We start each inspection by inspecting the concrete flat work. Are there any trip hazards or liability concerns from sidewalk or driveway panels settling or being raised by tree roots? Does the driveway have proper expansion joints? Is there any evidence of Street Creep? Have the front steps settled? Does the stoop slope away from the house? Does the patio funnel water to the foundation? We’ll check the grading to make sure it slopes away from the foundation, any large trees that could have rot in the trunk or large limbs that overhang the roof, the condition of the fence, see if the retaining walls are failing, check out the shed, and then look for safety & structural issues with the deck. Are there proper footings? Are the posts rotted? Are the joists sagging or rotted? Did they span the joists close enough for engineered plastic lumber deck boards? Is the railing secure enough to handle a 200 lb lateral force exerted on it? Will a toddler get his/her head stuck or fall through the railing spacing? Is there proper flashing at the ledger board? Are the long stairs diagonally braced? Does the deck need staining?
We then move onto the foundation. Are there any signs of movement? Are the walls bowing? Are there structural cracks? Are they step cracks, vertical cracks, horizontal cracks and how large are they? Are the exterior walls out of alignment? What type of siding is on the house? Is the siding installed correctly? Is there any rot, hail damage, installation errors? Is every penetration flashed properly? Are there any cracked window panes, dual-pane seals compromised, hail damage, glazing deteriorated, or bad flashing around the windows & doors? Is there tempered safety glass where it should be? Is there any rot on the fascia or soffits? Is the gutter system installed correctly? Do the downspout extensions run out far enough away from the foundation, sidewalk, patio, & driveway? Is there any hail damage in the gutter pan?
If the roof is safe to climb, we will then traverse the roof checking the shingle installation, condition, flashing, and any hail damage. If it’s not safe to climb from it being too steep, concrete tile, clay tile, wood shake, wood shingle, or the DiVinci (super slippery plastic shingles), we will inspect it from a ladder and the ground. It never ceases to amaze me how many issues we find with a freshly installed roof. We can find over driven nails, under driven nails, shiners, and improper shingle stagger. On existing roofs, we check for wear-n-tear, curling, cupping, cracking, granule loss, & hail damage. Sometimes determining if there’s proper ice-n-water shield where it’s supposed to be can be difficult, but we will make our best effort.
Upon entering the house, we head right for the garage. We check the garage door for condition and test the auto-reverse features using the light up-pressure test and checking the electronic eyes. We check the fire wall. Is the garage-to-house door fire-rated? Are there any penetrations in the fire wall? Are there any water stains in the ceiling? Are they actively wet? Are the outlets GFCI protected? Does the concrete floor have any trip hazards? Does it slope towards the front? Has the floor settled funneling water to the foundation? Are there any signs of Street Creep in the back corners of the foundation?
From the inside of the house, we like to start in the basement and work our way up. We’ll check the foundation for any signs of structural movement and any signs of moisture penetration. If we find structural movement, has there been any type of foundation repair done like wall anchors or vertical steel beams installed? Are they installed correctly? Has the basement had water damage? Is there any signs of mold or musty odor anywhere? Are there water stains on the woodwork? Is there an inner drain tile system installed? What types of beams are there? Are they sagging? What types of joists are present? Are the wood joists spanned properly? Are there any improper notches, holes, or cracks in the wood? Are the engineer floor trusses installed right-side-up? Are there any loose or missing gusset plates? Are the web members or wood cords damaged in any way? Is the top or bottom cord of the engineered I-joist cut? Has excess moisture caused the I-joists to sag? Is there any water damaged to the sub-floor? Any signs of termites? If the main floor slopes, we try to figure out why. Are the stairs uniform with a secure handrail? If the basement is finished, we are making sure the bedroom has an egress window, a heat source, closet, etc. Does the basement have working smoke alarms and a CO detector?
