In Part 3 of our series on what home inspectors look for when examining the exterior of a home, we turn our attention to some other critical components that, if left unchecked, could end up costing a potential homebuyer money in addition to posing safety concerns.
As we’ve mentioned in parts 1 and 2, the long list of defects that can be found during the exterior portion of a complete foundation-to-roof inspection—from foundational movement to deteriorating shingles, negative grade soil to window gaps—make it clear that you should definitely think twice before deciding to skip a home inspection on a property you’re thinking about placing a bid on. Why? Because a home inspection report that details exterior and interior defects gives you negotiating leverage with the seller. Even if no problems are discovered, the report provides peace of mind that your dollars are being spent wisely.
Here are a few more parts of the exterior inspection that the team at A-Pro Home Inspection have been reporting on for more than 28 years.
AC or Heat Pump Condenser/Compressor: While technically considered part of the HVAC portion of the inspection, air conditioning condensers will receive a visual/operational evaluation while the inspector checks the rest of the exterior. In addition to recording its manufacturer, serial number and age, your inspector will note units that are too close to a wall or other structure, which can restrict airflow; compressors that are not completely installed above ground or are not level; rust and impact damage; loose, bent, or more severely damaged fins; ivy, shrubs, or other vegetation that may be blocking air circulation; evidence of oil leakage; odd smells and noises detected when operating; units that won’t start or struggle when turned on; and heat pumps that freeze up in warm weather.
Chimney: While checking the home’s siding, the inspector will also observe the chimney from the outside. There are a number of potential problems, including missing stones or bricks; crumbling masonry and surface deterioration; loose pieces that could fall and strike someone below; the entire structure separating from the house or leaning to one side; improperly installed or missing flashing; damaged center cap on top of a brick chimney that will let rain inside; missing chimney cap; lack of required brackets for metal chimneys extending a certain height above a rooftop; and discolored masonry caused by creosote buildup. Produced by burning wood, creosote is highly flammable and, because of its corrosiveness, can damage a flue liner over time. When visible on the exterior (in the form of black residue), it may be a sign of excess creosote buildup inside the chimney—a significant fire hazard. Other chimney stains may be the result of soot, algae, mineral salts, and mold.
Dormers: Dormers can add a distinctive touch to a home’s appearance, as well as functional benefits (added space, additional natural light, etc.). But both passive and fully functioning types also come with potential problems that may end up in a home inspection report. Like any roof penetration, dormers require professionally installed flashing to prevent moisture penetration. Your inspector will report on deteriorated, amateurishly installed, and shortened flashing. The interior portion of the inspection may reveal active leaks or wall and ceiling stains which will confirm the inspector’s findings on the exterior. Other dormer issues include rotting window trim, failed window sealing, broken glass, and shingle damage.
Soffit and Fascia: Made from wood, vinyl, aluminum, hardboard, plywood, fiber-cement and other materials, soffit and fascia boards play a big part in keeping moisture, raccoons, squirrels, and bats from entering a home. Problems include visible holes, wood rot, loose or missing pieces, and clogged soffit vents that can restrict air circulating between the attic and roof, leading to mold and mildew growth, ice dams, and premature deterioration of roof coverings.
Balconies: Along with checking the deck and porch (discussed in Part 2), a home inspector will also perform a technically non-exhaustive visual evaluation of the home’ balconies. Common problems include missing or loose railings, railings that are insufficiently high, corroded metal fasteners and connections, loose connections, and wood rot.
Electrical Issues: Your inspector will check the home’s service drop—the overhead line running from a utility pole to the home. Defects include damaged lines; insufficient wire clearance over roofs, roadways, driveways, walkways, and swimming pools; lines too close to doors, windows, and fire escapes; contact with trees; and poor connections to the house or service entrance cable. Other outdoor electrical concerns include dangerous security lighting installations (exposed wiring, amateurish workmanship, frayed wiring caused by animals, use of standard outlets rather than GFCIs where required, and signs of water penetration in lighting fixtures).