As you walk around the house inspecting the walls, windows, trim, and doors, look for cracked and open joints. All exterior joints should be caulked (sealed) so that they are watertight and airtight. If they are not adequately caulked, wind-driven rain can enter and cause wood members to rot, metal ties to rust, and masonry sections to crack and chip. In addition, cold air can infiltrate the house, resulting in higher heating costs. A vulnerable joint for cracking is one that joins two dissimilar materials; for example, the joint between a brick facing and a nonmasonry sidewall. Dissimilar materials usually have different expansion and contraction characteristics, often causing the joints between them to crack and open. These joints should be sealed with a nonshrinking flexible caulking compound.

There are several types of caulking compounds. The four most popular types are oil base, acrylic latex base, butyl-rubber base, and silicone base. Oil base caulking compounds are the cheapest and will readily bond to most surfaces-wood, masonry, and metal. However, they are not very durable; they tend to dry and crack after a short time. Joints sealed with this type of caulk require periodic inspection and maintenance. Acrylic latex caulking compounds are medium-priced, durable, and flexible, and should last for many years. Butyl-rubber caulks are medium-priced, durable, and paintable; however, they exhibit high shrinkage, a characteristic that is acceptable when caulking narrow cracks and inside corners. Silicone-base caulks are the most expensive. They are very pliable and are good for sealing joints subject to movement. No one caulking compound is ideally suited for every application. However, based on cost, durability, and ease of application, acrylic-latex caulks are considered by many to be the best choice.

When inspecting the exterior joints, check the condition of the caulking. Look for cracked, chipped, crumbly, and missing caulking compound. The location of joints that need recaulking should be recorded on your worksheet. Recaulking is a relatively simple task and can be done after you move into the house.

Checkpoint summary

General considerations

  • Inspect exterior walls for sagging, bulging sections, and for corners that are not vertical.
  • Check for window frames and door frames that are not square.
  • Structural problems whose cause cannot be determined should be evaluated by a professional.
  • Note wall locations that have pipe or hood projections.
  • Determine their usage (i.e., sump-pump discharge, condensate line, dryer vent, etc.).
  • Check for vines growing up the exterior walls.

Exterior walls

Wood siding (shingles, shakes, boards, plywood panels, hardboard)

  • Check bottom course of siding for sections in contact with, or in close proximity to, the ground (less than 8 inches).
  • Check wood shingles/shakes for open joints, cracked, chipped, loose, or missing sections.
  • Note areas of rot or discolorations.
  • Check for peeling and flaking paint and warped shingles, particularly on sidewalls with a southerly or southwesterly exposure.
  • Inspect for poor-quality shingles and shingles that have been improperly nailed.
  • Check wood boards for open joints, cracked and rotting sections, loose or missing knots, peeling paint, and blistered sections.
  • Inspect plywood panels for open joints, loose, warped, cracked, delaminated, or rotting sections.
  • Check hardboard siding for cracked, deteriorated, or loose sections.

Aluminum/vinyl siding

  • Check aluminum siding for loose, missing, torn, or dented sections.
  • Check joints for open sections and weathertightness.
  • Does siding contain insulation backer boards?
  • Check siding for an electrical ground connection. (This requirement can be verified with the local building department.)
  • Check vinyl siding for open joints, loose, cracked, or sagging sections.
  • Check vinyl panels for waviness and blisters.

Asbestos-cement shingles/asphalt siding

  • Check asbestos-cement shingles for loose or missing sections; cracked, chipped, and broken areas.
  • Inspect asphalt siding for open or lifting joints; missing, loose, torn, cracked, chipped, or eroding sections.

Stucco-cement–finished walls

  • Check for bulging, missing, loose, cracked, or chipped sections. Note areas in need of rehabilitation.
  • If stucco is painted, check condition.

Synthetic stucco (EIFS)

  • Check for cracked and open joints at the interface between the EIFS and windows, doors, wall penetrations, and so on.
  • Are there indications of moisture in those areas?

Veneer and masonry walls

  • Inspect for loose or bulging sections and large open cracks, particularly around door and window frames.
  • Check for cracked, chipped, or missing sections of brick or stone.
  • Inspect mortar joints for deterioration, cracked or loose sections.
  • Check exterior surfaces on masonry walls for signs of water seepage (efflorescence).


❍ Check trim for cracked, loose, missing, or rotting sections.

  • Inspect for areas of bare wood, blistered and peeling paint.
  • Check nonwood trim for cracked, torn, missing, or loose sections.


  • Check for cracked, broken, or missing panes.
  • Are any of the windows painted shut?
  • Are the panes properly secured to the sashes?
  • Check the condition of the window frames and sashes.

Exterior doors

  • Check for cracked, chipped, broken, or delaminating sections.
  • Check for weatherstripping around exterior joints.

Storm windows, screens, and storm doors

  • Check for missing units and/or partial installations.
  • Inspect storm windows for loose, cracked, broken, or missing panes.
  • Inspect wood units for cracked, broken, or rotting sections.
  • Inspect combination units for loose, broken, rusting, or corroded sections.
  • Inspect screens for torn sections and holes.
  • Inspect doors for ease of operation; missing glass; cracked, broken, rotting, or corroded sections.


❍ Check joints for cracked, chipped, crumbly, missing, or loose areas of caulking compound.

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