check materials for split or decaying wood
Illustration: Steve Sanford
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Check for split or decaying wood. Inspect cracks with a flathead screwdriver; if you can insert it more than ¼ inch into any cracks, or if the wood feels spongy or breaks off without splintering, this could indicate rot. Keep an eye out for holes, which could mean insects have burrowed in and made a home.
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