The Ultimate Guide To Home Inspections
(What is and isn’t covered, and where is checked?)
What to Expect During a Home Inspection
Performed for a small fee, a general home inspection is a process that will see a professional visit a residential property to assess all of the accessible areas. As well as looking for damage, the expert will ensure that everything is up to standards in terms of building materials and techniques. Often, there is confusion as to what a general home inspection covers so we have a complete guide for you here.
Firstly, it is important to note two key elements of any general home inspection;
- The assessment cannot predict what will happen in the future and only looks at the condition of the accessible areas at that moment.
- Not every single issue that exists will be uncovered by the process; only those observed on the day will be in the final report.
In particular, the inspection looks for ‘material defects’ which consists of any components or systems that have the potential to affect the property valuation. Furthermore, it could also include components that pose a threat to inhabitants. If something is coming to the end of its life or has surpassed its expected life, this does not constitute a material defect.
In a written format, a general home inspection will identify any defects according to the standards that are put into place. At the end, there may also be some additional recommendations and comments from the inspector. With this in mind, let’s take a look into what is included, what isn’t included, as well as the limitations of such an inspection.
General Limitations of a Home Inspection
Limitations of a General Home Inspection
Ultimately, the general home inspection serves a purpose and it will allow many needs to be met but it is also important to note the limitations of the inspection. For example, the inspection cannot find concealed defects, aesthetic concerns, or the suitability of a property for a certain use. Furthermore, an inspection cannot find market value, its insurability, or give advice about whether a property should be bought or not. Finally, no life expectancy can be found from the inspection and the items that aren’t permanently attached will not be included. As long as the property has four or less residential units, these standards of practice will apply.
Exclusions in a General Home Inspection
With that in mind, it should also be noted that there are some exclusions and things that simply are not covered. If you need something that is in this list, a general home inspection might not be what you’re looking for. For example, the inspector will not assess anything outside of the boundary lines nor will they find a reason as to why something is in the current state of health. Additionally, they will not determine life expectancy, performance, future health, compliance with regulations, mold, rodents, air quality, environmental hazards, acoustical properties, electromagnetic fields, airborne hazards, waste, or anything of this type.
When an inspector visits a property, they do not evaluate the actual component in terms of what it offers and whether it has been recalled by the manufacturer or the cost of maintenance or even repair. As we discussed previously, they simply assess the condition and look for material defects. Therefore, the inspector will never operate machinery, alarm systems, phone lines, gas detectors, or any system that is out of reach. If something is to be operated, it will be items that require simple operating controls.
Furthermore, the inspector will assess a property as it is when they arrive which means that they shouldn’t be expected to move items, dismantle objects, enter crawlspaces, go underground, or complete a task that presents a health hazard. If you are having a general home inspection, you will be expected to have your property prepared which includes moving rugs, carpeting, plants, furniture, and anything else that provides an obstruction.
Before we head into each individual area and assess what should and shouldn’t be checked by the inspector, we should also state that inspectors are not a resource of information and therefore will not research history, perform any kind of service, offer any products, determine the age of construction, or inspect anything outside of the services we will lay out.
All Information sourced from the InterNACHI – Standards of Practice document.
Standards of Practice
To start, let’s take a look at what the inspector will assess with regards to your roof.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – When it comes to the roof, the inspector will assess, from the ground level or via a ladder, the downspouts, gutters, any skylights, chimney, and the general structure from what is readily available. After describing the materials used, they will then report any leaks that can be seen.
What areas are not covered? – During the inspection, they will not predict the future life, walk on the roof, remove any snow to inspect, move insulation, inspect the drainage pipes, assess satellite dishes, certify the roof, or confirm the installation of the material covering the roof.
The Basement, Crawl Space, Foundation, and Structure
A common misconception is that none of these areas are covered in a general home inspection, particularly the crawlspace, but this is wrong. However, there are restrictions to what an inspector will assess.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – Before describing the type of foundation and the location of under-floor space, the inspector will assess the basement, foundation, crawlspace, as well as structural components. The inspector may also report on active water penetration, movement in a foundation, wood near any soil, and any structural problems that present a safety issue.
