"We’re looking at a cabin property near the Oregon Coast as a weekend getaway or future retirement home. What kinds of things should we be looking to upgrade and what pitfalls should we watch out for?"
Answer from Ross Sanders
Dear Esther and Bob,
Congratulations on beginning the search for your dream retirement home.
There are of course a number of things to consider such as location and views but as an architect, my main focus is on the structural elements of your perspective property. Some things to consider:
- Foundation: Ideally the foundation will be concrete. If there is a basement, check for signs of water damage and look for a sump pit with pump to help deal with possible water infiltration. You can read more about sump pumps on my Q&A from June 11, 2014. If there is a crawlspace, look again for water damage and for crawlspace vents. Uneven floors can be a sign of foundation damage so make sure to look closely for uneven spots.
- Roof: From the outside, look at wear, condition, signs of repair. Asphalt shingle roofs may last 20-30 years, so check to see when the cabin was rebuilt. Metal roofs can last longer but the same visual check applies. Beware old wood shake roofs as they typically require the most maintenance and have the shortest lifetime in the coastal environment. Look on the inside at ceilings, walls and floors for signs of water damage. Double-check around chimneys and other penetrations as well.
- Walls: Visually inspect walls for signs of damage, and be aware that paint and stain can take a beating on the coast and may need frequent maintenance.
- Windows & Doors: Check for broken seals in insulated (double-glazed) windows and doors by looking for moisture or fogginess inside the glass. Check operability - do they open easily and close fully? If doors and windows bind, it could be localized water damage but could also be a sign of building wracking due to foundation shifting.
- Utilities: Test everything. Run the water for a while and be aware that your lender may require testing if you have a well. If on a generator, look at condition and installation. If power is from utility company, look at the panel; neat, clean and accessible are all good signs.
Finally, use your nose. Any part-time cabin might smell a bit stale but extreme mustiness and sewage odors may indicate bigger problems.