Home Inspection Checklist in Pittsburgh
Many prospective home-buyers are surprised to find that a roof-to-foundation inspection covers much more than just the main building itself. In today’s blog post, we’ll be moving outside to look at one of the more important aspects of a home inspection—the grounds home inspection checklist.
Keep in mind that your home inspector won’t be commenting on the quality of the landscaping and structures such as pergolas. These and other items (see below) are beyond the realm of a traditional inspection, but there are still plenty of problems that can be found by observing the perimeter of a home, from obvious issues with driveway decay to vegetation that can pose threats to the structure.
First, let’s look at a few of the other exterior elements that are not part of the home inspection. These include decorative structures; underground items such as utilities, lawn irrigation, or sprinkler systems; wells or springs; fencing; exterior accent lighting; outbuildings (other than detached garages and carports); geothermal, wind, or solar systems; and swimming pools/spas, which can be covered in a separate inspection.
Here is a brief home inspection checklist covering “grounds” issues that the certified inspectors at A-Pro Home Inspection have reported on over the last 26 years:
Soil Grading: The slope of the ground around a structure may not be on your radar when checking out potential homes, but the property’s lot drainage will certainly be high on your home inspector’s list of priorities. Here’s why: Homes that don’t direct rainwater away from the base of the house are prime candidates for foundational damage, settlement issues, and wet basements. If the inspection is conducted immediately after a storm, the inspector will note obvious conditions, such as water collecting against foundation walls—evidence that precipitation is not being directed away from the house.
In both wet and dry conditions, the home inspector will make an assessment of grade: negative (directing water toward the building); level (flat surface, not as bad as negative, but still not ideal); or positive (sloping away from the home). Further, the inspector will cite instances in which the bottom of the exterior cladding is too close to grade. When grading infringes on siding, this can lead to water penetration and rotting of the house’s frame. The same goes for water-retaining mulch that is in contact with foundation walls.
Patios, Driveways, and Walkways: As we’ve mentioned in past articles, the inspector will note damaged asphalt, brick, and concrete that presents tripping hazards, such as potholes and uneven paths caused by tree roots or the freeze/thaw cycle. As with soil grading, the inspector will also observe if the slope of the driveway channels waters toward the base of the home.
Retaining Walls: Aside from being an attractive feature, retaining walls are useful structures for a number of reasons, such as preventing soil erosion and shifting, and maintaining even grading levels for building purposes. However, there is a slew of problems that are commonly found when inspecting retaining walls, including rotting, cracked, and loose materials; damage from wood-destroying insects; movement in the form of shifting, bowing, bulging, or leaning; and walls that are on the verge of complete failure. As many homeowners know, replacing or repairing a severely compromised retaining wall is essential but costly—another reason the grounds inspection is so critical.
Garages: Detached garages and carports are the only “outbuildings” that are included as part of the grounds inspection. The inspector will cover a range of potential problems: poor drainage; ceiling and wall cracks; non-fire-rated doors separating the garage and home; malfunctioning garage doors; appliances (with ignition sources) that are not properly elevated; gutter defects; firewall openings that are not protected; carport and garage roof leaks; and other concerns.
Vegetation: The inspector will report on tree limbs overhanging a roof, especially rotting ones that could easily break in a storm; tree root damage to the main sewer mainline (this can be detected through a Sewer Scope Inspection—an added service); tree roots causing foundational uplift; shrubs that are in contact with the house; sickly or dead trees that could fall over on the house or power lines; and trees with extensive root systems close to a home, which could be changing the moisture composition of the soil—a common cause of house settling.
Additional Home Inspection Checklist Evaluations: When walking the grounds, the inspector will also spend time assessing the porch, deck, central air conditioning unit, service drop, gutter system, exterior cladding, chimney, and other components, making note of defects that pose immediate dangers and systems that are showing signs of age.