In this week’s blog post, we continue to explore what takes place during the exterior portion of a home inspection. As we discussed in Part One of this series, checking parts of the exterior for defects (gaps in windows, failed door weather-stripping, loose and missing shingles) work hand in hand with evaluations that occur inside, such as looking for moisture in the attic or wood rot on the other side of a window. This highlights one of the many skills of an experienced and certified home inspector, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection—the ability to provide a comprehensive picture of the entire house by seeing how problem spots in one area may threaten other systems or the structure as a whole.
Before we begin Part Two of exterior inspections, let’s take a moment to note some of the things that are generally NOT part of a traditional exterior inspection. These include outbuildings (e.g., toolsheds); irrigation or sprinkler systems; decorative structures (pergolas, gazebos); fencing and awnings; flower beds; condition of lawn (green or brown?—not the inspector’s concern); underground installations, such as the main sewer line (requires added Sewer Scope Inspection); swimming pools and spas (also an added service available from A-Pro); playground equipment; accent lighting; solar, wind, and geothermal systems; wells or springs; and septic systems.
Foundation: Your inspector will check the walls around the perimeter of the home for signs of bulging, leaning, and moisture. As we noted in last week’s article, soil that has a negative grade will encourage rainwater to flow toward the foundation. A closer look may reveal exterior wall cracks. Your inspector will note if the length, size of separation, and direction of the crack signal potential foundational problems or if it’s likely the result of natural curing of the concrete. Suspicions of foundation issues may be confirmed during the interior portion of the inspection, in which basement cracks, interior wall cracks, stuck windows and doors, sloping floors, and other defects may be found.
Retaining Walls: Retaining walls serve a much greater purpose than enhancing the aesthetics of a home. When properly built and maintained, they help prevent erosion, keep the soil from shifting, and hold back soil on a sloping hillside. Like any structure exposed to the elements, retaining walls can take a beating over time—often made worse when recommended measures have been skipped in their construction. Your inspector will report on rotting, cracked, and loose materials; insect damage; lack of natural drainage routes or, when applicable, manmade openings (weep holes) that prevent water from being trapped inside and slow the deterioration process; and harmful movement, such bulging and leaning away from a hillside.
Decks: Because of the safety issues inherent with some deck structures, the inspection of a home’s deck is one of the more critical parts of an exterior inspection. While not a technically exhaustive evaluation, your inspector may find condition issues that will raise red flags about the viability of a home’s deck, including rotting wood; cracked framing members; lack of guardrails; guardrails that aren’t high enough or loose; ladder-type guardrails that would allow a child to climb them; sagging beams; ledger boards not properly connected to the home; missing or corroded fasteners; non-continuous, loose, or ungraspable handrails; poorly attached stairways; and broken or missing steps.
Porches: Like decks, porches can be a coveted feature for home-shoppers. They can also be fraught with structural-integrity issues, including sagging roof; decaying, spongy, or uneven floorboards; insufficiently sized or absent guardrails (when applicable, based on height of porch); insect damage; bowing porch columns; cracked or crumbling masonry; rotting piers in contact with the ground rather than set on concrete footings; masonry piers with cracked mortar joints that allow water penetration; and torn porch screens.
Patios: Your inspector may find settling of patio material that presents a tripping hazard, cracking and crumbling surface area, sunken slabs that direct water toward the foundation, and aging or poorly built patio covers that are pulling away from the home—a major safety issue.
Gutters and Downspouts: The exterior inspection will also include a check of the gutters and downspouts, both on the home and detached garage. Problems that may be highlighted include sagging; separation from the roof; presence of standing water in the gutter channel; leaves and debris blocking proper flow; leakage caused by rust, cracks, and holes; missing or disconnected gutter and downspout pieces; and downspout terminations that don’t effectively divert water away from the foundation. Without a well-functioning gutter system, water from rainstorms will pool at the foundation, saturating soil and possibly finding its way inside.
Steps/Stoops: Your inspector will report on broken or crumbling masonry steps; uneven, warped, cracked or missing wood steps; mold; moisture-retaining carpeting on wood steps; insufficient landing depth; pooling water; lack of a railing when required; loose or missing railings; railings with inadequate grip; and balusters spaced in a manner that would allow a child’s head to get stuck.