Tara’s home inspection process
In this BLOG, I will describe my home inspection process. I follow these steps on every inspection, and make every effort not to deviate from the order, as it ensures that I provide the best, most comprehensive, inspection possible. There is a great deal of information to collect, assess and document on a home inspection, so this is how I keep it all organized. I find that many home buyers have a specific thing that they worry about. Maybe, they’ve had a bad experience in the past like a flood or problems in the attic for example, or a trusted friend or relative has told them specifically to look out for some particular thing. So, if this is you, feel free to scroll to any area that interests you. 😊
The overarching theme during my inspection is to locate and identify any conditions that will cost you a lot of money in the near future, cause damage to your home or will present a health, life or safety hazard. Your report will include much more than this, but this is my primary objective. There’s a lot of reading here (because I’m thorough!)
The first thing I do is go inside the home to get the lay of the land – I turn on every light, locate bathrooms, kitchens, electrical panels, heating appliance(s) water heater(s), attic access, and turn on anything the vents to the exterior – kitchen range hoods, bathroom exhaust fans, and the dryer. Then I head outside.
As I am driving up to the home and through the neighborhood, I observe the general terrain of the area, making notes of prevailing drainage paths in the areas that surround. The surrounding yard is observed to learn of there are any areas that are draining toward the home. Effective water drainage and control is probably the most crucial element in safeguarding the health of your home. Stairs and walkways around the home are inspected for safety and condition. Although I don’t inspect retaining walls for their structural integrity, I do comment on any conditions that should be monitored based of the level of seriousness and proximity to the home.
One of the most critical factors in keeping a home healthy is control of drainage water around the home. I perform two passes around the exterior of the home, one in each direction. On my first trip around I focus primarily on the lower half of the home, further assessing the drainage conditions around the home. I plug into exterior outlets, check the building envelope for holes or damage, look at exterior electrical installations, make sure that exhaust and intake vents are clear, working and properly situated, look for low spots around the foundation (where water could be draining toward the home), look for obvious signs of wayward roof water drainage, inspect window wells if present, locate utility service entry points and identify and document exterior appliances like AC condensers or heat pumps.
On the return trip I give more attention to looking up and documenting materials (home exterior cladding materials and surrounding landscape materials). This includes, checking the building envelope (again), looking at the eaves, soffit and underside of gutters and identifying areas where gutters leak or overflow, checking that flashings are present where needed. Also inspected are decks and whatever is visible of their structural components.
On each pass, I’m looking for failing or missing components, any conditions that will, or have already caused damage to the home’s envelope or structure. And any conditions that may present a health or safety risk.
Whenever possible I will get up on to the roof to perform a walk on inspection. Not all roofs lend themselves to a walk on inspection. Things like roof height, steep pitch, roofing materials and snow cover can prevent a walk on inspection. In those cases, I have a telescopic pole with a high definition camera system that allows me to take images of the roof when I cannot get up on it. In either case, whether seeing firsthand on inspecting photos, the things I look for are:
The type and condition of roofing material, the conditions of roof flashings, debris or growth on the roof cover, whether penetrations (screws, nails and bolts) are visible and have been sealed, are there any missing or damaged components, and what is the approximate age of the roof.
My goal is to tell you the overall condition of the roof, whether it needs maintenance and how long you may expect it to last. The attic inspection often offers much more information on the roof cover integrity as quite often you cannot see a problem from above – water is sneaky!
Not all homes have attics, and not all attics can be entered. If there is an attic access, I will open it and enter wherever possible, if entry is not possible, I take as many pictures as I can from the access point. Attic inspections always have significant limitations as insulation covers many components and most often decreasing heights prevent access to eave areas. Insulation should be left undisturbed wherever possible to preserve R values, so new undisturbed insulation is not walked through.
Attics are inspected for the presence of a vapor barrier, the type and quantity of insulation, they type and condition of the roof sheathing, the presence of venting passing through the attic and roof any signs of water entry, any indication of moisture creating unwanted growth (black staining) and evidence of rodent activity.
I want to be sure that your attic is well insulated, well ventilated and that appliances exhausting to the exterior are doing so properly, and of course, pest free.
In homes that are part of a common property, where you share a wall with your neighbor, there should be a firewall separation through the attic up to the roof, completely separating the units. The presence and integrity of this firewall is confirmed where applicable.
Not all homes have crawlspaces. Many crawlspace inspections are limited by crawlspace heights, and stored items. Other limiting factors can be the presence of moisture or animal activity. If I can get in there…I’m going in. Not all items on the list below will be accessible but If I can see them or get to them, I inspect them.
When I’m under the home, I’m looking for the condition and composition of structural components of the home and foundation and in particular, around the perimeter of the home and at any plumbing supply and drainage points. The plumbing drain waste and vent materials are identified and inspected, and any electrical connections are observed. I’m on the lookout for evidence of water entry and rodent activity.
