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Doing a Structural Inspection

While buyers and sellers will think of ordering a basic home inspection, not many think of a structural inspection, particularly important on older buildings. A structural inspection evaluates the structural integrity of a building or, in other words, its skeleton. It will look in great detail throughout the building from the roof to the basement or crawlspace to examine the foundation.

Why do a structural inspection?
1) The building’s structure is what holds it together. It’s absolutely important for you to be certain when purchasing a new home that it is structurally sound. If even one piece of it is compromised, the structural integrity of the building is also compromised and the consequences could be significant.
2) Structural inspections go where the naked, untrained eye might not. Most of the building’s structural components are within the walls, ceiling, etc. A home inspector is trained to detect issues by looking for evidence or clues of a possible problem.
What to expect from a structural inspection:
A reputable and well-trained inspector will survey your property or building from top to bottom, and they should do so very carefully. They will closely examine walls (interior and exterior), roof (inside and out), framing, foundation, basement, floors and ceilings, and any visible support beams or columns.
During the inspection, they are looking for any evidence that there is or might be a structural problem. Given that most structural elements are contained within the envelope of the building (many structural beams are behind walls, for example), it’s important that your inspector be experienced and skilled in this type of inspection. For example, an experienced inspector will know whether cracks in the foundation are normal or a sign of more serious issues with the structure.
A checklist for the inspector of would most likely include:
— Examining the exterior or facade of the house to check that they are straight with no sagging or cracking.
— Checking windows and door frames to ensure they are square and level; that windows aren’t bowed.
— Check the fascia board lines to ensure they are level and straight.
— Check the foundation to ensure it’s good, straight, with no serious cracks.
— Check interior walls, ceilings and floors to make certain that they’re plumb and level, not sagging.
— Check any visible structural wood such as in the attic to ensure there’s no damage, cracking, sagging.
Whether or not to do a structural inspection above and beyond a basic home inspection can be a difficult decision but you could discuss this idea with your inspector and whether or not a separate structural inspection is necessary.

You should attend the inspection and any reputable inspector will welcome your presence. It is also important to note that you should de-clutter any area you want inspected or the inspector might not go through the area and he would have good reason. You should feel free to ask any questions during the inspection, particularly if the inspector finds any issues.

Once your report is complete, you will have detailed information about the house you are purchasing (or selling). Any areas of concern will also be detailed in the report along with the recommended course of action. Most importantly, the report should detail whether or not the structure is safe and sound.

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