Cracks in the walls
If you’re seeing cracks in the walls then your house could likely be showing the first and most obvious signs of being structurally unsound. If your walls are cracking, something just isn’t right, whether the structure is uneven or, most likely, the building has issues in its foundation. Regardless, get those cracks checked before things go downhill.
Stains under the windows
Another way of telling your house has some major structural issues is if there is discolouration under your windows, either on the inside or outside. This shows that the building has serious water damage. Water has probably gotten in around the windows and is weakening the entire structure around the frame. If this is the case, your house could be close to falling apart.
Maybe your walls are straight and sound as can be, but perhaps you can’t say the same about the floors. If you feel like your floors could be used as a slide, no matter how steep, you should be concerned. The construction of the house must have had some flaws, because it probably means that the ground beneath the foundation was not sufficiently compacted before building began.
Peeling paint in the bathroom
Old homes will have peeling paint, that’s just the way of things. You should be concerned if the bathroom paint is peeling, though. It’s your house letting you know that the bathroom has some water damage going on. In fact, it’s probably not new. This means the roof might actually have leaks which can also lead to mould and rotting planks in the roof.
The baseboards are falling off
When a baseboard falls off, the instinct can be to ignore it and just prop it back up as if nothing happened, but that’s definitely not what you should be doing. There is a reason the baseboards have come unattached from the walls, and those reasons are generally to do with foundational issues that occurred when the house was first built.
The ground around the house is shifting
Sometimes the earth around your house is the best indicator that there is something wrong with the structure of the house itself. You might have water leakage going on in your house which is causing the earth around it to sink and become mushy. If the land around your house is eroding, then you likely need to get on those repairs as soon as possible.
Doors and windows are hard to close
The doors and windows in the building were almost definitely perfectly aligned when the house was first built. If they are now difficult to shut and open properly, then it could be a sign of subsidence which means the ground under the property is moving. This subsidence could have but the door and window frames askew, making their use more difficult.
Your walls are warped
If the walls are warped and just not quite flat, then they could be absorbing water. The water in the walls bulges out, creating a distorted shape. This kind of water damage can make your walls begin to crumble. If this is happening in your home, you’ll probably notice it around the baseboards first, so pay attention to them.
The floor is bouncy
A good bounce is great fun on a trampoline or diving board, but it’s not a feature you want in your home flooring. If your floors are feeling spongy and standing on them pushes them down noticeably, you are dealing with structural issues. This could be a case of a termite infestation which would explain the weakened, spongy wood perfectly.
Your home smells damp
You might think that a damp smell just means your house isn’t clean enough, but it usually goes much deeper than that. A damp smell signifies mould somewhere in your house. If there is mould, the building has some sort of structural issue that is allowing water damage. Check for leaks around your sinks, and see if your toilet is rocking – if it is, that could be causing the smell.
You see termites
Termites are very, very bad news for your house, and need to be dealt with promptly. Don’t be fooled by their diminutive size, termites can chew through wood, brick, and concrete, and can inflict catastrophic damage on your house is a shockingly short amount of time. If you see these little vandals scurrying around, call an exterminator immediately.
Your pipes are discoloured
Most modern houses hide the pipes away out of sight, but it’s worth giving them an inspection from time to time. Discolouration on pipes, particularly around joints, suggests that moisture is escaping. Plumbing lines are subjected to a lot of pressure, so minor leaks can suddenly rupture with catastrophic results.
The lights are flickering
Whilst they might improve the vibes at your next house party, flickering lights are rarely a good sign. One light playing up is probably just a dodgy bulb, but if multiple lights are flickering then it’s likely to be a problem with your house’s wiring, which could point towards a more serious problem such as sinking foundations.
Sagging areas on your roof
Problems with your roof can quickly cause other issues – such as mould and water damage – and should be dealt with in a timely manner. One of the key indicators that your roof is in need of repairs is sagging spots. These can be caused by a variety of factors, but none of them are good.
