How To Inspect A Building Envelope

How To Inspect A Building Envelope

Building envelopes are made to last a long time, but they can’t do that without some extra help. Inspecting the building envelope is a crucial part of keeping it healthy and functioning.

Common Ways To Inspect A Building Envelope

When looking to inspect a building envelope, there are some general tips that homeowners themselves can abide by to get a surface level understanding of how their home envelope is performing, and where it needs additional attention.

The DIY Inspection

While many building envelope errors solutions cannot be installed or even identified, without proper training, there are some things that the average homeowner can find if they know what to look for.

At least twice a year, it is recommended to perform a full-house inspection. During this inspection, the homeowner should investigate every single component of their home for structural integrity. This includes floors, walls, ceilings, lighting fixtures, doorways, windows, interior trim, cabling, and vents. Each should be individually inspected for signs of damage and/or improper installation. Even a general feeling that something doesn’t look quite right can lead to improvement.

There’s no harm in inspecting the home yourself. Many times, it is welcomed by the home inspector before they arrive, as it can assist them in starting off their own inspection with a more informed perspective.

  • Structural Issues

    • Damage, dirt, grime, or discoloration of building components (walls, floors, ceilings, vents, etc.)
    • Old sealers, fasteners, caulk or weatherstripping which needs replacement
    • Loose, crooked, or improperly installed additions such as vent gates, window panes, hatches,  etc.
    • Splits, cracks, or tears in connecting materials
    • Drafts throughout the house

  • Outside Forces

    • Moisture damage
    • Mold growth or buildup
    • Wind, rain, general weather damage to exterior envelope components
    • Pests infestations, nests, or signs of inhabitants
    • Vegetative growth

Advanced Testing Measures

Visual inspections have their benefits, but they can’t catch everything. To get a fuller understanding of how the building envelope is truly performing, advanced techniques are often called upon to provide deeper data.

Home inspectors often use infrared scans to identify locations on a home where cold air creeps in or hot air escapes. While a visual test may identify some obvious patches of energy loss, thermal scanning can pinpoint much more specific locations, which can add up to big energy losses.

Once areas of need are identified by the home inspector, they can perform a deeper look at the problem area. This deeper investigation can include the removal of portions of siding, roofing, or interior walls to inspect the structural integrity of the building envelope system at its core levels. Home inspectors rarely reach this step of the process without approval from the homeowner and the provision that all removed materials will be replaced.

These advanced testing measures can allow home inspectors to identify rarely seen causes of home energy loss. Often times these advanced means can also create solutions which not only fix the current problem, but create long-lasting preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of it occurring again.

Biannual home inspections help catch structural problems which may occur seasonally, and prevent a snowballing effect of building envelope damage — thus preventing more upfront repair costs.