Here are just a few examples of what we look for when inspecting a home.
This discussion is designed to accentuate the education of clients, in regards to becoming familiar with home inspections, to explain all primary construction components and materials, to troubleshoot potential problems, to offer solutions to repairs, and to make the owner aware of problems that could eventually arise in the future due to existing conditions.
1. Home Inspection: The Initial Site Review.
- Is all the wood in the house above the level of the soil?
- Does water drain away from the house?
- Does the crawlspace have adequate clearance and ventilation?
- Have earth-filled porches, decks and other structures separated from the house?
- Is the roof overhang sufficient?
- Has caulking around doors, windows and joints been maintained?
- Are gutters and downspouts intact?
- Is attic ventilated?
- Is roof decking completely covered, especially at the edge?
- Does the roof sag, indicating rafter decay?
- Are decorative and other items attached to the house likely to admit Or trap moisture?
- Is plumbing, including drains, free of leaks?
- Do doors or windows stick? Are frames decayed?
- Is caulking around tubs, sinks, and showers intact?
- Do ceilings have water damage?
- Does the crawlspace contain stumps or wood debris?
- Are there small holes in unfinished wood in the crawlspace with powder under them?
Foundations provide for the adequate support of structured members and the loads placed upon them. Well constructed foundations prevent the entrance of water or excessive moisture. Serious defects that are detected should be itemized for repairs. Basements, floors or crawl space areas should be inspected for evidence of standing surface ground water.
- cracks in the piers
- cracks between the foundation and the frame
- sagging floor joists
- cracks in the basement walls
- cracks in the brick veneer
- crumbling mortar
- proper support / shimming techniques
- water intrusion through perimeter
- damp or leaking basement walls
- white mineral deposits on the walls
- finish grade sloped away from the foundation
- adequate ventilation of the crawl space
A well constructed roof includes: 1) adequate structural support at the rafters, 2) sound roof decking, and 3) a well sealed roof covering. Asphalt shingles are the most common roof covering and are made in a variety of weights and thickness. The most obvious deterioration of asphalt shingles is the loss of surface granules. The shingles may also become quite brittle. More important is the wear that occurs in the narrow groves between the tabs or sections of the shingle, or between two consecutive shingles in a row. This wear may extend completely through to the roof boards or decking without being apparent from a visual inspection. If the roof is actually leaking, it should be obvious from water damage inside the house. A thorough inspection includes looking for water stains on the ceilings around the perimeter of the house and at wall junctions in each room. Extensive water damage will cause dry wall or ceiling tiles to sag. An inspection in the attic may also reveal water stains on the rafters. (Even small leaks may eventually cause damage.) Water damage inside the house is not always attributable to roofing leaks. Leaks may also be caused by faulty flashing.
4. Floor Framing.
- sagging ridge line
- buckled, spongy, or warped roof decking
- water stains on rafters
- signs of leakage around the chimneys
- cracked or split shingles
- shingles covered with tar and/or fungus
- flashing corroded or absent
- proper weatherization
- gutters and down spouts corroded
- water stains on interior ceilings and walls
- evidence of prior leaks/water intrusion
An inspection of floor framing includes an examination of the condition of floor joists, band joists, girders, plates, and sub-flooring. Floors should never significantly move under normal live load conditions, i.e., walking. Individual structural members that are deteriorated or missing should be replaced. Notice that the load bearing walls rest directly over the foundation footings and that rooms inside the house frame are divided by partition walls.
- decay at girders, joists, etc.
- sagging girders
- warped or disconnected sub floor
- incorrect supplemental floor supports
- shaky stairways
- doors which will not properly close because of uneven frames
5. Exterior Wall Framing.
Exterior walls provide for the adequate support of all live and dead loads that are placed upon them (such as roof rafters, etc.). Well constructed wall framing provides a support for the exterior veneer, trim, windows and doors.
6. Siding and Trim.
- windows that bind or do not open
- decay at the foundation sill plate
- decay at the entrance steps
- walls that are buckled or warped
All exterior siding and trim should be examined for durability and proper installation. When more than one siding covers the exterior wall frame a "probe" under the siding is required to test the integrity of the wood frame structure.
- decayed fascia or trim
- water stains and/or decay on the sofit
- excessive gaps between lap siding
- warped or split siding and trim
- asphalt shingle or cedar shake siding which is worn and broken
Floor framing members (including stairs, ceilings and all other load bearing structured members) should be inspected for decay or any other hazard that would indicate a potential for the building and/or individual members of the building to fail or collapse.