Sudden jumps in your water bills
Sudden, unexpected spikes in your water bill are a sign that there’s a problem with home’s plumbing. A running toilet is often the culprit, so that should be your first point of investigation. If all of your toilets are in good working order, you might have a serious leak somewhere in your plumbing system, which needs to be located and dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Discolouration around electrical sockets
Research by the National Fire Protection Agency has found that every year around 50,000 house fires in the US are caused by problems with electrical sockets. Discolouration around sockets – especially if it’s black – could be an indication that the socket is overloading and getting dangerously hot, which could eventually lead to it catching fire. If you spot this alarming sign, immediately switch off the socket and call an electrician.
Warped roof tiles
You can tell a lot about a home’s health by the state of its roof. Warped shingles, for example, indicate that the house isn’t getting enough ventilation, causing moist, warm air to get trapped in the attic. Over time, this can lead to mildew problems and that can cause serious damage to your home. Certain strains of mould also come with a number of health risks, and extended exposure can lead to permanent respiratory issues.
Foul smells coming from the drains
Persistent, unpleasant smells emanating from your drains generally point to an issue with your plumbing. If the smell is confined to a single drain a clogged pipe is probably to blame, but if multiple drains are emitting a foul odour then you might be dealing with a damaged main sewer line. In either case, a plumber will be able to diagnose the problem, although if there’s a problem with the main line you might be in a for some costly repairs.
Rusty water coming from your taps
Discoloured water coming out of your taps should be an immediate cause for worry, as it often indicates a major issue with your home’s plumbing. You’re most likely to see rusty water coming out of your taps when you use hot water, as the root of the problem normally lies with your home’s water heater. If the corrosion hasn’t progressed particularly far, repairs may be possible, but most of the time the solution is going to be an entirely new heater.
You keep finding moisture around your AC unit
If you live in one of the hotter parts of the world, you probably have your AC unit running a good amount of the time. These units are prone to a number of faults, the most serious of which is a refrigerant fluid leak. Many AC units use freon as a coolant, which works well but is dangerously toxic to humans. If you find moisture around your AC unit and you can’t figure out where it came from, switch it off immediately and call a specialist repair company.
Food in your fridge keeps going off
If you keep finding yourself throwing out refrigerated food that’s well within its use by date, the culprit might be a fridge that’s on the way out. Whilst it’s generally pretty obvious if your fridge packs up entirely, problems with the compressor can cause unpredictable fluctuations in temperature that you might not be aware of. Fortunately, a compressor can normally be replaced, which is a far cheaper option than replacing the whole fridge.
Your breaker box smells of smoke
The smell of smoke in your home is always troubling, and should be investigated immediately. If you discover that the source of the smell is your breaker box, kill the power and call an electrician. Breaker boxes are designed to automatically shut off electrical circuits that are using too much power, but if the box itself fails it can lead to electrical overloads throughout your entire house, putting you at risk of a fire.
Low water pressure
A drop in water pressure often makes for a very unsatisfying shower, and can be caused by a number of plumbing issues including blockages, leaks, and improperly sized pipes. The problem is more common in older houses, where the pipes are likely to be corroded. Professional help will generally be required to identify and rectify the cause of low water pressure.
You spot tiny holes in wood around your house
As if termites weren’t already horrifying enough, turns out some of them can fly. Whilst most species are confined to the ground and will go after your floors and foundations, flying termites often target harder to reach areas. They’re particularly fond of wood, so it’s a good idea to check door frames, window sills, and other wooden structures in your house from time to time.
Your breaker box is tripping more than usual
Your home’s breaker box is a crucial piece of technology that prevents fires by automatically switching off electrical circuits if they’re overloading. Circuits occasionally tripping is nothing to worry about, but if it begins to happen with regularity, especially if it’s always the same circuit, it could point to a developing electrical fault that will need to be repaired by a professional.
Cracks appearing in your windows
Discovering a crack in your window is annoying, but it could also be a sign of a serious problem with your home. If you can’t find an obvious cause for the crack, it’s worth calling a construction specialist. Cracks in windows can be the result of shifting foundations, a serious problem that needs to rectified as quickly as possible.
