Get a building inspection of your backyard and fencing

Quarter-acre caution: Why a building inspection goes beyond the building

Even with the movement towards building up instead of building out, the quarter-acre Kiwi dream is still alive in New Zealand. The many issues that can arise for large sections with big outdoor areas can quickly turn your dream into a nightmare, however, so there are some things that we always keep an eye out for when doing a building inspection.


Setting boundaries

Fences serve one main purpose: to keep things in and keep things out. It’s important to check any fencing to make sure that it actually will accomplish this purpose – is it sturdy? Is it tall enough? Are the materials suitable and asbestos free? Though maybe not the most expensive replacement job on a property, the costs of upgrading or completely removing fences can still be costly.

If you’re not bothered about having a quality fence, you’re not necessarily off the hook straight away. Fencing also serves to mark the boundaries of a property and sometimes fences that border two properties will need to be replaced at the cost of home owners on both sides of the fence – a cost you may not have accounted for. In practice, property borders can also accidentally shift over time – but legally speaking the boundary of a property shouldn’t change, so you have to be sure when building a fence (or buying a property with a fence) that your neighbour isn’t going to kick up a fuss when he realises it’s been built 20cm over his property.


Deck check

Though technically up to minimum Building Code requirements, we come across a number of decks that are of poor build quality when doing a building inspection. As with fencing, the costs of replacing a deck can add up pretty quickly and are always something to be weary of when purchasing a property.

If you’ve factored in costs and you’re hoping to one day add a deck to a home that you’re looking at then it’s worth noting that decks that are built 1.5m or higher require a building consent. Consents cost money and take time – and while they’re important to ensure that no dodgy work is taking place, they can be a real nuisance when you just want to get the work done quickly. Regardless of whether it needs a building consent, decks should still be built to the building standard.

A slew of other issues can arise where decks are concerned, including if the deck’s attachment to the home can cause weather-tight issues, whether the deck is the required distance from any property boundaries and how any decking may impact the title for a cross-lease property – all things that should be checked for.


Other things to consider

There are a number of other outdoor issues to look out for on a property. Paving may seem like such an easy thing to get right, but we’ve seen numerous issues occur when land slopes towards the house – specifically, what happens to any surface water that accumulates on the path? The last thing you want is for water to pool up against your home, so we always check for correct cess pit installation in our property inspections.

Pergola awnings are becoming more and more common in NZ properties – it’s worth noting that, while these pergolas may look great, they more than likely require a building consent (usually dependant on whether or not they have a roof over the top of them). Don’t be caught out purchasing a property that hasn’t acquired the necessary consents – and remember that some of the work that you’ll want to carry out will require approval from the council too. You can check with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for an idea of what does and doesn’t require a building consent.

While most backyard work isn’t going to cause too many issues, there are always small problems that you may not consider – all of which can affect the sale of your house when you do decide it’s time to part ways. If in doubt, contact your local council to check on your compliance requirements or get in touch with us to have someone come check out your property through a building inspection.