Site Improvements Outbuildings Yards

The Old House Web
Editor's note: This story is adapted from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Residential Rehabilitation Inspection Guide, 2000.Click here for other stories in this series.


Outbuildings. Examine detached garages, storage sheds, and other outbuildings for their condition in the same way that the primary building is inspected. Check each outbuildings water shedding capability and the adequacy of its foundations. On the interior, look for water staining on the roof or walls. Wood frame structures should be thoroughly inspected for rot and insect infestation.

Check also that all doors function properly and that doors and windows provide adequate weather protection and security for the building. Make sure that small outbuildings have sufficient structural strength to sustain the applicable wind loads or seismic forces.

If the site is in a hurricane or high-wind region, check all outbuildings for their ability to resist a storm without coming apart and becoming windborne debris.

Consider consulting an engineer.

Yards and Courts. In urban areas, two or more dwelling units may share a yard or court to provide light and ventilation to interior rooms. The adequacy of the light provided is a function of the dimensions of the yard or court, as well as the color of surrounding walls. Check these characteristics, as well as zoning and building and housing code requirements pertaining to light, ventilation, and privacy screening for yards and courts.

Such requirements may affect the reuse of the property and their implications should be understood before the property is altered or purchased.

Flood Regions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Flood Insurance Program have established and defined five major flood-risk zones and created special flood resistance requirements for each. Improperly designed grading and drainage may aggravate flood hazards to buildings and cause runoff, soil erosion, and sedimentation in the zones of lower flood risk, the Interflood Zone, and the Non-Regulated Flood Plain. In these locations, local agencies may regulate building elevations above street or sewer levels.

In the next higher risk zones, the Special Flood Hazard Areas and the Non-Velocity Coastal Flood Areas (both Zone A), the elevation of the lowest floor and its structural members above the base flood elevation is required. In the zone of highest flood risk, the Coastal High Hazard Areas (Velocity Zone, Zone V), additional structural requirements apply.

Check with local authorities to determine if the site is in a flood risk zone. If it is, check with local building officials. Higher standards than those set by national agencies have been adopted by many communities.

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