This could be you first time having a home inspection and you are asking yourself.. What Does a Home Inspector Do? Well we do a lot during our inspection and this is just a small snap-shot into a typical home inspection.
Exterior of the Home
Depending on the safety of the roof, we will walk the roof and look for defects in the material. Sometimes the roof is not safe to walk so we inspect it from the ground with good binoculars and a camera that will show us up close the condition of the roofing material when we get it on the computer during the report process. We are also looking for other defects besides roofing material, your home inspector looks for sags in the roof that might give us a better idea of the condition of the rafters when we do an attic inspection later on during the home inspection.
We also look at the condition of the soffit, fascia and the rakes that go up the gable end. We will inspect any roof penetrations such as vent pipes and exhaust fans, and look at the condition of the flashing.
During the inspection of the siding we are looking for many things, one of them is the condition of the siding and secondly we’re looking at the installation of the siding, make sure it was installed correctly. While we are doing the inspection on the siding we also look for defects in the trim work, such as rot and gaps that could let weather and pests into the home.
Decks and Porches
Most homes have a deck and we check them thoroughly. We look over the structure of the deck to make sure the posts are adequate size and that it has footings and not just blocks or on the ground. Decks on a lot of homes are not built properly, a lot of them are built by the homeowner or what we call weekend warriors with friends and family that have done some type of construction in their life. We like to check the deck material for any rot or nails that will trip someone. Your home inspector is also checking for the railing to be the correct height and that the balusters are not spread too far apart that a kid’s head could get stuck.
The inspector inspects the ground around the building making sure that its slopes away from the home. He also looks for bushes and shrubs that are touching the home and will recommend that they be cut back or removed. During the ground part of the home Inspection we also look for the condition of the driveway and the walkways to the home.
We go around the building checking all spigots to make sure that the water is running. If there is a drilled well we look for the cover to make sure it is sealed properly to the casing. Unfortunately we do not inspect irrigation systems or water sprinkler systems to the home.
During the electrical part of your home inspection on the exterior we look for gfci on all outlets, we check to make sure that your lights turn on and off. Sometimes it’s hard to test motion lights on the exterior if it is daylight out. We do inspect the main service coming into the building looking for the ground from the panel, adequate service wire size, and the condition of the panel meter socket. We do not inspect any ground lighting or deck lighting that is typically done now in LED.
Interior of the Home
After the exterior we typically go right to the basement. We check the foundation for cracks and for water intrusion which can be seen by actual water or efflorescence. we do check this during the exterior inspection but we tend to find more from the interior.
If the basement has a crawl we are crawling! The inspector is looking for some different things like vapor barrier on the floor and that the wall is properly insulated. He is looking to see if there are any vents to let air flow through the crawl space.
We look at the floor of the basement to see if there’s any settling going on or possible cracks that could be letting radon air into the home. One thing we think about when looking at the floor is Radon Air testing and we do offer it and you can find more info at NH Radon Air Testing.
We check the ceiling for leaks because we are now below the plumbing. Now if the home has a finished basement there are a lot of these things that we can not check because the walls will be covered. This can be a cause of concern in basement because the basement walls are covered and that’s where the mold would typically be if the basement is not dry.
Seeing that were in the basement most likely the heating system is there. We list some of the systems there we’d typically see and what we look for but this is by no means everything that we inspect on a typical home inspection. We look over the system for safety concerns and anything that looks not correct.
Hot Air System
If you have a forced air system we will pull the air filter to see if it needs to be changed. We look for service tags on the system to see if it’s being maintained on a regular basis or not. Most of the systems with forced hot air in New England are fueled by gas whether it’s propane or natural gas. A typical thing we look for is the flame in the burner we want to look like a true blue without any yellow. There are some tell tale signs when looking at the flame to see if you have a cracked heat exchanger or not. We also looked to see if the condensate system has been maintained properly and that it’s working correctly.
Baseboard heating systems
These types of systems are very popular in the northeast and are typically a cast-iron boiler or a steel boiler that is fueled by oil. These are typically hydronic systems with circulators that transport water from the boiler in a loop system to baseboards in the rooms and then back-to the boiler. It sometimes is harder to see malfunctions with a boiler because you can’t take it apart. So what we are typically looking for is leaking, also other things like the expansion tank to see if the diaphragm is working correctly or if the tank is full of water. We also look for the relief valve to make sure that is so far off the floor and that there are no signs that has been releasing water pressure. We also look for the age of the system to give you the customer a better idea of how much longer you have with that system in your new home.