Your washing machine hose is bulging
Washing machine hoses are made of rubber, and over time the high pressures they are subjected to can cause them to degrade. As the rubber softens it can begin to bulge, which is a clear sign that the hose it on its way out. Failure to replace the hose at this point will likely result in severe flooding, so it’s best to take action pre-emptively.
You keep finding clumps of chewed paper
One of the telltale signs of a rodent infestation is little clumps of shredded paper turning up all around your house. If you suspect that a family of mice or rats have moved in, seek assistance as soon as possible. Rodents reproduce incredibly quickly, and within a few months you might find yourself contending with hundreds of the creatures.
You notice white residue on a brick chimney
If you’re lucky enough to own a home with a fireplace, you should periodically check your chimney for a thick white residue. This is caused by moisture pulling minerals out of the bricks, and it can be a sign that water is condensing on the inside of your chimney and seeping outwards. One of the more concerning causes of this phenomenon is a cracked flue liner, which can lead to toxic fumes drifting into your home instead of through the chimney.
Screeching sounds coming from your faucets
If your taps are making an eerie wailing noise every time you turn them on, hold off on calling the Ghostbusters and get a plumber in instead. Screeching sounds coming from your faucets normally indicate air trapped somewhere in the pipes, which can eventually lead to blockages. A professional will be able to work out exactly where the problem is occurring and bleed the air out of the pipes.
You notice water draining slowly
An individual sink or shower draining slowly generally isn’t a cause for concern, with a slightly blocked pipe usually to blame. However, slow drainage through your house might indicate a clogged main sewer line, a much more sinister problem that is considered a plumbing emergency and requires immediate attention. Call out a professional if you suspect you have a clogged main line, as the situation can rapidly deteriorate and lead to flooding throughout your house.
Your toilet is gurgling
A gurgling noise coming from your toilet definitely isn’t something you want to ignore, assuming you’d rather avoid an incredibly unpleasant flood. Gurgling is a sign that negative pressure is building up in the main line, essentially creating an airlock. This is nearly always caused by a clog, and it should be fairly easy for a plumber to deal with. If you want to have a go at fixing the problem yourself, pour some caustic soda into the toilet and let it sit for a while before having a go with a plunger.
You spot holes in your decking
Carpenter bees are capable of devastating wooden decking in a short amount of time, and unless you catch them early the damage is likely to be unrepairable. If you have wooden decking, make sure you inspect it every so often during spring and summer, keeping an eye out for small holes or little piles of sawdust. If you spot evidence of carpenter bee activity, call the exterminator as soon as possible.
Your HVAC isn’t cooling the house properly
If your home’s HVAC doesn’t seem to be doing its job properly, or if you notice a persistent stale smell in the air, it’s time to call out an engineer. HVAC systems circulate air throughout your house, and it’s not uncommon for them to get blocked with dust and other bits of debris. Over time, these blockages can become severe enough to restrict the air flow, as well as imparting unpleasant odours to the air that does get through.
Hail damage to your shingles
A particularly vicious hailstorm can knock off the protective layer of granules that roof shingles are covered with. Once these granules are gone, the shingles themselves become susceptible to UV damage, eventually leading to leaks. It’s important to check your roof after a heavy hailstorm to assess whether there is any damage and – if there is – how widespread it is.
A breeze might indicate you need new windows
Windows allow you to get fresh air and natural light into your home, but they can also end up being weak points when it comes to insulation. If you keep feeling a noticeable breeze, even when all the windows are shut, it might be a sign that the sealant around one of them has degraded. Find out which window it is and get it fixed before damp and mould problems start to set it.
Your boiler is producing strange smells
Unusual smells coming out of your boiler can indicate a range of problems, many of them serious. The smell of burning indicates that the boiler is overheating, creating a potential fire risk. A rotten egg smell is even more concerning as it suggests a leak of carbon monoxide, an extremely combustible gas that can trigger explosions.
You have cracked floor tiles
Cracked floor tiles aren’t just unsightly, they’re also dangerous. Floors are inevitably amongst the dirtiest parts of a house and are often teeming with bacteria, meaning cuts from a broken floor tile carry an especially high risk of infection. Replacing cracked floor tiles be at the top of your list of priorities, especially if you have children running around the house.
