I get asked every winter about inspecting houses in the snow. There are often concerns about what the snow may hide from me. As I get ready to head out in the newest batch of snow, I’ll hit some of these areas to shed some light on it from my perspective…keep in mind every home inspector has their own procedure, you should get to know what he/she does to help manage client expectations. Home buyers may not know what we (home inspectors) look at or how we may operate, so have a coffee with your preferred inspector, ask him questions so you can help ease the stress your clinet may have.
The first concern is typically the roof. “How can you see the roof in the snow?” they ask. “Will you go up and sweep off the snow?” is also a common question. OK, I will not sweep or shovel the roof, that is asking for trouble. I could damage it, or worse fall off of it. The truth is, that even though is dry weather, I certainly do get a better look at the roofing from the edge or on top of it, the best indicator of its condition (is it leaking) is often from the bottom of the roof (the attic ceiling). This area will show stains, and a moisture meter can determine if there is moisture (active leak) or no moisture (many old homes have stains and the roof has been repaired so it is dry now). Some things that I will not see are curling shingles, cracked shingles if there is a few inches of snow. So its not perfect, but not completely worthless either. Although if it is safe, I will go up, and brush some snow off the roof at the edge, typically the condition of the roofing shingles is similar, and you can see a few square feet to help determine an estimate of the overall condition.
“How about the foundation, or even trim?” I’ll trpically brush some areas to check, but again I’ll not excavate all the snow. Similarly to the roof, the real evidence is typically on the inside, cracks, displacement, and water entry are typically visible just as promininenty or more so from inside. As far as wood trim, I’ll brush some off,and spot test, many times only sticky snow stays on there anyway.
Although site grading is important to me, and typically the thing best hidden by snow, I almost never get asked about it. That being said, site grading concerns are to determine the likelyhood of water being pooled at the structure and entering the basement. That entry typically leaves signs on the inside.
Sometimes clients prefer to reshedule, and I try to accomodate. But in the winter, the snow may not be gone inside the contingency period anyway. for more info on how I inspect homes visit the web site about Rhode Island Home Inspections.
Mike Auger, CMI
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