What are some of the basic elements of a professional Home Inspection?
When you are purchasing a home and have made your offer, there is an initial period of time, that you should have home inspections performed. These inspections are necessary to ensure that there is no deal breaking issues that could affect the mortgage or financial arrangements on the property, or even worse, your happiness and comfort once you have occupied the home.
What are some of the minimum elements that should be inspected and verified by these home inspections?
1.) Condition and adequacy of the exterior skin of the home. This inspection would include at a minimum the following;
a.) Siding material condition and quality. This review will include the condition of the surface of the siding material, the type of material used and the condition of the trim around the windows, doors, and miscellaneous other areas that trim material were used. This inspection will qualify the material that has been used, its condition and any recommendations for repair or maintenance of the siding.
b.) Roofing material, condition and quality. Unlike the siding, in most situations, the roofing is subjected to a maximum life expectancy. Roofing material can be purchased with warranties of 20, 25, 30 or more years. Obviously the longer the warranty period the longer the roof will be expected to properly function. Your inspector will identify the remaining longevity of the roof by observing the amount of surface material that has been worn off the roof itself. In addition this inspection will include the various flashing details and other waterproofing elements used to ensure that water does not penetrate the structure.
c.) Exterior windows and doors. The inspection will evaluate the condition of the windows and the exterior doors. This will include any observations of broken seals or broken windows throughout the structure. The doors will be inspected for function and condition. The inspection should acknowledge any need for replacement of the windows and doors including any skylights or miscellaneous glazing that was used to seal the exterior of the structure from the interior.
d.) Gutters and leaders. The condition and adequacy of the gutters and leaders will be noted. Whether there are ample leaf guards on the gutters to keep the gutters clean of leaves and debris as well as the structural integrity of the condition of the leaders and gutters. The inspector will be able to acknowledge the maintenance of the gutters to give you an idea of the type of maintenance the entire home has been given.
2.) Condition and adequacy of the interior of the home. This inspection will include the following elements at a minimum.
a.) Floors. Each type of floor will be inspected for wear and maintenance issues. If the floors are all wood, the inspector will identify the type of material and recommend any upkeep and maintenance of the wood floors. Ceramic or stone floors will also be inspected to ensure there is proper maintenance inclusive of grouting and sealing. The inspector will identify cracked tiles or inconsistencies that should be repaired of maintained.
b.) Walls. Each wall in each room will be inspected for imperfections in the surface, or issues such as cracking or other surface imperfections.
c.) Doors and hardware. All doors and the hardware for each door will be inspected and maintenance items identified. If different doors are used in the structure, then the report should identify the differences in the type of doors as well as the recommended correction of the various door types.
d.) Ceiling and other surfaces. Like the walls, the inspector will note any imperfections, cracks or issues with the other surfaces within the structure.
3.) Potential mold, radon or other environmental issues. The inspector will observe any identification of obvious mold and will probably perform a radon test. Mold is the growth of mold spores due to water infiltration and the development of mildew and dampness leading to mold growth. Mold can be very detrimental to the ability for some individuals to live comfortably in the home and must be identified, if present. Radon is an element that is given off by granite ( rock ) due to its formation during the earth’s development. There are several different tests that can be performed to determine if radon is present and you inspector will probably perform one of these tests.
4.) Termite or other insect or rodent infestation. The inspector will inspect for evidence of insect or rodent issues.
5.) Insulation. The inspector will include a report on the type and extent of insulation throughout the home. This insulation report is important due to its significance on the actual cost of maintaining the interior environmental temperatures and comfort within the home.
6.) Kitchen. Testing of all the appliance, evaluation of the kitchen cabinets, hardware and function will all be inspected. In addition the adequacy and condition of all the plumbing within the kitchen will be performed.
7.) Bathrooms. The plumbing as well as the condition of the tile, vanities, towel racks, etc. will be inspected.
8.) Specialty rooms or systems. If the home has a special security system, special Bluetooth speaker systems or any other type of system, these will be inspected to ensure that there are no significant issues with any of the specialty systems.
