Exterior Items of Home Inspection

Certified Building Code Official

Proper Drainage

Landscape & Drainage – The the grading of your property should slope away from the house, so that all water drains away, instead of pooling against the foundation wall, which will then drain into your weeping tile. Pay attention to areas where the siding is too close to the ground. We like to see an eight-inch clearance. A well maintained home would have the shrubs cut at least a foot away from the siding. This is important, as vegetation holds moisture against the siding, which can decrease its service. Be wary of large trees that are located too close to the building. Their roots are actually as long under the ground as the trees are tall… often causing drain tile problems or pressure against the foundation wall. Also, check that the trees have been trimmed away from the roof and electrical wires from above.

The current Building Regulations require floors and roofs to be tied or strapped to the walls to maximise the stability and robustness of the structures. While this occurs naturally in frame structures, it must be considered at the design stage for masonry structures. New structures can be built with this requirement in mind, but many older buildings, mainly domestic, do not meet these requirements.

Foundation Inspection

Foundation walls are supported on your footing and extend up to your exterior cladding. Concrete is not flexible and is subject to cracks. Small hairline cracks are minor and cosmetic in nature. However, cracks that exceed half inch can be problematic as water entry can be a problem. Your Tarion warranty will cover repair of foundation cracks if over 6 mm wide or there is a water penetration of crack. The recognized method of repairing these cracks is through injection of crack. Foam or epoxy are the two methods used, with expoxy being the strongest of the two.


The better built homes have large overhangs, which deflect most rain water away from the house. Cladding is mainly cosmetic and can be many different types, such as wood and brick veneer for example. Check the surface up close to see if it is straight or bowing out. Observe from a slight distance to see if the home sits level. Take note of any holes or damage to the siding. All homes should be properly sealed to prevent insects, rodents or water from entering the structure. Take a walk around the perimeter, looking from the foundation wall up to the roof area. Poke at the bottom of the siding to see how it feels. If it is wood, look to see that the paint hasn't chipped away or suffered rot damage. If the building is covered with stucco, look for signs of repairs, large cracks or patches.

Sidewalks and Driveways

Walkways & Driveways – These areas should be as even as possible, with no noticeable changes in height or slope. Any large cracks between sidewalks and foundation or driveways can allow water to collect which will then freeze in winter causing movement and settling. Heaving or slopeing of sidewalks can also cause trip hazards.

Gutters and Downspouts

Eaves Troughs & Downspouts – Check the general condition of all gutters, looking for gaps, dents or missing extensions. Look for any apparent leaks. This is much easier when it is raining of course, but staining can indicate a leak area. Ensure gutters are sloped to downspouts and that nails are all secured. Check all downspout clamps to ensure they are secure. Are they disconnected at any points, allowing water to penetrate foundation during a heavy rain? Are the downspouts effectively directing water away from the house? Have they been well maintained or do they need to be replaced? Ideally, you want all water to be directed away from the property and not pooling against the foundation.

Windows and Doors

Doors, Windows & Trim – For windows, you want to pay attention to the windowsills and surrounding areas. Vinyl trim is great, as it requires less overall maintenance. Look for patches and or cracks at the corners of the windows and doors that extend outward. Check each window to see if they open and close/lock correctly. As with the siding, you want to find homes that have been well maintained. Good maintenance involves caulking around the trim and all possible water entry points. Is there proper weather stripping? Are there any signs of rot or damage? Is there flashing over the windows and or doors to divert the water away?

Stairs and Railings

Once your steps or deck are over 23 5/8 inches above grade you need protection. Stair require handrails and decks etc require guards. The space between guards is not permitted to span more than 4 inches or 100 mm. Stairs are required to be of equal height and the maximum height can not exceed 7 7/8 inches.


Decks, Patios, Verandahs, Balconies and Porches

A deck is a large, raised wooden floor attached to the back of a house and contained by a perimeter railing for safety. Decks are rarely covered, and usually have a rough or informal look that is not integrated with the rest of the house's design. They are typically intended to be locations for large outdoor social gatherings, such as barbecues and birthday parties. Access to the deck may be from the ground through a stairway, or from the house through a back door.
Deck Facts:
  • The word “deck,” in this context, is generalized from decks on a ship.
  • The word “deck” originates from the Middle Low German word verdeck, meaning "covering." 
  • The first commercial boardwalk in the United States, which is considered a deck, was built in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
A porch is a wooden structure that forms a covered entrance to a doorway at ground level.  A porch is typically located at the front of the house.
Porch Facts:  
  • Porches are often used as ante-rooms where muddy or wet clothes can be shed before entering the house.
  • The word “porch” originates from the Latin word porta, which means “gate” or “entrance.”
  • While many houses in the southern United States, as well as Victorian-style houses, have large porches suitable for social gatherings, most modern porches are too small for comfortable social use, and  merely add to the visual appeal of the building.
  • Porches are typically integrated with the house's architecture by using similar design elements.
'Juliet' balcony
A balcony is a platform that protrudes from the wall of an upper floor of a building and is enclosed by a railing. Balconies are often highly decorative, especially in wealthy or scenic areas. They are not designed as social areas but, rather, add an outdoor ambiance to the indoors.
Balcony Facts:
  • In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet famously courted Romeo from her balcony. The small balcony design typically associated with that scene is often referred to as a “Juliet balcony.”
  • Balconies can be large enough to resemble decks, but they do not provide access to the ground.
  • "Balcony" originates from the Italian word balcone, which means “large window.”
  • Balconies can be made from wood, iron, stone, and many other masonry materials.
 large verandah

