Sunday, January 15, 2006


A home inspection is a very important piece of the buying process. The intent is to help determine the overall condition of the house and provide you with a timeline as to the amount and extent of repairs that all houses eventually need. The important aspect will be any major repairs that are needed immediately and may affect your ability or desire to even purchase the house. You have to keep in mind that a home inspection is a non intrusive (we can't move furniture, ceiling tiles, etc.), visual evaluation of the home only at the time of the inspection. You should plan on having other inspections done by specialists if concerns arise about any system.

THE ROOF AND ATTIC STRUCTURE can be a major expense and should be evaluated at length. If possible the roof should be walked on and the attic should be entered (even an attic with no stairs leading into it). Moisture problems can not only cause serious roof damage, but can contribute to mold formations that have become a real health concern.
EXTERIOR GRADING AND WATER DRAINAGE SYSTEMS are again extremely important in keeping water away from the house. Not only does water do damage to the structure itself, but the moist conditions are very inviting to wood destroying insects (termites, carpenter ants, etc.). With mold becoming such an issue these days, a considerable amount of time needs to be spent outside to determine any conditions that may be directing water towards the house. Even if standing water isn't noted in the basement, just moisture and typical building materials can cause a mold condition to develop so should be fully evaluated.
SIDING,DOORS,WINDOWS,WALKS,AND WALLS. If it's visible, it should be checked. Older houses may have layers of lead paint. If a lot of peeling paint is noted you may want to have it tested for lead. A main cause of children ingesting lead appears to be from contaminated soil (where the peeling paint has fallen) that gets tracked into the house.
are a main focus of a home inspection. As we mentioned during the exterior inspection, the problems caused by water are many. Water building up against the foundation (the area below the ground, usually stone or concrete, that carries the weight of the wooden structure above it) can deteriorate and actually move the walls in extreme conditions. Any part of the wooden structure that is in contact with the ground can also be damaged and should be fully evaluated. The moisture can also attract wood destroying insects (termites, carpenter ants, etc.) that can do considerable damage if left untreated. And then there's mold. It's also a wood destroying organism created to break down dead organic matter like trees and leaves. Unfortunately your house is filled with dead organic matter. Let's keep the water away from your house as best as possible and we'll all be better off!
The sizing and placement of structural members should also be evaluated as it may relate to any floor or wall movement noted during the interior room inspection.
HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING systems will be evaluated depending on the season. The inspector should spend time with you describing how the system works, it's age and condition, and any upgrades that would be beneficial to install. In the overall scope of a home, the heating system is relatively inexpensive. Hidden costs for replacement can arise in older systems if asbestos type insulation was used to cover the unit or the heat pipes. If asbestos appears to be present it may be advisable to have an abatement company supply you with an estimate for removal.
Another hidden and potentially costly item would be a buried oil tank. Even if the current system is not running on oil, a previous one may have. This should be looked into very carefully. The inspector should look for any signs of a tank and consult with the owner if possible. The town should also have records of buried tanks (with any luck) so you should also check with them.
PLUMBING AND WASTE pipes should be evaluated for age and condition wherever they are visible. Older pipes can be costly to replace if they are behind finished walls and floors. The main waste pipe out to the street (or private septic system) can be checked from the inside by a plumber with a camera. The older the house is, the more important this inspection may be.
Private systems (wells and septic) can be tested at the inspection but again may need another company to fully evaluate them because for the most part are not visible.
ELECTRIC systems are again mostly concealed but can be checked with todays testing equipment. The panel box should be opened (this is the only intrusive aspect of an inspection that we deceided was so important that we should make an exception to the rule) and checked for damaged wiring, correct breaker size, and overall condition, material, and ages of the wiring. Many safety products have been developed in recent years that the inspector should also discuss.
BATHROOMS will be inspected for loose tiles,water pressure, leaking fixtures, and proper placement of electrical fixtures and safety outlets (G.F.C.I.'s).
INTERIOR ROOMS will be checked for proper heat, electric, window operation, and any floor settlement or movement. The ceilings should also be fully evaluated for any signs of moisture either from bathrooms ao the roof above.
FIREPLACES will be inspected from above and below if possible but this is another area that would be advisable to have a specialist come in and run a camera inside the flue to really determine it's condition.
THE KITCHEN will have all of the appliances,floors,and cabinets checked along with the electrical safety outlets as in the bathroom.

Don't forget THERE ARE NO STUPID QUESTIONS! We've been doing this for a long time and things that are very obvious to us, may not be to you. MAKE SURE YOUR INSPECTOR WILL TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS IT TAKES TO ANSWER ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS!

It's also very important to try and schedule your inspector to be at the final walkthrough before closing. It provides the opportunity to check appliances, any electric outlets that were covered by furniture and generally go over the issues brought up at the original inspection.