- Gaps and crack in wood siding and trim
- Cracks or openings in exterior stucco surfaces
- Warped or buckled vinyl siding
- Rotten fascia boards
- Rotten wood porch ceilings
- Rain entering the attic space at gable vents
- Rodents entering attic spaces
- Rust spots on wood trim or siding from nails that are not galvanized
- Flashing between roof surfaces and siding should be visible
- Soil, pine straw or mulch from contact with siding
- Inadequate surface drainage away from the foundation walls
- Exterior steps or porches without hand railing
- Loose deck boards
- Screens missing or damaged at the foundation vents
- Lack of flashing between the siding and a masonry foundation
- Water pooling on a balcony surface
- Loose exterior hand railing
- Exterior doors that hit or rub against the door frame
- Damaged exterior door weather stripping
- Exterior doors that do not lock properly
- Exterior door jambs that are rotting
- Exterior metal doors that are rusting
- Corroded or rusty exterior flashing
- Damaged or missing dryer vent covers on exterior walls
- Missing bath fan termination covers at exterior walls or soffits
- Missing or damaged weather-stripping around the garage door
Real Life Exterior Issues
Homes with wood siding or trim require regular maintenance to prevent damage from moisture intrusion. The photo below shows wood windowsills and siding that should be caulked and painted.
The photo below shows that the wood siding is in contact with the roof shingles. There should be a gap between the siding and shingles and the flashing should be visible.
The photo below shows rotted fascia boards at the corner of the home along with some missing shingle edge trim.
Rotten wood porch ceilings are often caused by a leaking roof above. The photo below shows a significant amount of wood rot on a front porch ceiling.
Exterior stucco finishes should be free from defect or cracks. Any opening in a stucco system can cause moisture intrusion into the wall system. The photo below shows a horizontal hair line crack next to a windowsill.
When vinyl siding is warped or buckled near a patio, deck or screen porch it is likely due to heat from a grill placed too close to the wall. The photo below shows such a condition.
The photo below shows exterior siding with wood rot under the windowsill. It appears that installation of the storm window frame may have contributed to this condition.
Rodents love to get inside an attic to live and breed. Look for evidence of rodent intrusion around and near attic vents. The photo below shows where rodents have been entering an attic through the gable vent.
Blowing wind can sometimes push rainwater in to gable vents. The photo below shows some moisture stains on the exterior sheathing inside the attic space.
Wood siding and trim should be attached with nails that are resistant to rust or corrosion. Galvanized nails should be used so that the metal does not break down over time and allow the trim or siding to come loose. The photo below shows the wrong type of nails used to secure the wood trim and siding.
Homeowners often refresh their pine straw or mulch in the plant beds around the perimeter of their home. These materials should not be in contact with the siding as it can lead to wood rot and welcome moisture and/or insect intrusion the wall system of the home. The photo below shows pine straw in contact with the wood siding.
The phot below shows another example of mulch placed right up against the exterior siding.
Proper drainage around the foundation and away from the home is a very important. Rain or irrigation water should always have a path to follow around a home and not drain toward the foundation. Without proper drainage water will find its way under a slab foundation, into the crawl space or into a basement. The photo below shows a low spot between the front sidewalk and the crawl space foundation. The front wall of the crawl space was very damp at this location.
All exterior steps with more than a couple risers should have hand railing. The photo below shows several steps without hand railing on either side. These steps were also very slippery with the green mossy surface.
All deck boards should be properly secured to prevent any trip hazards. The photo below shows some loose deck boards on a second story balcony.
Foundation vents allow air to flow through a crawl space foundation system. These vents have a mesh screen on the back side to prevent insects and small rodents from entering the crawl space. The photo below shows a typical foundation vent with a missing screen.
At the transition between the siding and a masonry foundation there should be visible flashing. This flashing sheds any water that gets behind the siding out on top of the brick so that moisture does not enter the crawl space below. The photo below does not show any evidence of any flashing at this siding to foundation transition.
The yard adjacent to the home should slope away from the home to direct rainwater away from the foundation. The photo below shows a yard that is perfectly flat. Water will certainly find its way into this crawl space foundation.
A balcony typically provides access to the outdoors from an upper floor level. Sometimes these they are only decorative and only accessible from an upper floor window. Regardless of its intended use rainwater should shed off the surface quickly. Any pooling of water can create a leak through the surface or around penetrations such as posts supporting the railing. The photo below shows water pooling on a balcony along the outer edge.
Hand railing installed on balconies, decks, porches and exterior stairways help people keep their balance and can also help prevent someone from falling. Railing and posts should be firm and not move when pushed against. The photo below shows a loose handrail system.
Exterior doors should open and close properly. They should not hit or rub against the frame and the latch/lock system should function correctly. The photo below shows an exterior storage room door that rubs tight against the door frame when opening and closing.
When an exterior door swings outward from the home, the door hinges are on the exterior side of the door. These hinges often rust when exposed to moist weather conditions. At least one of the hinges should have a security pin that cannot be removed. The photo below shows some rusty hinges on a relatively new exterior storage door.
