Home Survey: How to Assess the State of Your Property
1. Get your priorities right
Carry out a survey to make sure your home is weathertight, safe and theft-proof.
Start your home survey with the roof. A pair of binoculars is useful for inspecting it without having to climb a ladder. If you can’t see the whole roof surface from the garden or the street, ask to view it from a neighbour’s property.
Before you start any DIY, make sure you know where the water and gas stoptaps and main electricity supply switch are located. Locate all the drains and make sure you can access them easily if a drain becomes blocked.
Go into the loft to inspect the underside of the roof. Look for water stains on the timbers and for signs of rain getting in. Examine the roof timbers for woodrot. Lastly, check the eaves for ventilators—a badly ventilated roof space can be liable to dry rot, which often sets in along the eaves.
Check the gutters and downpipes for blockages. Stains on the house walls can reveal where previous overflows have occurred. The next time it rains, check where gutters are overflowing or where water is leaking from downpipe joints.
6. Is the woodwork sound?
Prod the external woodwork with a bradawl to detect rot under the paintwork and look round the edges of doors and windows for gaps where rainwater could penetrate—especially on north and west-facing walls, which are most exposed to the weather.
Subsidence is the most serious problem you might detect. It occurs most commonly on clay soil, which expands when wet and then contracts as it dries out. Look at the corners of your house, are they vertical and square? Zigzag cracks running down the walls from the corners of doors and window frames are signs of possible subsidence.