Inspecting your house

It is paramount to periodically inspect 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.

The main elements to look at are the roof (membrane and sheet metal work), the envelopeProtective covering elements of a building. (the walls), the openings (doors and windows), the projectionsAny component which juts out from a building. and the structure. Our description will be basic and will point out the more common problems encountered 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 are not used to doing this.

Maintenance Guide

The roof

Inspecting your roofIn the case of flat roofs, the most common type, the condition of the membrane and of the sheet metal work must be inspected for the following:missing gravel on tarred membrane surfaces, tar paper showing, possible swelling or tears around the sheet metal work, the vent holes or the drain, the footing of the electrical wire supports, the skylightDevice, often in the shape of a dome, placed on a roof to illuminate a dark room or a windowless room; also used to aerate or to provide an exit out if it is an opening skylight. and its surroundings. Also check the sheet metal work for rust and jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork). that are not caulked properly. Have a look at the cornice A generally horizontal building element, with a sometime utilitarian role (to throw rainwater clear off a wall) but mostly decorative. to check its sheet metal work, soldered jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork)., 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.

The enveloppe

Inspecting bricks and coveringsGenerally speaking, residential façades are made of limestone or clay bricks. The role of the envelopeProtective covering elements of a building. is to protect from rain and wind. It is often the quality of the mortarA mixture of cement, lime, and sand used for laying bricks or masonry. jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork). that is a source of problems for the building’s envelopeProtective covering elements of a building.. 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 condition of the mortarA mixture of cement, lime, and sand used for laying bricks or masonry. jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork)., which may have lost their mortarA mixture of cement, lime, and sand used for laying bricks or masonry. in some places or are cracked in a “staircase pattern’’.Are there particular areas (underneath the windows for instance) where the jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork). 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.

The openings

We are dealing here with the more fragile elements of your façade (or envelopeProtective covering elements of a building.). 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 to repaint? 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 doors and windows and try to assess a percentage of the parts that need your intervention.

Projections

Inspecting projectionsWe 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 balustradesRailing, often with an openwork design, formed by pillars and topped with a ramp to prevent falls.. These elements are exposed to the weather and they should receive appropriate maintenance(paint). Inspect wooden elements for decay, balcony boards, stairs, the balcony facing and underside, which may 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. This is the purpose of thorough periodical inspections (spring and fall). You can refer to the text on paint: it is the secret to keeping projectionsAny component which juts out from a building. in good condition.

Structure

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 base mentor 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.