Inspecting your house
It is paramount to periodically examine your property
from every angle and to see to the upkeep of its
elements to prevent or stop their deterioration.
There is no need to be a professional
to do a summary inspection of a
house. The problem is that most
people do not take such a close look, though
just a few minutes would be sufficient to
discover the small things to correct before
they turn into big problems. If some doubts
arise, there will always be time to call in
firms specializing in building inspection.
main elements to look at are the roof (membrane and
sheet metal work), the envelope (the walls), the openings
(doors and windows), the projections and the structure.
Our description will be basic and will accentuate
the more common problems met in traditional buildings.
Those of you who wish to obtain more information may
refer to the web addresses provided further along.
Of course, caution is the word and we suggest that
you do not climb up ladders if you have physical limitations.
the case of flat roofs, the most common type, the
condition of the membrane and of the sheet metal work
must be checked for the following: missing gravel
on tarred membrane surface, tar paper showing, possible
swelling or tears around the sheet metal work, the
vent holes or the drain, the footing of the electrical
wires support, the skylight and its surroundings.
check the sheet metal work for rust and joints that
are not caulked properly. Have a look at the cornice
to check its sheet metal work, soldered joints, and
the different parts of the tin decorations. Assess
the condition of the paintwork. If you notice some
deficiencies in these areas through your inspection,
it would be wise to call in a roofer or a company
specialized in tin work.
Generally speaking, residential façades are
made of limestone or clay bricks. The role of the
envelope is to protect from rain and wind. It is often
the quality of the mortar joints that is a source
of problems for the building’s envelope. When
performing a visual check of your façades,
you should pay attention to bricks or stones that
are missing, are split as a result of freezing or
are cracked. You should also check the mortar joints’
condition, which may have lost their mortar in some
places or are cracked in a “staircase pattern’’. Are
there particular areas (underneath the windows for
instance) where the joints are more damaged? Is there
some swelling in the surface (often in the façade’s
upper section)? If it is the case, you should contact
a mason specialized in renovation to have a closer
look at your façade.
We are dealing here with the more fragile elements
of your façade (or envelope). Often made of
wood, doors and windows need rigorous and diligent
maintenance. Given that they protect your home from
rain and wind, their weather-tightness needs to be
checked. Water infiltration can cause serious damage
to your structure and to interior finishes, and drafts
mean increased heating costs. Doors and windows should
open completely and easily without jamming and there
should be no air infiltration around their frame.
Is the door frame warped? Are the wood pieces in good
condition, solid and properly assembled? Is it time
Always keep in mind that it is less costly to repair
a few doors and windows than to replace all the openings.
You can always make an improvement by adding weather
stripping. Inspect them and try to assess a percentage
of the parts that need your intervention.
We are talking here about balconies and staircases,
as well as of the architectural landscape created
by the wooden posts and the metal work of the railings
and balustrades. These elements are exposed to the
weather and they should get an appropriate maintenance
wooden elements for decay, balcony boards, stairs,
balcony facing and underside, which will have to be
replaced immediately in order to stop the decaying
process. Check all metal parts, balusters, handrails
and staircase support posts to uncover traces of rust.
Wood and metal degradation must be found quickly and
remedied without delay. It’s the purpose of
thorough periodical inspections (spring and fall).
You can refer to the text on paint. It is the secret
to keep projections in good condition.
Besides a quick visual check of the façade
that can uncover, if there are cracks, some structural
weaknesses in the building, the structure’s
condition must also be checked through an inspection
of the basement or the crawl space. There is a difference
between the structure of the exterior walls and foundation
(subsidence) and the interior structure composed of
bearing walls and joists. If there are sizeable cracks
in the masonry or the foundation walls, you must contact
a specialist and should do so as well if you notice
poor supports under the bearing wall or if the beams
sitting on the foundation walls show signs of decay
or are cracked.
Then, what’s left for you to do is to make a list of things to be done
and establish the priorities.