What are the Key Areas of a Home Exterior?
When someone thinks of the exterior of the house, the first thing that comes to mind is the roof. Arguably, this is a very important system of the exterior of a house. However, we will be covering the other areas of the exterior. If you would like to learn a little more about roofs and inspections, we have another post about most of what you will need to know. In this post, we will be covering the rest of the exterior components like the siding and trim.
Why is the Exterior Important?
Much like the roof, the exterior systems prevent weather, and ultimately moisture, from entering the house. However, unlike the roof, the exterior systems of the house also have the task of allowing things like light and humans in and out of the house. With those ideas in mind, keeping out moisture and unfavorable weather, while allowing air and humans to enter as desired, the exterior systems must be functional. Everything must be accessible, while being water tight.
What Inspectors Look for in the Exterior Systems.
- Siding/Cladding: Siding, also known as cladding, comes in many forms. There are the typical modern vinyl sidings, which is what makes up most of the sidings from the 1980’s to today. But there are also wooden siding, masonry, and fibrous composite (some of which even contains asbestos!). When looking at siding, it is important to identify any gaps and cracks around the exterior. Then making making sure those gaps and cracks are sealed. Sealing the exterior is typically accomplished by proper manufacture’s installation guides, but can also be done with caulking.
- Trim: After siding, trim is arguably the most important system on this list. The transition materials around exterior penetrations, like windows and doors, is the trim. Inspectors make sure of proper installation, and whether the systems are water tight. Making sure all the trim is properly sealed can prevent a lot of water damage to the house.
- Windows: Everyone knows what windows are, but not everyone knows how much damage they can cause! Windows let in light and air, but should never let in moisture. When looking at windows, inspectors make sure that windows can lock and latch properly. Basic operation of latches does not only impact safety, but can also prevent water penetration. Checking to see if the windows lock, are seated properly in the framing, and that the windows are sealed around transitions are what inspectors check for.
- Venting and Soffits: Venting on the exterior is either to allow internal processed air (like kitchen and dryer vents) out, or exterior air in. Dryer vents are another penetration on the exterior. Just like the other types of penetrations, sealing is crucial. However, unlike other penetrations, keeping the vents clean is a focus. Looking at the soffit venting at the eaves, the inspector looks for proper installation and a lack of gaps.
- Basement Entrances: Just like with doors and trim, inspectors look for proper sealant. Unlike the other doors, basement entrances can have a masonry stairwell. Making sure that the stairwell is free of debris and has a drain, the inspector then checks for proper drainage. Maintaining the seals around the door and proper drainage will help prevent moisture in the basement.
- Exterior Plumbing: Most exterior plumbing are just hose bibs. Inspectors check that hose bibs function properly, do not leak, and are sealed correctly.
- Exterior Electric: Dealing with the weather, and ultimately water, is the most important idea behind the exterior systems. This is especially important when inspecting the exterior electric! Making sure that the outlets are GFCI protected and have the proper housing, the inspector then checks for functionality.
What the Average Home Owner Should Monitor.
If you can take away one idea from this post, then take away making sure everything is sealed properly! Monitoring the sealants around the windows and doors will help prevent moisture penetration and wood rot. Caulking, also known as Silicone, is a great temporary fix for maintaining seals. Go around the house every year, and check to make sure the sealant is not cracking or chalky. If it is, then scrape away the sealants, and replace with new caulking. Then look for any other gaps and cracks in and around the exterior systems described above, and get to sealing!