When we meet our client before we start their inspection they are often surprised at all the items we inspect. A home inspection is a detailed visual and operational inspection of the current condition and safety of the home. The following list is a general overview of what you should expect to have inspected during your home inspection.
1. Roofing and Chimney System: Shingles, Flashing, Roof Vents, Chimney Structure, Chimney Cap & Flashing.
2. Exterior Siding & Components: Siding, Trim, Soffits, Flashing, Caulking, Hose Bibs, Exterior Doors.
3. Grounds: Driveway, Walkways, Patio, Porch, Deck/Balcony, Grading, Drainage.
4. Garage: Door & Door Opener, Windows, Floor, Service Doors.
5. Laundry Room: Laundry Tub & Components, Washer & Dryer Power Components, Dryer Vents.
6. Kitchen: Cooking Components, Vent System, Plumbing Components, Disposal, Dishwasher, Microwave, Counters and Cabinets, Recall Check.
7. Interior Components: Stairs & Handrails, Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Walls, Ceilings, Floors, Doors, Windows, Lighting, Ceiling Fans, HVAC Sources.
8. Bathrooms: Counters & Cabinets, Plumbing, Bathtubs, Showers & Surrounds, Whirlpool, Toilets, Drainage, Ventilation.
9. Attic: Roof Framing & Sheathing, Ventilation, Insulation, Wiring, Proper Bathroom Fan Install, Roof Leaks.
10. Electrical: Electrical Service from Street, Electrical Meter, Electrical Panel and Breakers, Wall Outlets, GFCI/AFCI Outlets & Breakers, House Wiring, Grounding and Bonding, Presence of Aluminum Wiring, Fuses.
11. Structure: Foundation Walls, Framing, Beams/Columns, Floor/Slab
12. Plumbing: Main Service Line & Water Shut Off, Water Supply & Drain Lines, Water Pressure and Drainage, Gas Meter and Line Supply, Sump Pump, Drains, Water Heater.
13. HVAC System: Operate Heating and Cooling System, Temperature Rise, Check Flue/Exhaust System Operation, System Power Source.
In this section, we will explain how a seller can prepare their home for the home inspector. Making sure these items are completed will allow the inspector to complete the inspection in a reasonable time frame, preventing him from returning to complete the inspection at a later date.
1. Make sure that all your utilities are turned on for the inspection.
a. Main Water
b. Electrical Service
c. Water Heater
2. Make sure access is clear and accessible to the Heating and Air Conditioning units, Water Heater, Electrical panel/s, attic and crawl spaces. Inspectors may have to come back if they can’t access these areas or systems during the initial inspection.
3. If your car is parked under the attic access in the garage, please make sure it is moved prior to the inspection. Also, if there are household items or moving boxes under the attic access they will need to be moved too.
4. If your house is going to be tested for radon, make sure no windows or doors are left open 12hrs before the radon monitor is set. Using the doors to enter and exit the house as normal is allowed during the test.
Common Inspection Issues and Repairs
1. If there is visible damage to roof shingles or flashing have it fixed by a qualified roofing contractor. On most of our inspections, we find nail pops under shingles and/or through the shingles themselves. Typically, this is an easy fix, if the nail has not broken through the shingle it will need to be nailed back in and sealed. Nails that are exposed or through a shingle will need to have the shingle/s replaced.
2. Check your gutters to make sure the water is draining away from the house by adding downspouts and downspouts extensions to the gutters. Gutters that leak are typically the number one reason for a wet basement. We suggest checking the gutters while it is raining out, if water is overflowing and draining back towards the foundation, you should have the gutters and grade repaired by a qualified contractor.
3. Have your gutters checked for debris and cleaned out by a qualified service contractor. If you live in a wooded area or have trees around your house, cleaning out your gutters will prevent clogging. A long-term solution is to have gutter guards installed by a qualified contractor.
1. Check the wood siding and trim for softness, damage or rotted wood. Wood window seals and trim are more vulnerable to wood rot if they are not protected by a soffit or maintained/sealed on a yearly basis. If these areas are damaged they should be repaired by a qualified contractor.
2. If present, check handrails for looseness and secure them if needed.
3. Check brick/stone steps and railing walls for damaged or loose material. These should be repaired by a qualified contractor.
