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Dear Barry,

I’m buying a home at a time of year when it may not be possible to obtain a thorough home inspection. The ground and much of the roof are covered with snow, making inspection of these areas nearly impossible. What can a home inspector do to evaluate these critical areas, and what can I do if roof or site problems are discovered after I complete the sale? – Greg

Dear Greg,

Snow is one of several conditions that can inhibit a home inspector’s ability to observe and report defective conditions. In any season, conditions can be 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.

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.

Dear Barry,

Our new home is currently under construction. The building is completely framed, including the roof, but the roof tiles are not yet installed. Recent rains caused most of the structure, inside and out, to become soaked, and we’re wondering if this may have damaged the building. What are the effects of rain exposure during construction? – James

Dear James,

Wood framing is often exposed to rain during the months of construction, and in most cases, this does not cause damage. In fact, lumber is typically exposed to rainfall during the time that it is in stock in the lumberyard. However, in some cases, prolonged moisture exposure can cause mold infections on lumber surfaces, and this can have negative health implications in some instances.

To ensure that no mold problems are developing in your future home, have a professional mold inspector evaluate the building prior to installation of drywall and other finish materials.

To learn more about home inspection please check out Barry’s new book, “The Consumer Advocates Guide to Home Inspection.”

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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