You spot stains on your ceiling
One of the most surefire signs of a leaky roof is water stains that appear on your ceiling and run down the walls. If you spot these telltale signs you need to act immediately, as water damage can quickly damage the structure of your home and lead to mould infestations that are hard to get rid of. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, it’s best to leave roof repairs to a professional.
The vents in your attic are clogged
Ensuring that your attic is well ventilated is critical for maintaining the health of your property, and clogged vents can have a number of knock-on effects. The vents in your attic are technically called ‘soffits,’ and their job is to suck in outside air which is then circulated through the house. If these soffits become blocked they lose the ability to inhale air, which can increase dampness in your house and will eventually lead to problems with mould.
Loose step flashing
Step flashing is used at the point where walls and roofs intersect, and it serves an important purpose, channeling water away from the wall and down the roof’s shingles. Unfortunately, the flashing sometimes rusts through or comes loose. When this happens, water runs down the wall instead, getting into your home and causing all sorts of problems.
Holes in the shingles of your roof
Small holes in your roof’s shingles are particularly pernicious, as they can cause rot for years before you realise there’s a problem. These holes are often left behind when antennae – which are drilled into the roof – are moved or replaced. When you move into a new property, it’s worth paying a professional to thoroughly inspect the roof. It’s a small expense that you could save you thousands down the road.
Plugs are hot when you remove them from an outlet
Electrical outlets occasionally develop faults that allow too much electricity to flow through them. If you’re finding that plugs are hot to the touch when you remove them from an outlet, you’re probably dealing with one of these faults. Call an electrician and don’t use the outlet until it’s been thoroughly inspected – dodgy outlets cause tens of thousands of fires a year in the US.
The grommets on your water heater are melted
Your water heater produces a number of harmful gases, the most concerning of which is carbon monoxide, an invisible killer that is responsible for over 400 deaths a year in the US. The toxic gases usually flow harmlessly out of your house via an exhaust, but occasionally a problem known as ‘backdrafting’ causes them to leak into your home. If you spot melted grommets on your water heater, it’s a surefire sign of backdrafting and you need to take urgent action.
You’re getting small shocks from an outlet
Getting zapped when you plug something into an outlet is a surefire sign that you’ve got an electrical fault on your hands. If it only happens with a single device then the outlet is probably safe, but if it happens no matter what you plug in then it’s time to call the electrician. Any time there’s a fault with an outlet the risk of a house fire goes up, so getting this seen to should be a priority.
You spot aluminium wiring in your home
In the late 60s, studies showed that aluminium was a suitable – and cheaper – alternative to copper wiring. However, quickly transpired that, due to oxidising at a much faster rate, aluminium wiring tends to quickly build up heat, leading to fire risks. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of homes already had aluminium wiring installed by the time this was discovered. If you spot aluminium wires in your home, call an electrical specialist who will either be able to replace it or insulate it safely.
Your plants are dying
Dying houseplants can be an ominous sign that your home has a gas leak. High atmospheric levels of natural gases prevent plants from absorbing oxygen, causing them to wilt and eventually die. If your houseplants are starting to look a bit worse for wear and you know you’ve been looking after them, consider calling out an engineer to check for leaks.
You keep undercooking or overcooking your food
One of the most important components in your oven is the thermometer, which ensures the oven reaches and holds the correct heat. If you keep taking food out of the oven only to find it’s undercooked or burned, chances are the thermometer is on the way out. However, other components – such as the fan – are sometimes to blame, so it’s best to get a professional out to inspect the oven.
You’re nauseous for no reason
Some of the gases that are used to heat your home are toxic to humans, and prolonged inhalation can lead to a number or physical effects. The most common are nausea, headaches, dizziness, and irregular breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they abate when you go outside, it’s best to err on the side of caution and call in a professional.
Your staircase is sagging
If your stairs are sagging, this could be a sign that the wood they are built on is shrinking. There are a number of reasons that this could be occurring, including damp, lack of ventilation, or proximity to heating pipes. If caught early enough, sagging stairs can often be repaired with the addition of some new wood, but over time the problem can become serious enough to necessitate an entirely new staircase.