Category Archives: Exterior


Something is mesmerizing about watching a crawl space go through an encapsulation process. What do I mean by “encapsulation?” Basically, it means sealing a crawl space so that a house can avoid indoor moisture issues. 

Typically, a heavy-duty polyethylene barrier is added to completely cover the crawl space—usually the floors, and sometimes the foundation walls and even the ceiling.

The process is especially impressive when you start with a dirty, damp area and end with a bright, clean space (like the one featured in the video below).

While I don’t think every house needs or should be entirely encapsulated, I always recommend that homes in our area layer the crawl space ground with a plastic vapor barrier.

This was especially evident during a recent home inspection on Lopez Island, where I noticed apparent mold growth underneath the home in the crawl space at floor joists and pressboard floor sheathing elements. I recommended the installation of a vapor barrier, covering all exposed ground in the crawl space, to help prevent recurrence. 

Oh, and I should probably answer the question posed in the headline. The answer/punchline? They should all have good coverage! My wife is currently shaking her head as I write this. Regardless, feel free to use this material at your next cocktail party. You have my permission.

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


I don’t know about you, but I enjoy lounging on decks that don’t collapse. 

If you are like me and also appreciate structural stability, you should really consider installing metal support hardware throughout your deck system.

For example, I recently came across a home in San Juan County with an exterior deck and stair system in need of metal post-to-base hardware installation for improved security. Some of the underlying support columns were very loose and, therefore, the deck was not necessarily considered stable.

Metal support hardware can help stabilize decks and stair systems and should always be used. The video below shows one example of how to install metal support hardware on a railing system while giving you an idea of why it’s so important. Thanks for watching!

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


The removal of organic growth from chimney systems is critical when it comes to preventing water damage and extending the serviceable life of chimney infrastructure. In the wet climate of the Pacific Northwest, this is especially pertinent.

During a recent inspection in Bellingham, I came across a chimney system with extensive organic growth. In this case, I recommended improving the system with a masonry sealant/water repellent, once organic growth had been removed.  There are differing industry opinions about waterproofing masonry elements; some contractors argue that applying a sealant can make the issue worse and lead to masonry damage, others say that it’s absolutely necessary to prevent water damage.  At a minimum, in my opinion, it’s imperative to keep moss growth maintained and prevent its growth on expensive masonry elements which can lead to costly repairs down the road.  

Check out the video below to see how one chimney sweep company uses a waterproofing agent to protect chimney systems. Thanks for watching!

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them.

This month, we talk exterior paint with David Stegman, Owner of Stegman Painting in Friday Harbor.

Q1: How often is it necessary to paint the home’s exterior? 

“With paint being the most durable of the options for a finish on the typical wood-sided home, you can expect to get eight to 12 years from properly applied quality paint. Higher sheen paints such as a semi-gloss will last a few years longer because some of the sun’s energy is reflected away from the paint. Sun is what most damages a paint, so areas such as fascia board and the sunny sides of buildings will likely wear out first.”

Q2: Caulking often fails. What’s the best quality caulking you recommend for exterior applications?

“Caulking has the number of months it should be good for on the side of the tube. The better caulks are rated for 45 years or more. One of the things I look for is caulk that contains Elastomeric. Elastomeric additives make the caulk very good at expanding and contracting as the building warms and cools.”

Q3: Do you have any pet peeves or advice for our audience about exterior paint issues and maintenance?

“I often hear from homeowners that they have been told they must repaint because they see black and green stains on the walls. Some contractors take advantage of the owner’s lack of understanding that mold and mildew is often the cause of these stains and can be removed with a fungicide or bleach. Often, there is no need to repaint.”

About Stegman Painting

Stegman Painting specializes in interior and exterior paint, stain, and varnish work (including pressure washing) for both residential and commercial properties. The company was started by Bill Stegman and his brother Ernie in 1925. Bill’s son Duane took over when Bill retired and moved the business to Anacortes in 1974. Duane’s son (David) now operates Stegman Painting LLC in Friday Harbor, which serves San Juan County. His sister, Deborah Stegman Steiner, runs Stegman Painting of Anacortes, which serves Skagit County, as well as parts of Whatcom and Island Counties. 

A big “thanks” to David for his responses!

Questions or comments about painting or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


Did you know you can insulate your home with a lot of unexpected materials? Carpet, curtains, straw, wool, newspaper…there are lots of items that can be used to keep out the elements. Older houses in particular often utilize unusual objects.

With that said, I’m not advocating for homeowners to throw just anything into the attic or between the walls and floors of their homes. What you use will depend on your home’s unique needs, and if insulation materials are fireproof and have been appropriately treated (for issues such as decomposition). 