- spongy and flaky wood members
- bore holes visible in the wood framing
8. Chimney and Fireplaces.
Fireplaces, chimneys and other venting should be structurally safe, smoke-tight and capable of withstanding heat as well as provide for the adequate discharge of flue gases. Chimneys which are defective or deteriorated or which may constitute a fire hazard should be properly closed with masonry. Most problems with chimneys are caused by deteriorated mortar and soot build up. An inspection must include checking the integrity of the flashing, i.e., the metal strips around the base of the chimney that seal the joints between the masonry and the roof. "Black gunk" on the flashing is a sign that a tar product has been used to correct a leakage problem that may still be unsolved. Also if there is a damper at the firebox and that it properly operates and seals. Signs of smoke on the mantle piece, a sign of poor draft. If the chimney passes through an attic, an inspection of the chimney may reveal signs of deteriorated mortar joints or signs of charred wood. As a precaution, framing should clear the masonry by two inches for interior chimneys.
9. Insulation and Moisture Controls.
An adequate level of insulation will benefit a house in many ways. Insulation slows down the rate of heat conduction, keeping heat in living areas for longer periods of times. As a result less heat is required in winter and air conditioners usually operate for shorter periods in summer without sacrificing comfort. Adequate insulation may also affect the efficiency of heat/cool systems allowing for unit "down-sizing". For instance, smaller more efficient units may be possible at a savings to the homeowner. Additionally, insulation is usually fire resistant and may serve as a deterrent to flame spread. There are several types of insulation permitted by code: batts and blankets; loose-fill; and rigid board. Dampness in the crawl space area creates decay and deterioration of framing members. Proper foundation venting and placement of a vapor barrier prevent excessive moisture build-up. A vapor barrier is a specially treated plastic sheet that prevents condensation of water vapors, which are a natural occurrence from the earth, from entering the crawl space.
10. Windows and Doors.
- vapor barrier at the crawl space
- operable foundation vents, properly sized
- floor insulation
- attic insulation
- proper ventilation
Windows and doors, including their hardware, need be inspected for proper installation and operation. Windows should not allow for air or water infiltration into the house, including the window's sash or casings. Exterior doors should have safe locks and peep holes. All exterior doors should be substantially weather-tight.
11. Mechanical and Plumbing Systems.
- window counterweights that are broken
- decay around sash and sills
- doors that are warped or binding
- door thresholds that are decayed
- door trim that is warped or decayed
- water intrusion / damage
Any asbestos containing material wrapped around vent pipes should be removed or covered by a professional with a high temperature tape or paint. The age of the system is important, even if the furnace and its means of distribution seems to be sound.
12. Forced-air Systems
- required plumbing fixtures that are in good working condition and that they are properly connected
- supply and waste lines are sound, i.e. free from defects, leaks, and obstructions
- required fixtures include a kitchen sink, a toilet, a bath sink. shower or tub, and a water heater
- incompatible materials
- presence of leaks
- integrity of shower / tub enclosures
These systems use air as the medium to carry heat throughout the home. The most common type uses a central heater fired by gas, oil or electricity to heat the air which is blown by a central fan through ducts under the floors or in the ceilings and walls of each room. Most systems of this type need to be installed when the house is built, but modifications can upgrade this system. Insulating all of the exposed duct work, if not already done, can save a great deal of energy and money.
Balancing a forced-air system is accomplished by manipulating the registers and dampers on each branch line to ensure that the heat is equal in all the rooms.
13. Electrical System.
- required emergency shutoff and safety features that are in good working condition and that they are properly connected
- proper heating and cooling temperature differentials
- proper drip plan functionality
- functioning operating controls
- proper air filtration
An inspection of the electrical system includes a search for any potential hazards. Common hazards often found include missing cover plates on junction boxes, receptacles and/or switches improperly sized wiring and fuses. Frequently blown fuses are evidence of overloaded circuits. If you find only fuses in the electrical panel this is an indication that the system is very old. Every house considered for rehabilitation should have at least 100 -150 ampere service coming into the panel. This would be adequate enough to serve a house of moderate size, especially a house with window air conditioning units, microwave, etc.
- adequate amperage service
- frayed, burned or rotted wiring
- missing light fixture covers
- protective covers on switches and outlets
- major appliance outlets
- a labeled panel box
- improper wiring techniques
- over fused circuits improper wiring techniques
- over fused circuits
- presence of proper conductor materials
- poor craftsmanship / "weekend warrior" installations
Now what do we do?
First, you need to be sure that you retain the services of a qualified Licensed Professional Inspector who can identify subtle defects that are not readily visible to the typical home buyer. Identifying subtle defects before you finalize a contract can translate into a reduced selling price or repair of uncovered defects often at the sellers' cost. The purpose of a pre-purchase home inspection is to reduce risk to the buyer.
Order an inspection today!