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By Brian Tregoning


Most homeowners define their built-in appliance condition in one of two ways; working and not working.  While it is very apparent if an appliance is working or not, it is not always apparent if they are operating safely or are about to have a component failure that can lead to extensive damage to property or even loss of life.  This article is intended to show some of the things that professional (ASHI American Society of Home Inspectors) home inspectors look for per the ASHI Standard of practice for home inspections. Keep in mind these are general guidelines and if there are any questions refer to the appliance’s manual, and/or consult a qualified technician or contractor.

The four things to look for with your built-in appliances are:

1.)     Is the appliance itself in good physical condition?

2.)     Is it properly connected to water, waste, venting, electric, and/or gas lines?

3.)    Does it operate as intended?

4.)    Is it safe?


Cooking Appliances

Modern cooking appliances today fall into two categories; electric or gas.  With both electric or gas, you will want to check for the proper clearances.  Standard practices state that wood should be at least 30 inches, and steel/metal be at least 24 inches above the cooktop.  The next step is to check the physical condition of the appliance itself.  For this, you can operate all its components including; doors, knobs, buttons, seals, and heating elements to ensure proper operation.  Then you will want to check its heating source.  If its electric, check the plug and the receptacle to see if they are free of corrosion, and that the plug is a dedicated properly grounded receptacle.  If it is a gas appliance, check the gas line.  You will want to check for the odor of gas.  If the odor of gas is detected you will want to immediately shut off the gas valve to the cooking appliance, or if that can’t be located, to the home and call a qualified contractor to repair the leak.  Standard practice states that a shut off be accessible in the same general area as the appliance.  Check to make sure the flame is blue; a yellow flame is an indicator of improper operation and a qualified contractor or technician should be consulted to repair or replace the component.  Venting is also important.  There are two ways of venting from your cooking appliance recirculating and exterior venting.  If venting is recirculating you will want to check that the filters are clean.  These are typically disposable and replacements found at the hardware store.  If your appliance vents to the exterior, (verify that it does vent to the exterior and not an attic or crawlspace) standard practice states that the vent pipe needs to be a smooth walled metal vent pipe to avoid getting a buildup of grease or residue.  The last thing to check for is an anti-tip device.  Most modern cooking appliances come with their own anti-tip device, but aftermarket anti-tip devices are readily available at hardware stores or ordering them from the appliance manufacturer.  These devices ensure the cooking device does not fall forward.   This is a safety hazard.



Refrigeration Devices

When checking a refrigerator’s physical condition, you will want to make sure the refrigerator is level.  This can affect if the door will close on its own, and can affect the cooling operation.  Next check the door gasket to make sure there is a good seal.  A faulty seal can lead to the refrigerator running too often and escaping air can cause condensation and lead to standing water and water damage to some surfaces.  Some refrigerators have automatic ice makers and chilled water dispensers.  Make sure that the water supply connection is free of corrosion and leaks.  Listen for unusual noises.  A loud whirring noise could be a sign of a faulty fan or condenser.  When inspecting the electric supply check both the plug and the receptacle for corrosion.  In a modern kitchen, there is a chance the refrigerator is plugged into a GFCI outlet.  By the standards and practices this is common and not incorrect but, because a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter outlet) in the kitchen may trip without notice, it is a good idea to use or install a dedicated outlet to ensure the refrigerator electric supply does not inadvertently get tripped and loose power.  There are several manufacturers that make refrigerators with the motors in the top portion of the unit.  This inherently makes these appliances top heavy.  It is a recommended that an anti-tip device is installed.



When inspecting a dishwasher’s physical condition confirm that the appliance is screwed to the cabinets around it.  Inspect the door latch and door seals.  The door and tub should be free of rust.  Wands and spray arms should swing easily and their jets open and free of debris.  A dishwasher should be wired to a 20-amp GFCI circuit (ground fault circuit interrupter outlet) separate from the two-required kitchen GFCIs.  Verify the air gap or high loop waste line from the dishwasher is installed above the lowest part of the sink to prevent a vacuum leading cross-contamination of the water entering the dishwasher, and exiting the dishwasher.  Basically, to avoid the dirty water from getting sucked back into the dishwasher.  A good indicator of this is water left in the pan after a cycle.


Garbage Disposals

When inspecting your garbage disposal make sure the housing is free from rust or cracking.  Inspect the sink ring to ensure it is intact.  Verify that the grommet holding the electric supply is secure and there are no exposed wires.  Run the garbage disposal briefly to see if there is any debris that may be inhibiting its function.  Shine a light down the sink drain to make sure the blades move easily and freely.  Note any excessive noise or vibration or leaking while the garbage disposal is running.  If any of these are noted, we suggest a qualified contractor evaluate the operation, and repair or replace any defective components.


Clothes Washers

Check for exterior damage or signs of rusting on and around the machine.  This may be an indicator of an internal water leak and could result in water damage to the floor.  Verify that the plug is free of corrosion and the receptacle is a properly grounded outlet.   Look at the water supply lines to make sure they are free of corrosion, bulging, cracking and are not leaking.  It is recommended the water lines themselves are constructed of woven metal and opposed to rubber.  Finally, check to make sure the drain hose is secured to a proper drain line.


Clothes Dryers

Check the exterior housing for damage.  Make sure the door closes and latches securely.  Check the cord and plug. Typically, most new electric dryers do not come with a cord.  If it is an electric dryer it is recommended that the plug and cord have four pins/holes (always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended installation).  Check the power supply to the motor for corrosion or evidence of overheating.  If it is a gas dryer check (smell) if there are any gas leaks and verify the flexible gas line is not over 6 feet in length.  The dryer vent should be free of lint and is secured to the dryer.  Standards state that dryer vent line is smooth and have no screws installed to prevent a snag point for lint.  The length of the dryer vent should be no more 25 feet long.  For every 90 degree turn in the dryer vent line subtract 2 ½ feet.  It is recommended that you have the dryer vents cleaned twice a year for the average household because of the high percentage of house fires that start at the dryer.  Finally, check all inlets to make sure there is adequate airflow.


Garage Vehicle Door Openers

When inspecting a garage vehicle door opener, it is suggested that you use a top-down method.  Start by checking the wiring.  The garage door opener should be plugged in with its own cord, not an extension cord.  Inspect the rails and struts for any loose connections.  Examine the tension/torsion springs.  Some garage vehicle door openers have springs over the rails, these are tension springs.  Check to see there are no signs of fatigue in the springs and that a safety cable that runs through the springs and attaches to both sides is present. This safety cable is meant to catch a spring if it ever breaks.  This is a safety feature.  If the spring is over the front of the door, this is a torsion spring.  The torsion springs should exhibit no signs of metal fatigue and it should be securely anchored.   Now we will want to check the wheels inside the roller to see if they are on the track.  If all these steps look good, verify all the locks have been removed or deactivated.  Touch the garage vehicle door opener device to activate the garage vehicle door operation.  Does the operation sound smooth or labored?  This could be an indicator that the garage door requires service.  Unhook safety hook where it meets the conveyance lines and raise the door manually.  You’ll want to note if the garage door opens easily and will remain open.  If the garage door does not stay open it is defective and should be serviced by a qualified contractor.  Reset the system for normal operation.  Last thing, testing the photoelectric eye sensor.  While closing the door walk over and place your foot between the photoelectric eye to see if the garage door will stop and reverse.  If the door reverses the garage vehicle door opener is operating as intended if not, the door photoelectric eyes should be repaired or replaced by a qualified contractor.


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