Home inspection are conducted year-round. Winter weather can pose unique problems for home inspectors who conduct home inspections during the colder months of the year in some areas of the country. If a big snow occurs just prior to your winter home inspection, the home inspector will be limited in what he or she can do. Home buyers living in areas of the country where snowfall is common, such as Colorado, should be aware of the limitations of a winter home inspection.
During the winter months, an inspector may be able to clear snow from a small section of roof to see a get a general idea of its composition and condition, but they may not be able to make a thorough assessment of the entire roof. However, with snow across a roof, a home inspector will be able to notice if there are spotty areas where the snow has melted, or whether there are ice dams, and hanging icicles. Ice damming is one of those issues that reveal themselves only in freezing temperatures. These can all be signs of insulation problems. A poorly insulated attic can allow too much warm air to escape through the roof causing ice dams and damage to the roof. Landscaping, patios, decks, sidewalks, irrigation systems and driveways are other areas where a winter home inspection may be limited.
Many buyers are unaware that air-conditioning systems cannot be tested during the colder months. Running an air conditioner when the outside temperature is below 65 degrees could damage the compressor and pump. While you may not be able to have an accurate air conditioning test in winter, you might be account for it in your home purchase contract. Ask your Realtor if your contract can be revised to cover any sort of problem that may arise with the air conditioning when temperatures allow testing.
However, having a home inspection in the middle of winter does not have to be a complete waste of time and money. Changing seasons can teach you something important about your house or the house you are about to purchase. Some home potential issues may not be visible because of the snow, and yet winter also presents an opportunity to see other things that the snow can teach you about the house. Other weather conditions not necessarily limited to winter, like high winds, heavy rain or hail can also make a home inspection difficult.
While winter weather can’t be controlled there may be ways to work around it. Most contracts to purchase give the buyer several days to have the inspection completed. Check the weather forecast to see when the best time to inspect would be during this window of time. Sellers may, at times, extend the inspection objection deadline to allow inspection of the entire property. In addition, scheduling inspections earlier in the day helps inspectors with visibility on exteriors during the darker winter months.
There are some advantages to winter home inspections. In cold weather months it is much easier to detect drafts around doors and windows. Insulation failures are also easier to detect. During the summer months, attics can reach temps of over 120 degrees making it difficult to detect insulation areas of concern. In the winter cold spots and/or drafts are much more obvious. Also, with a heavy snowpack on the roof, it presents an opportunity to check the integrity of the framing. It is easy to spot condensation on windows in the winter. Condensation can indicate higher than normal levels of humidity in a home. This may not be a big concern if the condensation appears on windows in the bathroom after a shower or in the kitchen, however, condensation can mean that there is a problem with ventilation in a home.