Not So Common Sense…Look Before You Sit!!

Old houses have many quirks and memories. Growing up, I’m sure you can remember many stories about some old dirty, damp, and dingy basement. A vacation home, a farmhouse you visited, maybe your grandparents house, or even where you grew up.

Can you still feel the angst walking down those creaky wood steps?

Being a Minneapolis and St. Paul home inspector, there are many old homes that I visit daily and how the memories float around in my head. This last week I had a very fond recollection of my youth. Little did I know what I experienced would be an important lesson 50 years later.

It’s not as uncommon as you would think, but many old MN homes have a toilet sitting out in the open of the basement. This wasn’t for lack of modesty…it just didn’t get used or at least very often…hence the concern. You should always be able to see water in a toilet bowl. This waters primary purpose is to keep sewer gases out of the house. If a toilet is not used for a length of time the water trap will evaporate and sewer gas enters the home. Sewer gas is a methane gas which is toxic and explosive; that’s why smoking is not recommended when using the toilet…BOOM!

Just joking about the cigarette, but when a toilet is abandoned and has lost its water seal it is also a great nesting place for sewer rats. So the next time at home or when looking at a piece of real estate and you see a lonely, dirty, old toilet in the basement, be careful lifting up the lid or you may be very surprised at what crawls out. Always…Look Before You Sit.

For me, it was a lesson I will never forget.

Doug Hastings

MN Home Inspector
Minneapolis & St. Paul

Kaplan University
Home Inspection Lead Instructor