Your Home Inspector Will Check the House’s “Skin”

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, it’s important to have it inspected by a qualified home inspector who will look it over inside and out. Though it sounds obvious, he’ll examine the house’s siding, and there’s more to consider than you might first think.

Your inspector will check the condition and weather tightness of the siding from top to bottom. Siding can be made of materials such as wood, aluminum, vinyl, brick or stone or other construction material. It’s the home’s decorative skin.

Your inspector will check wood siding for peeling or blistering paint. A new paint job might be in order. Mildew doesn’t hurt the wood and can be cleaned off. Wood siding is also checked for rot and insect infestation.

Aluminum and vinyl siding are low maintenance materials, but can cover up rot and insect damage to wood. Your inspector will look for loose, bent, cracked or broken siding pieces. Caulked joints will be inspected, including around windows and door trim. Your inspector should know if electrically grounding aluminum siding is a requirement in your area and will examine the siding accordingly .

Brick or stone veneers are inspected for cracking, mortar deterioration, chipping and flaking.

If asbestos cement shingles are used, they may cover decayed or insect-infested wood. Your inspector will check for loose, cracked, or broken pieces and inspect around all window and door trim for signs of deterioration.

Your inspector will check stucco for cracks, crumbling sections, and areas where water may have gotten in. Old and weathered cracks may be caused by early shrinking or by settling of the home. New, sharp cracks may indicate movement behind the walls that should be investigated. It will likely be necessary to repaint surrounding stucco work where sections have been mended because it’s difficult to match the color of stucco repairs to the original stucco.

Synthetic stucco, also called EIFS (Exterior insulation and finish systems) has been used since the early 1990’s. It’s made from insulation board, mesh and base coat layer, finish coat, and sealant and flashing. It’s meant to be a non-draining moisture barrier. More recently a drainage-type EIFS has been developed that allows water and moisture to penetrate the surface and then drain away.

Most existing EIFS for homes is installed over wood framing and is of the non-draining type. Water leakage and the resulting wood rot have become serious problems in many homes, especially at wall openings like windows and doors. Inadequate flashing details can allow water seepage inside the wall. Inspecting existing EIFS is difficult because it is a proprietary product and there are no standard construction details. Therefore a trained specialist will need to check for hidden water damage and rot.

Outside walls of older homes don’t usually contain thermal insulation. However, if possible, your inspector will check behind siding for insulation and see whether some could be added.

If there’s evidence of mildew and mold on siding or the interior walls are damp, condensation could be taking place in the walls. Moisture problems generally occur in cold weather when outside temperatures and vapor pressures are low and there are several sources of water vapor inside. Moisture may indicate that the vapor barrier was improperly installed or has failed, or there’s no vapor barrier at all. If condensation is suspected, your home inspector may suggest that an analysis be made of the questionable wall sections. This analysis will give information to help determine what repairs should be made.

Siding serves a greater purpose than merely giving a home its appearance. Your home inspector’s report will help you understand the condition of the house’s “skin.”

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