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Checklist For The Inspection Of Commercial Real Estate - Part 2: Interior Inspections

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Posted by Joseph Stengel on February 01, 2017

If you own commercial real estate or are considering commercial real estate ownership, one of the most important things you'll want to consider is how your propery is inspected. Interior inspections, as well as inspections of the property's exterior, can locate potential issues to avoid extensive reparations costing thousands of dollars.

Through routine inspection and cyclical maintenance, the useful life span of commercial real estate and its historic fabric will be greatly increased. All building materials deteriorate with age and exposure to the weather. The principal reason for developing this building inspection form is to advise building owners on the maintenance of their properties. The money invested in commercial real estate is considerable and care and effort are required to preserve and increase the value of the property.

Unfortunately, many in real estate management use the "squeaky wheel" technique in their approach to maintenance, doing little or nothing until failure occurs. And when it does the owner is hit with high repair bills and great inconvenience. The job of maintenance can be simplified if it is done systematically instead of haphazardly. Preventive maintenance involves regular inspection of those parts of the building that are most likely to get out of working order. The accompanying checklist is intended to help a building owner or manager identify and keep an accurate record or inventory of the building's problems to facilitate systematic repair and maintenance.

This procedure is a brief but comprehensive overall building inspection. Each of the areas addressed may have more extensive inspection procedures which could be followed in the case of specific problems

All building materials deteriorate with age and exposure to the weather. Through routine inspection and cyclical maintenance, the useful life span of a building and its historic fabric will be greatly increased. The principal reason for developing this building inspection form is to advise building owners on the maintenance of their properties. The money invested in a building is considerable and care and effort are required to preserve and increase the value of the property. Unfortunately, many building owners use the "squeaky wheel" technique in their approach to maintenance, doing little or nothing until failure occurs. And when it does the owner is hit with high repair bills and great inconvenience. The job of maintenance can be simplified if it is done systematically instead of haphazardly. Preventive maintenance involves regular inspection of those parts of the building that are most likely to get out of working order. The accompanying checklist is intended to help a building owner or manager identify and keep an accurate record or inventory of the building's problems to facilitate systematic repair and maintenance.

This procedure is a brief but comprehensive overall building inspection. Each of the areas addressed may have more extensive inspection procedures which could be followed in the case of specific problems.

GENERAL INTERIOR

Basement and Crawl Space: Foundation walls are subject to a wide variety of stresses and strains that cause concrete and other masonry to expand and contract. This sometimes results in cracks, leaks or condensation problems. Inspect to ensure that rainwater and other sources of moisture drain away from the building. Check for dampness on surfaces and for mold on joists at the point where the first floor joists meet the foundation wall.

Load Bearing Masonry Wall: Inspect load bearing walls for structural damages paying particular attention to the following:

