How do I know if a Home Was a Grow Op?

Grow Op Home Inspection Cover

As a home inspector, we are frequently asked in inspections if a house may have been a grow op and it is an issue to be taken very seriously. 


According to some reports, 1 in every 140 houses in Canada has been used in a marijuana grow operation of some sort. As it is widely reported that marijuana is the largest cash crop in BC and we are, unfortunately, a leader in grow ops in North America, this number could even be higher in some of our municipalities.


What type of Houses do Grow Ops Operate in?

First, it is rare for a grow op to be in a condo or townhouse complex. Grow operators want as much privacy as possible so they typically look for houses that have some degree of privacy from the street and neighbours. They also often have an attached garage which allows them to move equipment, plants, people, and supplies from vehicles behind closed doors. Because grow ops can be destructive to houses, grow operators typically rent properties which unfortunately can leave an unwitting landlord with a big problem to fix when the grow operators move on.


What are the clues a house is a grow op?

We already discussed a lot of secretive action by the operators. They may come and go at unusual hours. Garbage is erratic or non existent and does not correlate with normal domestic resident cycles. Windows are often blacked out to conceal lights on all possible hours. High levels of condensation often will gather on the windows. The mail slot on the home may be closed shut. Fences may be improved and dogs or signs indicating guard dogs may be added. 


Never approach a home that you are suspicious may be a grow operation. These homes are often run by organized criminals who are very protective of their crops and people who may try and steal the crops from them. If you are suspicious of a possible grow operation, always contact the authorities to handle the situation.


What are the implications of a former Grow Op house?

Just because a house was used for a grow op does not mean that the house has any lasting damage. However, all to often, houses can be left with major problems. 

- Structural supports can be cut by grow operators who are trying to run ventilation, plumbing, and wires. Often the quick fix repairs that may be done will conceal these missing supports.

- Electrical systems can be significantly compromised. Electricity is often stolen by tapping the wires before the meter. Then, household wiring will be tapped and relocated as needed for the grow op. Once covered up, a home owner may not know the wiring has been mangled.

- A large amount of water is needed to grow these plants. Water lines are spliced, added, and relocated to bring water to each grow room. Also, there are often a large number of water spills which can damage structure.

- Chimneys, furnace exhaust lines, and roof vents may be repurposed to exhaust hot, humid air from the home. Hidden damage to these systems may allow toxic fumes to re-enter a former grow op home and be a life safety hazard

- Humidity and moisture from the grow operation can cause large amounts of mould growth in the home. Mould can cause problems with structure if it is severe enough and can also be a health hazard, particularly for people with low immune systems (including young children).


Does a Home Inspector Look for Grow Ops?

A good home inspector is always on the look out for suspicious clues about a house's past. There are some very good clues that often exist that are particular to grow ops and when we see these, it does become a concern in a home inspection. Unfortunately, many former grow ops have had all signs of the grow op intentionally concealed and it is not possible for a Home Inspector to identify these in a home inspection which is why finding a former grow op is not a requirement for home inspectors in a home inspection.


Reporting on the presence of clues of a former grow op is a double edged problem for home inspectors. First, there are other possible reasons for some of the 'clues' to be in place. For example, an avid woodworker might have ventilated a room in the basement for applying lacquers or paints and removed the ventilation before putting a house up for sale. If a Home Inspector incorrectly reported these as clues of a former grow operation, the home inspector may cost the clients a dream home and the sellers and realtors a lot of hard work.


If a home inspector does not report and discuss possible clues of a grow operation in a home inspection, then they risk not finding other more serious problems associated with the home which are not visible in an inspection and could cost their client significant expense.


At Solid State Inspections, we think honesty is the best policy. When we see clues of a grow op during a home inspection, we will report these as 'conditions that have been known to be present in grow operations' and advise further analysis. We may also recommend adding an infrared inspection if the client had not already agreed to this procedure to help give the inspector more information about the house.


What Should I do if the House May Have Been a Grow Op?

If you are in the process of buying the house and think it could be a grow op, you should start with your realtor and the sellers disclosure on the house. Also, always have a house inspection done on any house you are considering buying and let your inspector know of your concerns so they can help show you where trouble spots may be. Make sure your inspector is trained to investigate for Grow Ops.


If you already live in a house that you think may be a former grow op, call us or another reputable home inspection company to look for immediate safety concerns in your home and to help you look for any clues. You may also want to consult an environmental company to take mould readings for analysis and look at the air quality of your house.


At Solid State Inspections, we are concerned for you and your families safety. Call us to give yourself the best protection when buying a new home.


By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.