Part 2: The Grounds
Home sellers often think that the house is the only thing home inspectors look at. In fact, we are required to inspect the entire property. There are actually many areas that we evaluate outside of the house, including service walks, driveways, landscaping and more. I specifically group all of these areas together in my reports in a section called the grounds. In Part 2 of this series I will share with you common defects found on the grounds during a home inspection.
Home inspectors look for crumbling, cracking and settling of concrete. Small amounts of surface crumbling is called spalling and is fairly common. Homeowners can use apoxies or other concrete repair products to fix this. If you don’t fix it, water can pool in those areas causing more damage. This is often just a cosmetic issue but if it gets too bad it can cause further damage that may need addressing.
Cracks on your service walk are common and shouldn’t be too concerning unless the crack is over ½”wide. While smaller cracks may look unsightly, it is the bigger cracks that indicate a major problem with the stability of the walk. It can be considered a safety hazard if it is large enough to cause someone to trip.
Improperly laid concrete, years of extreme weather and ground movement can all cause heaving and settling of concrete. Extreme sloping or uneven pieces can be a hazard.
While most of these conditions will be noted in the comment section of the report, if they are creating a hazard, it will be listed as a defect on the summary page.
Driveways and parking areas are much like the service walk if they are also made of concrete. If it is paved, asphalt is easier and less expensive to repair than concrete. Problems such as potholes, spiderweb cracks and sinkholes can occur with Asphalt.
Potholes in your driveway can cause damage to your car and should be repaired before they get too big. Sealing and maintaining your driveway will help prevent potholes. Your asphalt driveway should be sealed every 3-5 years.
Spiderweb cracks can be an early sign of problems. Fixing them early may prevent holes from starting.
Sinkholes are more common in other areas of the country but shifting earth under your driveway can still cause similar versions of sinkholes in the midwest. Potholes and Sinkholes are noted as defects on inspections but spiderweb cracks may just be noted as a comment.
Poorly constructed or maintained stairs can lead to serious injuries or even death.
Over 1 Million accidents each year are attributed stairs with the main causes being wet or slippery, uneven stair height or depth, icy or wet outdoor stairs and lack of railing.
Proper structural support, railings, and drainage are important to maintain safe outdoor stairs.
Home inspectors will note defects if there isn’t an appropriate railing, breaking or unstable stairs, pooling water or other significant hazards.
Home inspectors will evaluate decks, patios and porches for similar issues as stoop and steps. We look to make sure the structure is safe and stable, there are railings where required and are up to code, and the surface is clear.
We look for mold and other issues on the surface that can indicate other problems. Cracks in the wood surface, termite waste that looks like sawdust and wood that looks crumbly can indicate termites. Find out more about termites in a previous blog Invisible Hazards: Unseen Problems in Your Home.
Landscaping affecting Foundation
Homeowners often don’t understand how the landscaping of your property can affect the foundation of your home. The grading needs to cause water to flow away from your home, not into the foundation. Water runoff towards your hame can cause major issues such as but not limited to: seepage in the basement, foundation issues, or potential mold growth. Trees should be far enough away from your home so the root systems don’t invade your foundation. Some trees, like Willows have very large root systems and should be kept at least 50 feet from your house. While a home inspector won’t put a willow tree less than 50 feet from your home as a defect, if it’s root system has caused damage to the foundation, they will.
Inspectors check on the hose bibs to make sure they are functioning properly and not cracked or split.. A hose bib is a tap you find outside your home. It has threading and is made for attaching a washing machine or hose. They are made to drain itself of water in the part that is exposed to prevent freezing or cracking in winter months. Homeowners often leave things permanently attached which can prevent them from draining properly causing problems.
Many of the issues included in grounds may seem unimportant in a home inspection. The fact is, if not properly built or maintained, these problems can lead to dangerous or serious home defects. When in doubt, call a home inspector or qualified contractor.