kitchen ingredients solid state home inspections

Kitchens are one of the key areas in a home for buyers but also for home inspectors. Kitchens have the most major appliances in the house, access to the most electricity, and use a lot of the households water which is why it is such a critical space in a home inspection. Most importantly, when electricity, water, and people meet, there are are a lot of safety issues for home inspectors to investigate.

Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are a defining element of the kitchen space. They provide visual appeal to the room, storage space for everything from spices to stock pots, and provide the platform that the counters will rest on.

Here is what a home inspector looks at with kitchen cabinets:

  • That the overhead cabinets are well secured to the wall
  • The cabinet doors are well attached and they open and close correctly
  • Shelved in the cabinets are properly mounted and can hold a reasonable weight
  • There is no damage from water or impacts that makes the cabinets unsafe
  • Handles are in place and securely fastened
  • Drawers open and close smoothly and do not fall out easily
  • There are no safety hazards like sharp edges

Home Inspectors are not concerned with the cleanliness, colour, or nicks and scratches of cabinets as this does not impact the safety or function of the cabinets. It is best practice for Home Inspectors to avoid discussing style as the client may like something the inspector does not.

Kitchen Countertops

Our kitchen counters need to be able to handle a lot of tasks. We prepare food, stack dirty dishes, do paperwork, charge electronics, and use it for everything from a finger painting station to a renovation workshop. Many of the foods we prepare contain dangerous bacteria that we need to be able to clean from our countertop surfaces. In order to have a healthy kitchen, the counter needs to be smooth, nonporous (i.e. it cannot absorb water), and hard to resist damages. It should also be durable around heat and well sealed to the backsplash to keep water from getting behind the cabinets and causing hidden damage.

  • Plastic Laminate - Laminated counter tops have been around for a long time. They are available in a huge number of colours and edge shapes, durable, and clean easily. They are however susceptible to damage from scratches and heat.
  • Granite - Granite has become very popular and as a natural stone it has many unique colour characteristics with highly prized designs being very expensive. Granite resists damage and heat very well but can damage dishes and glassware and requires regular maintenance to remain water sealed
  • Synthetic Granite - There are many synthetic alternatives for granite available as granite is very expensive and difficult to work with. Generally these synthetics are excellent materials as they are waterproof, hard, damage resistant, and require less maintenance
  • Marble - Marble is a mother natural stone which comes in various colours and can be very expensive. Marble is a softer than granite and shows marks and damage more readily.
  • Butcher Block - This wood surface has a very 'classic' kitchen look to it however wood surfaces are not ideal for countertops as the soft surface is difficult to clean thoroughly which can allow bad kitchen bacteria like salmonella to transfer from uncooked foods to other objects placed on the counter
  • Tile - Tile surfaces can be hard and nonporous but much like butcher block, it is not possible to completely clean bacteria out of the grout joints in the material which makes it a poor surface for kitchens
  • Concrete - Concrete, although rare, is a good surface for countertops and can be tinted in many different colours. It does require a smooth surface for food preparation use
  • Stainless Steel - Stainless steel has long been used in commercial kitchens as it can be welded into a single solid piece for cleaning. It does however dent and will show scratches
  • Other Materials - This is not an exhaustive list as there are many other natural and synthetic materials however they all should hold to the same principles that they clean easily and are resistant to damage

Kitchen Floors

Kitchen floors need to be able to withstand a lot of abuse and conditions. They are high traffic areas which can easily wear soft materials but they also require regular cleaning of spills and be able to handle dropped kitchen items. Kitchens are a dangerous place to have trip hazards in floor material as people may be handling hot foods or oils which could cause severe burns.

Home Inspectors are looking for smooth, hard, nonporous, and easy to clean surfaces for kitchen floors. Materials like tile, stone, and sheet vinyl are excellent kitchen floor products. Hardwood and vinyl tiles if well installed and maintained can be suitable. Poor floor choices include carpet as it cannot be properly cleaned and dried, and laminate strips as spilled water will penetrate into the cracks and cause warping of the material.

Kitchen Appliances

Not all home inspectors will look at kitchen appliances but we feel it is a critical service in a home inspection. Non-functioning appliances are a major nuisance for home inspection clients and it is easy to run simple operational tests on appliances.

  • Refrigerator - Freezers should have frozen food (ice is a good sign) and fridges should be cold to the touch inside
  • Ranges, Ovens, Cooktops - All cooktop elements should turn on (gas or electric) and both broil and oven heating elements should activate
  • Dishwasher - Dishwashers should fill with water, splash around a lot, and drain water with no signs of leaks. Dishwashers also need plumbing supply and drain lines correctly installed and trapped. This is very often visible in the lower sink cabinet at the sink plumbing connections.
  • Range Hood Fan - Fans should drawn a noticeable flow of air and have functional lights
  • Built-In Microwave - Often these are found incorporating the range hood fan. The microwave features should operate including the turntable if present.
  • In-Sink Disposal - Sink disposals are the most common failed appliance in kitchens. It is common for them to be seized or have items dropped in that damage the blades and operation. They should run easily without major grinding noises.

Kitchen Sink

Kitchen sinks come in many different styles, configurations, and colours. Kitchen sinks are not made out of enamel like bathroom sinks as enamel can chip from pots and pans being washed. Kitchen sinks are commonly acrylic or stainless steel. Double sinks are excellent for kitchens as it allows a sink with soap for washing dishes and a separate sink for rinsing dishes which is the recommended method to reduce harmful bacterias in dish washing. Single sinks for secondary 'vegetable' sinks are fine.

Kitchen faucets should operate easily with water correctly flowing hot from the left side and cold from the right to avoid accidental scalding. If there is more than one sink the faucet should move smoothly from side to side with no leaks. Lastly, if there is a sprayer, this is an excellent tool for keeping sinks clear and it should also operate without any leaks or difficulty moving it around.

Like all drains in the house, proper plumbing 'p' trap and drain line ventilation is needed to prevent dangerous sewer gases from entering the home. Kitchen sinks on islands are particularly difficult to vent correctly to the roof. Your home inspector can tell you if the venting is done correctly or if it may need adjustment to keep your family safe.

Kitchen Safety

Kitchens are inherently dangerous environments. Home Inspectors can't do much to help with some kitchen risks like burns and cuts, but they can make sure the home systems are operating correctly.

  • Natural Gas Venting - If a kitchen has a natural gas range, the range hood must discharge to the exterior of the home. Natural gas appliances generate deadly gases that need to be ventilated out of the home. If the range hood is recirculating (does not vent outside), this is only acceptable with an electric range.
  • Range Hood Height - Range hoods need to allow enough clearance to safely work under without risk of burning but not be so high that they can't exhaust gasses and moisture. A minimum safe height for range hoods is about 18" although some manufacturers recommend it to be as high as 30-40".
  • Electrical - Water and electricity do not mix well but they are forced to in the kitchen. Most electrical authorities now require ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI's) in kitchens or at least within 3' of water in a kitchen. Older kitchens should be upgraded to GFCI's for occupant safety within 3' of any plumbing

Kitchens present an endless number of possibilities for people to harm themselves but with correct materials, proper maintenance, and occupant care, they can last for decades helping keep the home safe and solid.

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