Recently I was hired for a home inspection in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood.  The property that was to be inspected was a beautiful rehabbed basement duplex condo unit.  A basment duplex unit usually is one that incorporates the basement and the first floor of a condo building or apartment building.  Unfortunately these type of units do get a bad rap for having moisture issues, flooding, mold and so on.  Luckily for my clients of the Chicago condo home inspection I specialize in this type of property.  If you decide to purchase a basement duplex unit then I would advise you to hire a home inspector with extensive plumbing knowledge along with extensive building knowledge.  I’m not going to bore you with my credentials but I am a licensed plumber (Chicago lic # 194988).

This article will explain that if certain building systems are not installed that they most certainly can be installed to make your choice of home still attainable.  There are no “bad homes” just corrections to make them “great homes”.

When prospective home buyers consider garden condos they look at the finishes and that’s basically it.  If these items look good  and they like the neighborhood its a buy.  There are basically 4 items we look for when performing a garden condo home inspection.

  1. Flood control system is a part of a plumbing waste system that can be comprised of one of two systems.  The first is the building has overhead sewers and will have an ejector pit that will take waste water from floor drains in utility rooms, laundry rooms and waste water from bathrooms in the basement.  The other is a more complex system.  A backflow preventer is a check valve that will not allow water from the sewer main to come back into the floor drains, toilets, showers and or tubs of a garden condo.  Most home owners or sellers don’t know what type of system they have and that is why you really need a home inspector with extensive plumbing background.  Don’t worry.  If your garden condo does not have either one of these systems they can be added in the future by a contractor.
  2. Radon gas can cause health issues with the respiratory systems of the occupants of the home.  You can ask if the garden condo has been tested by a home inspector to see what the radon levels are.  Acceptable levels are under 3.9pci/l and can only be tested by a licensed radon measurement company when used in a real estate transaction.  The tests generally cost between $175.00 and $225.00 depending on where you are in the country.  If  high levels are found, radon mitigation can be done to correct this issue.
  3. Insulation and general construction can be hard to detect by a home buyer with little or no experience in the construction field.  We use  Fluke thermal imagers to detect if there is insulation in exterior walls and the possibilities of water intrusion.  Unfortunately you won’t be able to know this by just looking at the walls but there might be portions of the garden condo that are not finished and can be evaluated for insulation.
  4. Sump pump systems are a must for garden apartments and garden condos.  I also always suggest adding a battery back up sump pump system if one is not already installed.  The sump pump will take water through drain tiles under the concrete floor of the basement to a pump in a pit that pumps the water to the exterior of the property.  You want to make sure that the grading of the building is pitched away from the building and the drain pipe is at least 6′ away from the foundation walls.

As you can see there are some basic items to look for when choosing a garden condo.  My clients from the Chicago home inspection used me as a check list before choosing their duplex basement condo.  If you are looking at garden condos and have questions when your looking please contact Jim Kolke at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke


Water heaters can be a possible destructive item in a multi unit property.  Recently, we were hired by @ properties to represent an absentee buyer from out of the country who needed a home inspection in Chicago.  This inspection was in the hot area of Old Town.  Old Town is west of the Gold coast and south of Lincoln Park.  This is definitely not a rare occasion, as alot of buyers relocating to the Chicago area are not able to be at their own condo inspection.

An absent buyer doesn’t mean you do any less of a job, in fact it means you better document every area of the property to protect your client.  The Old town  home inspection in Chicago was a typical penthouse condo.  Everything seemed to be fine at the property, until I started to inspect the water supply ball valves and water heater.  I immediately noticed water leaking from the water heater casing.  This is generally a sign that the water heater storage tank is going to break or leak out completely.  The water heater at the Chicago home inspection did have a water overflow pan with drainage below the water heater.  This overflow pan is installed to prevent water heater tanks leaking to the floors below them causing costly repairs.

The reason that the A O Smith water heater’s storage tank was developing holes can come from various issues.  The main one of course is age.  Generally, water heaters are only suppose to exist in service from 11-15 years depending on the type of unit you purchased and how much use it gets.  My opinion on the unit in the Chicago home inspection was that there was paint that was stored right next to the water heater.  The paint cans may be sealed but the vapors are still able to enter the burner area where the water is heated.  There is moisture in natural gas that when heated condensates on the bottom side of a storage tank.  When the paint fumes comes in contact with the moisture on the tank it starts to corrode the area.  I believe age of the unit and paint being stored adjacent to the unit caused the unit to have issues.  The A O Smith water heater was 12 years old and it was time to change out the unit anyways.

If you have questions about how long house hold systems should last check out~

If you have questions about how water heaters work contact us at~

Please leave a comment or a question if we can help you with issues you have on your property.  Thanks ~ Jim Kolke

Today I was hired for a home inspection in Chicago, Illinois’s happening  Lakeview community.  On the way down Halsted, the street was buzzing.  If you not from Chicago you will not understand why, but this area is a very vibrant & diverse neighborhood- come check it out for yourself!  I was a salmon swimming  against the proverbial currant.   I was traveling around Wrigley Field right before a Cubs game.  Anyways, I generally like to be to the job at least a half an hour before the scheduled time.  I was really cutting it short.

