Home Inspector with LPM Home Inspections, Inc.


Routine maintenance includes one of the most important parts of your house, the exterior cladding that acts as its skin.  Like us, it can get scratched, bent, broken, wrinkled and dented.  And, like us, it needs to heal, to be straightened, smoothed and bandaged when it's damaged.  Unlike us, a house has several kinds if skins that need to be taken care of.  Let's look at some of them.

Wood siding needs to be protected with a raincoat of paint or stain.  It's a barrier that prevents fungus that can develop into rot and decay that destroys the wood.  Over time wind, rain, hail, snow and ice can damage the paint.  Here on the southern coast we face abrasion from blowing sand that scours the paint from our exterior walls.  Examine your house for faded, peeling or chalky paint.  Check the lower sections of door casings and windows for softening in the wood (poke them with a screwdriver to see if they're solid).  Clean the surface, remove and repair damage and cover the exposed wood with a good primer and follow it with a good paint. 

Vinyl siding is quick and easy to install. It looks good and won't warp or split.  Unfortunately, over time, it can be etched and pitted and the color can become sun faded.  Lawn mowers, baseballs, golf balls and other stuff can punch holes in it or break it.  Physical impact damage can only be fixed by replacing the broken strip of vinyl.  Do it so that water stays in its proper place - outside the walls. Paint won't adhere to vinyl, so don't bother trying to paint it. There's only one really effective way to maintain the beauty of vinyl siding.  Clean it regularly, usually in the spring and fall.  A pressure washer and detergent or other commercial cleaner will do the job.  A WORD OF WARNING - I've inspected a number of homes with badly warped and bent siding caused by barbecue grills that were too close to the wall.  Keep them away.  

Aluminum siding presents some of the same issues as vinyl siding.  It's attractive, isn't supposed to rust and it can shaped to fit the house.  It won't break but can be dented and, over time, the paint will fade and become chalky.  Dents can be fixed by replacing the metal strip and it may be possible to draw them out using a dent popper like you see advertised on TV (I've never tried it but it seems logical that if it would work on a car fender it would work on your siding).  Clean it twice a year with a pressure washer and detergent or a commercial cleaner. 

Hard coat stucco siding is attractive and easy to use.  It doesn't rot but is brittle and moves when it's windy or when the house expands or contracts in the heat and cold.  Like any rigid surface, it can and probably will crack.  Most cracks are hairline size but some can be bigger.  As a stucco inspector I've seen hairline cracks disappear as the house contracts and reappear somewhere else when it expands.  Most of these are transient cosmetic issues but can't be ignored because they can worsen and let water inside the wall. I generally use a constant crack of ¼ inch as a benchmark for repairs.  For hairline cracks you can fill them with a good, 50-year caulk.  Press it into the crack with your finger, not a putty knife, so that you can get closer to matching the surrounding surface.  For larger cracks or gouges you can use a latex patching compound found at a hardware store or stucco supplier.  Clean the cracks and apply the compound as directed on the label.  I haven't tried it but am told that you can match the surface of the surrounding stucco by flicking the compound from a paint brush and splattering it over the finished patch. 

Brick siding is fairly easy to inspect and repair.  Look for cracks and gaps in the mortar and repair them as needed.   If they are significant you should have a good, professional brick specialist inspect the brick for a shifting foundation and point the mortar as needed.

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