plaster walls, small cracks can appear over time in even the most well-built homes. That said, if cracks are specifically showing up in the corners of your rooms, it might be time to call in the pros.
“If you have random cracks in the walls, it’s a sign that your framing lumber could be shrinking,” says real estate expert Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers. “These cracks usually show up at the corners of doors or other areas that drywall sheets meet. Framing lumber is sold at 19 percent humidity and loses 10 percent humidity during the heating season, causing it to warp and shrink.”
Your outlets feel warm.
Warm outlets could be a sign there’s a problem with your electrical system. Whether it’s faulty wiring or you’re putting too much demand on your electrical system, this home problem means it’s time to call an electrician.
Your gutters have fallen.
It’s not just a heavy built-up of leaves that can cause your gutters to jump ship. If the wood your gutters are attached to has water damage or is rotting, your gutters can become loose or fall off completely.
You have virtually no water pressure in your showers or sinks.
Low water pressure isn’t just annoying—it’s a sign there’s a potentially-serious problem with your house. Low water pressure can be the result of a leak or a clog in your plumbing system, or that your pipes are too small to deliver the amount of water you’re demanding from them, potentially setting you up for a burst pipe or flood.
You find puddles in your basement.
Those wet spots on the floor of your basement mean it’s time to call in a structural engineer or contractor. Pooling water in your basement is often an indication that you have leaks in the foundation of your home. “These leaks can wreak havoc on the structure of your home, which could result in the need for costly repairs,” says Chuck Naish, founder of City Residential Foundation Repair.
You’re getting regular static shocks.
While some static shocks could be the result of dry air and the friction of your feet on the carpet, if you’re only getting them while touching an electrical outlet or light switch, there’s a bigger problem at play. Getting shocked when you touch an outlet may mean that your outlet isn’t properly grounded, probably because your wiring is older and needs an update, or has come loose.
Your air smells metallic.
If your house has a strangely metallic scent, it’s time to call in an electrician. A metallic smell can be an indication of an electrical issue, like a loose connection or overloaded socket. It could also be a problem with your furnace that may interfere with your indoor air quality.
Your water bill suddenly skyrocketed.
That suddenly-huge water bill is more than just a problem for your bank account. Increases in your water consumption are typically a sign that either your toilet is running or you have a leak somewhere in your plumbing system that needs to be addressed before it causes damage or mold issues in your home. And for more ways to keep your home pristine, discover these 20 Home Maintenance Tips Everyone Should Know.
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