The Exterior Home Inspection – 10 Things All Home Buyers Should Know

The Exterior Home Inspection – 10 Things All Home Buyers Should Know

In this article I will address the exterior home inspection, including the top 10 things all home buyers should know, primarily in the Vancouver lower mainland. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give you a good idea of the kind of things I look for when inspecting the exterior of a home.

You will have the benefit of advanced knowledge, saving you time and effort when searching for a home.

1.     Landscape & Drainage – The landscape should slope away from the property, so that all water drains away, instead of pooling against the foundation wall. Pay attention to areas where the siding is too close to the ground. We like to see an eight-inch clearance. A well maintained home would have the shrubs cut at least a foot away from the siding. This is important, as vegetation holds moisture against the siding, which can decrease its service. Be wary of large trees that are located too close to the building. Their roots are actually as long under the ground as the trees are tall… often causing drain tile problems or pressure against the foundation wall. Also, check that the trees have been trimmed away from the roof and electrical wires from above.

2.     The Foundation Wall – This is the wall that comes up from under the ground and extends below the siding or cover of the home.  Here, it is important to pay attention to cracks. Small hairline cracks can be dealt with easily enough. However, cracks that exceed ¼ of an inch can be problematic. See if there are several cracks in relatively close proximity. Also keep in mind that storage and or vegetation can hide some of these areas.

3.     Chimneys – I will cover chimneys in greater detail in the article about roofing. However, for the purposes of this report, I will talk about the typical brick and mortar chimney, when observed from the ground. As you walk around the property, take a look at the corners of the chimney, where it attaches to the home. Look to see if there are any obvious openings, where it might be separating or leaning away from the home. Also, look to see if there are any wide or long extending cracks in the actual chimney. This condition could be related to foundation problems. Look to see if the mortar is crumbing away or the bricks are cracked and broken. Ideally, exterior chimneys should stand tall and straight with no openings where they are attached to the home. Chimneys should also be free of cracks larger that ¼ of an inch.

4.     The Siding – The best homes have large overhangs, which deflect as much water away from the surface of the property as possible. Take a look at the materials that cover the home. Often there will be a few different types, such as wood and brick veneer for example. Check the surface up close to see if it is straight or bowing out. Observe from a slight distance to see if the home sits level. Take note of any holes or damage to the siding. All homes should be properly sealed to prevent insects, rodents or water from entering the structure. Take a walk around the perimeter, looking from the foundation wall up to the roof area. Poke at the bottom of the siding to see how it feels. If it is wood, look to see that the paint hasn’t chipped away or suffered rot damage. If the building is covered with stucco, look for signs of repairs, large cracks or patches. The best siding materials for our West coast climate are vinyl and hardy board. (For more information on these materials, just ask)

*If you are looking at a strata property, find out if the siding has been rain screened, when and by whom. Essentially, any and all areas where water can penetrate it will cause damage. Check the flashing and connection points where the balcony railing meets the wall to ensure that it is secure, properly caulked and sealed.

5.     Walkways & Driveways – These areas should be as smooth as possible, although this is often difficult to come by. The main problems of any consequence here are large cracks that develop, creating uneven surfaces and potential trip hazards.

6.     Eaves Troughs & Downspouts – Check the general condition all the way around the home or property. Look for any apparent leaks. This is much easier when it is raining of course. Take a look at the gutters to see if they have been damaged and how they slope. Take a look at the downspouts to see how they are attached to the home. Are they disconnected at any points, allowing water to soak the siding during a heavy rain?  Are the downspouts effectively directing water away from the house? Have they been well maintained or do they need to be replaced or painted? Ideally, you want all water to be directed away from the property and not pooling against the foundation. Take notice where the drains are located. They should all be situated in low spots. See if they are blocked or overflowing.

7.     Soffit & Fascia – Look up and see that the soffit is in good shape. Is there venting around the soffits? They should not have 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.

8.     Doors, Windows & Trim – For windows, you want to pay attention to the windowsills and surrounding areas. Vinyl trim is great, as it requires less overall maintenance. Look for patches and or cracks at the corners of the windows and doors that extend outward. Check each window to see if they open and close/lock correctly. As with the siding, you want to find homes that have been well maintained. Good maintenance involves caulking around the trim and all possible water entry points. Is there proper weather stripping? Are there any signs of rot or damage? Is there flashing over the windows and or doors to divert the water away?

9.     Stairs, Steps & Railings – When there are multiple stairs, I look to see if there are handrails in place. This is an important safety feature. All stairs and railings should be rust and rot free, especially at all connection points and the handrails sturdy when you grab hold of them. There should be spindles installed no wider than 4 inches apart for safety reasons.  Look for cracks and deterioration on the stringers, or the side angle structure of the stairs. When walking up and down the stairs, they should feel comfortable, not too steep or thin. If it doesn’t feel right… or your gut tells you that you need to be extra careful, listen to it.

10.  The Deck – Take a look at the overall condition of the deck. Is it in good repair or damaged. If the deck is elevated, look at the column bottoms to see if there is any rot, or if it is well maintained. Push on the posts to see how sturdy they are. Pay attention to how they are secured at the bottom. Are they resting on concrete or secured to cement blocks? Are the posts straight or leaning? Walk all the way around the deck and think to yourself… “If the deck is full of people, does it seem strong enough to hold them? Also, look at the floor. Is it in good shape and well maintained? If there is a cover besides wood, is it properly sealed? As you walk across the surface, feel for spongy or rotten sections and rusty nails. Does the deck needs painting, staining or flashing applied? Be sure that the railings are sturdy here as well.

If you have any questions about the exterior home inspection, just ask and I will help you out. Happy house hunting! 🙂