4. Check the exterior hose bibs for leaks and proper operation. Leaking or damaged hose bibs can cause interior water damage and should be repaired by a qualified plumber. We suggest anti-siphon/anti-freeze hose bibs if replacement is needed.
5. Check the exterior deck boards for damage and exposed nails, damaged boards are a tripping hazard and should be replaced.
1. Grading: Poor grading towards the foundation promotes water drainage and leaks into and under the foundation/slab, causing water leaks and structural issues over time. Repairing your grading is the easiest way to keep water away from the foundation and your basement dry. The grading should have 6 inches of pitch in the first 10 feet away from the house.
2. Trip Hazards: Trip hazards are a safety issue and should be corrected. First and for most, home inspectors will call out any type of safety issue to protect their client from a serious injury. Second, they want their client to be aware of the trip hazard to protect them and the home inspector from future litigation. We find several types of trip hazards during a home inspection. The most common trip hazards are settled or lifting concrete slabs, improper step high, lose or bowed deck boards.
1. In this region of the country, brick and concrete chimneys will deteriorate faster if the chimney mortar and brick and not properly installed and maintained. Damage to the concrete cap, clay flue, and brick could cost between $3000 and $5000. Significant damage could add up to as much as $10,000 or more for repairs. If there is visible damage from the ground we suggest having the chimney evaluated by a qualified chimney contractor.
1. Wood Burning Fireplace: If you have a wood burning fireplace or stove and you use it throughout the winter season we suggest having it cleaned and inspected by a qualified chimney contractor. A flue filled with creosote is the number one reason for chimney fires, if its dirty, we suggest having it cleaned and inspected by a qualified chimney professional.
2. Gas Fireplace: If your gas insert vents into an existing clay flue we suggest having the flue inspected. The heat from the fire will produce condensation as it goes up the chimney, over time the condensation will damage the clay flue. Often people place a gas insert into their old wood burning fireplace and don’t consider the flue may be too big to properly vent all the heated gases outside, resulting in condensation build up and damage to the flue.
3. Windows: All the interior windows should be checked for the following items:
a. Proper Operation (Open/Close, Locks, and a working tilt latch)
b. Failed window seals with fogging c. Damaged window or glass
4. Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans should be installed with special mounting brackets. These brackets are used to properly secured the fan during operation. We suggest checking the fan at all three speeds if there is any wobbling the fan may need to be balanced or properly secured with a ceiling fan bracket.
Kitchen & Bathrooms
1. GFCI Outlets: Modern electrical and safety standards require ground fault circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets to be installed in any wet locations. This includes outlets for bathrooms, kitchen countertops, wet bars, laundry rooms, spas, hot tubes and whirlpool baths, swimming pools, unfinished basements, and outdoor receptacles. Code requirements for GFCIs have changed several times since they were first introduced in 1970. Depending on the age of your home, they may not have been required when it was built, however, the extra protection afforded by these devices is desirable. A home inspector will typically suggest having them added, even if they weren’t required.
a. The GFCI outlets will be tested during the home inspection, if they are defective or not installed properly an electrician will need to make the repairs.
2. Walls & Ceilings: Nail pops and small drywall cracks are typically not an issue during a home inspection. If water stains are present they should be investigated to determine their source. Water stains are typically due to one of the following issues:
a. Damaged or Improperly Installed Roof Shingle: Have shingle/s repaired/replaced
b. Damaged or Improperly Installed Flashing: Have flashing repaired/replaced.
c. Animal Urine: Have animals removed from the attic and damaged drywall and insulation replaced.
d. Leaking Plumbing Vents: Have the damaged plumbing vent repaired.
3. Toilets: Over time toilets will become loose either at its connection to the floor or at the upper bowl connection to the seat. We suggest checking all the toilet connections at both locations by gently rocking the toilet seat and the bowl. Typically, this situation is due to unsecured bolts at the floor base, however, a loose connection can damage the wax ring and cause water leaks in the floor and rooms below. If there is damage from water stains or leaks around or under the toilet we suggest having it properly fixed.
4. Faucets: We suggest filling up all the sinks in the house and checking the hot and cold-water faucets for a secured connection. The hot faucet should be on the left and the cold on the right, the hot water typically should take no more than 30 seconds to produce. After checking the faucets. We suggest checking under the sink for leaks from the supply and drain lines. If leaks are present, they should be repaired by a qualified plumber.
