10 Most Frequent House Problems

In the most recent survey of its Members, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI®), compiled the following list of the most frequently found problems in the homes they inspected:

  • Improper Surface Grading and Drainage.
By far the most frequently found problem, reported by 35.8% of the survey respondents. It is responsible for the most common household maladies: water penetration of the basement or crawl space.
  • Improper Electrical Wiring.
A significant number (19.9%) of respondents chose this item as the most common defect, which includes such situations as insufficient electrical service, inadequate overload protection, and amateur, often dangerous) wiring connections.
  • Roof Damage
Although reported by only 8.5% of the respondents as the most common problem, roof leakage, caused by old or damaged shingles or improper flashing, was considered by ASHI Members to be a frequent problem.
  • Heating Systems.
Problems in this category include broken or malfunctioning operation controls, blocked chimneys, and unsafe exhaust disposal.
  • Poor Overall Maintenance.
Even the novice home buyers is usually aware of this situation, demonstrated by such signs as cracked, peeling, or dirty painted surfaces; crumbling masonry; makeshift wiring or plumbing; and broken fixtures and appliances.
  • Structurally Related Problems.
Many houses, as a result of problems in one or more other categories, sustain damage to such structural components as foundation walls, floor joists, rafters and window and door headers.
  • Plumbing.
Though never ranked by the respondents as a Number One problem, plumbing defects still rank high among the house problems encountered, and include the existence of old or incompatible piping materials, as well as faulty fixtures and waste lines.
  • Exteriors.
Flaws in a home’s exterior, including windows, doors and wall surfaces, are responsible for the discomfort of water and air penetration, but rarely have structural significance. Inadequate caulking and/or weather-stripping are the most common culprits.
  • Poor Ventilation.
Perhaps due to overly ambitious efforts save energy, many home owners have “over-sealed” their homes, resulting in excessive interior moisture. This can cause rotting and premature failure of both structural and non-structural elements.
  • Miscellaneous.

This category includes primarily interior components, often cosmetic in nature, which were not found frequently enough to rank individually in the survey.


  • It is significant that within this list of ten problems categories, at least four are directly related to the damaging effects of water. It is apparent, therefore, that after a home is built, (presumably in a structurally sound manner,) keeping water out is the owner’s most important and continually challenging — objective.

  • It should be most clearly understood that this list represents a national average. The statistics relating to electrical and plumbing problems, and roofing in particular, will vary greatly depending upon regional climates and building codes.

  • In addition, the age of the home plays a significant role in these findings. In older, urban houses problems such as heating system failure, inadequate electrical service, and worn plumbing can be found with much greater frequency than reflected in this national survey.

  • Survey response percentages were given only for the first three categories because they were so high and statistically meaningful. Items 4 through 10 were ranked significantly lower than the top three, and vary regionally.