  • Cracks caused by either structural movement or material shrinkage
  • Leaning and bulges
  • Loose/damp mortar joints and spalling
  • Wet spots, stains and water penetration
  • Insect/termite infestation and decay on wood members
Cast-in-Place Concrete Wall: Look for:
  • Settlement, cracks, and leaning
  • Water penetration, wet spots, and stains
  • Moisture conditions (dampness etc.)
  • Insect/termite infestation and decay on wood members
Wood Joists & Beams: Check for:
  • Sagging at the center of span
  • Springiness or vibration
  • Pronounced slope in one direction
  • Split at bottom of joist or beam
  • Floor squeaking and insect infestation/decay
  • Bearing on masonry
  • Bulging or sagging plaster ceiling
  • Overloading of joists and beams
Steel Beams/Concrete Deck: Check for:
  • Deflection at midspan
  • Sloping floor
  • Corroded connections
  • Missing connections and connections bearing on masonry
  • Settlement effects, mechanical or exterior leakage
Reinforced Concrete Floor: Check for:
  • Spalling and exposed reinforced steel
  • Wide, regularly spaced cracks in floor
  • Cracks near and parallel to masonry wall
  • Surface dusting and cracked concrete near columns
Masonry Floors: Check for:
  • Leaks, cracks, and spalling
  • Alterations and new holes cut on floor for stairs, mechanical installations etc.
  • Efflorescence
  • Sidewalk vaults and subgrade storage
  • Crack at the crown of the arch and between supporting walls
Wood Floor: Wood floors members bearing directly to the soil are susceptible to insect and fungus attack. Check the underside of boards and floor joists for fungus, insect and or termite attack. Look for:
  • Cracks and badly damaged boards
  • Twisted boards
  • Squeaking
  • If floor boards need refinishing
Carpet: Regarldess if a carpet is in a high-traffic area, it can be worn down. Inspect your carpeting for:
  • Frayed edges
  • Damaged portions
  • Stains and worn out areas
Ceramic Tile: Ceramic looks great, but it's suspect to cracks, and might need to be replaced more than you think. Watch for:
  • Adherence and grout in joints
  • Loose joints
  • Splits and cracks
  • Missing tiles
Interior Wall Finishes: Includes but not is limited to plaster/stucco, gypsum board, wood, and wallpaper.
  • Push on suspect wall surfaces to check for looseness
  • Check for signs of dampness (this suggests leaks, either from the roof or internal pipes)
  • Inspect for cracks, bulges, peeling, blistering and mildew
Ceiling Finishes: May be plaster/stucco, gypsum board, wood, wallpaper, or any other material. Specify this other material in your inspection record sheet. Check for:
  • Signs of damp plaster on ceilings (this suggests leaks from the roof or plumbing and mechanical pipes)
  • Loose plaster, cracks and bulges
  • Blistering and peeling
Interior Decorative Masonry: This includes window sills, walls, wainscot, and floors. Check for:
  • Dullness of surfaces
  • Stains, dampness, and spalling
Fireplace: Inspect active fireplaces thoroughly for fire safety, material soundness, and structural stability. Check your fireplaces for the following:
  • Connection with flues
  • If damper is operable
  • If the flue is lined with a clay-tile liner to prevent fire and fumes leakage into the building
  • If the flue is unobstructed all the way to the roof
  • If the fire box has a firebrick liner
Metal Surfaces: Brass, cast iron, and bronze can all look tarnished. Inspect all exposed ornamental metal trim for:
  • Built-up dirt, stain and rust
  • Corrosion and cracked surfaces
Stairs: To clarify, these stairs are only for wooden stairs. Check your staircases for:
  • Secureness of all railings
  • Gaps between treads, risers and stringers
  • Stair pulling away from the wall
  • Looseness or other damage to balustrades
  • Looseness and other damage to newel post
  • Irregular riser-tread ratios
Interior Doors and Wood Trim: Check your interior doors and trim for:
  • Proper door alignment, fit and operation
  • Presence of all door hardware
  • Proper operation of all locks
  • Deterioration of hinges and pins
  • Condition of finish and other problems
Interior Windows and Wood Trim: Sometimes a chip in a window pane or a crack in the trim can go unnoticed. Look for:
  • Proper window alignment, fit and operation
  • Presence and functioning of all window hardware
  • Proper operation of locks, hinges and pins
  • Signs of water leakage at frames
  • Movement of sash up and down the frame
  • Seals around window panes
  • Condition of finish and record other problems
Kitchen Cabinets/Counters: Inspect cabinets and counters to ensure that all drawers and doors are properly hung and secure, and that no movements are restricted and to ensure that all units are securely anchored to walls and floor. Check for:
  • Missing handles and hardware
  • Badly worn or stained countertops
  • Condition of finish

MECHANICAL AND ELECTRICAL

Plumbing and Mechanical Systems: Note which types of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems the building presently has. Inspect the furnaces, ducts, registers, and radiators for:
  • Any obvious signs of deterioration, damage, stains and rot
  • Rust and leaks in or near water supply
  • Confirmation of tests on gas lines

Electrical: Ascertain that there are sufficient power circuits to run all the appliance and equipment the owner uses. Remember that older buildings were not originally wired to take care of the many electrical appliances and the equipment used today. Check:

  • The condition of incoming service wires and supports
  • The operation of all exterior outlets and switches
  • Whether all exterior plugs and kitchen, bathroom, wet area plugs as required by code are fitted with ground fault connectors
  • Whether fuses or circuit breakers trip frequently
  • Whether an electrician has periodically checked all aluminum wire connections
  • Whether power is brought in overhead rather than underground (if so, look for trees or other hazards that could cause problems) 

ATTIC

Condensation occurs in the attic principally because of easy pathways for moisture to migrate from the occupied areas, or because of inadequate ventilation. The ventilators (louvers) in the unfinished and unconditioned attic should remain open to provide circulation of air throughout the year. Check for:
  • Any signs of roof or flashing leaks on rafters and insulation
  • Signs of mildew on underside of roof boards
  • Smoke or water leaks or breaks in the mortar joints of the chimney
  • Straightness and sound condition of roof rafters
  • Adequacy and condition of insulation
  • Nests and blockages of ventilation openings
  • Operation of vent and/ or attic fan

Regular inspections of the interior spaces in your commercial real estate property can seem like a daunting task, but performing these inspections now can spare you from engaging in costly reparations. 

Here's a link to my resource page where you might find other useful information.

Topics: Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate Management and Ownership

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