Photograph of building damage near Los Angeles 2000 © Daniel FriedmanBuilding Exterior Defects List & Home Inspection Education

  • DEFECTS LIST - EXTERIOR - CONTENTS: Defects in building exterior components, siding, steps, rails, windows, doors. Lists of important defects for residential buildings. What does a home inspector need to know? Home inspection training and education curriculum recommendations
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about home inspection course curriculua, checklists, & inspection of the building exterior

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This article lists significant building exterior component defects, definitions, and home inspection education topics.

This article series, beginning at BUILDING DEFECTS LISTS, provides lists of common building defects and basic defect knowledge that also outline recommended curriculum content for home inspector education. The building defects and inspection points listed in these articles also guide homeowners and home buyers to building areas that merit careful attention and often point areas of safety concern or important maintenance and repair tasks.

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Home Inspection Education Curriculum - Exteriors, Walls, Windows, Doors

7.    Building EXTERIORs: Inspection Recommendations & Lists of Typical Defects

7.1   Exterior Building Wall Cladding Inspection & Defects List

7.1.1 Knowledge Base for inspecting building exteriors: walls, soffits, fascia, windows, doors, trim, flashing, caulking

1.    Describe the function of exterior wall surfaces, soffits and fascia, windows and doors, trim flashings and caulking.

2.    Describe the materials and components of each of the items listed above.

3.    Describe the features of  adequate installation and repair technique for each of the items listed above.

4.    Define the following terms:

Siding, building paper, housewrap, sheathing, air/vapor barrier, insulation, efflorescence, spalling, mortar deterioration, weep holes, rising damp, vented rain screen principle, safety glazing, stucco, synthetic stucco, portland cement stucco, lime-cement stucco, aggregate, lath, EIFS (exterior insulating finishing system), backwrapping, drain screen, rain screen, drip screed, kickout, drying potential, beadboard, siding (beveled, board and batten, tongue and groove, ship-lap, channel and drop), shakes (taper split, hand split and re-sawn, straight split, taper-sawn), plywood, hardboard, oriented strandboard (OSB), waferboard, capillary break  on windowsill.

5.    Identify the codes or standards in your area which apply to each system listed above.

7.1.2 Inspection Skills for inspecting building exteriors: walls, soffits, fascia, windows, doors, trim, flashing, caulking

1.    Describe the inspection procedure for each of exterior systems and components.

2.    Identify the following common defects listed on the next page.

3.    Describe the implication of each defect.

4.    Identify safety issues for the inspector and occupant of the house (fall hazard)

5.    Communicate findings to client verbally and in writing, recommending corrective action where needed.


WALL Defects - GENERAL                                  

                                                                        METAL AND VINYL SIDING

• Exposed foundations —                   • Buckled or wavy

cracked or spalled

• Insulation problems                     • Discolored

• Planters and gardens against walls       • Flashing and caulking defects

• Too close to grade or wood/soil contact • Loose

• Vines                                   • Mechanical damage

• Water penetration                        • Metal siding not grounded

• Rust


• Too close to grade

• Bowing walls                                  CEMENT-BASED SIDING

(Fiber-cement, Asbestos Cement)

• Cracking      

• Efflorescence                                 • Loose

• Mechanical damage                             • Mechanical damage

• Missing, ineffective weep holes or                  • Missing paint or caulking


• Mortar deterioration                          • Nailing problems

• Spalling                                      • Too close to grade

• Too close to grade




• Broken

• Bulging                                       • Damage

• Cracking                                      • Flashing or joint defects

• Crumbling                                     • Loose or missing pieces

• Incompatible flashings                              • Missing or loose

• Loose                                         • Paint or stain needed

• Mechanical damage                             • Rot

• Moisture penetration                          • Too close to grade

• No drip screed                                • Vents missing or ineffective

• Rusted lath or trim

• Too close to grade                                  ASPHALT SHINGLES AND INSUL-BRICK

WOOD SIDING (Board, Shakes And Shingles)

