5 Ways to Identify Building Envelop Failure

The building envelope of a home provides a climate-controlled indoor environment and comprises all elements of its outer shell. These elements include

  • Exterior walls
  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Windows
  • Doors

The design of a home’s building envelope moderates the indoor temperature; prevent water, dust, and wind intrusion; minimize energy loss; and prevent weather elements from being trapped inside the walls. All building envelopes are vulnerable to failures, making home building envelope inspections an important aspect of home buying, even for new home construction. As the demand for homes continues, all home assembly can be rushed, increasing the risk for a home envelope to vulnerable to intrusion or failure.

If you are assisting a client with the purchase of an older home, recommending a home inspection is often welcomed and expected. Clients looking to buy a newly built home may not expect a pre-purchase home inspection recommendation. It is imperative to discuss the potential failures of a home building envelope and that even newly constructed homes can have failures—new does not equate to perfection. And a new home construction inspection can help your client to get issues corrected by the builder without push-back.

Here are 5 types of structural defects and how they can be identified.

  • Home Insulation. When moisture enters the building’s atmosphere, long-term damage can occur. The insulation itself was installed to help keep—especially moisture and heat—For example, if key wood structures are exposed to excessive moisture, they can be seriously weakened. Moisture can create rotting. Once wood is weakened from this kind of deterioration, it won’t support walls or ceiling components adequately. Hence, inspections need to include a proper assessment of how well a building’s insulation is working.
  • Material Expansion. Concrete and other masonry are often subject to thermal expansion. This type of problem is hard to detect. Therefore, many structural experts in the field recommend frequent building inspections throughout the build of a home to catch this kind of ‘expansion’ early in its development. Home inspections at different times of the year can also provide additional insight.
  • Water Intrusion. Water can get in a home through a variety of avenues—the roof, garage, windows, doors, etc. It only needs a small crack in a wall or roof to create a big problem. If water penetrates key structural areas, a lot of damage may result.
  • Poor Build Quality. Spotting poor workmanship is yet another sign that problems may lie around the corner. For instance, if two beams are designed to line up flush against one another, the gap an inspector discovers in between them may show the beams will move toward or away from one another as time goes on. And although they may be bolted in some type of brace, the compromise made by the workers can lead to a real structural shift—even cracks in the outer structure as the central frame shifts. Inspecting the core joints that are part of the central structure can help adjustments to be made, strengthening the primary supports in the framework. Other evidence of shoddy craftsmanship can point you toward potential leaks, air passage and moisture entrance, or other kinds of undesirable outcomes.
  • Air Leakage. Once air enters a structure, it can lead to condensation if the humidity from outside gets drawn inside or structural damage during a major storm. A blower door test can determine where such leaks need to be filled or where surrounding surfaces need to be redone.
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