The big game is in a few days, and if you're like most people you've at least started to plan the party. Right? Well your home is worthy of that kind of planning too. Here in sunny Scottsdale, AZ, the Super Bowl usually means daytime temperatures in the 70's are here. It's a great time to make sure all your gardening and landscaping gear is ready to go for the explosion of greenery that the past wet El Niño winter will bring in just a few weeks. The chainsaw will need sharpening, and if you "forgot" to drain the fuel before you put it away last fall you'll need to give it a tune-up. .You've probably noticed weeds starting to bloom. Now is the time to apply a pre-emergent to your lawn or apply a targeted herbicide to your desert landscape. One last bit of advice before the big game: vacuum the compressor area under the refrigerator. Doing that once a year will ensure you have a fridge full of cold beer and a house full of happy guests.
Oh boy, if I had a dime for every time I get asked that question. It's usually asked at the very end of the inspection after I've discussed the major defects that I found during the home inspection. I wish I could give them the peace of mind that they're looking for, but in reality I can't. Setting aside the litigious society we live in and the implications of me "recommending" that they buy the house, what they are really saying by asking that question is that they don't fully understand the long term implications of all the problems this house has, or they're not emotionally or financially ready to be a homeowner with all the upkeep that it requires. For that reason, I will again go over the major defects found, with emphasis placed on discussing the options with their Realtor.
In the end, if they still press me for an answer, I'll tell them that I've done major home renovations doing most of the work myself. I've had my own handyman business. I have the technical knowledge and the practical hands-on expertise to fix just about any problem the house may have, from the foundation to the roof and everything in-between. It's why I became a home inspector. I can't stand shoddy workmanship and often times have to just do it myself if I want it done right. The national certification test to become a home inspector is quite intense, covering every aspect of home construction and maintenance. If someone has passed that test, chances are very good that they can do their own house repairs. Home Inspectors understand that houses are not built to stay in perfect pristine condition forever, especially in the extreme environment of the Phoenix, AZ desert. Wether you live down in Queen Creek or up in Sun City, walls crack, the ground moves and the rains always find a way inside. It's not any less of a house if the repairs are done right.
Yes, I would buy this house, but maybe you shouldn't.
One of the most important things that you need to know when buying a home is the condition of the roof. Specifically the roof covering. Here in sunny Phoenix, Arizona the two most common roof coverings are composition shingle or concrete tile. I'm going to be talking about something common to both: the underlayment. The underlayment is a water-resistant layer of "roofing felt" or "tar paper" that lays between the roof deck and the shingles or tiles. It's primary purpose is to keep the wood roof deck dry while shedding any water that may get under the shingles or tiles down the slope of the roof. It's a very important job, and sadly, one that is often done incorrectly by both DIYers and roofers.
The roof inspection, as part of a home inspection, includes assessing the condition of the underlayment. Put a ladder up against the lower horizontal edge of the roof, aka the eave, and with a bright flashlight, peek under the first row of shingles or tiles at the drip edge. Can you see the end of the felt underlayment? If so, great, the felt was properly installed on top of the metal drip-edge flashing. If the felt is under the drip-edge flashing at the eave, any water running down (on top of) the felt will flow under the metal drip-edge and get trapped against the top of the wood fascia. Even here in dry Arizona, this will eventually lead to a rotted fascia. This is a very common DIY mistake, thinking the drip edge is supposed to hold the felt in place at the edge. The photo below is from a recent inspection in which the underlayment was under the drip-edge at the eave.
Now head over to the sloped edge of the roof, aka the rake. Looking under the shingles or tiles in this area you should see the opposite of what you saw at the eave. The felt underlayment should be under the drip edge. But why, you ask? Isn't the water going to get under the drip edge and rot the rake board? Well, this is a case where the goal is to keep the damage to a minimum, given the weather. The theory is that any water that gets under the shingles/tiles will be traveling down the roof slope and so will not get under the edge of the drip-edge flashing. Much. The bigger priority is to keep wind-driven or slanted rain from getting under the edge of the underlayment.
OK, time to get up on the roof. As a home inspector, the most dangerous part of my job is that moment when I step onto or off of a roof. Practice ladder safety an be careful up there. You're looking for missing or damaged shingles/tiles that expose the underlayment below. This is a very bad thing. The purpose of the shingles and tiles, other than impact protection, is to keep the blazing hot Arizona sun from deteriorating the felt underlayment. An underlayment should last up to 50 years, but if exposed to the sun, it won't last through two summers. If the felt is exposed and you can see the wood roof deck below, it's time to call in a licensed roofer. You may also need a drywall repair contractor for the ceiling below. Here's a picture from a recent inspection showing the overhead view of a cracked concrete tile that has slid down and exposed the underlayment. The underlayment is deteriorated and the wood roof deck is showing. The ceiling below had extensive drywall damage.
So there you have it, the wild life of inspecting the roof underlayment. It's usually unseen, but is the most important part of your roof covering system.