From the service outside, we are checking to make sure an underground line hasn’t settled pulling the meter down or off the house, that the size of the meter matches the service entrance cables & main disconnect, and that the overhead lines have proper clearances with no frayed or damaged wiring. We’ll take the covers off to the main panel and any sub-boxes to check for over fusing, melted or burnt wiring, double-tapped breakers/fuses or neutral bars, any openings in the panels, signs of moisture, and Uncle Bob’s unprofessional & dangerous wiring. We’ll check the GFCI & Arc Fault breakers, make sure there is GFCI protection in all of the wet areas, and check as many outlets as possible throughout the home. We check jetted tubs to make sure they are GFCI protected and the pump motor bonded. CSST gas lines being bonded is another item we pay attention for being a lightning strike can cause the line to burst leading to a fire or an explosion. We’re checking for live knob-n-tube wiring, any splices not in junction boxes, and any other potential fire hazards, especially in the basement/crawlspace and attic areas.
Adhering to the ASHI Standards of Practice, we document the type & condition of your water main, supply lines, & waste lines. We look for leaks and installation errors. On cast iron waste lines, we check for holes pitting through the lines or cracks, we check for bad or leaking glue joints on ABS plastic waste lines, and that everything is draining properly. 1 item we don’t do, but highly recommend especially on older homes, is to have a licensed Plumber scope the sewer line out to the city connection. On supply lines, we check for holes pitting through shutoff valves, weak water pressure…especially on galvanized lines that can rust shut, we check for galvanized-to-copper connections without di-electric unions as these can cause leaks due to chemical reactions over time of the dissimilar metals, making sure there is adequate brackets supporting up the lines, and for copper stubs above the water heater when there are CPVC lines throughout the home. We test the water heater for back drafting of carbon monoxide, leaks, and general operation. We trigger the sump pumps, when possible, to make sure they work, make sure the check valve is installed, and ensure that the discharge line terminates outside well away from the foundation. For those homes that need a lift pump, we make sure their lids are sealed tight and that the pump works. We also test the toilets, faucets, and fixtures including jetted tubs.
If you have a natural gas or propane forced air 80% efficiency furnace, we will cycle the furnace on, let it run for a bit, then test for carbon monoxide and combustible gas leaks. We will check its installation, how it operates, make sure it has proper clearances, check the B-vent flue for condition and clearances, and check the filter. Leaving it up to Greg’s discretion, if the furnace is suspect or over 10 years, he’ll do his best to determine if the furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. That does entail removing the blower or hi-limit control switch to gain access, then putting it back together once done. For high-efficiency natural gas or propane furnaces, we will do all the same, except gaining access to the heat exchanger is too much of a job during a home inspection. The best we can do is remove the high-limit control switch and hope to see enough from that small vantage point. We will also test the flue exhaust outside. If you still have a 70% efficiency or lower furnace from back in the day, we’ll do the standard testing noted above, and if we see or suspect a cracked heat exchanger, we may decide to perform a hydro test on the clam shell to definitively know if a crack exists in that exchanger. If you have an electric furnace, we’ll make sure there is good temp rise, then turn the furnace off to check the wiring inside the furnace cabinet to the elements to make sure there aren’t any melted or burnt wires. For hot water boilers or steam boilers, we will check the units during operation to make sure their gauges are in the proper range, check the sectionals for leaks, check the circulator pumps on the hot water ones, test for carbon monoxide and combustible gas leaks, and make sure the circulation is reaching the radiators adequately.
Unless we are told otherwise, we will test all of the appliances in the home. That includes the fridge, dishwasher, stove, ovens, garbage disposal, microwave, and exhaust hood in the kitchen, 2nd kitchen, or bar area and washer & dryer in the laundry room if present. We are not a warranty company and only test the appliances for their condition that day. Appliances now-a-days are not designed to last and most repair parts are so expensive. For that reason, we do recommend getting a home warranty.
We save the most fun for last. As long as the attic is accessible, we will traverse it as best as possible. We check the structure looking for cracked or sagging rafters, loose or missing gusset plates on truss rafters, damaged cords or web members on truss rafters, the same items on large girder trusses, ridge supports bearing properly, etc. Are the rafters built to hold that heavy concrete tile roof up? After, we check for attic ventilation issues such as not enough intake or exhaust vents, insulation blocking the vents, mold on the roof deck, rusted nails, signs of frost buildup, drip stains in the insulation, and bathroom exhaust fans improperly terminating in the attic space. Finally, we check to see if the insulation is installed properly, it’s thickness, and make an educated guess on the R-value. Occasionally we run into bats, raccoons, and squirrels that are skipping out on paying rent. If we see raccoons or squirrels, our attention hones in on any wiring looking for sheathing damage.