HVAC System & Water Heater
1. If there are any obvious signs of leaking, rusting or damage to the HVAC system or water heater we suggest having the units repaired and serviced by a qualified contractor. The service paperwork should be provided to the buyer during the home inspection. The HVAC system & water heater are constantly in use and typically last between 15-20 years if they have been properly maintained. We suggest having these systems serviced and cleaned prior to a home inspection. These two systems are always a big concern for a buyer, having them serviced and cleaned prior to an inspection can help reassure buyers the system is functional.
1. If you are not an electrician we do not recommend removing your panel cover prior to an inspection. The most common defect we find during the electrical panel inspection is a double tapped breaker. A double tapped breaker is when two wires have been installed into one breaker, which over time, increase the chance of arcing and overheating the wires. There are two manufacturers who make a breaker that will accept two wires, Square D and Cutter Hammer and they must be installed by a licensed electrician. If a double tapped breaker is noted in the inspection report the repair is relatively easy and inexpensive and should be completed by a licensed electrician.
2. Electrical Service Wires: Below is a list of common problems found with the electrical service wires during a home inspection:
a. Deteriorated Service Wire: Overtime the sheathing protecting the service wires attached to the side of the house become deteriorated by the sun’s harmful UV rays, leaving the natural wire exposed. This is also a direct route for water entry into the electrical meter and service panel. If the service wire is deteriorated it will need to be replaced by a licensed electrician.
b. Settled Conduit: Newer homes typically have the electrical service wire from the street to the house buried underground. The wires are installed through a plastic conduit (tube) as they come out of the ground and enter the bottom of the electrical meter. As the ground around the conduit settles the conduit will pull away from the meter if it is not properly secured at the meter’s base and house. The settled grading will cause the wires to detach from their connection inside the meter box, over time this will cause arcing, overheating and electrical fires. If there is visible settlement of the conduit from the base of the electrical meter you should call a qualified electrical contractor to have it repaired.
3. Outlets Not Bonded: Houses built before 1962 did not have three prong outlets installed. Two-prong outlets were installed which means there were only two wires, a black (hot) and white (neutral) and no green (Ground/Bond). Since 1962, outlets are supposed to be installed with three prong (grounded) outlets to protect against electrical shock. During a home inspection, we often find three prong outlets installed in homes built before 1962. What’s this mean? The homeowner has simply replaced the two prong outlets with three prong outlets, making the outlet capable of receiving a modern three prong plug. However, the outlet and circuit are still not grounded/bonded and misrepresented as a bonded outlet.
a. Repair Options: This is the statement we put in our home inspection reports when we find a three-prong ungrounded outlet:
At the time the house was built the ungrounded/bonded circuits were lawfully in existence and a common building practice. The original two prong outlets have since been replaced with three prong outlets with no ground. This outlet upgrade does not meet current electrical safety standards and is misrepresented as a grounded outlet. Suggest having the original two prong outlets installed or upgrade the electrical system with properly grounded outlets. If grounding does not exist in the branch circuit system, recommend replacing the outlets with 2-prong (non-grounded) outlets or with three-prong GFCI outlet/s or breakers marked as “No Equipment Ground” This repair should be done by a licensed electrician.
One of the biggest structural concerns clients have is foundation cracks. While some cracks seem like a big deal, most are not and, if needed, are inexpensive to repair. One thing is certain about concrete, it cracks and cracks can be repaired. Small cracks are normal and will need to be monitored for changes or further movement. Depending on the size of the crack and if needed, it can be filled with an epoxy solution. This will seal the crack and prevent water leaks.
We are more concerned when cracks are in the horizontal plane, shifting, wider than 1/8″, bowing or causing differential movement. These types of cracks will need to be evaluated further by a foundation specialist for repairs and may require an evaluation by a structural engineer.
Horizontal cracking is typically the result of improper exterior grading and a defective gutter system. Over time, the water’s hydrostatic pressure and the vertical weight from the house will cause the wall to crack in the horizontal plane and bow inward. Improper drainage can also wash away the dirt from under the footers and cause the footer to drop. resulting in vertical and step cracks with differential movement.
Most of the issues we find during a home inspection are due to the age of the home and a lack of general home maintenance. Maintaining a home is part of home ownership and can’t be neglected, neglecting your home will cost you a lot of money in repairs. We suggest you check out our home maintenance manual under our Agent/Client Resource page. These simple tips are easy to follow and can save you money.