A home inspector stands in front of a wooden deck before performing a deck inspection.

How Home Inspectors Inspect Decks & Patios

By Published On: July 27th, 2023Categories: Home Inspection Career Guide0 Comments

Inspecting decks and patios is just as important as inspecting the interior bones of a home. This is especially true during warmer months when additional enjoyment of these areas can aggravate existing problems and, sometimes, even trigger dangerous structural failures. So, let’s revisit the basics of deck and patio inspections and how you can leverage them to help grow your business.

Deck and patio inspection objectives.

You have two objectives when inspecting a deck or patio:

  1. Identify faulty construction.
  2. Determine unsafe deterioration.

Basically, your job is to determine the soundness of the outdoor structure and inform your client if it poses a safety hazard.

Inspector standards for residential decks.

Both the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI®) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) publish deck inspection guidelines:

Both are great resources you should bookmark and review periodically.

And if you don’t already know, both the AHIT home inspector training course and our primer A Practical Guide to Home Inspection teach you deck inspection procedures. So, if you’re looking for quality, flexible home inspector training, our course is the best place to start.

What to look for when inspecting decks.

A visual inspection of a deck involves inspecting its wood condition, hardware components, connections with the house, and weight-bearing features.

During your inspection, pay special attention to:

  • Wood Condition. Inspect wood surfaces and look for signs of deterioration, including wood rot, evidence of termites, and water damage.
  • Deck Supports. Inspect deck supports, including posts, columns, and footings. Look for deterioration and evaluate footing stability and surrounding soil conditions.
  • Floorboards and Joists. Check that deck floorboards and joists are properly maintained and there are no signs of cupping caused by heavy loads.
  • Fastenings. Inspecting the fastenings, ledger board, and hardware connectors that securely attach the deck to the house. Oftentimes, fasteners can become corroded and need replacement.
  • Steps and Guardrails. Check the condition of both the steps and railing. Measure spacing between balusters, riser height, and tread length – and evaluate step stringers and handrail stability.

Inspector standards for residential patios.

Patio inspections are a little different. A patio differs from a deck in that it’s a flat, ground-level area built next to a home using paving materials such as stone, slate, concrete pavers, brick, or poured concrete slab.

You’ll learn how to inspect different building materials, including those used in patios, in your home inspector training course. Plus, just as with deck inspections, there’s a helpful rundown of how to inspect a patio in A Practical Guide to Home Inspection.

We also trust and recommend these resources:

What to look for when inspecting patios.

A visual inspection of a patio involves evaluating the structural foundation of the paved material, checking sloping and drainage features, and looking for signs of mold.

Pay special attention to:

  • Loose, Cracked, or Non-Level Material. Look for loose and/or cracked materials as well as slab that isn’t level. All can pose trip hazards.
  • Slip Resistance. Check the slipperiness of the paver material. Sometimes, applying sealant to add traction to the surface is a good recommendation that can help prevent falls.
  • Sloping and Drainage Problems. Water on a patio should drain away from the home and off paver material in an ideal slope (usually ¼ inch per foot). If this doesn’t happen, standing water can degrade the material and may damage a home’s foundation.
  • Mold and/or Algae Growth. Excessive mold or algae growth can degrade the paver material faster and should be treated if severe.
  • Overgrown Vegetation. Weeds and other vegetation that spring up beneath and around a patio can shift structures and cause pitting, upheavals, and sunken areas.

When inspecting both decks and patios, ensure that the construction, dimensions, and components conform to local building codes. Keeping a copy of Code Check in your home inspector library and referencing your local building code are both good practices to help you spot issues quickly.

The biggest deck and patio safety concerns.

The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) estimates that of the 60 million decks in the U.S., about half are past their useful life and in need of repair or replacement. Deck collapses and safety rail failures are the most common issues, and both primarily occur because of faulty construction or worn-out components.

With patios, structural weaknesses of patio material caused by weather elements are the biggest causes for concern. Without regular maintenance, patios can develop trip and drainage hazards that could travel to a nearby foundation.

Market deck and patio inspection services for homeowners year-round.

A standard home inspection includes basic inspection of adjoining decks and patios. This, of course, brings necessary peace of mind to buyers and sellers in the throes of a transaction. But there’s still a case for maintenance inspections in these areas annually and seasonally if needed.

Both deck and patio inspections are services you can easily offer a la carte any time of year – outside of regular buyer or seller home inspections. Pair pool and spa inspections with these services and you’ll have a competitive seasonal offering for homeowners during the warmer months.

Learn the fundamentals of interior and exterior inspections with AHIT.

AHIT home inspector training teaches you the fundamentals of inspecting home interiors and exteriors. We’ll help you develop your skills, get licensed in your state, and start building your successful home inspection business. Learn how to become a home inspector today.

About the Author: Ashley Roe

Ashley Roe is a Content Specialist with AHIT and The CE Shop. She writes regularly about home inspection and appraisal. With a reporter's eye and a passion for learning, Ashley stays current on what's happening within each industry. Her goal is to create engaging, relevant, and useful content that both informs and inspires readers.

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