Every spring and fall homeowners should take a walk around their home to look at the exterior for damage and appearance changes caused by seasonal weather. During my home inspections the second category is the exterior. Winter has the tendency to cause damage to many wall cladding materials, trims, windows, and other wall penetrations.
The first component I examine is the siding. Vinyl siding is common to my area. Vinyl is prone to damage caused by expansion and contraction. On my own home on the southern facing gable I lose a section of siding almost every winter. This is due to the excessive temperature changes. When this area heats up in the afternoon sun the siding expands and binds up at the ends, coming unhooked from the piece below, this is prone to wind damage. The color of the siding has an effect on how much expansion and contraction take place. Walking the exterior to check for loose, missing, or damaged siding should be done each spring. Wood siding has other challenges, checking wood for peeling paint or worn stain is necessary. Regular re-sealing is necessary for wood siding. Some government loan programs will not lend on homes with peeling paint so it is good to have these taken care of when the weather is favorable if you are in the process of selling your home.
On the exterior inspection the exposed portion of the foundation wall is also examined for any cracking. Stone walls are generally found with cracked and deteriorating mortar joints. This can lead to further, more serious damage. Re-pointing of these joints with new mortar is recommended. The exterior portion of this wall could also be sealed to prevent moisture intrusion and seepage.
Trim, Fascia and Soffit
Next I usually examine the trim members, just like vinyl siding the trim members are prone to damage caused by expansion and contraction. I always look for signs of damage and areas that may lead to moisture and rodent intrusion. Many times these members just need to be put back into place. Fascia and soffit should also be examined for this type of damage, if a wood fascia is present look for damage caused by birds and other wildlife as well as a deteriorated finish. The installation of aluminum fascia and soffit will help keep the attic free from birds, bats, and other wildlife.
Windows and Doors
Windows and doors should be operated at least a couple times a year. When I inspect older homes with wood windows and actually even newer homes with vinyl windows, I find them stuck in place. sometimes this is due to the wood being swollen because of excessive humidity. Many homeowners go straight from running the furnace to running the air conditioner as well. Proper operation is important for adequate egress in the event of a fire. Specifically, at the exterior weather stripping materials should be examined for damage and replaced if necessary. The window head trims must also have a proper flashing to protect from possible seepage issues. Many pre-hung exterior doors are found with rotten jambs. The doors come primed only and must be painted on an annual basis to prevent such damage.
There are many other items that should be examined especially just before winter. One being hose bibs, even with freeze proof hose bibs, your hose must be disconnected during winter months. These devices are designed to shut the water flow off inside the building envelope. The last 12 inches of pipe drains out through the handle. If your hose is connected this can cause this water to freeze causing a broken pipe and a flooded basement. Another important item to inspect is the gas meter. The area around the regulator vent should be free from debris. Generally speaking a 3 foot diameter of free area is recommended to promote air flow around the vent. This vent is also not allowed to be located within 3 feet of an electrical component, the air conditioning unit or an operable window or door. This requirement is set by the gas supply company and the national fuel gas code. I always suggest checking with your gas company should one of these conditions exist.
So there you have it, your exterior inspection for spring and fall. There are a few other items I check during the course of a home inspection, like the function of an electrical receptacles, and if they are in fact have GFCI protection, but that is beyond the scope of a homeowners maintenance examination.
Check back in a couple of weeks as I plan to discuss annual roof maintenance/monitoring.
Aaron M. Zuehlke is the owner and inspector at Zuehlke Inspection Service, LLC, a full-service home inspection company serving Southern Wisconsin. Specializing in Home inspection, Radon Testing, Mold Testing/inspection and Residential Thermal Imaging. I can be reached by email at Aaron@Zuehlkeinspections.com or by calling the office at 608-931-7485.