• Aging

• Loose                                         • Loose, missing or torn tabs

• Paint or stain – needed                             • Too close to grade

• Rot

• Splitting                               SOFFITS AND FASCIA

• Too close to grade                            • Damage

• Warping                                 • Loose or missing pieces

• Paint or stain needed


• Rot

• Vents missing, ineffective

• Buckling and cracking

• Delamination                            TRIM FLASHINGS AND CAULKING

• Inner-Seal®

• Loose                                   • Caulking missing or ineffective

• Mechanical damage                       • Flashings incomplete or ineffective

• Rot                                     • Flashings missing

• Swelling                                • Loose

• Too close to grade                      • Rot

Improper nailing                          • Rust


GENERAL                             SASHES

• Air leaks                         • Inoperable

• Lintels sagging or missing        • Loose fit

• Water leaks                             • Poor weatherstrip

• Rot

FRAMES                              • Rust

• Sash coming apart

• Deformation                       • Stiff

• Drain holes blocked or missing

• Installed backwards               GLASS (GLAZING)

• Racked

• Rot                               • Broken

• Rust                                    • Cracked

• Excess condensation  vapor occlusions  JDG

EXTERIOR DRIP CAPS                  • Loose

• Lost seal on double or triple glazing  same as above in red  JDG

• Ineffective                             • Missing

• Missing



• Loose

• Caulking or flashing missing, deteriorated,   • Missing

loose, rusting or incomplete

• Damaged, cracked or loose               • Rusted

• Inadequate sill projection                    • Torn or holes

• Missing

• No drip edge                                  SKYLIGHTS AND SOLARIUMS

• Paint or stain needed

• Putty (glazing compound) cracked, missing,          • Evidence of ice dams

loose or deteriorated

• Rot                                           • Special glazing not provided (more than 15 inches off vertical)

• Rust                                                Vapor occlusions.  JDG

• Sills with reverse slope

• Vines

DOORS on Building Exteriors: List of Typical Defects

      GENERAL                                       GLASS (GLAZING)

• Air leaks                         • Broken

• Lintels sagging or missing        • Cracked

• Water leaks                             • Excess condensation

• Loose

DOORS AND FRAMES                    • Lost seal on double or triple glazing

• Missing

• Damaged                           Firedoors at garages  JDG

• Dark paint on metal exposed to sun      STORMS AND SCREENS

• Deformation

• Delaminated                       • Loose

• Drain holes blocked or missing    • Missing

• Installed backwards               • Rusted

• Loose or poor fit                 • Torn or holes

• Plastic trim on metal door behind storm

• Racked   

• Rot

• Rust


• Ineffective

• Missing

Building EXTERIOR TRIM, Defects List

• Caulking or flashing missing, deteriorated,

loose, rusting or incomplete

• Damaged, cracked or loose

• Inadequate sill projection      

• Missing

• No drip edge 

• Paint or stain needed     

• Putty (glazing compound) cracked, missing, loose or deteriorating

• Rot

• Rust

• Sill too low

• Sill not well supported

• Sills with reverse slope


Readers should see EXTERIORS of BUILDINGS for our complete list of articles on this topic. Also see HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS. Use the Search Box at the top or bottom of these pages to find in-depth information about building, energy savings, and indoor environment inspection, diagnosis and repair at this website.

Exterior Bulding Inspection Articles

Watch out: these inspection lists do not list all possible defects for the systems discussed, and not all home or building inspectors will examine all of the items listed here. CONTACT us to suggest corrections or additions to articles at this website.

These curriculae and building defect lists are based on smilar curriculum documents first prepared by Joe Scaduto, an ASHI member who prepared course material for Northeastern University's Building Inspection Certificate program in 1988, subsequently by DF, InspectApedia's editor, for New York University ca 1988 and later, with others, recommended to ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors

. ASHI did not adopt this material though currently that association as well as others offer extensive HOME INSPECTOR EDUCATION material. The curriculum and lists of defects are informed by additional analysis of the process of home inspection that was developed beginning Calgary, AB for Canadian and U.S. home inspector education and certification examinations in 1997. Other early contributors to home inspection education in the U.S. and Canada include Dr. Jess Aronstein, Alan Carson, Mike Casey, Mark Cramer, John Cox, Dwight Barnett, Douglas Hansen, Rick Heyl, Larry Hoytt, Bill Merrill, Kevin O'Malley, Dennis Robitalille, Keith Peddie, Pat Porzio, Roger Robinson.


Continue reading at ARTICLE INDEX to EXTERIORS of BUILDINGS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



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