House Inspection Checklist – The Exterior

Before you consider buying a home, its great to have a better idea about some of the main things to consider when you are searching. The following house inspection checklist is a brief, but important list to give you a snapshot of some obvious details to look for on the outside of the property, so you will have an easier time in making a decision when searching for your next home…

*However, keep in mind that this house inspection checklist should not be used to replace a home inspection.

The exterior of the home is everything on the outside of the building that relates to its condition.

Landscape & Vegetation –  Take a look at the vegetation around the home. Plants should not be growing or stuck against the siding. This condition will make it easier for pests to enter the property and add unnecessary moisture, contributing to increased chances of water damage to the exterior. The vegetation should be trimmed approximately 1 foot away from the home throughout the perimeter. Also look to see that all electrical wires coming to the house are clear of any tree branches.

Slope – Look to see how the slope runs across the property. Is the home on a flat piece of land, on a slight hill or at a low point? The best scenario is where the home is slightly higher than the surrounding land because rain water will tend to fall away from the property. If the home is at the bottom of the hill, there is a higher chance of water pooling up against the home when it rains, and for seepage to slowly migrate in the basement or crawl space.

Roof – The first thing you want to look for are large overhangs. This means that the roof line extends out, covering the house siding. The larger the overhangs, the better. If the roof is sloped, look for a steep slope, as it is better than a low sloped roof. It is a good idea to have some binoculars handy, so you can get a nice close up look at the roof without having to climb on top. The roof should be clear of debris and vegetation. For more detailed information, take a look at my prior blog posts called Warning Signs – Is It Time For A New Roof? If you are a condo owner, take a look at this post Flat Roofs – What Condo Owners should Know.

Stairs & Deck – For these areas, you want to ensure that there is no rot on any of the wood members and that the beams or columns holding up these are cracking due to stress loads, leaning or in overall poor repair. The critical areas of wood rot are at the base of the columns. If the columns are concrete, look and see that these areas are not cracking, or chipping. If it is a concrete tile deck, look to see that there is no leakage along the edges and that the flashing is in good repair. The grout lines should be clean, with no cracks. The tiles should not be popping up or cracking either.

Foundation Wall – Look at what the foundation wall is made of. Typically it will be poured concrete, but sometimes concrete block. Ideally the wall will extend up 6 – 8 inches from the grade to the bottom of the siding. Look for any obvious chips, damage, corrosion on the wall surface or cracks. Cracks less than 1/4 inch can be repaired. You should be concerned if you see cracks of 1 inch or more. Make a note of where the cracks are located, such as the corners or opposite sides of the home, etc. Check for evidence of a waterproof membrane material at the grade level, as this is a good detail.

Siding – Here you want to look at the overall condition of the outside of the building. If it looks like it has been well maintained, all the better. If it is wood, look to see that it all siding planks are in place, that there are no large holes, no damage and there is no evidence of wood rot or peeling/chipping paint. If the siding is stucco, check for patches and cracks, especially at the corners of windows, doors and balconies and water staining. Check for past repairs. Look at all the joints in the siding to ensure that there are smooth transitions between different building materials. Look at all vents to ensure that they are not broken with any large holes.

Door/Window Trim – As with the siding, look for overall good maintenance detail. This means that water proof paint has been applied to all wood areas, any voids have been caulked, and it is boned well to the siding and corners. (no cracks in the caulk itself). Take a close up look at the wood areas because I often see new paint over rotten wood. If it is metal, look to see that there is no rust. Look for flashing above all windows (head flashing) and doors as it is designed to protect the trim by diverting water away.

Soffit area – Look up and see that the soffit (flat horizontal area under the edge of the roof) is in good repair. It should not be damaged or dislodged in any way. If it is metal, look for signs of rust. This is an indication of leakage. Check that there is adequate venting within the soffit, around the perimeter of the house. There should not be any openings or holes as critters can make their way into the structure or attic. Check for obvious signs of rot, damage or misplacement of the fascia as well.

Gutters & Downspouts – These areas are extremely important. For the gutters, you want to see that they are well in tact, not detached from the fascia board, broken damaged or sagging. Look for pinhole leaks, chipped paint and ridges on the ground below the soffit areas. This could mean that the system needs repair or  replacement.

Unless you have a ladder or can look from the upstairs windows you will not know if the gutters are full of debris. In this case, look to see if there are no streaks or water stains on the outside edge and down to the fascia board. This is an indication of overflow, which can cause water damage to the fascia board, or force water under the roof edge. Make sure that the downspouts are attached to the gutters and properly secured the entire way down to the ground. If the downspouts discharge above the ground they should do so at least 6 feet way from the property.

If you are in the lower mainland and you use this house inspection checklist, just take a digital picture of anything you consider suspect and send it to me. I’ll take a look at it and give you my opinion.

This list of items should give you a fairly good understanding of what to look for. For more information on this topic or anything else home inspection related, just contact me at 604-729-4261 and I’ll give you the straight goods. Happy house checking!