The first time you invest in commercial real estate, you’re likely to fall in love. However, even in love, you spend some time looking for flaws and weak spots that might cause you trouble later. The Inspection process is as vital for commercial properties as it is for residential homes. Here are a few of the most critical inspections to perform before you invest:
A neglected roof is one of the most dangerous features of any property. Not only can leaks cause further damage to structural elements as well as valuables inside, but a weak roof could collapse, causing untold destruction. Different types of roofs show different types of wear; for example:
• Asphalt shingles: mineral granules worn off, lumps around roof
• Wood shingles: cupping and warping, cracks and splits, thin wood, invasion of insects or birds
• Clay tiles: broken and missing tiles
• Slate: flaking, broken, or missing slates
• Metal: evidence of patching, rust or corrosion spots, punctures in metal, broken seams and joints
Even the best quality exterior material breaks down thanks to the endless onslaught of weather. A weak exterior wall ruins temperature insulation and can permit pests, like insects, rodents, and birds, into the interior space. As with roofs, different exterior materials deteriorate in different ways:
• Masonry and mortar: cracks especially through masonry units, missing units, loose mortar joints, stains, wet spots, bulging
• Stucco or plaster: cracks, stains, loose stucco, fallen stucco, soft spots, blisters
• Siding, shingles, or sheathing: cracked or broken boards, loose boards, rotten boards, missing boards, veins of dirt
Plumbing and Sewage
Not all plumbing is created equal. Typically, only commercial plumbers can adequately service largescale systems, so any inspections of your pipes should be performed by someone experienced with commercial properties. Fortunately, there are a few common signs that your plumbing is not in tip-top shape:
• Foundation cracks
• Sewer odors
• Chronically clogged drains
• Leaking pipes
• Mold or mildew
Speaking of mold, you absolutely cannot skip your mold inspection. Not any fungus growing on the walls is dangerous; in fact, a little white fuzz in the corner of a bathroom is likely perfectly normal and easily removed with a good scrub. True mold — the kind that causes extreme illness and lifelong respiratory problems — is much more difficult to detect. Often, mold will begin its infestation in areas you can’t see, like attics, the backs of cabinets, and behind drywall. In truth, you should test the air quality of your investment building every year; if toxic mold is detected, you should schedule commercial mold removal immediately. This will prevent the mold from spreading, which limits its damage to your structure (and your lungs).
As the single largest energy user on your property, your HVAC system should have regular inspections and maintenance. These checks and tweaks will ensure the system continues operating at peak efficiency, saving you money and keeping the interior of your building comfortable. Because the HVAC is so large and complicated, there are dozens of elements that could wear, break, or otherwise fail — too many to list here. As long as you have an HVAC specialist you can trust perform a thorough inspection, you should be able to feel confident about your temperature control.
“Fenestration” is merely a fancy word for all the doors and windows around your building. Fenestration inspections should ensure that doors and windows facilitate illumination and airflow without negatively impacting energy usage. For doors, this means examining alignment and hardware as well as looking for sources of deterioration. For windows, inspections include searching for damage to lintels, signs of rot, deterioration of weatherstripping, and cracks through or near glass.
While the structures on your investment property are top priority, you shouldn’t ignore the grounds. Improper hardscaping and landscaping can exacerbate the effects of weather on your building. Your inspection must pay attention to the following issues around the outside of your property:
• Foundation: cracks, standing water, excessive debris, bulging
• Driveways and sidewalks: cracks, heaves and depressions, oil stains, water puddles
• Retaining walls: cracks and spalling, leaning, bulging, damage to mortar joints
• Window wells: standing water, piled debris, damage to window well material, mold
• Storm drains: slow or blocked draining
• Landscape: limbs overhanging building, damage from creepers and vines, damage from tree roots, spots in lawns, unpruned shrubs, water held by plants against building
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