Outdoor home inspection - what does it include?
When talking about a home inspection, many people imagine a person walking in and wandering in the house in search of problems. They tend to forget that there is just as much to check outside a home as there is inside. Which, of course, leads us to the question: What does an outdoor home inspection include? Well, we are here to reveal to you the many problems and issues that you can encounter during such an endeavor!
A grounds inspection
Now, you might not see this particular item on lists of common problems found during a home inspection. That is because most people think only of the house itself when they hear the words home inspection. However, it is essential to check the grounds as well! Several issues can crop up here. First, there is the possibility of horrible grading. If the ground around your home dips around it, it funnels water to it rather than away from it. Second, there could be generally uneven ground, making large puddles and potholes. Finally, you may have some fencing issues. It might be crumbling or rotting away and needs replacing.
Issues with siding
Obviously, you want your home to look nice. This is the first reason why siding problems are likely to stand out. However, signs of stains, rotting, swelling, and other issues are not simply visual problems. Consider this: the siding is the literal armor of your house. It protects the bare walls from water damage, humidity seeping into them, causing all sorts of problems, such as mold and rotting of far more critical parts. If you notice this happening, it is a sure sign that siding is now failing to perform its task. It means your house might suffer severe problems in the future.
If the siding is armor, then the roof is the helmet. This is admittedly one of the most crucial outdoor home inspection tasks. Checking for roofing problems is something no good house inspector would ever miss doing. The reason is quite simple: Roof damage can very easily spread to the rest of the house. Water damage, invasion of the elements, constant drafts and attic noises, rotting and swelling of walls and floors on the upper floors of your home. The list of things that will go wrong once your roof is no longer doing an adequate job goes on and on.
Potential chimney troubles
Tilted and cracked chimneys, missing bricks or mortar from between them, or chimneys with crumbling or cracked stucco covering, all of these are potential issues you can run into during a home inspection. Be warned, however, that the cost of fixing them fluctuates wildly. Mortar problems? A quick and easy fix. Missing bricks? Much more expensive and troublesome, but it can still be repaired. Damaged stucco covering? Easy to fix but often hints at more extensive problems. A tilted or cracked chimney? Oh boy, this is where the trouble really starts. Both of these problems would require your chimney to be rebuilt entirely from scratch. Which, we can tell you, is incredibly expensive to do! A tilted chimney can also hint at serious foundation problems, which are even more complicated and more costly to fix.
This one is a bit harder to spot for less-experienced or less-thorough housing inspectors. Experts from Divine Moving and Storage warn that many of their customers complained about some form of water damage, and sometimes, it was even a reason for relocation. Gutters, downspouts, the roof line, and incline are crucial for keeping water away from the inside of your home. If any of them have any issues, then water is slowly piercing its way into your home. We have already discussed some of the problems such a thing would cause with siding and roofing issues, so you already know they can be very serious.
Window warping and rotting
The warping of windows can, maybe, be done from the inside. It is typically not very difficult to spot and can be a side-effect of either the rotting of the window itself, severe weather damage, or a sign of a failing foundation. Rotting, however, is best looked for from the outside. Particularly if the windows open outwards. Typically, when inspecting the window from the outside, rotting can be spotted in small holes or depressions in the frame. If you have entirely aluminum-clad windows, this does not spare them from the issue. It only hides it better. Either pull the aluminum back or carefully press along it. If you can visibly cause depressions to appear in the covering, the window is probably almost entirely rotten under it.
Signs of a failing foundation
Any trustworthy home inspection company will make sure to look out for this. Some of the signs can be spotted from the inside of a home. Sagging in doorways or floors, for example. However, the surest signs can be found outside. A subtle tilting of the house, visible cracks along the line where it meets pavement or a walkway around it, and the issues we have already mentioned might be a side-effect of a failing foundation. Note that if you discover any of these, you are much better off leaving and looking at another house. Foundation problems are among the most serious, complicated, and expensive to fix. Sometimes you'd just be better served with building a house from the ground up instead.
In your attempt to make your family house feel like home and make it cozier for you and your loved ones, external stairways might seem like a great idea. And they are! They offer useful little shortcuts for getting places that might otherwise take a long track through your house. Perfect for lazy bugs and those who want to separate a home into the domains of different tenants. However, the environmental damage such stairs suffer can lead to quick deterioration. Most notably, warping, rotting, or loose railings. Seeing as they are likely to lead a good way off the ground, such problems can be a rather significant hazard. And they are expensive to fix, too. Often, the only way to do it is to rebuild them.
Balconies and decks
Sagging, rotten floorboards, unsafe handrails, deteriorating detachment to the house, and more are just some of the fun problems you can encounter with balconies and decks in particular. Before moving into a new home, they should be a part of any home inspection checklist since a balcony or deck malfunction can be potentially more dangerous than a stairway one. It is annoyingly hard to spot them sometimes when it comes to decks, however. A single fresh coat of paint can cover up quite a number of problems very efficiently.
Now that we have answered what an outdoor home inspection includes, we hope you are a bit more aware of the problems you might face. While you might be tempted to ignore some of them and acquire a cheap 'fixer-upper of your dreams,' remember our warnings about costs. A lot of these problems, if not all of them, are very expensive to fix. You might find yourself fighting an ever-increasing number of issues to repair with a smaller and smaller budget. And the actual cost of your new home might be double or triple what you thought it would be initially.
Carmen Davis worked as a housing inspector for over a decade before retiring. Now, she likes to write blog posts for inspection companies that try to keep their customers informed. Her experience and writing skills let her warn people of the problems she had seen others face.