A Residential Home Inspection is a visual inspection of the home normally initiated by the potential buyer in real estate transaction. However, a residential home inspection can also be initiated by the seller or sought by the current home owner. The inspection looks at the major components of the home and identifies potential defects and makes recommendations for further evaluation, follow-up. The major working systems/components of a home include the roof, attic, the electrical system, the plumbing system, HVAC system, basement/foundation, the interior and exterior, landscaping, and garage if present. Although normally identified as a non-scope item, a residential home inspection could also include ancillary features, like pools, retaining walls, and large out-buildings.
The home inspection is normally two-to-four hours in duration and most inspectors provide a period after the inspection (or during) to walk-thru the home pin-pointing defects the inspector found, and allowing the real estate agent and client to ask questions. A home inspection report is normally provided same or next-day. The report details the findings of the inspection and makes recommendations for further follow-up.
On The Inspection:
On the inspection, we will located and inspect the main shut-off valves, which includes both the water supply shut-off valve and the main fuel supply shut-off valve. The heating equipment (water heater, boiler, etc) is also inspected as well as the associated components - venting connections, temperature/pressure-relief (TPR) valves, and any bracing that be supporting the heating equipment. Just as we check for air flow with the HVAC - we will inspect the faucet fixtures for functionality and flow. Other plumbing features typically observed include toilet and kitchen waste disposal operations, tubs and showers, vent system, and sump pumps if present.
The report will provide more information on the components used in the plumbing system, make appropriate recommendations, and discuss any deficiencies observed with the plumbing functionality or its components.
Typical Residential Water Heater
Tips For Home Owners:
Become friends with your water main shut-off, which is normally located in the basement near the water heater or is in the meter box, outside the home, near the street curb. The valve to shut the water off will most likely require a shut-off key, which can be purchased at a hardware store, Home Depot, Lowes, or Menards. It is very important to learn how to do this incase of pipe bursts, or you need to do major plumbing repairs to the home.
Open Water Main Meter Box
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
On The Inspection:
On the home inspection we will observe the heating and cooling system for the home, and operate the system to ensure functionality. We will observe the air distribution and ventilation activities to ensure each room of the home is receiving conditioned air where appropriate -- This is important because ventilation helps the breathing and reduces air moisture, odors, smoke, heat, dust, airborne bacteria, carbon dioxide, and even other natural gases like radon. We will check the condition of the mechanical components to ensure nothing is completely out of the ordinary, falling off, or presenting a potential safety hazard.
Your home inspection report will detail the operation control and provide information on the homes energy source (gas, electricity, hot water, etc) and heating method (furnace/HVAC, radiator, boiler, etc) for the system. The report will also include the date of installation for the systems mechanical components, and make recommendations for servicing or replacement if warranted.
The picture to the right was also taken in another Minnesota basement and shows a gravity furnace, probably around one hundred years old.
Old Gravity Furnace
Tips For Home Owners:
Replace the AC Filters. This should be done every 45 to 90 days. The replacement of filters keeps the air more free from air-borne particulates; but also, ensures the system is functioning efficiently, reducing energy costs and increasing the useful service life of the unit.
Keep an Eye on the Duct Work. The condition of the duct work is very important. Shoddy or leaking duct work can cause system inefficiencies and increase energy costs, decreasing service life. Inspect the ductwork throughout the house and basement. Get up in the attic and inspect those ducts every year (be safe though doing it though) -- look for holes or cracks that could be leaking air. However, we as home owners and even home inspectors can't see the microscopic holes or smaller flaw in the system that modern day equipment can detect. So an HVAC company can be hired to provide a baseline evaluation.