The realtor showed up with my client at the home inspection in Chicago.  It is a really nice place right in the middle of all the restaurants and bars.  The building was built in 2007 with great care and good planning.  I went up with my clients to the condo that was to be inspected.  My client was extremely interested at was I was looking at.  I explained as I was going along at what I was looking for.  As soon as I took out my Fluke thermal imagers he was like a kid in a candy store.  A real technology enthusiast is what he was.  I scanned the property for water intrusions and insulation anomalies.  These issues came up negative.

I started to inspect the kitchen of the home inspection and my client asked if there was going to be issues on the report for the electric in the kitchen??  I didn’t understand.  The realtor explained that a new code passed in Chicago that all outlets in kitchens and bathrooms must be GFCI type.  There always was a 3′ code ruling but now a room code?  The city makes the rules and we follow them.

I’m very lucky to work with so many professional people.  I learn something everyday.  I did do a follow up and the realtor was right.  It seems that when Im in Chicago doing home inspections I seem to meet Realtors that are really with it!  Thanks S.H. for the information.

If you have questions about new code rules and you are unsure if your right contact us at ~  or if you want to book a condo inspection in Chicago or the suburbs you can  do that with our on line service at~   Thanks for stopping by~  Jim Kolke

What nobody wants to talk about if they got them?  Mice!  One building can have them and others might not have them at all.  Depending on the size of the building and what kind of door system they have installed at the garbage area will help determine if rats and mice will set up shop in your condo building. Generally, if you live in a large condo building with parking below the building there is a good chance that the building has mice and or rats.  Roaches will be a totally different blog!  At the condo home inspection in Chicago, Illinois  I was in the basement of the building were I did see a field mouse follow the wall around the corner where it disappeared.  The condo building  is in the Edgewater neighborhood  which is part of the north side of Chicago.  There are some very old apartment building and hotels that were converted to condo buildings.

The home inspection in Chicago was definitely an old apartment building that was converted to condos.  The city of Chicago started an attack on the rat infestation in the late 80′s to try to eliminate the issues with the rats that seemed to have taken over the city.  I’m sure you have heard of rats the size of small dogs?  That would be true.

On further inspection of the public areas of the building showed minimal issues  for mice.  The tell tale (pardon the pun) for mice is a dark grease marking on cracks in baseboards or any opening that a mouse could possibly get through.  Mice are known to gain access to areas that have a crack  a 1/4″ wide!

On entering the home inspection in Chicago, I didn’t notice any of the tell tales of mice being active in this condo.  On further review of the kitchen, I noticed mice droppings in the cabinet drawers.  There were not alot of droppings but any is enough to suggest a pest terminator.  This is part of the condo associations duties.  You pay an association fee to live in the building monthly and these items sometimes are covered by the building.  That was definitely the case at the home inspection in Chicago.

If you have mice in your home or a home your getting ready to by and need more information about what to look for please contact us at~

Please leave a comment if you liked the blog or if you need help with issues you might have in your home.  Thanks~ Jim Kolke

If you are buying a condo and the unit has a balcony make sure that the proper flashings were installed to prevent water from entering under your hardwood flooring.  How do you know if you have water under your hardwood flooring?  The hardwood flooring seams will start to raise and crown.  This is generally a “tell tale” sign that there will be issues.  That was definitely the case at the condo home inspection in Chicago, Illinois’s Irving Park neighborhood.

Hardwood floors are installed on creepers (4″ strips of plywood that is nailed to the concrete base) in multi-unit condo buildings.  The concrete needs room to “breath” otherwise their will be issues with the flooring.  Also, it is impossible to assemble tongue and grove material on concrete and still nail it to the surface.  This process of installing the hardwood flooring properly was used at the home inspection in Chicago.

When I started to walk on the floor in the condo I didn’t notice an issue with the flooring until I walked closer to the balcony door.  There was a concrete balcony with a drain in the center.  The issue was the flashing.  I took out my Fluke thermal imager and started to scan the flooring.  The damage was larger than I thought.  The water was definitely entering from the balcony of the home inspection in Chicago.  The water pattern seen with the Fluke thermal imager was traveling under the flooring into the bedroom and to the living room of the condo inspection in Irving Park.  The only way we can be definite that this is water damage is to test the areas with a Tramex floor moisture meter.  The moisture meter’s alarm went off ,meaning that the water that was found was at above 30%.  This amount of moisture is a perfect breeding ground for mold.

On further review with other tenants of the building, I found that this was not an isolated incident.  Every tenant had the same issue!  In fact a contractor that uses thermal imagers was hired to scan the whole building to see if there were other areas water was entering.  It seems that the home inspection for the condo in Chicago had explained why thermal imagers are a must in ALL home inspections.

If you own a condo/home or you are getting ready to purchase a home or condo and have questions of how thermal imagers work please contact us at~

If this blog was helpful please leave a comment or question if  you have a question about your home or condo.  Thanks~ Jim Kolke