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Common building defects

Before buying a property, it is important to understand the real condition of the dwelling. Here are our top six common building defects to look for.

Common building defects

16 November 2023

Before buying a property, it is important to understand the real condition of the dwelling. Here are our top six common building defects to look for.

Building defects to look out for before you buy    

Home buyers certainly have a lot to consider when purchasing a new property, no matter how experienced you are.

If you listen to real estate agents, they will tell you that it’s all about location, location, location, but there is much more to your new home than just its postcode.

Before you decide to purchase a property, it is important to investigate and understand the real condition of the dwelling and remember that even modern or recently constructed properties can have defects which may present costly repair bills. If you’re thinking about renovating a property, understanding different types of defects and how much this could cost you to repair can help you plan what kind of budget you may need. 

To help identify potential structural defects before making an offer, a building inspection report conducted by a registered architect or qualified building inspector is worth considering and could prove to be money well spent.

The benefit of using an architect or building inspector rather than carrying out your own maintenance checks is that these professionals are independent, qualified and provide a thorough condition report on all aspects of the property.

A building inspection report will provide a complete assessment of the condition of the property and clearly identify any immediate or short-term risks, as well as provide an estimation of the likely cost of repairs. It is good to have this information ahead of time so you can consider the costs of any necessary repairs in light of the purchase price, and potentially use the report as the basis to negotiate a lower purchase price.

Six common property defects to look out for:

1.  Damaged roofing and blocked guttering

Cracked roof tiles or damaged ‘pointing’ (the cement sealant along the roof joins) can leave your roof and ceilings exposed to water damage and flooding. Gutters that are blocked which do not allow water to be diverted from the roof can also cause flooding, especially in periods of heavy downpour, as well as create moisture problems.

2.   Timber Rot

To prevent rotting, timber needs constant maintenance to protect it from the elements. Exposed timber on any part of the building – such as decks, verandas, trims, barge boards and fascias requires protection such as painting or staining.

3.  Cracking

Internal and external wall cracking can be common particularly in brick homes where the house has moved due to movement in the earth. Cracks can vary in size and should be assessed by a professional as can sometimes require ‘underpinning’ to stabilise any further movement.

4.  Electrical

Fortunately, electrical safety standards in Australia have improved over the years, however, many older properties still have wiring and switchboards that do not comply with current regulations. As our modern lifestyles rely on electrical power for heating, cooling, lighting, cooking, entertainment and computers it is essential that the wiring is fit to meet these demands.

5.  Stumps/subfloor framing

Commonly, timber stumps in older properties can deteriorate with time, which can lead to uneven floors and create further problems and expense. Termites may also have attacked timber sub-floors (stumps/bearers/joists). Having adequate ventilation under the sub-floor is also essential.

6.  Rising Damp

This is a common problem in older brick or stone dwellings where there hasn’t been suitable waterproofing to stop moisture from creeping up the walls. Visible signs of rising damp are paint peeling, damp smells and staining on walls.