What is included in a home inspection?

What is included in a home inspection?

It seems like a simple question, and we get asked it all the time. It’s also a great question because, after all, if you are hiring a home inspector, you want to know what’s included, right?

Standards of Practice in Home Inspection

Home inspections typically follow a Standard of Practice, which is like rules or guidelines. These standards of practice may be determined by state laws or regulations or by a professional organization, like ASHI or InterNACHI. Usually, if a state has a law for licensing home inspectors, then the inspectors in that state are required to follow the standards of practice outlined by that state. 

State Regulations

Here in Massachusetts we have MA Regulation 266 CMR, which has a standard of practice built into the regulations. That’s what we follow on residential inspections, which by the state definition are homes, condos in buildings up to 4 units under one roof, or multifamily buildings up to 4 units. The regulations do not apply for condos in larger buildings, larger multifamilies, mobile homes, commercial properties, and other properties. 

What's included:

Generally a home inspection includes all visible, readily accessible portions of the home itself, to assess the condition of the property. Components outside the building itself are not included - like fencing, retaining walls that do not affect the building, detached buildings, for example. 

For the building itself, here’s what’s included: 

Site: Site as it affects the building, exposed area drainage, driveways, vegetation, grading, visible soil conditions

Exterior: Siding, trim, doors, windows, exposed foundation, eaves, steps, decks, porches, balconies, bulkheads, piping, venting, and all attached exterior components of the building

Roof: Roofing, flashing, exposed piping, venting, chimneys, skylights, drainage, gutters, downspouts

Structure: Foundation, basement floor, crawlspace floor (if there is one), framing, structural supports, attic structure, ceiling structure, visible areas of the home to determine if there are concerns about other aspects of the structure and framing

Heating: Heating equipment, distribution, associated parts and controls, emergency shutoff, fuel source, presence or absence of heating in all livable areas of the home, test-operation for performance and other issues, age and condition noted

Cooling: Equipment, distribution, associated parts and controls, exterior condenser, condenser installation, refrigeration linesets, condensate drainage. Test-operation, weather permitting, for performance, age and condition noted

Electrical: The main service entrance cable or conduit, service drop as it may be affecting the home, meter area, main disconnect, main and auxiliary panels (opening cover and inspecting interiors of panels), branch wiring, breakers, type and condition of wire, test-operating a representative number of outlets, switches, fixtures.

Plumbing: Main supply and waste piping, all branch piping and venting, age, type and condition noted. Any leaks identified and noted, fixtures operated and flow and drainage observed.

Insulation and Ventilation: Observable insulation noted for type and condition as well as installation defects. Attic, basement, and other area ventilation observed and noted. Insulation or lack of insulation noted in observable unfinished areas. Bath, kitchen, dryer, mechanical, and other ventilation observed, tested, and noted.

Interiors: Doors, walls, floors, ceilings, stairs all observed, noted, and inspected. Cabinetry and appliances observed, tested and noted 

Garage: Doors, openers, safety mechanisms, walls, ceiling, floors, structural elements of garage. Detached garage are not included in the standard, but usually cab be inspected at an additional charge.

What's not included:

Not included: Any appliances that are not permanently installed. Laundry typically not tested because people have their clothes in them oftentimes. Accessory items, like window screens, screen doors, attached items like antennae, solar photovoltaic or tube systems, pools, spas, climbing structures, car chargers, and anything else that is not attached permanently or is not part of the normal functioning of the home itself.

Not tested/observed: Smoke and CO detection: this is done by the seller, so MA law does not require it of the home inspection. Wells and well equipment and water testing; septic systems, underground piping, underground storage systems, and underground fuel storage; Mold, asbestos, and lead testing are excluded.

Ancillary services: Some inspection companies or inspectors offer ancillary services like Wood Destroying insect inspection, Radon testing, Sewer scope inspection, Pool inspections, Lead testing, Mold testing- and the requirements and licensing for these vary state-by-state. Check with any provider you are working with regarding what ancillary services they may offer.

For example, we offer radon and pest inspection, but for any other ancillary services we recommend using another provider, and in some cases best to wait to see what comes up on the inspection before engaging that provider (Like asbestos testing - first have the home inspection and if any materials are suspected to be present, then you could hire and asbestos testing professional). 

Always check out a sample report

We always recommend requesting to see a home inspector’s sample report. This will give you a sense of how comprehensive their inspection is, what kind of report you will receive, and how they communicate issues and concerns about the property. 

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