What areas are not covered? – At no point will the inspector enter a crawlspace that isn’t accessible or looks to be dangerous, nor will they provide any services, operate sump pumps, move debris, or assess the size or adequacy of joists, support systems, and bolting.
The Heating System
In truth, a lot of confusion seems to arise with regards to the heating so here is what is included and what you shouldn’t expect from a general home inspection.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – Using simple controls, the inspector will assess the system itself and describe the energy source, method of heating, and the thermostat’s position. In terms of correction, they may report if it isn’t accessible or if it did not operate properly.
What areas are not covered? – During the inspection, the professional will not look in the interior of any heat exchangers, chimneys, fire chambers, humidifiers, geothermal systems, combustion air systems, or flues. Additionally, they will not inspect fuel tanks, light pilot flames, override the thermostat, assess the quality of fuel, or check timers for calibration. Finally, they may not check the system for temperature, balance, distribution, and capacity.
The Cooling System
Much like the heating, the inspector will use normal controls to test the cooling system and you will need to ensure that it is easily accessible otherwise the inspector may not include it in the inspection. With this in mind, you should move anything that might be blocking access and has the controls ready to use.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – As well as operating the controls, they may describe the method as well as the thermostat’s position. If it was inaccessible or didn’t work, this will be noted in the report.
What areas are not covered? – On the other hand, the inspectors will not inspect portable window units, air filters, calibration of a thermostat, electrical current, or coolant leakage. If the exterior is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the systems will not be operated and, in either case, the adequacy, balance, distribution, capacity of the system will not be inspected.
Much like the heating, confusion can be found here too because many people are unsure of what constitutes ‘exterior’ so let’s take a look.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – In this inspection, any railings, stairs, ramps, doors, wall-covering materials, porches, balconies, eaves, windows, and vegetation will be checked. As you can see, this list includes permanent fixtures that will not be removed and contribute to the core of the property. Also, they will describe the specific type of wall-covering material as well as whether there is poor spacing between rails and balusters.
What areas are not covered? – Despite common belief, inspections do not cover shutters, accent lighting, soil conditions, equipment, walls, erosion control, solar systems, underground items, and any other equipment or item that doesn’t directly affect the property itself. As we said at the beginning, the main aim of such an inspection is to assess what affects the value of property, not the items that make it easier to live in. If you can live without a system and it isn’t essential to the running of a house, it isn’t likely to be included in the inspection.
Of course, plumbing is essential to any house so the inspector will check a variety of components and systems.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – In terms of plumbing, the inspection is relatively simple in that the shut-off valve for water and fuel will be tested and all equipment or systems that affect the two are checked. For example, sinks, drains, faucets, waste, water heating equipment, tanks, toilets, and more.
Furthermore, the inspector will describe the location of valves and systems as well as water heating capacity and public or private water supply. In terms of correction, the report will show water supply issues, problems with faucets, any missing drain stops, and damaged toilets.
What areas are not covered? – As we have seen with the other sections, there are also parts of the plumbing that do not feature in the report including all the tasks we saw in the heating section (such as shut-off valves) plus inspecting washing machine, valves, access panels, water quality, cleaning of drains, anti-siphon, shower pans, wastewater systems, water filters, ancillary or auxiliary systems, polybutylene plumbing and gas leaks.
With electricity playing an ever-more important role in daily life, this is an important section so let’s see what’s covered.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – Firstly, it should be noted that the inspector will assess the service drop, head, mast, and conductors. After this, they will check the service grounding, electric meter, panel boards, circuit breakers, some light fixtures, some receptacles (AFCI testing), and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
After inspecting, the amperage rating and the wiring type will be described before reporting on any deficiencies within the service-entrance conductors’ insulation, unused circuit breakers, aluminum brans-circuit wiring and the previously tested receptacle. If you do not have any smoke detectors in place, this will also be noted.
