Homeowner’s Inspection Guide -- Introduction

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Home Emergencies | Glossary

In theory, a house should be relatively maintenance-free. After all, it just sits on the land without moving: What could go wrong with a static structure? Any homeowner knows the answer to that question: “Plenty!”

There are a number of reasons that a house needs continual maintenance. First, the forces of nature are constantly assaulting it. In the summer, the hot sun bakes the roof covering with an intense heat that can drive temperatures inside the attic to over 140°F. This heat not only cooks the house, but also dries it out, causing the wood frame to shrink and contract. In the winter, temperatures drop to below freezing. This causes the structural members to expand and crack around joints and seams.

Temperature extremes are only part of the picture, however. There’s also moisture in the form of rain, snow, and dew. During extreme rainstorms, the house may be inundated with enough water to fill a swimming pool. If the outside sheathing on the house is in good condition, it will repel this water and keep the interior dry. Over the years, however, the sheathing is apt to open up in places and allow the water to seep in where it will cause wood to rot, metal to rust, and insulation to deteriorate.

Nature buffets the exterior of a house with winds that often reach double-digit velocities. The winds are made more punishing when they carry rain, dust, and dirt. These can slowly erode the exterior of any structure, turning a sparkling surface into one that looks worn and drab.

Below ground, the earth expands and contracts with the temperature changes brought on by the seasons. These massive earth movements exert tremendous pressures against the house foundation, causing it to shift and crack. Left unchecked, these cracks can open up and let ground moisture into the basement.

As if this were not enough, nature also sends an army of predators against the house. The worst and most notorious are insects, termites, and carpenter ants. These marauders can literally eat you out of your house. Other creatures that are more pest than predator are birds and small mammals that seek to invade and share your home.

All this sounds like a never-ending battle between the homeowner and the awe some powers of nature, one that requires constant toil without rest or respite. But it doesn’t have to be that. The trick to keeping any house in good shape is to inspect it periodically to locate and correct small problems before they turn into major headaches. Often these problems, if caught in time, can be corrected easily by any do-it-yourselfer using a few simple tools and basic skills.

IMPORTANT:

Inspecting a house is easy enough but there are pitfalls to avoid. It’s a good idea to don a hardhat when navigating through the confines of an attic. Inspecting electrical components or circuits can be especially hazardous because do-it-yourselfers are apt to poke around wires before turning off the power. Touching any live circuit, even for inspection purposes, is an invitation to catastrophe.

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