9.) Mechanical. The inspection of the mechanical systems inclusive of the heating system, the cooling system, hot water system and special mechanical systems will be done. If there are special equipment installed to accommodate a hard water issue, these systems will be inspected. All ductwork, piping, grilles, diffusers, etc. will all be reviewed and reported on.
10.) Electrical. The inspection will include a complete review of all light fixtures, outlets, switches and other electrical devices installed within the home. Each device will be tested for function and reported on . If specialty systems are installed such as specialty fire or other safety systems, these systems will be inspected and reported on.
11.) Electrical service into the structure. The size and condition of the primary power into the home will be inspected. In addition the secondary light and power panels will be inspected and any issues such as bad breakers or lack of proper safety equipment will be noted.
12.) If the home is supplied by a well for domestic water, this should be inspected. In many cases, this inspection will be by another specialty inspector that is either an installer of well systems or is a professional with the installation of wells in the area. Items that will be inspected is the condition of the well equipment, such as the pumps and piping. In addition the capacity of the well in gallons per minute will be tested. In most cases, the water quality will also be tested for minerals or impurities in the well water.
13.) Septic systems. If the home sanitary is a septic system, then like the well, this inspection is normally performed by an independent professional that has either extensive experience with septic systems around the area or is a professional sanitation inspector. This inspector will normally open up the top of the septic tank for inspection after obtaining the as-built document that was filed in the local Town Hall or the local Sanitation department. This inspector will observe the condition of the system and could possibly recommend that the seller of the property pump out the septic tank, prior to a new occupancy.
14.) Specialty safety systems. The inspectors will identify the fire and smoke systems, the specialty security systems or any other system within the home. The inspection should note the condition as well as the functioning of these systems.
Once the inspections have been completed, it is recommended that each inspector be allowed to comment on the home. In many cases, the inspectors will have basic, common sense recommendations to you regarding the home. These inspectors have been involved in numerous home inspections, septic and well inspections and are very astute at observing the obvious maintenance issues or in providing recommendations for improvement in the home.
What types of information can you obtain from your inspectors?
1.) Different methods of heating and cooling the home. The inspector will have the most up to date information, in terms of efficiency of systems and what is new on the market. If you have older oil fired furnace that is inefficient, the inspector may recommend and eventual trade up to a more efficient boiler or furnace. If the hot water is connected to your heating boiler the inspector may recommend the installation of a new independent system to preclude the heating furnace or boiler. There are several new and innovative systems that are on the market that can be used to heat and cool your home. Your home inspector could have some very interesting and cost saving ideas and suggestions.
2.) Window and door replacement. In many homes there is a need for more efficient door and window replacement. Ask the inspector, they will be able to identify any issues and can provide insight into the necessity to replace doors and windows.
3.) Specialty system additions. Your inspectors will understand all of the new technology that has been introduced into the residential market. Items such as residential heating and cooling controls, Bluetooth sound systems, or wireless smoke and fire detection systems to name a few of the new specialty systems that are available.
4.) Possible addition of space, additional decks, added dormer space, etc. Use the inspector to obtain information regarding additional room or modifications of the existing spaces.
The proper use of professional home inspectors will not only ensure that you understand the condition of the home you are buying and any issues that you can anticipate, they are also wonderful sources of knowledge and information regarding your home. Use them, and they will provide, many times over the cost of their services, to your peace of mind as well as understanding of your new home.
What should you physically expect from the home inspectors?
A written report, with photos of the all of the issues and conditions of the home, should be presented to you within 48 hours. This will include photos, notes on issues, as well as recommendations for repair of future maintenance. With today’s electronic means of communication, the ability of professional inspectors to provide detailed and professional reports is assumed. This is what you should get, do not settle for anything less.
Good luck, and try to be at the home when your inspections take place. You will meet some very interesting and professional individuals as they inspect your future home.
Enjoy, and do not be afraid to ask any question to these inspectors, their knowledge is extremely valuable!