Inspectors start on the exterior of the home to look for grading and drainage problems, then check the roof before going inside.
Q: We are getting ready to put our home up for sale, and we’re hoping to get some information in case the home is inspected. Can you tell me what usual things a home inspector looks for?
A: I can’t speak for all home inspectors across the country, but there are standards of practice that most home inspectors follow. I follow those established by the American Society of Home Inspectors.
I, and most of the home inspectors I know, start on the exterior of the home to check for grading and drainage problems that can affect the foundation of the home. I then check the roof and exterior of the home before going inside.
I will run all the faucets at the same time to check for leaks or slow drains. Next, I check the furnace and air conditioning (weather permitting), water heater and electrical system, including all accessible outlets and switches. After that, I check each room, opening all accessible windows and doors.
Finally, I visually inspect the attic, crawl space or basement foundation.
For a complete listing of what’s inspected go to ashi.org and search for “Standards of Practice.”
Here’s a shortlist of what I normally find.
• Older worn roofs that are 15 years or older and maybe two or more layers.
• Overhead electrical wires that are too close to the ground. They should be 10 feet out of reach at their lowest point of access.
• Loose toilet bowls and/or plumbing leaks. In a basement or crawl space, check for stains under the bathrooms and kitchen.
• Plumbing cross connections. The drains from a water softener or water heater cannot be inside a sewer opening.
• Homeowner wiring repairs that are not safe. This includes wiring that has been added, open junction boxes and wiring that has been improperly spliced. I also check the electrical panel to insure the service is adequate for the home. Older 60-amp panels should be upgraded.
• A wet basement or crawl space.
• Bedroom windows that do not open easily or will not stay open. This is very important for emergency egress.
• Look for tempered windows near a tub or shower drain or windows that are so large and are so easily accessible that they are required to be tempered for safety.
• An older furnace, air conditioner or water heater that is near the end of its useful life expectancy.
• Steps (either inside or outside) where the risers are too small or too tall or are not uniform in height.
• Improper and unsafe handrails and guardrails.
• Unsafe wood deck support posts, floor joists and fastening systems.
• Cracked concrete that could be a trip hazard.
Prior to placing your home on the market, it would be wise to have the home professionally inspected by a qualified and experienced home inspector.
C. Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.