When shopping for a new home, it is important to consider the condition of exterior components. Most types of materials used for exterior cladding require routine maintenance to prevent deterioration and decay, whereas others may last for a very long time with less maintenance. Materials such as wood and wood composites are the most vulnerable to deterioration and decay if they are not maintained and sealed with caulking and paint. Materials like cement fiber, brick, stone, vinyl and metal are less vulnerable to decay, but also have specific maintenance needs.
If you have ever seen a home inspection report, you may have noticed that the inspector may have called out exterior trim defects. Exterior trim is used at exterior surface transitions such as where siding meets windows, doors, or at building corners. Building standards have evolved over the years as builders and building professionals figured out better ways to install exterior trim in order to prevent the frequency of maintenance and potential deterioration. Current building standards now call for metal flashing, sealant, horizontal surfaces to be angled, and clearances from other building components to prevent premature deterioration. Although the standards of practice for home inspectors do not require them to call out when exterior components on older homes do not meet current building standards, many will do so in order to help educate their clients.
Older homes may have exterior trim that was not installed up to current building standards, and therefore the trim will require more frequent maintenance such as re-painting and re-application of sealants. In many cases, older homes have worn exterior surfaces, and in these cases finding decayed trim is more likely. This is especially true when the home has wood or wood composite trim.
Decayed trim is not only a cosmetic concern, but severely decayed trim could indicate that the exterior wall components behind the trim could also be damaged. Decayed wood is also more conducive to wood destroying organisms. In most cases, the decayed trim can be repaired or replaced, and in those cases contractors may be able to make repairs in a way that meet current building standards. If exterior trim has minor decay, epoxies and sealants can be used to seal the wood and reduce the chances of further decay.
In some cases, when decayed trim is found, building framing, wall sheathing, insulation, or even electrical components in the vicinity could also be damaged, since moisture could penetrate past and behind the damaged trim. When a home inspector calls out decayed trim, it is always recommended to have a contractor further evaluate the damage before the end of the inspection contingency, in order to determine whether the damage is more significant than just decayed trim.
For some homeowners repairing or replacing decayed trim is a project that can easily be done. Always remember to research current building standards so that you can meet best building practices. Check out the video below to learn more about how to repair decayed trim with epoxy.