Transition Years: Part 3 of 4

This is Part 3 of 4 of a discussion of Transition Years for a home.  

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Transition Years, Part 2

Guest Post by Floyd Gibbs, Owner/Senior Inspector, Quality Home Inspections

Part One of this blog series explained what transition years are and why we need to pay attention to them. In short, during the time period of 17-23 years of age of the structure, most major elements of the home have been or are ready to be replaced. Right now, homes in their transition years are those that were built between 1989 and 1995. There are quite a few EXTRA issues that can plague this particular set of transition years, which are detailed below.

Polybutylene or Quest Plumbing

From 1984 till 1988 we had the ability to install Polybutylene, or what they call Quest 1, for the supply piping. This plumbing would get brittle and break easily, which would cause flooding in the home. Quest 1 can be recognized by the grey plastic fittings seen under the kitchen sink.

From 1989 till 1995 we were able to use Polybutylene or Quest 2. This plumbing did not have the catastrophic issues that the previous Quest 1 did, as this series had copper fittings and copper shut-off valves. The only exception to look out for is the plastic shut-off valves used until 1993. They are grey in color and could have some issues with leaking.

Both of these types of piping had lawsuits against them, resulting in it being illegal to use either type after 1995. While those affected were able to file claims for any damage done to their homes because of Quest piping, the claim period has now expired and is out of range for filing for damages.

The cause of the plumbing breaks was found to be the additive of chlorine in our drinking water. The closer to the chlorine plant, the quicker the Quest piping broke down. In turn, homes in the country using well water often got by without many issues.

Wood and Aluminum Windows

Aluminum windows were being used quite a bit at the start of the 90’s. Before then, we mostly saw wood sashes and frames. The aluminum had its own set of issues that most of you are probably very aware of: the double-glass pane and aluminum was found to be too heavy for the balances that are supposed to hold the windows up, so they would slam shut. That was a pretty major safety issue! These aluminum windows also would fog up; while this was more cosmetic than dangerous, it was still unsightly.

During the same time period, those wood windows that were being installed were now all double-pane, instead of single-pane with storm windows. These were better than the aluminum ones but had to be painted. Unfortunately, from 1991 until 1993, wood windows were made out of extremely soft wood. This soft wood saved the milling companies a lot of money in making them but caused huge issues for the rest of us. No matter how much paint you put on the wood windows and sills, they would still rot out. The only thing you could do to save them was wrap them with metal trim.

Exterior Trim

The standard trim around houses built during this period is wood. The soft wood issues you read about above for windows also wreaked havoc on trim maintenance and cost. Moisture and boring bees enjoyed this wood trim!

Now the standard for trim is metal wrap with vinyl soffits. This change has made all of our lives better, but homes in their transition years might not have had this upgrade yet.

Interior Oddities

The mid to late 80’s saw builders using a lot of stained wood inside the house, which of course is no longer in line with today’s preferences. The floors often squeak, and some of the interior doors can move by themselves. Collectively, this is what I call “80’s character.”

The early- to mid-90’s trend was a much more open layout and a brighter home in general, but there were still some dated standards, such as the gold-plated fixtures we see all around houses from this period. Now we look for oiled bronze and brushed nickel finishes.

The roofing material standard during this time was 15-year, 3-tab shingle. You see many shingle tab breaks on these roofs. By now the shingles are deteriorated and must be replaced (or hopefully already have been).

The new preferred standard is the 25-year architectural shingle, which is good for 100 mph winds.

Until 1990, garage doors were generally composed of heavy wood and pressboard-type material. The bottom panels always deteriorated. The standard now is lightweight aluminum.

Finally, safety designs in homes before 1990 was not exactly stellar. The two most noticeable issues? GFCI electrical outlets were not in the kitchens, whereas now they are in the kitchen, bathrooms, and exterior/garage outlets. Also, smoke detectors were only in the hallway; now they are also in bedrooms and connected together, greatly increasing the safety level of the house overall.


Transition year homes are hard enough to deal with without adding in the extra issues pointed out above. But these are the hard truths about this particular era of homebuilding, and we cannot ignore that they exist. Most of you already know a fair amount of what I explained here but may not have tied all the problems back to this particular time period. Fortunately, this 1989-1995 era is truly the most difficult set of transition years you will have to deal with. While these facts can discourage you, and some REALTORS® do not want to know that so many issues exist, remember that Knowledge is Power!

Next week I will explain how we can turn the tables around and make these particular transition years profitable for you, as well as how to help your buyers and sellers in positive, financially lucrative ways.

~Floyd  (QualityInspections@Verizon.Net)

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Transition Years, Part I

Guest Post by Floyd Gibbs, Owner/Senior Inspector, Quality Home Inspections

All homes have pros and cons when it comes to the years in which they were built. Some are subtle, as in aluminum branch wiring in the early 70’s. Others are a little more drastic, such as Quest plumbing in the late 80’s. But there will always be a 5-year period that we must all be aware of—and it changes from year to year.

This period is what I call “Transition Years.”

You see, no matter how advanced we are with elements included in a new home, we still only get between 17 and 23 years out of them. Whether these elements are worn out, inefficient, or just out of style, the standard rule of thumb will always be that hitting a home’s transition period means it’s time to replace them. The list below outlines the major replaceable elements of a home and shows, on average, the percentage of homes that have replaced these elements by the end of the transition years and the cost of those repairs/upgrades.


Standard Percentage & Cost of Renovation/Replacement
Roof Covering 100% $6,000.00
HVAC System 100% $5,000.00
Water Heater 100% $1,000.00
Floor Covering 90% $5,000.00
Windows & Doors 80% $5,000.00
Kitchen & Bathrooms 60% $10,000.00
Electrical Devices 50% $2,500.00
Siding & Trim 40% $5,000.00

By now you might be doing the math and realizing that our current transition years are 1989-1995. I know, I know: this doesn’t seem to be OLD, but unfortunately in house years it is. The homes we work with do not have the same flexible youthfulness that we so enjoy from time to time.

The point is that we all must accept that there is and always be transition years for the major elements of the homes we deal with. This poses a unique challenge for me as a positive home inspector and for you, your client’s most important tool in home sales. Buyers and sellers deserve for us to navigate this reality with finesse. Knowledge is and always will be power.

This is part 1 of 4 in the series about a home’s transition years. Next week you’ll learn more about the shocking extra issues that plague this particular 5-year period, and for Week Three, I’ll discuss how this extremely difficult period of transition years is actually an amazing opportunity for every one of you. Week Four will outline future transition year periods to watch out for and the positive spin on each of them.

~Floyd  (QualityInspections@Verizon.Net)

Thank you for reading our blog.  If you like what you’ve read, then please :
Follow, Connect, Watch, Subscribe
If you plan to purchase or sell a home in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area,
you can visit our Hampton Roads Real Estate website at

TREG Vendor Program – Quality Home Inspections

Thank you to Quality Home Inspections one of our preferred vendors who gave us a nice testimonial.  We love working and partnering with the best in our area and industry!

Thank you for reading our blog.  If you like what you’ve read, then please :
Follow, Connect, Watch, Subscribe
If you plan to purchase or sell a home in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area,