By Chris Heywood
The first time you heard about a home inspection was probably when your real estate agent advised you to get one after your contract to purchase a new home was accepted. A lot of people go through the inspection process not understanding its purpose, only to find out it’s more than they expected. In this article, I’m going to discuss the history of the inspection industry, explain what a home inspection is, what it’s not, what gets inspected, what doesn’t, and what to do after you receive your inspection report
In the early 1970s, home buyers started hiring general contractors to perform pre-purchase inspections for homes they wanted to buy. As the home inspection industry grew, it became evident that a “general contractor” did not have the in-depth knowledge to evaluate all the systems in a house. Hiring a contractor with expertise in one field was too expensive and hard to coordinate in a short period. This lead to the start of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) in 1976, the industry’s most recognized and oldest professional organization for home inspectors. ASHI developed their Standards of Practice, which today, are still the most recognized standards in the industry and the real estate community. www.homeinspector.org
The ASHI Standards of Practice lay out the minimum requirements an inspector must follow and inspect during a home inspection. The home inspection is not a pass/fail or code evaluation, it’s an evaluation of the house to determine the current functionality and safety of the property and structure. The ASHI Standards of Practice state, the inspector, should inspect, at the minimum, the following items. Roof & Chimney Systems, Exterior Components, Lot/Grounds, Garage & Garage Door Opener, Interior Components (Walls/Ceilings, Doors, Windows, Outlets, Stairs, Fireplace), Attic System, Electrical System, Structural Components, Plumbing Systems, HVAC System.
The home inspection is a non-destructive, visual inspection of the readily accessible components and systems in the house. A home inspection is not an insurance policy or appraisal, code inspection, energy audit, or intended to detect latent (concealed or hidden) issues. Items such as nail pops, wall marks, hairline cracks, loose interior trim and small drywall cracks are common and typically shouldn’t concern the inspector; however, the inspector should explain why these items are not in the report. We are often asked if the security system, sprinkler system, landscaping lighting, phone or TV service is working. These items are not included in the ASHI Standards of Practice and the inspector will often clarify this before starting the inspection.
If the house is brand new or 100 years old, every home will have some problems. Depending on how well the house has been maintained, we typically find 10 to 20 repair/replace items during an inspection. On the other hand, homes that have not been maintained could have 30 to 40 repair/replace items noted in the report. Most things found during a home inspection are relatively easy to fix. However, some items may be a safety issue or expensive and should be further evaluated by a qualified contractor. Once the inspector is done, he/she should review the repair/replace items with you on-site. This time is an excellent opportunity to teach our clients about the house and explain what was found, point out the issues and review solutions for repairs or replacement. In the end, it is ultimately up to you and your real estate agent to decided what to ask the seller to fix.
We always meet with the client before starting the inspection; this is the “driveway presentation.” This is our opportunity to explain what will be inspected, how information is documented in the report and the order the inspection is performed. This time is also an excellent opportunity to answer any questions or address concerns the client may have about the house. Clients questions are an essential part of the inspection; they may be about disclosures or matters the inspector can answer or consider during the inspection.
After the driveway presentation, we start inspecting the roof and chimney first and continue with the following components; exterior & grounds, garage, kitchen and interior parts of the home, bathrooms, attic structure, electrical service and panel, foundation and structure, plumbing and water heater and finish with the HVAC system.
The roof is where the house starts; the roofing system will protect everything you own. The roofing system consists of the shingles, flashing, and gutters and is one of the major components of the house. Any damage to the shingles, flashing or gutters will result in roof leaks and foundation issues. Most of the roofs we inspect have some damage either to the shingles or flashing. They are relatively easy repairs, however, over time leaks will occur, getting these items taken care of are very important.
When it comes to the roof and exterior inspection of the home, the most significant concern for the client is water intrusion. We will typically spend an hour or longer (depending on the size of the house) inspecting the roof and exterior of the home. Water is the homes biggest enemy, checking the roof, window, siding and door flashings as well as all the caulking joints is critical to maintaining a dry house.
After completing the exterior portion of the inspection, we move on to the garage. The most important part of the garage inspection is making sure the garage door opener is safe and functioning as intended. The garage door opener has two built-in safety features, the reverse pressure sensor, and the photoelectrical eye sensor. Depending on the age of the door, these safety features may not be present during the inspection. The reverse pressure sensor is designed to automatically reverse the doors downward motion if something or someone is trapped under the door. If installed correctly, the door will stop and change its direction of travel within two seconds if resistance is detected. There are two photoelectrical eyes mounted on both tracks within 4-6 inches of the floor. When the door closes, the sensors monitor for movement or objects between them, if detected, the door will automatically reverse its direction of travel.
The interior inspection starts with the kitchen, and then we work our way around the house checking the following items: interior/exterior door and window operation, walls and ceilings, outlets and switches for proper wiring and power, fireplace, smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, bathroom plumbing and drainage lines. During the kitchen inspection, all the appliances are operated and checked for recalls. After completing the interior inspection, the attic inspection is next. The attic inspection takes a minimum of 15 minutes, this gives the bathtubs time to drain, making it easy to locate leaks in the plumbing system during the plumbing inspection.
One of the most concerning items found during the attic inspection is mold on the attic framing and roof sheathing. Mold is usually the result of a poorly insulated attic. Warm air from the house or improperly vented exhaust fans will condensate inside the attic space, if the attic ventilation is poor the moist air will not be able to escape, creating a mold environment. If mold is visible during your inspection, it will need to be tested to determine the type of mold and proper mitigation by a qualified mold specialist. When it comes to mold in any area of the house, you must address the underlying issue that is allowing the mold to grow. Like the attic space, you must address the lack of insulation and ventilation before having the mold mitigated, or the mold will return.
The last part of the inspection is typically done in the basement inspecting the electrical panel, foundation and framing, plumbing and the HVAC system. The inspector removes the electrical panel cover, the breakers and wiring are checked for proper sizing and installation. The foundation and floor structures are carefully inspected for distress, cracking, foundation shifting or bowing and water intrusion. The inspector checks the plumbing for leaking, corrosion, damage and proper installation.
The HVAC system is the final part of the inspection. We pull the furnace panel and check the overall condition of the furnace and its systems. One of the items we typically find is a dirty filter and blower fan. This condition is due to a lack of monthly and yearly maintenance and is one of the biggest reasons for the early failure of an HVAC system. If the HVAC system has been maintained it will typically operate for 20-25 years. A neglected HVAC system can fail within the first 10 years, we suggest having the system serviced twice a year; once in the spring and again in the fall.
When the inspection is over, the inspector will review all the repair/replace items with you on-site. This review is an essential part of the inspection process. This is an excellent opportunity for the inspector to explain to their client the issues found during the inspection. Being able to show and tell our clients what we saw makes it easier for them to understand the problems versus trying to make sense of it in a report. At the end of the inspection, we want to be able to teach our clients about the home and educate them on its current condition. No surprises!! This is one of the biggest reason you should consider getting a home inspection on a house you are buying.
If you have any other questions about your home inspection, please feel free to call Chris at 513-515-9799.
If you would like to schedule your inspection with Horizon Point, please call our office at 513-831-1200.
ASHI Certified Inspector