During a recent inspection in Langley on Whidbey Island. I came across an attic that was unprofessionally and unconventionally insulated with foam packaging materials. I considered this a safety issue because foam “peanuts”—and similar substances—have not been tested, rated or listed for use as insulation in residential structures. Therefore, they are not likely protected against ignition as required by building codes. Packing materials can be quite flammable and emit toxic fumes.  

Do you have questions or comments about insulation or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


Vapor barriers are ideal for reducing/limiting moisture in the ground from evaporating and migrating up into the crawl space. This helps to prevent problems that arise when moisture condenses on cold surfaces, such as ductwork and wood. 

Unless you enjoy hearing phrases such as wood rot, mold and mildew, you’d be well-advised to use a vapor barrier. The takeaway? A vapor barrier is a good idea.

But what about vapor barriers? As in multiple barriers being used at the same time? Do you get extra credit if you use more?


In fact, I recently came across a crawl space in which two vapor barriers were installed in the crawl space. In my report, I wrote that the use of two vapor barriers actually causes problems because water can become entrapped between vapor barrier layers, prolonging evaporation time which can lead to stagnant water conditions. 

In other words, one barrier is more than enough.

Do you have questions or comments about vapor barriers, crawl spaces or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


During a recent home inspection on Orcas Island, I came across a CMU masonry chimney system that made me feel like I was a comedian. That’s because it was cracking up. Get it, “cracking up?”

Okay, I admit that was pretty bad. Alright, back to the chimney, minus the poor attempt at humor. Maybe…

Chimney cracks do come in all shapes and sizes. As you’ll see in the video, this particular crack extended nearly the entire length of the system when viewed from the outside. I say nearly because outwardly, it appeared to stop just short of the home’s independent footing. This is important because if it did, it would be a telltale sign of potential significant structural damage.

However, without popping off the chimney cap at the top, it was impossible for me to know this for sure. The best course of action, in this case, was to recommend further evaluation by a qualified contractor, who could verify my initial hunches and also seal the cracks.

While these cracks were probably not a big deal, they were the likely contributing factor to water intrusion (presenting as efflorescence deposits and water stains) near the fireplace in the home’s living room. Invasive moisture is just one of many reasons to repair chimney cracks.

See, no more terrible jokes. At least until next time, right?

Do you have questions or comments about chimney cracks or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


During a recent trip to Oak Harbor, I came across an issue I see relatively often: dryer vent ducting discharging into a lint catchment system in the interior of the home. In this case, the ducting deposited lint and moist air straight into the garage.

There are many reasons not to do this (including so your home doesn’t smell like a laundromat). Moisture buildup (which could lead to issues such as mold growth and deterioration) and an increased risk of fire from lint accumulation probably top the list.

In other words, it’s not a good idea.

Making sure you have configured your dryer system correctly is more important than you think, and there is a definite list of “do’s and don’ts” to consider. 

By the way: Did you know the first hand-cranked clothes dryerwas manufactured in 1800? I thought you might find that interesting. I did, at least.

Do you have questions or comments about dryer vent ducting, separating whites and colors or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


Even though it may be a bit alarming to see a large crack in the foundation of your home, a good deal of the time it’s not something to fret over. For instance, the character of a crack can tell you a lot about how serious it may be regarding structural integrity. 

During a recent home inspection in Langley, Washington, I came across a good-sized break in a concrete foundation that had “rounded edges”—as opposed to a “sharp” or “fresh” cracks. This pattern told me it was likely historical. Furthermore, structural engineers had outfitted the home with concrete supports to contain any further settling issues, and the homeowner provided me with a letter from an engineer that showed the matter as previously evaluated.  

In the end, monitoring for movement into the future and repairing if noted is all you can do.

Do you have questions or comments about foundations, settling cracks or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).


I recently came across a common issue during a home inspection in Eastsound on Orcas Island: deterioration and fungal growth at window head trim elements. Unfortunately, in this case, there was the possibility of underlying damage not visible without invasive inspection.

The builders on this home used Spruce Pine Fir (SPF) trim, as opposed to cedar wood. I recommended the owners consider replacing any deteriorated SPF with cedar because cedar is naturally rot resistant and will have extended serviceable life upon installation.

In other words, cedar is ideal for homes in the northwest. It may come at a higher price up front, but its long-lasting features will make it a great value down the road.

For homeowners debating between cedar and SPF trim, there is no contest when it comes to quality.

Do you have questions or comments about window trim, construction materials or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).