1. 2)While standing away from the house, also check the ridge line of the roof and the fascia line to look for any noticeable sagging, which is a sign of damage, settlement,  or poor construction. It helps to hold up any straight-edged object, like a notepad, when you sight along the building’s lines. The sagging ridge line in the photo below is likely due to removal of a horizontal structural cross-tie of some kind, such as a collar tie or ceiling joist with purlins, when the homemade dormer was added. 

  2. 3)As you walk around the exterior of the house, stop at each corner and look down the length of the wall with your face a few inches from the surface, searching for any areas that are bowing inward or outward.

  3. 4)Look for exterior wall cracks, especially ones that have opened more than 1/8”, cracks emanating from the corners of windows and doors, cracks that have one side higher than the other, and ones that show signs of having been repaired but have opened again. Take your time, and be sure to sweep your view up and down as you go along.

  4. 5)Look for signs of building components that are moving apart, such as where a chimney connects to an exterior wall, lines where perpendicular walls meet, or where exterior decks or landings connect to the house.

  5. 6)Test the windows and doors to make sure they open freely. Cracked window panes can be a sign of a buildup of structural stress or movement in a wall. Also, any missing interior doorways should be checked carefully. When the frame is so out-of-square that the door no longer functions, sometimes the door is removed as a quick-fix. The wood trim at the third photo below is buckling due to compression of the door frame.

  1. 7)Feel the floors under your feet as you walk, both for any sloping areas and soft spots. If possible, have any background music or television sound turned off during the walk-around. This makes it easier to hear any loose floor tile or creaking floor boards.

  2. 8)As you examine the interior and note any floor, wall or ceiling problems, try to correlate them with your exterior findings. How do they line up? Does a crack running across a concrete floor, for example, align with any structural distress you observed in the exterior walls? In the photo above, a badly out-of-square door frame was above a damaged pier under the home.

   Review your findings with a professional home inspector or engineer if you think you see signs of a big problem lurking in the structure. The significance of wall cracks in particular, unless they are gaping and ominous, is best left for a professional to interpret. A few minor settlement cracks should be expected, especially in an older home, and a pro can sort out the actual problems from the cosmetic defects for you.

  For more information, see our blog post “What causes cracks in the walls and floors of a house?” for a brief course in crackology. If your concern is about a specific crack pattern, visit our blog post “What causes stair-step cracks in a block or brick wall?” or “What causes a horizontal crack in a block or brick wall?” or “How can I tell if a diagonal crack in the corner of a window or door indicates a structural problem?” or ”There’s cracks running along the home’s concrete tie beam. What’s wrong?”

   Also, if you are worried about the possibility of sinkhole activity on your property, find out more at these blog posts:

  1. What are the warning signs of a sinkhole?

  2. What causes sinkholes?

  3. How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a home over a sinkhole?


  To read about issues related to homes of an specific era or type of house, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s

  1. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s home?

  2. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s home?

  3. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

  4. What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property?

  5. What problems should I look when when buying a house that has been moved?

  6. What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

  7. What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

  8. What should I look for when buying a “flipper” house?

  9. What should I look for when buying a former rental house?

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
© - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.


More blogs posts about similar subjects:

  1. How do you determine when the house was built?

  2. What are the warning signs of a sinkhole?

  3. Why is the concrete window sill cracking?

  4. How do I recognize structural problems in a retaining  wall?

  5. Should I be suspicious about a concrete block house covered with siding?

  6. Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?

  7. What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?

  8. I’m buying a ‘50s modern house with a “gravel” roof. Is it going to be a problem?

  9. What’s my chance of buying a Gainesville home over a sinkhole?

  10. How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic?

  11. How can I tell if cracks in the garage floor are a problem or not?

  12. What can you tell me about buying a house with structural problems? It’s priced cheap!

  13. Should I buy a fixer-upper?

  14. What causes cracks in a driveway?

  15. How much can I cut out of a floor joist?

  16. We looked at the house carefully, and it seems alright. Do we really need a home inspection?

  17. Should a home inspection scare you?

  18. What should I look for when buying a “flipper” house?

  19. How can a tree damage my house?

  20. How do I remove cigarette odor in a house?

  21. The house has asbestos siding. What should I do?

  22. There’s an old fuel oil tank underground in the yard. Is it a problem?

  23. What is “knob and tube” wiring?

  24. What are the common problems you find inspecting windows?

  25. How much does a home inspection cost?

  26. What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?

  27. Why are there score line grooves in the concrete floor of the garage?

  28. What are the common problems of different types of house foundations?

  29. What is a “continuous load path”?

  30. Should I buy a house that has had foundation repair?

  31. Is a ridge board/beam required for a roof framed with rafters?

  32. How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole?

  33. Are roof trusses better than roof rafters (stick framing)?

  34. How can I tell the difference between a renovation project house and a tear-down?

  35. How can I tell if the exterior walls of a house are concrete block (CBS) or wood or brick?

  36. Why is undersize electric wiring in a house dangerous?

  37. Why is a horizontal board running along the bottom of the plywood siding of the house?

  38. Why would a house with Hardieplank siding have exterior wood rot problems?

  39. Should I buy a house that has been remodeled/renovated without building permits or has open permits?

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