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Curb Appeal: Five Tips for Inspecting Your Landscape

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RISMEDIA, Oct. 1, 2007-If you’re a homeowner, chances are you will spend a portion of your weekend landscaping your yard. Whether you’re over-seeding the lawn, mulching the garden or planting shrubs and trees, landscaping is a great tool to increase the perceived value of your home. What homeowners and potential buyers may not consider, however, is how landscaping may affect a home. From water intrusion to deck safety, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) reminds homeowners and buyers about the importance of exterior inspections.

“The landscape always changes,” said Frank Lesh, 2007 ASHI president. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, 36% of recent home buyers made improvements to their landscaping shortly after moving in, another 20% plan to upgrade their landscaping within two years of buying a home.

“Every time you add a tree, shift soil or build an addition, you’re changing the way water flows through your yard or adding a new hiding place for rodents or insects,” added Lesh. That’s why ASHI recommends paying careful attention to the landscape and regularly evaluating how changes — big or small – -may affect your home.

Inspecting Your Landscape

Whether you’re selling, buying or interested in general maintenance, ASHI suggests taking a close look at the home’s exterior. Below are five tips for inspecting your landscape:

1. Identify the placement of tree limbs -Identify overgrown tree limbs hanging over the chimney or flue. Blockages could affect the draft and create higher carbon monoxide levels within a home.

2. Look for problems underground – Sometimes roots will become visible, lifting or cracking a sidewalk or driveway, which could create a trip hazard. Home buyers and owners should also look for depressions in a yard, which could indicate a leaking sewer line, as a result of root interference, that may need to be checked.

3. Survey the grading – Drive around the block and take a good look at the property. Identify whether it’s at the bottom of a hillside, at the top of one, or on flat land. Also look at the relationship to the surrounding yards and determine whether the neighbor’s yard is higher. It’s important that water is channeled away from a house rather than toward it to prevent basement leaks and damage to the exterior.

4. Determine foliage proximity — Watch for foliage that is close to the exterior of a house. It can provide shelter for insects and rodents and give them an excellent vantage point to enter a home. Also, take note of shrubs that are too close to the building as the wind may cause them to rub up against the house and wear down the siding.

5. Inspect your deck- While a deck isn’t a living part of the landscape, it’s still an important element to inspect. All residential decks should have a standard 36-inch railing and the balusters (vertical supports used between posts of a railing) should be no more than 4- inches apart (measured from the inside of the rails) to keep children and small pets from squeezing through or getting stuck - Also look for split or decaying wood and loose or corroded fasteners (nails, screws or anchors) that may compromise the deck’s stability.

“It’s best that homeowners evaluate their property every two years,” added Lesh. “We also recommend that potential home buyers hire an inspector who evaluates the home’s exterior as well as its interior – an ASHI requirement – before making a purchase.”

For more information, visit www.ASHI.org.

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