When you have a home inspected, your home inspector will look carefully at the structure of your home to check for signs of damage, which may include water damage, rot, or termites.
Rotting of sills often happens after years of water leaking into wood members. Wood rot in sills next to steps and slabs is very common. Unfortunately, this is because builders will often leave out metal flashing on the sill/wall/sheathing surface before the steps or slabs are poured.
In many cases it is impossible to tell if there is proper flashing where it should be. Material like “Ice and Water Shield” can sometimes be used. If you have an older home, asphalt paper may have been used, since many years back it was allowed. However, the paper can quickly deteriorate, which exposes sills to water. Your inspector may look under the siding with a mirror to see if there is some evidence of flashing.
Water stains and rot are often visible in the basement at sill areas next to steps and slabs. Sadly, there’s no way to tell how bad the rot damage truly is unless the stepss or slabs are removed. That’s why an inspector must look very carefully at these areas and do his best to assess the situation.
Another cause of weakened sills is termites. They often enter wood sill areas in a home at your outside concrete steps and slabs. Termite damage can cause structural failure and make expensive repairs necessary.
Termites can find their way into a home through gaps at the steps and slabs. That’s because steps and slabs are installed after the main foundation is poured and the grade is backfilled. This leaves just enough of a gap for termites to come in. In fact, a step or a slab is similar to a pile of dirt that’s in contact with your home. Such a pile of dirt creates an avenue where termites can sneak into a home and start eating the wood members.
A sure sign of termite damage is when you see a compressed wood member, such as the sill attached to the foundation. If the sill has weight on it, it will be mashed down like a wet sponge. That’s because the termites have eating away at the interior of the wood. That leaves holes and gaps that can collapse the sill to the consistency of cardboard.
Termites are like little building engineers. They’d rather sneak into your house than to build a termite tunnel up the side of the foundation. Therefore, an inspector must be very careful to search for termites in areas like the basement next to outside steps and slabs. Porches built on slabs are also common places for termites to get in.
If your inspector doesn’t know what to look for, he can miss evidence of termite damage. If termite damage is missed, the new home owner may be stuck with major repairs and bills after closing on the home.
While your home inspector should know about termites and the damage they cause, he shouldn’t be in the business of termite extermination and pest control. In other words, there would be a conflict of interest if he inspected the home and then got paid later to get rid of the termites. The ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) has standards prohibiting such conflicts of interest.
If termite damage is found in your home, It’s recommended that you get three estimates for repair. Negotiate before a closing or be prepared to absorb the costs yourself.