I was asked recently by a home buyer what he should notice when looking at homes. He was interested in a 750k+ house over 5000 square feet and was anxious to get an offer on the house. In today’s market, we all know if it is a good buy it is already sold. He knew that but was concerned since the roof was over 20 years old he had lots of questions about roofs.
It’s difficult to explain what a homeowner should be looking for since most prospective buyers don’t walk roofs or climb into attics.
Certainly, if it appears from the ground that granules are missing from tiles it is in bad shape. At 20 years of age, it is getting to the end of its life according to most references but many roofs last much longer than that. If you can see repairs around chimneys or where rooflines meet the walls of the house it is a good indication of work needed ahead. Of course, if shingles are broken or missing you definitely have a repair coming up and at that age perhaps a replacement.
But what do inspectors look for?
An inspector is going to look in the attic for structural integrity. Are ridgeboards sound, are purlin braces correctly installed….are rafters in good shape? Are there signs of moisture or fire or improper installation? Have there been alterations that were not supposed to be made? Trusses for examples should never be drilled or notched. Does it have adequate ventilation?
On the roof an inspector will look for wear, granules missing, cracks, curling, popped nails, improperly installed shingles or flashing.
Flashing is where most leaks will occur.
Are flashings installed correctly? Are fasteners showing in the attic so you know they were long enough? Are drip edges installed correctly at the rakes and eaves?
How about those exhaust vents, chimneys and drain vents. Is the flashing installed correctly? It’s common that they are not.
Flashings, fasteners, structure, roof sheathing and the underlayment…the biggest problem is usually not age but installation.
Finally, is the appropriate material used for the pitch of the roof. I just found one the other day that was not. Shingles were used where a flat roof material like rolled roofing should have been used. What’s the difference? Rolled and other membrane roofing is made and installed to be waterproof. Shingles and all tiles are water resistant. Shingles and tiles rely on the pitch to shed the water.
And lastly, we are in the upper 90’s and 100’s these days. Walking on roofs that are hot is usually not a good idea. You could very easily damage the roof. It may have been in good shape until you stepped on it wrong or in the wrong place.
A professional inspector will know when to walk a roof and when to use other methods like pole cameras and drones to get the information he needs. A professional inspector will be able to answer questions around all these areas after an inspection. My friend will of course get an inspector before his option period runs out. But now he knows what to ask about it.
I was visiting a friend in a new house and he was giving me the grand tour. I try not to notice the little things but after recently expanding my business to include real estate inspections I couldn’t help myself.
After hundreds of hours of training and review of codes and best practices and then taking the 4 hour national and state tests it kind of becomes part of you.
We walked past the french doors into the study..beautiful, but the glass was not safety glass as it should have been in this case. He didn’t ask, so I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t say anything about the extension cord winding from one room to another because the builder had neglected to put in enough outlets. When we went past the stairway where the balusters were clearly too far apart. I still held my tongue.
I felt I was doing well and being casual but then it happened. He opened the closet under the stairs and there it was… The underside of the stairs had no plywood backing. You could see the backs of the risers and treads….I hesitated at the wrong time and he saw me. And the words came out like a dark shadow slipping past you in a dark hallway. “What’s wrong?” “What did you see?”
And so I told him. His stairway would possibly become a chimney if there was a fire downstairs and upstairs would be inflamed quickly. He closed the door and looked away. I think I heard him say, “hmmmph.” We moved away from the stairs. …Quickly.
The grand tour was now over. I would not be seeing upstairs. I was escorted back to a sitting area and the subject was changed. I was being quarantined.
The rest of the evening we chatted about the usual subjects. Other guests had joined us and the conversation never went back to the stairway. I was glad. I hadn’t meant to say anything.
After a while, I think my host relaxed and I pretended not to be an inspector, just another guest and I just enjoyed the evening. The food was great, the conversation fun and I am certain I was doing a much better job of masking my observations.
I said nothing about the wood burning fireplace hearth extension that was too shallow and made of WOOD!
I said nothing about the fancy faucet on the kitchen sink that was installed too low.
I even managed to glance only once at the wood cabinets that were too low and close to the gas stove.
Nope, while my list of deficiencies grew in my head externally I kept quiet.
The moral here is even brand new homes have issues. When an inspector gives a report there are always things to monitor and consider. It isn’t personal and it doesn’t mean it’s a bad house. It just means the perfect and ideal best practices and sometimes codes were not followed to the letter.
If you invite me over for coffee I promise to not notice anything but the conversation and company.