The Piedmont Triad area of NC typically only receives what many northern parts of the country may call a “dusting” of snow once or twice over the winter months. However, this weekend, a nice thick blanket came down. Winter home shoppers are fortunate our area has such a mild climate, because, snow is one of several conditions that can inhibit a home inspector’s ability to observe and report defective conditions.
In any season, inspections have encounter challenges observing key components of the home. Often we find issues which have been concealed by furniture, storage, landscaping, or simply by containment within the construction or burial beneath the ground. Snow, however, is particularly problematic because it can prevent inspection of two particularly sensitive and essential areas within the scope of a home inspection: roofing conditions and ground drainage. As experienced inspectors, we can still look for clues that can provide insight if the systems are working properly.
Depending upon the severity of weather conditions and the depth of snow coverage, inspection of roofing can be significantly limited by winter conditions. Removal of snow buildup is typically not advised because a heavy layer of snow and ice sliding off a roof can cause personal injury. However, it is possible for an inspector to gain some perspective with regard to roof conditions without viewing the entire roof surface. Exposed edges can reveal the numbers of roof layers, and a representative number of shingles can be inspected by scraping the snow from roofing at the eaves. Additionally, the likelihood of roof leakage can be ascertained because the slow melting of ice and snow can produce leaks more readily than rain runoff.
Regardless of snow coverage, the attic space remains accessible, and this is another area where evidence of leakage can be detected. Additionally, an attic inspection can reveal when snow loads are adversely affecting the integrity of the roof framing.
Snow coverage also prevents evaluation of site grading and ground drainage, conditions that can have major implications in some cases. If possible, snow should be cleared at the building’s perimeter to enable a reasonable inspection. If this is not possible, you can request that some of the sellers’ proceeds be withheld at the conclusion of the sale, pending further inspection during warmer weather. Sellers may not be warm to this kind of arrangement, but such proposals are definitely negotiable. As much as possible, assume the approach that protects your financial interests and seems most reasonable, in accordance with observed conditions at the property. Fortunately, we thaw out pretty quickly here in North Carolina, so a re-inspection is typically not an issue.