Sometimes home inspections are fairly routine, and while thorough they end up being straightforward. In many cases, it’s a positive confirmation that everything is in working order prior to selling the home. But every once in awhile there’s a serious issue, and it takes a skilled and thorough home inspector to catch it in time.

In our case, one noteworthy example was where a damaged furnace unit could’ve caused a life-threatening issue for anyone living there had it been allowed to continue.

Most everything in that home seemed normal until we inspected the furnace. At a glance it seemed fine, too. In many standard inspections one may have simply moved on. We like to be 100% certain, however, and generally inspect all sides of each system in the home. We also explore the entire crawlspace, which is not something all inspectors do.

Furnace with a burn mark indicating a crack in the heat exchanger

As you can see here, when we peaked around the back of the furnace there was a clear burn mark in the exterior. Looking at it more closely, it was a clear indication of a large crack in the heat exchanger.

This was a serious issue and is exactly why we take this level of care in our inspections.

Why this was so dangerous:

When a furnace is working properly the exhaust gas becomes carbon dioxide, which is harmless. The heat exchanger safely carries the exhaust gases from the furnace to the outside. Cracks in a furnace’s heat exchanger mean that the gases burn improperly, which creates carbon monoxide instead — which is very dangerous.

This means that a dangerous gas is building up and not being properly vented away, either.

Worst part is, this can happen each and every time the furnace runs.

Even though most homes have carbon monoxide detectors that warn us when carbon monoxide in the air reaches dangerous levels, it’s never wise to rely too much on them when there’s a clear source of danger.

Plus, CO detectors may only trigger once levels get fairly severe, and carbon monoxide can still be harmful in lower levels. Especially over time.

Negative effects of long term exposure to carbon monoxide, from mildest to most severe:

  • Headaches
  • Consistently feeling lethargic
  • Impaired memory & concentration
  • Depression
  • Damage to the heart (and increased chances of fatal heart complications)
  • Potential permanent brain damage
  • Increased chances of seizures

Imagine not catching something like this during a home inspection. Then the new homeowner moves in thinking that everything is copacetic, totally unaware they are being poisoned every day they live there.

In this case luckily no one was seriously affected, and the owner was able to make prompt repairs to ensure the furnace was working as it should with no risks.

If you’re buying or selling a home in the Clemmons to Charlotte areas of NC, give us a shout. Even if you’re not quite at the point of needing a full inspection, a preliminary inspection can save time by identifying potential risks early on, and informs the negotiation.

Call us today to schedule!



Quinn DK, McGahee SM, Politte LC, Duncan GN, Cusin C, Hopwood CJ, Stern TA. Complications of carbon monoxide poisoning: a case discussion and review of the literature. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;11(2):74-9. doi: 10.4088/pcc.08r00651. PMID: 19617936; PMCID: PMC2707118.