Gary Longstreet
Home Inspections
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What does an inspector look at for the foundation?

Updated Sunday, July 28, 2013  ::  Views (2471)

Q: When it comes to the foundation, does the inspector only look at the exterior?
A Professional Inspector will focus on items that can be safely, visibly inspected. This includes the exterior foundation, visible interior foundations and basements or crawlspaces. Outside, the inspector is checking the foundation material. He will observe the integrity of the foundation walls to look for evidence of crumbling or missing mortar joints, peeling stucco or disintegrating brick.
A damaged foundation can allow water or insects to enter the home.  This can cause damage to the property, such as, mold, mildew and other safety concerns. This is why inspectors will also note the general slope of the property outside, looking to insure that water moves away from the home on all sides.
Crawlspaces do sometimes present a problem for inspectors. If the crawlspace is wet and has electrical wires present, it could be unsafe. In these conditions, an inspector will take photos of the issues from the entrance and note the reason for not entering the space in the report.  Because of these safety issues, the confined space and unknown materials inside, potential home or business owners or real estate agents should never follow an inspector into a crawlspace. For more information on inspections or foundations, call your local GPI inspector.
An exterior home inspection doesn’t end at the foundation. The entire outside of the home is considered part of the final report. Siding is one area where people can personalize a home with different materials and colors. The style and age of the siding generally determines the ease of upkeep.
Vinyl is by far the most popular siding for homes. Its low price and minimal upkeep will likely keep it that way. Vinyl is susceptible to cracking and melting, so watch those grills in the summer.
Plastic siding is also low-maintenance and can resist the impact of cold weather better than vinyl. Plastic shingles and shakes can be made to resemble wood.
To achieve an even closer match to wood planks without the upkeep, fiber cement siding may be the answer. Fiber cement siding is a blend of cement, sand and cellulose.
Using actual wood siding is expensive and it can warp, twist and burn. It is also susceptible to damage from insects and woodpeckers. For a more in-depth look at siding options, go to


Be advised
Trees can add beauty and shade in a landscape. They also provide habitat for any number of wildlife and can help reduce energy costs. However,  planting anything that might grow 20 or 30-feet tall, should be planned carefully.  A poorly planned or unmaintained tree can be a hazard.
Poorly planted trees produce leaves that clog gutters. Overhanging limbs can abrade roofs, and provide squirrels potential access to chimneys, soffits and other unwanted places.  Falling limbs can damage the home during a storm. Tree roots can grow into foundations, plumbing and sidewalks.
To help avoid some of these issues in regards to proximity to a home or business, plant trees at least one-half their maximum height away from the house. For example, a 40-foot tree should be planted a minimum of 20-feet from any structure. 
Just a few decades ago, arborists and landscapers hauled all trees and branches they removed to the landfill. Today, trees and branches can be turned into woodchips, a form of organic mulch. These woodchips are used to insulate plants and roots from extreme temperature fluctuations, reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation and reduce erosion.
Today, it is popular to dye mulches in a variety of reds, browns and even black. Some suggest that the black color can help retain heat in the soil. Other colors are produced for their aesthetic value, particularly the ability to set off the colors of  plants.
Other organic mulch options beyond wood or bark chips include: grass clippings, corncobs, straw, leaves, pine needles and sawdust. It is important to note that different materials will need to be applied to different depths for plants to retain water.
Did You Know?
When a lot is surveyed to set the corners of a foundation, surveyors add offset stakes, which are set back about two feet from the actual corner stakes. The hole is then dug to the offset stakes to allow crews to build the exterior walls safely.

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