Inspecting the Exterior of an Old Home Before Buying

Inspecting the Exterior of an Old Home Before Buying

The Roof

Where: The roof.

Look for:  Sagging ridge.  Does it look stable.

  • Are the shingles/shakes chipped or curled.
  • If metal, is it rusted or corroded.
  • If a flat roof, are there viable cracks or leaks.

Professionals:  Roofers

Costs: It is best to get an estimate from your roofer as price will depend on materials used, geographic location and roofing company.  For a ball park idea, a new 2000 sq ft roof can range anywhere from $7,000. upward of $40,000.

Note: This does not include any repairs needed to the roof structure if needed.

Dry & Wet Rot

Where: On the exterior of the house, look for damp areas, especially decks, soffits and columns.

Look for:  Soft feeling wood with black fungus

Process to Repair:  Like Dry Rot, the affected wood should be removed and sealed.

Professionals: Carpenters.

Costs: It will vary, it is best to get an estimate from a professional.

Soffit, Fascia Board & Flashing

Where:

  • The section that connect the overhanging part of the roof to the side of the building is called the soffit.
  • The fascia board is the vertical board that covers the edge of the roof and the soffit.
  • Flashing is usually made of sheet metal, copper or lead and covers the joints on the roof in order to prevent leakage into the roof.

Look for:  Are these areas structurally intact. Look for signs of mildew or water damage.

There should be proper venting in the soffit which permits to circulate in the attic. Without proper circulation, the moist air from the house, which escapes through the roof, will stay in the attic potentially causing mildew and moisture problems.

Professionals:  Roofing companies

Costs: It will vary, it is best to get an estimate from a professional.

Roof Ventilation Paths

Where:  Gable, ridge and soffit vents

Look for: 

The condition of the vents of the soffit and gables which can be seen from the ground looking up. You will not be able to see the ridge from here.

Note: The gable, ridge and soffit vents helps air circulate in the attic. Without air circulation, the moist air from the house can stay in the attic potentially causing mildew and moisture problems.

Professionals:  Roofing companies.

Costs: It will vary, it is best to get an estimate from a professional.

Sky lights

Where:  Windows located within the roof.

Look for:  Water damages around the edges.

Professionals:  Window or roofing experts.

Costs: Variable.

Exterior Windows & Doors

Where:  From the exterior, look at the windows and doors.

Look for: 

  • Rot or cracks around the frames.
  • Is the flashing around the frames secured to the house.
  • Glass – are the panes and mullions in tack
  • Check the condition of there are screens or storm windows.

Professionals:  Window experts.

Costs: It will vary, it is best to get an estimate from a professional.

Siding

Where:  Exterior house cladding

Look for: 

  • Shingles: look for cracks and curling
  • Clapboard: look for cracks and rot in the wood
  • Stucco:  Look for cracks or stains which indicates water issues.
  • Brick or Stone: Look for cracks or aging mortar. If disintegrating, the brick mortar might have to replaced (repointed? with the same kind of mortar originally used.

Costs:

Clapboard: Estimate about $6. to $10. per square foot installed.

Shingles: Estimate about $6. to $15. per square foot installed.

Stucco:  Estimate about $6. to $9. per square foot installed.

Foundation

Where:  The area from the bottom of the siding into the ground. Usually made of brick, stone or concrete.

Look for: 

  • Cracks
  • Stability
  • Age of the foundation
  • If brick or stone, check to see if the mortar is cracked or flaked out.  It might need repointing.

Professionals: Foundation and concrete experts.

Costs: The cost will depend on the severity of the cracks or if the foundation walls are unstable.  It is best to get an estimate as this could entail serious repair costs.

Insects & Creature Damage

Where: 

  • Where there is wood, especially moist conditions,  termites, carpenter ants and carpenter beetles can virtually be anywhere. Look close to the foundations on the interior and exterior of the house.
  • Look for signs of mice or rats near the foundation of the house. They can eat through wood, wires and even sheetrock and cause major damage.

Look for: 

  • Insects: look for rotted wood or what looks like sawdust.
  • Rodents: look for holes or large cracks where they can enter.

Professionals:  Exterminators

Costs: These are ballpark figures. . Please have a certified exterminator give you a true estimate which will depend on the infestation and the size of the house.

  • For a preventative treatment around the perimeter of your house: Approximately $500. to $800.
  • A termite treatment can run about $2500. to $3500.

Ground, Well Water

Where:  Underground.

Look for:  When you go inside the house  look for the following:

  • Does the water smell like rotten eggs?
  • Does it have a fishy or metallic taste?
  • Is the water cloudy?
  • Turn on the faucets and flush the toilet – is the water pressure weak or slow?
  • Do the faucets sputters when turned on?
  • Do the pipes groan?
  • Are the toilets, tubs or sinks stained red, brown, blue, green or yellow?

Professionals:  A Certified Well Construction company

Costs: A Well Inspection will cost approximately $300. to $500.

A  Home well water test runs about $30.

Read our article for more information:
 Testing the Water – Well Water, that is

This is a guide for the prospective homeowner to help determine the condition of the house in a home inspection.  Some of the checkpoints on this list might be deal breakers or they might be just part of the journey you’ll need to address when fixing up or restoring an older house. This is not an official document, but a guide for home inspections to assess the kind of work involved in fixing up the house and perhaps to use as bargaining points when discussing terms with the seller.

Please have a certified Home Inspector go through and submit a report on the house before you purchase it.

Read More in Inspecting Your Old Home
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