Whether constructed of brick, vinyl siding or wood, a home’s exterior is often the first element of a structure that shoppers notice when in the market for a new place to live. These types of exteriors offer benefits in terms of aesthetic appeal, ease of maintenance, and protection. But as an experienced home inspector will tell you, each exterior comes with its own unique set of potential problems.
Over the years, the certified home inspectors at A-Pro Home Inspection have visually checked thousands of home exteriors, catching obvious problems and harder-to-identify trouble spots that may not be apparent to the untrained eye. Here are a few common home exterior surface concerns:
Wood: Homes clad in shingles, hardboard, solid lumber, or modern composite board offer exceptional visual appeal, but they’re also more labor-intensive when it comes to exterior maintenance. Home inspectors will report on impact damage to wood exteriors and moisture-related problems (perhaps caused by insufficient use of housewrap) that can turn the beauty of wood into an unsightly—and often costly—problem. Other factors such as use of lower-quality lumber, wood that is wet when installed, or choosing the wrong size nails can expedite wood exterior issues.
Your home inspector will note how improperly installed wood planks that don’t leave room for expansion can lead to buckled and cracked panels. If left unchecked, cracked boards become an open invitation for damaging moisture infiltration. High moisture content and hot temperatures are a lethal combination for wood surfaces, causing excessive rotting.
A situation known as cupping can occur when wood clapboards absorb moisture that has penetrated the home’s exterior. Water is absorbed from the back, making the boards appear concave or wavy, with the long edges of the board higher than the center. Finally, everything from wood destroying insects to woodpeckers, lawn mower-thrown rocks to hail can scar the surface of a wood-clad home.
Brick: When water gets trapped inside brick (sometimes due to use of non-breathable sealants), the freeze-thaw cycle puts tremendous pressure on the structure, resulting in cracks and then unsightly—and potentially expensive to replace—spalled brick. Further, the impact of water on brick, often the result of poor drainage, consistently wet soil, or bricks placed at or below grade level, can erode surfaces over time.
The home inspector will note bowed or bulging walls—another indication that the forces of water are at play. Efflorescence is a white, powdery substance often found on brick. While the substance itself (salt left over from evaporated water) poses only cosmetic concerns, the home inspector will note that its presence signifies a far more serious issue. Efflorescence indicates that there is a great amount of destructive water pressure at work, pushing the efflorescence to the surface and potentially causing the porous brick to spall or break apart over time.
Cracks, particularly diagonal ones, can compromise the integrity of a brick wall and provide tell-tale signs that even bigger problems may lie ahead.
Vinyl Siding: Your home inspector may report on a range of issues regarding vinyl siding, including loose panels; buckling and warping resulting from improper installation (e.g., panels hung in a manner that doesn’t allow them to move easily from side to side); lap joint bulging (due to an insufficient gap between nailing strips); J-channel trim that fails to provide water protection; cracks and breakage; and the absence of exterior sheathing—a necessary guard against water damage.
An inspection of a home’s exterior surface is just one part of an A-Pro 500-point inspection. To schedule a home inspection, call 406-426-2766 or schedule now here.
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