What areas are not covered? – On the other hand, the inspectors will not remove panel boards, insert tools into the panel board, operate over-current protection devices, test security or alarm systems, test remote control devices, or the low-voltage systems. Furthermore, they will not verify the service ground nor will they conduct calculations for the voltage-drop or check lightning arrestors. As long as the core electrical systems and components are reviewed, no additional units will be assessed.
The Attic, Insulation, and Ventilation
Again, this can be a confusing area for many because all attics provide something unique to the property and not everyone has full insulation.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – To start, all insulation and ventilation will be assessed in attics, foundation areas and crawlspaces. Furthermore, mechanical exhaust systems will be checked in laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. After this, they will describe the average depth of insulation as well as the type of insulation used. If there is no insulation, this will be noted.
What areas are not covered? – During the inspection, the inspector should not be expected to move the insulation or the vapor retarders nor should they enter an area that isn’t readily accessible. In addition to this, they will not determine the material of insulation, activate thermostatic fans, or identify R-value of the material used for insulation.
If you have a fireplace, there are certain things that you should and shouldn’t expect from a general home inspection.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – In this section of the home inspection, the expert will look at the lintels found above the opening of the fireplace as well as the visible sections of the fireplace itself. As we have seen all the way through, only the readily accessible sections will be assessed and the damper doors will be tested in addition to the clean-out frames and doors.
After describing the type of fireplace in the property, the inspector will note whether there is damage to any of the fireplace, dampers, and whether the smoke detector was in the same room or not. Then, notes may also be made regarding the material of the clean-out and whether there is a carbon monoxide detector in the room.
What areas are not covered? – However, the inspector should not be expected to assess the inside of the chimney or operate the inserts of the fireplace. Similarly, they will not inspect the vent system, flue, pilot flames, the fuel-fed devices, combustion, assists, or the draft. Just as we have discovered before, they will also not perform any services such as igniting the fireplace or discuss how adequate the overall fireplace is.
Doors, Windows and Interior
Finally, we have the section regarding the garage, windows, and the general interior of a home. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
What aspects are covered during an inspection? – Here, the inspector might start by assessing the doors, walls, ceilings, and floors. After this, they may progress to the landings, steps, stairs, ramps, handrails, railings, garage doors, and they may even operate any doors within the house or garage.
After describing whether the garage door is manual or automatic, the inspector will report the spacing between balusters, the safety sensors (if not operating correctly), and any windows that show evidence of broken seals or cracks.
What areas are not covered? – When it comes to the home inspection, there are quite a lot of items in this area that people mistakenly believe to be in the inspection. For example, it is not the role of the inspector to look at paint, wallpaper, vacuum systems, glazing, carpets, security systems, or the safety of sink tops, countertops, or fixtures. Despite popular belief, these are not important because they can all be removed without affecting the core of a house. For example, work surfaces might be helpful when it comes to living in the house but they are not an essential asset and the house wouldn’t fall down without them.
Included in this list, inspectors will rarely move ceiling tiles, move furniture, check a bar release or any other security mechanism, or check microwave ovens.
Finally, they shouldn’t be expected to operate saunas, toasters, can openers, coffee makers, bread warmers, or any other appliance/device as well as pools, spas, remote controls, elevators, firewall compromises, or any items that are not in place permanently.
So there we have it, your complete guide to what you should be expecting during a home inspection. As a service, the main idea is to gauge the overall health of a building as opposed to worrying about what is being kept inside. As we said, items that will not affect the structure of a building or how it runs will simply not be of any importance to the inspector and will therefore not be included in the final report.
Also, be sure to prepare your home for the inspection because everything must be easily accessible in order to receive an assessment. If a particular area of your home, component or system cannot be accessed safely and in a position where an assessment can be made, it will be missed out which can ruin the report altogether if you are planning to use it for a particular purpose.
As long as you remember this and pay attention to what is and isn’t included in the general home inspection, you will be in a great position to get an accurate assessment. Feel free to keep this as a reference that you can come back to in the future and share the information with anyone else who is looking to get a home inspection so they know what to expect!
Did you also know that there is more than 1 type of home inspection… You can learn about them here.
If you are looking for a Home Inspector in Edmonton than feel free to contact us at any time.