Exterior door weather stripping plays an important role in reducing infiltration of air into and out of a home. Torn or damaged weather stripping can increase the energy requirements to heat or cool a home. The photo below shows damaged weather stripping at an exterior door. This was likely caused from the homeowner’s dog scratching at the door.
Exterior doors should always lock for security and safety reasons. The photo below documents one side of a French door that was not latching properly into the head and threshold.
While a rare occurrence, sometimes there is an obvious leak at an exterior door threshold. The photo below shows a large moisture stain on the carpeting next to the door, and the next photo shows the exterior side of the door with a gap between the threshold and the balcony floor. One of the challenges here is that there is no step down from the threshold to the balcony floor level.
The exterior side of door jambs are exposed to the weather and often begin to rot if not properly maintained with caulk and paint. The photo below shows wood rot at the exterior door jamb next to the threshold.
If metal exterior doors are not maintained with paint they can begin to rust. The photo below shows a garage service door that is beginning to rust at the bottom corners.
Proper installation and performance of exterior flashing at the transition between siding and a trim board is very important. Its function is to shed water that may have found its way behind the siding to the exterior. This flashing helps to keep the interior of the home or crawl space below the home dry. The photo below shows some exterior flashing that is corroding. The likely cause is that the chemicals used at the time the treated wood was manufactured is reacting with metal flashing.
The photo below shows another example of how the edge of the siding-to-drip edge flashing is severely corroded due to a chemical reaction between the metal and the treated lumber.
Clothes dryers vent warm, moist air to the exterior of the home when in operation. To help prevent rodents from entering the dryer vent pipe, a cover should be properly installed at the exterior termination of the dryer vent duct. The photo below shows a dryer vent cover that is completely missing.
Newer homes require the bath fans to be vented to the exterior. The most common termination point is through the soffit near the bathroom. The photo below shows a bath fan vent duct hanging out of the soffit. What is missing is a termination cover to keep bugs and rodents from entering the duct.
To help keep the rainwater and bugs out of the garage a piece of molding and weather-stripping is added to the inside of the garage door frame. The photo below shows a garage door that was installed on a new home, but the weather-stripping was not yet installed.
Exterior Inspection Standards
The inspector should:
- inspect the siding, brick, stone, and/or stucco
- inspect the exterior trim
- inspect the visible flashing
- inspect the exterior doors
- inspect the decks, balconies, stoops, steps, porches, railings
- inspect the eaves, soffit, fascia
- inspect the vegetation adjacent to the home
- inspect grading, surface drainage adjacent to the home
- inspect retaining walls adjacent to the home
- inspect the walkways, patios, driveways
- describe how exterior was inspected
The inspector is not obligated to:
- inspect the screens, shutters, awnings
- inspect any fences, boundary walls
- inspect any geological and soil conditions
- inspect any recreational facilities (pools, spas, etc.)
- inspect any outbuildings
- inspect any seawalls, break walls, docks
- inspect any erosion control devices
Checklist of Structural Issues
Cracks in the foundation wall
Cracks in the exterior mortar or brick veneer
Slopes or dips in the floor system
Moisture damage and/or fungus growth on the subfloor/joists below a tile shower
Cracked floor joists
Insect damage to beams or joists in crawl spaces
Interior piers in the crawl space that are not supporting the floor system
Extra support added under floor
Improper floor joist repairs
Damaged or broken roof truss members
Loose ridge beam support boards
Moisture damage to the subflooring underneath toilets
Large cracks in concrete slabs
Structural Inspection Standards
The inspector should:
• inspect the visible structural components
• inspect the foundation
• inspect the floor structure
• inspect the wall structure
• inspect the ceiling structure
• inspect the roof structure
• describe methods used to inspect unfinished spaces
The inspector is not obligated to:
• provide an engineering or architectural analysis
• offer an opinion of the adequacy of the structure
• enter tight crawl small space openings
• pass through vertical clearances that are tight
• walk across structural members concealed by insulation
Purpose of a Home Inspection
The purpose of a home inspection is to provide home buyer or homeowner with information about the condition of installed systems and components of a home at the time of the inspection. The home inspector should inspect the readily accessible installed systems and components and provide a written report to the client.
The inspection report should include any of the systems defined under the SOP that are not functioning properly, are significantly deficient, are unsafe or are near the end of their life expectancy. The inspector should also recommend corrections or monitoring for future correction for these deficiencies. If the nature of a deficiency is not self-evident the inspector should provide the client with a further explanation using easy to understand terminology.
Home Inspection Standards of Practice & Code of Ethics
Standards of Practice
There are two major home inspection associations that developed their own Standards of Practice (SOP) for their membership to follow. Overall, the scope of both of these standards has very similar content. To review these SOP click on the links below.
American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)
National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (interNACHI)
Many states have created their own published SOP or adopted a standard from one of these home inspection associations. South Carolina, for example, adopted the ASHI standards of practice a few years ago.
Code of Ethics
Both of these major home inspection associations have their own code of ethics for the members to follow. The general principles in these ethics’ codes are:
- to avoid conflicts of interest that negate the inspector’s professional independence and objectivity
- to act in good faith toward each client and other parties involved in the real estate transaction
- to avoid any activities that reduce the public confidence home the inspection profession