Wood Warning Signs to Look for When You’re Buying a New Home

If your buying a home in the Austin area there are many options to choose from whether it be a brand new build or a century old historic home. Regardless of what type of home you’re looking for, there are warning signs to take note of when it comes to wood features and structures.

Buying a Home

Some things are easy to fix while others will be costly projects that can affect the value of the home. To make sure you’re in the strongest negotiating position keep an eye out for these wood warning signs before putting in an offer.

Insect Damage

Wood destroying insects are aptly named. Termites, carpenter ants and acrobat ants all reside in Texas making homes, decks and other wooden structures into their meals. If not taken care of promptly they can create serious and costly structural issues. Sellers have to list any known termite damage, but what they don’t know could hurt you.

Sagging and cracking can be signs of an infestation. Seeing frass, a combination of wood shavings, insect parts and feces, is a tell-tell sign that wood destroying insects are present. Also look for mounds in the yard that could be the nests of subterranean termites or ants. It’s important to get a termite inspection done during the contingency period because past and current problems may be lurking below the surface.

Structural Issues

Just like the foundation of the home, you’ll want to look for structural issues on decks, patios and outdoor structures. If you can examine the underbelly of the deck as well since most of the structural elements will be below the decking.

Leaning – If the structure isn’t standing upright that’s an indicator there are structural problems lurking somewhere. It could be foundational or from the supports.

Sagging – Get to where you are eye level with the floor of the structure. Do you see any sagging or are things level? Sagging spots indicate weak points in the structure that need to be addressed ASAP.

Posts – Carefully examine the posts to look for signs of wear, wood rot and integrity issues. Also pay attention to how they are secured to the ground. Put some pressure on them to see how solid they are.

Rails – Walk along the entire deck paying attention to the rails. Look for mixing or broken slats. Every few feet put pressure on the rail to make sure there is no movement.

Wood Rot

Wood rot can set in very quickly, so even newer homes and decks can be plagued with this problem. Wood rot occurs when moisture is present and the moisture content of wood is high – usually 20% or more. Of course, this means that wood structures that are exposed to the elements are particularly susceptible. However, this isn’t just a problem that’s isolated to decks and porches. Wood rot can also be present around windowsills, exterior doors and the trim around the roof line.

Take a pencil with you when you are viewing homes. Look for spots that are discolored or look dried out. Also feel around for any spongy feeling spots in decking. Push the pencil against any questionable spots. If it sinks in easily then that’s a strong indicator wood rot is present.

For more details on identifying decay problems check out our previous post on the three types of wood rot.

What Type of Wood Was Used

Knowing what type of wood was used to build a structure is important for maintaining the wood in the future and having a better understanding of its durability. There are also the secondary issues like allergies that could arise with certain types of wood.


Age of the Wood Deck or Feature

Along with what type of wood is used, another good question to ask is, when was this structure built. Many types of wood have long life cycles of 20+ years, but wood decks, porches and patios won’t last forever. If the structure is getting close to the end of its useful life you’ll need to consider the cost of removing and/or replacing it.

It’s always important to enlist the help of professionals if you’re unsure of a wood feature’s integrity, and getting a home inspection is a must. Wood is one of the most beautiful construction materials available, but if it’s not well maintained you’ll be left with a lot of projects to take care of right after moving in.

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/5474212169/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/b0jangles/4666657798/

Original Source: http://timbertownaustin.com/real-estate/wood-warning-signs-to-look-for-when-youre-buying-a-new-home

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