In general, I want the crawlspace to be dry and free of pests. There should be insulation where needed and in a perfect world (where applicable) a crack free foundation.
In homes that are located on a common property, where you share a wall with a neighbour, the crawlspace should be separated by a firewall. The presence and integrity of this firewall will be documented.
Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning – Weather permitting, the system is tested for operation in heating and cooling modes. Air conditioners are not to be operated at temperatures below 16C or 61F. There are MANY different types of HVAC systems, so the following will not apply to every home. Heating and air conditioning components are dated and inspected for overall condition. Systems are turned on using their thermostat(s) or switches. Filters are located and inspected and each room is checked for the presence of a heat source.
There are SO many types of HVAC systems, and each has its own inspection process and limitations. Some systems are limited to simply operating them using the controls and making recommendations based on age and condition. At times there will be a service record present which give you a glimpse into how the previous owner maintained the system, which can be insightful. As a rule HVAC systems are costly to replace and, in almost every case, should be serviced upon move in. HVAC techs will have access to interior components and product specific knowledge that homeowners and home inspectors do not. I can give you a good idea of how the system is doing, and how long the average lifespan is, but no one can predict failure. Your HVAC tech will give you the best advice moving forward.
As a rule, much of a homes plumbing system will be hidden, but much can be learned by identifying the materials included in its installation and careful observation of conditions around the home. I will date the water heating system and confirm that all that system’s required safety installations are present. Identify the type(s) of supply piping used and the location of the main water shut off. The drainage systems are inspected, and materials identified. During the interior inspection, every faucet is tested and drainage is confirmed at every fixture. Wherever there are drainage or supply points in the home, moisture meter testing is performed to determine if water is escaping anywhere.
I am looking for any signs of leakage and piping that is either old or has been identified as having a higher potential for failure or has been recalled. Where water heating systems are concerned, you will learn its age and life expectancy.
The safety of a home’s electrical system is critical. In improperly working or installed electrical system or component has the potential for serious injury or death to a home’s occupants. Any conditions noted in the electrical section of your report should be addressed immediately upon possession.
In an electrical inspection, the main and any subpanels are located and identified. Electrical panel cover is removed and the type of wiring supplying the circuits is identified. Each breaker is inspected to confirm if it is the correct size for the wire connected to it (or vice versa) and a search is performed for any signs of overheating or previous surges. In the home’s interior, a plug-in tester is used at accessible receptacles and light switches and light fixtures are tested for turn on.
The electrical system in a home must be properly installed and safe for every age of occupant. The system should also be well labelled at the panel so you will know what specifically each breaker controls and you can cut power to any circuit as needed.
The interior inspection is a comprehensive look at what you as the homeowner will see and use every day. Some of this process has been previously described in “Plumbing inspection” and “electrical inspection” and will not be repeated here.
When I was in training to become a home inspector, one of my trainers had previously been a firefighter. His advice was to perform the inspection the way firefighters clear a home. Pick a wall either left or right and follow it around the home until you’ve been through every room. This strategy has served me well! Doors to rooms are opened and closed, doors and drawers in cabinets are opened and closed, accessible windows are opened and closed, my moisture meter is used at window sills and walls below windows and at any area moisture could be lurching – under sinks, around toilets, around showers and baths, beneath washers, fridges and dishwashers and at any water stained areas if they are accessible. I look at the bottoms of walls and baseboards for signs of previous moisture and for any cracking of finishes that goes beyond settling or material shrinkage. At times I will document cosmetic items, but it is not my focus.
It is always my hope that my clients are able to join me for a walk through at the end of the inspection. This is the best way to learn about any defects (and upgrades or positive features) found in the home they are considering buying. During the walk through clients will get a first hand account of conditions, their level of seriousness and recommendations and suggestions on how to address those conditions. Clients and are able to see each item, its location and ask any questions they may have. When clients cannot attend the walk through, I will call them with their summary. The inspection report, will contain all items discussed, and more and will have pictures and in depth descriptions of findings. I am always available afterward, by phone, text or email, for questions whether related to the report, or for any other homeowner questions or concerns going forward.
When I’m on inspection it’s very important to me to be extremely thorough. In a few hours there’s a lot of ground to cover with MANY variables. As a member of The Home Inspectors Association British Columbia (HIABC), my inspection must follow a specific SCOPE OF INSPECTION. My inspection exceeds this scope.
A home inspection is really about protecting you. About finding those items that could be considered “make or break” for your purchase decision. If it’s going to cost you thousands to repair or replace or is dangerous to you and your family in any way…THOSE are the things I’m looking for, not the hole in the carpet or the broken countertop edge.
I hope you have found this helpful. The training and experience provided to you by a home inspector is indispensable when you’re buying a home. If you’re thinking about having a friend or relative do this job for you, have them read this. If they are not going to perform each of these tasks for you (remember…HUGE purchase), please look for someone who will!
I look forward to serving you.