Here we are looking for the water source… here in New Hampshire we have a lot of homes on wells but the home can be on city water. We do find a lot of water treatment systems from your typical water softener all the way to a reverse osmosis system for the entire home. Some of these systems can beyond the scope of the inspection and we recommend a professional that installed the particular system to come evaluate and show you how they work.
As we inspect the plumbing we are making sure that the drains are of adequate size and that they keep pitching down. We are also checking the material to make sure that they are like kinds material not PVC connected to ABS. If the floor is unfinished a lot of the time we can find plumbing leaks above by looking at the floor.
Most likely if you are in New Hampshire you are on a well and will want water testing, we offer it and you can find more info NH Water Testing.
Most of the time we find the electrical panel in the basement. Most likely we pull the cover to the panel. If we see something that looks not safe we won’t pull the cover and we will recommend a licensed electrician do so. Once we are in the panel we are looking for breakers that are double tapped signs of rust and corrosion, wires that might have been burned or breakers that are not working correctly.
Now we look at the beam that carries the floor above and the condition of the lally columns. We also look at the bulkhead or the access to the outside while we’re in the basement.
They can limit the home inspection because we cannot see the wall. Is very hard to see if the construction was done properly. For example a lot of the time a contractor or homeowner will put plastic up on the concrete wall and this will trap moisture from the concrete wall and the new wall and create mold. Or a lot of the time we see the new wall right up against the concrete wall with the insulation rubbing up against the exterior foundation.
Lastly we check the basement stairs for structural integrity the proper rise in run and also the railing to make sure it’s adequate. We do find a lot of basement stairs not safe with railings. I think the thought is during this construction that is not a livable area so no great length is done to create a proper railing.
First floor of the home
We look over the condition of the cabinets and the counter-tops. We are looking for cabinets that do not open or shut correctly and counter-tops that are cracked. We then look over the appliances that are in the kitchen and we run the dishwasher to look for leaks, sorry we do not check to see how well it’s going to wash dishes. The stove we are checking to see if the burners turn on and if the oven works. We do not check the Refrigerator a lot of the times they tend to not go with the property or they have been unplugged. We do run the garbage disposal if they home has one.
Looking to see how all the sinks drain and if the fixtures are working properly and we are checking the general pressure and temp of the water coming out of the faucet. We flush the toilets and also check to see if they are loose to the floor. During this inspection we are checking to see if the plumbing was done correctly with no s-traps.
We go around checking most of the outlets to make sure that they are wired correctly. We are also checking the light fixtures and fans to make sure that they operate. One of the big safety issues that we look for is if the kitchen and bathroom have a GFCI outlet to protect you the buyer when you do buy the home and use these outlets around water.
On a typical inspection we can see a lot from the ceiling. We can see signs of past water intrusion or a current problem with water. We are looking for evidence of past ice dams. The ceiling also tell us if there is a structural problem with signs of cracks and settling in the drywall.
These walls can lean out, lean in, show signs of water damage and show signs of pest infestation. The biggest thing we look for are cracks to see if there is a structural problem.
Here we are looking for possible areas that are sagging that will give us an idea of a structural problem the floor below. We do not report on cosmetic things unless they are very explicit but a typical stain or run in the carpet is not reported. Your report typically list the type of floors that we do find in the home.
Second floor of the home
For the bedrooms we are checking the doors to see how well they close and open. We check the lights and the floors and also the windows. When we look at the windows we are checking to see how well they function and also the type and quality of the window. A lot of times we find windows that are missing there screens and these typically are hard to replace or costly to have a new one made.
We are checking all the plumbing and electrical like we do on the first floor but a lot of the times we find jacuzzi tubs in the upstairs so we fill the tub to check the function. We also look to see if we can get in the access panel to check the electrical to make sure that it is protected with a gfci outlet.
What we look for in the stairway is safety. We check the condition of the railing to see if it has a wobble or not and we are looking for the spacing between the balusters to make sure they are the correct size.
Now is the fun part and typically the last part of the home inspection the attic! Hopefully there is a set of pull down stairs but if there is not we work our way up the scuttle hole. This is the location we typically find mold in a home if the venting is not correct. We look for correct venting of the attic space, we look for the condition of the plywood and and rafters to the home. If we can crawl or stand we do but if there is no catwalk over the ceiling we typically can only see from the access. Insulation is a major part of the home and we are looking for this while we are in the attic.
That’s not all..
I want to say this is by no means all that we look for during a home inspection. This is just to give you general idea of what is going to happen during a home inspection.