A veranda is a long, roofed, open gallery built around a central structure and supported by pillars. Verandahs are often long enough to extend around the front and the sides of a structure. Their origins are uncertain, but they are known to be a hybrid of East Indian and European styles. The purpose of the verandah is social, although in a more relaxing, everyday sense than is the case of a deck or patio.

Verandah Facts:
  • "Verandah" is alternately spelled “veranda.”
  • Verandah appears in Hindi and several other native Indian languages, although it appears to be an adaptation of the Portuguese and Spanish baranda.
  • Australia and New Zealand have their own unique style of verandah. Some verandahs in these countries are roof-like structures that surround commercial buildings, often on every floor. Their purpose is to provide protection from the sun.
A patio is typically a paved, roofless surface adjoining a residence that is generally intended for dining and recreation. These open-air living spaces are at ground level and are usually made from cement, stone, slate, or a combination of these materials.


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Cladding Options

  • What is the Insulation (R-value) when you choose a particular system? Remember, the higher the R-value, the lower your power consumption and generally, the improved health of the inhabitants (your family!).
  • Is the structural integrity and bracing values suitable for your site? Ensure you check concrete strength after curing.
  • Will it break down over time? (Even weatherboards need replacing eventually). Should water penetrate into the external walls, what materials can break down internally and how does this effect the structural integrity of your home?
  • How does your chosen system weigh up in terms of value? Remember, it is not only the cheapest option you need to look at but consider what ongoing savings you will make through less maintenance. Also consider the environmental impact – from manufacture through to left-over waste.
  • What claddings can I use over my system? Make sure you can choose something that will provide protection from the elements.
    Don’t be afraid to ask for the supporting information to give you the comfort level that you have made the right choice.
    Some wall cladding options are:
  • Weatherboards are shaped planks fixed horizontally and lapped over each other. Rainwater drains down the outside and can only get inside if it is forced upwards between the boards. There are new installation techniques that can greatly speed up application, keeping costs down. As well as timber, weatherboards can be made from materials such as fibre-cement, metal and vinyl (PVC).
  • Fibre cement exterior wall coverings come in the form of panels and weatherboards. They may be used as the exterior wall covering, or as substrate for monolithic claddings.
  • Plywood panels may be used as cladding. Gaps are covered with battens or flashings. You can also get plywood weatherboards.
  • Masonry veneer is a system where a timber-framed home is clad with bricks, stone, or thin concrete blocks. The masonry is connected to the timber framing through flexible wall ties.
  • Concrete blocks or poured concrete may act as both the structure and the cladding.
  • Monolithic Plasterboard cladding systems have a seamless appearance. They have become popular in recent years, but have to be designed and applied properly or they will leak. The ‘leaky home’ problem is largely to do with incorrectly constructed monolithic cladding. Ongoing maintenance is essential. The traditional monolithic system is stucco. Cement-based plaster is applied over a variety of backings including fibre-cement and plywood sheeting. It is then painted. This is the oldest of the three types of monolithic cladding and has been used in New Zealand since the 1920s. Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) are multi-layered systems, using polystyrene insulation and reinforced plaster. There are several different proprietary systems available. Fibre cement sheets can also be plastered to give a monolithic effect. All monolithic claddings rely on the final coat for waterproofing, and this needs to be well maintained.
  • Plaster as an exterior cladding provides a clean, and seamless appearance providing an attractive  aesthetic to most construction types. It allows for virtually unlimited colour selection, and textural style.
  • Plaster Claddings are applied over a 'rainscreen, drainage' cavity, as with the majority of external claddings today, allowing incidental moisture to drain away, in a similar way that brick veneer, and weatherboard cladding does. Solid Plastering and Proprietry Plaster Claddings are registered, specialist LBP (Licensed Building Practitioner) trades, as such you should investigate reputable system suppliers and qualified registered plasterers that have industry recognised qualifications for the installation, and finishing of the exterior.
  • There are many different substrates to which plaster can applied the most common include; Brick veneer, solid filled concrete block (new or existing), EIFS (polystyrene), AAC (lightweight masonry panel), fibre cement sheet.All exterior plastering, as with timber weatherboard requires maintenance in the form of cleaning and re-painting.
  • Metal – Aluminium cladding is extremely durable, lightweight, leak proof
  • GRC or GFRC  -  A composite material comprising a mixture of hydraulic cement, silica sand, alkali resistant (AR) glass fibres and water.
  • Major considerations are aesthetics, durability