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What a Home Inspector Will Look For

Updated: December 2020

When you're buying a home, it's a good idea to have a professional home inspector look over the property. This home inspection checklist may help you and your inspector discover potential issues before you buy the house.

Home inspector checking exterior of home.


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What to Look For: Exterior

When examining the exterior of a home, here are a few things to take a look at.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), you should ask your home inspector to check that there are no bricks missing from the chimney. If it's surrounded by another building material like wood or stucco, they should also check for any deterioration or damage, and ensure that the cap is in working order.

You'll want the inspector to take a close look at the roof, but while you're at the property, recommends examining the roof from a distance to see if the roofline is straight or if it dips in the middle. If it's wavy, it could be old or have issues. It's also recommended that the inspector check for missing shingles or curled edges.

Gutters And Downspouts
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), gutters should be clean and free of rust, cracks and holes. They should also be large enough to handle any runoff from the roof, and should empty water between four and six feet away from the foundation.

House Surfaces
According to Zillow, your inspector should note if the exterior of the home, including siding and paint, is in good shape or may require repairs soon. Zillow also recommends checking for any loose boards or exposed wiring.

Ask about any lead paint issues, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says can be harmful to your family. If a home was built before 1978, it's more likely to have used lead-based paint.

Windows and Doors
Your inspector should open and close all doors – are they stuck or jammed? If so, says the house may be shifting. Check the windows. Are they crooked? Are there spaces, cracks or separation between the window and caulking? All could indicate foundation settlement. and caulking? All could indicate foundation settlement.

Look for decay or rot around the frames, advises According to the U.S Department of Energy, you should also be sure that windows and doors are properly caulked or weather-stripped to seal air leaks.

Inspect inside and outside all the way around the house. Zillow recommends ensuring there are no trees or roots near the foundation, as they could cause future issues. Make sure the home looks square from all sides with no leaning or sagging.

Air Conditioning Unit
Consumer Reports suggests that plants be kept two to three feet away from the air conditioning unit. If you or your inspector notice uneven cooling or poor air quality in rooms, it may be a sign of an aging air conditioner, says

Ask your inspector to look for any standing water, as this can be a common red flag for drainage issues, according to the U.S. General Services Administration (USGSA). Look for tree branches that touch the house or loom above the roof.

What to Look For: Interior

As you and the inspector move to the inside of the house, it's a good idea to look at the following components.

Zillow recommends looking for signs of leaks, like decay or water stains. ASHI says you should also check for signs of pests, particularly during the summer.

NACHI recommends that your inspector check to see whether the tiles are flat and the grout lines are even. If not, this could indicate a sub-par installation process. They should also check that your toilet is securely affixed to the floor and doesn't appear loose.

The inspector should check the condition of all the cabinets and drawers to make sure they're installed correctly, according to the USGSA. All cabinetry should be securely attached to the walls and floor. Your inspector should also look for stains on the countertops and any missing or worn hardware.

Ceilings, Floors and Walls
The USGSA recommends that your inspector keeps an eye out for ceiling plaster that bulges or sags. If the home has hardwood floors, the inspector should check for cracks or damaged boards in the floor. Stains or dampness in the walls may also be cause for further inspection.

It's important to have any home's fireplace inspected by a professional, says the National Fire Protection Association. He or she will confirm that the masonry is intact, make sure there are no stains or cracks on the outside of the fireplace and confirm all the components work (flue, damper, etc.).

Basement/Foundation recommends looking at the foundation to ensure it has a uniform material and finish. They also suggest checking to make sure all the walls are plumb and solid, and that any wooden siding doesn't come within six inches of the ground soil.

Plumbing & Appliances
Your home inspector should run the faucet in the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as the toilets, showers and tubs to identify any potential plumbing problems, according to the ASHI.

An average furnace lasts between 15 and 20 years, according to Find out the age of the furnace. If it's running, is it noisy? If so, it may need cleaning/service or may be an older model that needs replacement.

Sump Pump
Does the home's sump pump have a battery backup? NACHI says most power outages happen during heavy rains and floods, when you need your sump pump most.

Electrical Panel
According to NACHI, inspecting the electrical panel can be a dangerous task – even for experienced electricians. Rely on a professional to check the wiring for water damage, oxidation, corrosion or other damage to your future home's electrical panel.

Finding A Professional Home Inspector
Working with a professional home inspector can be a good way to help ensure you're aware of any potential flaws or issues in your future home. If you're working with a real estate professional, they can likely direct you to inspectors in your area. You can find qualified inspectors in your area through ASHI.

Buying a new home can be an exciting time, but it also can come with a lot of steps that may move quickly. If you have questions during a home inspection, be sure to ask the inspector and your real estate professional.

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