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The Basics of Inspecting a Porch

A porch is a roofed extension of the house and typically built as part of the house.  When inspecting a porch, inspect the porch stairs for the condition and any safety hazards.  Also inspect for the following:

  • Supports: Porch columns and posts support the roof above and the floor system.  They are typically either wood, metal, concrete, brick or stone. Columns and posts should have their own footings to prevent settling.  The home inspector should try to gain access under the porch to determine if the support materials are in good condition, inspecting for wood rot, mortar deterioration, settling and so on.  The floor joists and beams, should also be inspected from underneath to determine whether they’re properly spanned to support the loads on the floor porch, their condition, and if they are properly supported at their ends.

  • Roof structure: The home inspector should eye the roof of a porch to spot sagging. Check for any separation of the porch roof from the structure (house).  The ceiling of the porch should also be inspected for sagging and any indications of leaking.  Also be sure to keep your eyes open for any wood rot.

  • Floors: Open porches are built with a floor that slightly slopes away from the house to allow rain/moisture to drain away.  Porches that are later enclosed often keep the same pitched floor.  Examine floors for wood rot.  Just as with wooden steps, a wooden porch floor should not be covered with outdoor carpeting as it holds moisture and promotes decay.

  • Railings: Know your local code as to when porch railings are required, generally 18”-30” or more from the ground. Balusters should be 4” or less.  Report any variation from these requirements as potential safety hazards. This may seem like a minor detail, however, toddlers can squeeze through openings of less than 5”, and there are tragic stories about children getting their bodies through balusters and getting injured.

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