Home inspection checklist: What home inspectors look for
Home inspectors are looking for the safety, operation and condition of each component they inspect. Does the item pose any safety hazards directly or indirectly to inhabitants? Does it operate as the manufacturer intended? Is it in good condition?
A home inspector will check many but not all components of the home because of limitations related to safety, accessibility and their expertise.
Here’s what inspectors will typically check, as outlined in the inspection standards put forth by 3 industry groups: the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Society of Home Inspectors (NSHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).
Interior of the home
An inspection of the home’s interior should include:
Walls, ceilings and floors
Steps, stairways and railings
Countertops and cabinets
Doors and windows
Garage doors and operators
Installed kitchen appliances
An inspector might note whether a crack in a wall appears to be cosmetic or whether it might indicate a structural issue like a sinking foundation.
Exterior of the home
Outside the home, inspectors typically examine:
Wall coverings, flashing and trim
Decks, balconies, stoops, steps, porches and railings
Eaves, soffits and fascias visible from the ground
Plants, grading, drainage and retaining walls
Garages and carports
Walkways, patios and driveways
An inspector will also examine the roof, gutters, downspouts, and any skylights, chimneys and other roof penetrations. In this part of the inspection, the home inspector will be looking for things like curled shingles that might indicate a roof is wearing out.
When it comes to plumbing, expect your home inspector to look at the:
Fixtures and faucets
Drain, waste and vent systems
Sump pumps and sewage ejectors
The electrical inspection will include looking at:
Service entrance conductors, cables and raceways
Service equipment and main disconnects
Interior components of service panels and subpanels
Overcurrent protection devices
Light fixtures, switches and receptacles
The major concern here is anything that might present a fire hazard.
For the home’s heating, ventilation and cooling system (HVAC), the inspector should check out:
Access panels that can be readily opened
Installed heating and cooling equipment
Fuel-burning fireplaces and stoves
Vent systems, exhaust systems, flues and chimneys
Insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces
Home inspectors may enter crawlspaces, if they have enough clearance, and attics, if the load-bearing components aren’t covered by insulation. They may examine the:
Wall structure, ceiling structure and roof structures
What home inspectors don’t examine
The list above might seem comprehensive, but there are many things that home inspectors aren’t required to look at. These include systems and components that aren’t readily accessible.
A home inspector won’t peel up the carpet to see if there are cracks in the foundation, nor will he cut a hole in the bathroom wall to look for hidden mold or rusty pipes.
They don’t have to move furniture, plants, snow, ice or debris that might be in the way, so try not to buy a house in the winter if you want the roof examined. Inspectors also won’t do anything that might damage the property or pose a danger to themselves, including entering crawl spaces or attics that are too tight, walking on the roof or lighting a fire in a fireplace.
In addition, inspectors need not try to guess how much life is left in the home’s air conditioner, furnace, roof, dishwasher or other systems and components. If they note something that isn’t working, they don’t have to attempt to diagnose the cause or estimate the cost to fix it, nor will they try to estimate the cost of your monthly utility bills.
They also don’t have to operate underground systems, such as lawn irrigation systems or underground storage tanks.
Inspectors don’t check for termites or other wood-destroying insects, nor do they test for environmental hazards like radon or asbestos (though some inspectors offer additional testing as an add-on service).
And they don’t have to test smoke detectors, every single light switch and fixture in the home (only a representative number) or appliances that aren’t permanently installed, such as window air conditioning units.
Don’t expect them to weigh in on whether you should proceed with the purchase, either. And if you’re buying a condo unit, they won’t inspect the building’s common areas.