5 Types of Problems with a Home’s Exterior

Wavy Vinyl Siding


I spend a great deal of time outside of the home during my inspections. Exterior problems often are not expensive or difficult to repair, but they can lead to many annoyances, including water, bugs, critters and foundation damage. Here I’ve collected 5 of the most common problems that I encounter while inspecting homes here in Buffalo and Western New York.

# Loose or Wavy Siding

Melted Vinyl Siding from BBQ Grill
A BBQ grill melted this vinyl siding on a home in Williamsville, NY

I encounter vinyl siding on at least half of the homes that I inspect in Erie and the surrounding counties.  It is an affordable material, is easy to install and provides a great barrier to our sometimes harsh weather here in Western NY.  Unfortunately, the manufacturer’s instructions are often tossed out by the installer and then aren’t followed, which leads to several problems down the line.  

The most common of these is that individual pieces of siding come loose during a wind storm.  Vinyl siding should be nailed to the house loose enough so that the material can move as it expands and contracts from temperature changes, and wind storms.  If nailed too tightly, the snap-fit connection between each piece of siding is left to do the moving, and it can break free.  The Vinyl Siding Institute has an excellent set of videos guides on how to properly install vinyl siding.  

I’ve seen homes where entire walls of vinyl siding have come loose, or look very wavy.  In desperation, the homeowner or handyman often nails or screws sections of the siding into place.  The right way to repair this situation is to pull off all the wavy or loose pieces, re-attach them to the siding below and loosely nail them to the house.

#2 Holes in the House

Yes, I wrote “holes in the house”.  I see useless holes in the siding during maybe 8 out of 10 home inspections, especially in houses that are built around 1950 or earlier.  Usually these holes allow me to see into the basement. Yes, they are that large. It seems that these opening were at one time used to pass a pipe or cable into the basement, but that item was removed decades ago.  Energy efficiency obviously takes a big hit from these holes. 

My home inspection report always recommends that holes, gaps or other openings are sealed. Bugs and critters can find their way into the home through them, and heat escapes from them. Here is a nice guide on how to repair holes in vinyl and aluminum siding.

#3 Loose Bricks

Brick is not always just a siding material.  For years it was used as a structural material in place of wood, usually 3 layers (AKA “wythes”) of brick.  If this brick becomes loose, it is not just an issue of appearance. It can lead to a serious structural issue with the home or commercial building.  Most commonly, the structure of chimneys was made of brick.

If mortar becomes loose in a structural brick chimney or wall, then the structure is potentially at risk. Make sure to repair any loose mortar as soon as it is found.  If you find bricks that can be pulled out of the structure, then call a mason.

#4 Unsafe Electrical Outlets

Items plugged into outside outlets are often times exposed to rain, snow (I know, it’s only June), and standing water.  Make sure that any outside outlets on your home are protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) technology, especially those anywhere near a swimming pool  Without them, you and your family are in danger of electrocution. This type of outlet will sense when electrical current is not flowing correctly and will shut down the outlet within milliseconds.  People still die from electrocution in and around their homes. My home inspections focus on safety, especially GFCI receptacles.

#5 Drainage Around the House

Drainage is not one of those exciting dinner topics, but the fact is that water collecting around a home’s foundation leads to many problems, including water entering the basement, mold growth and potential foundation damage due to freezing and thawing during the cold months.  

A few ways to improve drainage:
Install gutters if you don’t have them

  • Replace or repair leaky gutters
  • Make sure downspouts drain at least 6 feet away from the foundation
  • Grade the landscape away from the house
  • Point sprinklers away from the house

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About the Author:

Bradley Beck

Bradley is owner of Alto Home Inspection, LLC.  He lives just south of Orchard Park, in Western New York’s Southtowns, and inspects homes throughout the Buffalo area, and is NY Licensed Home Inspector #16000086029, NY Certified Mold Assessor #MA01313.