Homebuyers: Real Home Inspection Advice From A Real Home Inspector

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Do a web search on home inspections and you are sure to get plenty of advice. But just who is giving this advice and more importantly, how do THEY know what a home inspection is supposed to entail?

Many would be advice givers on the subject of home inspections are flat out not qualified to give advice concerning the most important and crucial step in the home buying process. Some tend to provide their own twisted brand of advice to better suit their needs rather than yours. As I read through some of these home inspection advice articles, I have to laugh as I have yet to read an article that is true to what a home inspection actually is and what a home inspector is actually required to do.

No doubt you will find many home inspection advice articles stating that “all a home inspector is required to do is to check the structure for major defects” or “all a home inspector is required to do is check the mechanicals of a home” or my personal favorite, “all a home inspector is required to do is show you where the main water shutoff is and how to change your furnace filter”. Really?

Let’s just take a look at what a home inspector is ACTUALLY required to do taken directly from the standards of practice from the largest home inspection organization in the world, InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors).

Roof

I. The inspector shall inspect from ground level or the eaves:

  1. the roof-covering materials;
  2. the gutters;
  3. the downspouts;
  4. the vents, flashing, skylights, chimney and other roof penetrations; and
  5. the general structure of the roof from the readily accessible panels, doors or stairs.

Exterior

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the exterior wall-covering material, flashing and trim;
  2. all exterior doors, decks, stoops, steps, stairs, ramps, porches, railings, eaves, soffits and fascias;
  3. and report as in need of repair any improper spacing between intermediate balusters, spindles and rails for steps, stairways, ramps, balconies and railings;
  4. a representative number of windows;
  5. the vegetation, surface drainage, retaining walls and grading of the property when they may adversely affect the structure, especially due to moisture intrusion;
  6. and describe the exterior wall covering.

Basement, Foundation, Crawlspace & Structure

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the foundation;
  2. the basement;
  3. the crawlspace;
  4. and report observed indications of active water penetration;
  5. for wood in contact with or near soil;
  6. and report observed indications of possible foundation movement, such as sheetrock cracks, brick cracks, out-of-square door frames, and unlevel floors;
  7. and report on any observed cutting, notching and boring of framing members that may, in the inspector’s opinion, present a structural or safety concern.

Heating

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the heating systems, using normal operating controls, and describe the energy source and heating method;
  2. and report as in need of repair heating systems that do not operate;
  3. and report if the heating systems are deemed inaccessible.

Cooling

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the central cooling equipment using normal operating controls.


Plumbing

I. The inspector shall:

  1. determine and report whether the water supply is public or private;
  2. verify the presence and identify the location of the main water shut-off valve;
  3. inspect the water heating equipment, including venting connections, energy-source supply system, and seismic bracing, and verify the presence or absence of temperature-/pressure- relief valves and/or Watts 210 valves;
  4. inspect all toilets for proper operation by flushing;
  5. inspect all sinks, tubs and showers for functional drainage;
  6. inspect the interior water supply, including all fixtures and faucets, by running the water;
  7. inspect the drain, waste and vent systems;
  8. describe any observed fuel-storage systems;
  9. inspect the drainage sump pumps, and operate pumps with accessible floats;
  10. inspect and describe the location of the main water supply and main fuel shut-off valves;
  11. inspect and report as in need of repair deficiencies in the water supply by viewing the functional flow in two fixtures operated simultaneously;
  12. inspect and report as in need of repair deficiencies in installation of hot and cold water faucets;
  13. inspect and report as in need of repair any mechanical drain stops that are missing or do not operate if installed in sinks, lavatories and tubs; and
  14. inspect and report any evidence that toilets are damaged, have loose connections to the floor, leak, or have tank components that do not operate.

Electrical

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the service drop/lateral;
  2. the meter socket enclosures;
  3. the means for disconnecting the service main;
  4. and describe the service disconnect amperage rating, if labeled;
  5. panelboards and over-current devices (breakers and fuses);
  6. and report on any unused circuit breaker panel openings that are not filled;
  7. the service grounding and bonding;
  8. a representative number of switches, lighting fixtures and receptacles, including receptacles observed and deemed to be arc-fault circuit interrupter or AFCI-protected using the AFCI test button, where possible;
  9. and test all ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacles and circuit breakers observed and deemed to be GFCIs using a GFCI tester, where possible;
  10. and report the presence of solid conductor aluminum branch circuit wiring, if readily visible;
  11. and report on any tested receptacles in which power was not present, polarity was incorrect, the cover was not in place, the GFCI devices were not properly installed or did not operate properly, evidence of arcing or excessive heat, and where the receptacle was not grounded or was not secured to the wall;
  12. the service entrance conductors and the condition of the conductor insulation;
  13. for the general absence of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors; and
  14. service entrance cables, and report as in need of repair deficiencies in the integrity of the insulation, drip loop, or separation of conductors at weatherheads and clearances from grade and rooftops.

Fireplace

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. and describe the fireplace;
  2. and open and close the damper door, if readily accessible and operable;
  3. hearth extensions and other permanently installed components;
  4. and report as in need of repair deficiencies in the lintel, hearth and material surrounding the fireplace, including the fireplace opening’s clearance from visible combustible materials.

Attic, Insulation & Ventilation

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the insulation in unfinished spaces;
  2. for the presence of attic ventilation;
  3. mechanical ventilation systems;
  4. and report on the general absence or lack of insulation or ventilation in unfinished spaces.

Doors, Windows & Interior

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. a representative number of doors and windows by opening and closing them;
  2. the walls, ceilings, steps, stairways and railings;
  3. and report as in need of repair any improper spacing between intermediate balusters, spindles and rails for steps, stairways and railings;
  4. the garage doors and garage door openers’ operation using the installed automatic door control;
  5. and report as improper any photo-electric safety sensor that fails to respond adequately to testing;
  6. and report as in need of repair any door locks or side ropes that have not been removed or disabled when the garage door opener is in use;
  7. and report as in need of repair any windows that are obviously fogged or display other evidence of broken seals.

As you can see, a home inspector is actually REQUIRED to do many things during a home inspection. It is also important to realize that these are just the bare MINIMUM standards that a home inspector is required to do. Many home inspectors will try and go above and beyond these standards, depending on their experience, work ethic and willingness to provide their clients with a top notch home inspection that details the ENTIRE condition of the home and not just the items you already know about.

The bottom line:

Do not be misled by reading incorrect advice concerning what a home inspection is or what a home inspector is required to do during a home inspection from people who are not qualified to give this advice. It is all in black and white: http://www.nachi.org/sop.htm.

Anything less and you are not getting a real home inspection!