Different Types of Home Inspections
Chances are that you came across this guide to the different types of home inspections and when you might have them done because you are looking to buy a home and want to learn more about home inspections, what the different types of home inspections are, and when you might have them done.
While you might be familiar with your standard, general home inspection, the home inspection you have before you close on your home, but you might not be as familiar with the other home inspections we are going to discuss in this article.
For this article, we will explain what a general home inspection is, why it is important and then detail the other types of home inspections you might have done depending on different factors such as the age of your home, where your home is located (geographically), whether your home is an urban or rural area, and your home’s features. You might also have some of these inspections done depending on what your initial home inspector’s report reveals.
To learn more about why home inspections are important and why you need to have at the very least have a general home inspection done before buying a home, you can check out our article which details the importance of home inspections [The Importance of Doing a Home Inspection].
The Different Types of Home Inspections and When You Might Have Them Done
It is normal to have a standard, general home inspection performed before you buy a home. However, you might have some of the additional inspections described only in certain situations, depending on the property, the age of the home, it’s location, its features, etc.
Also, you might need to have certain inspections done. For example, you might have a disaster inspection if you are living in an area where natural disasters occur frequently such as flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.
For example, you would probably not need to have a septic system or well water inspection done if you are looking at buying a home in an urban area where your home is hooked up to the city or municipal sewage and water lines.
Your standard, general home inspection
Your standard home inspection, as mentioned earlier, this is the one you would usually have done when you are buying a house before officially closing on your home. You might also consider getting a standard home inspection done before you list your home for sale, to learn about your home’s issues and give you a leg up when negotiating with buyers.
This way, armed with home inspector’s report before you list your home for sale, you will know about your home’s issues, have the opportunity to fix anything major before selling your home and will have an idea what potential buyers’ repair requests might be and will be prepared to negotiate with potential buyers.
The American Society of Home Inspectors defines a general home inspection as, “an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation.” A general home inspector’s report should include their observations on the following: a home’s exterior condition, it’s structural integrity, whether or not the appliances work, and whether or not the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems do they work and what conditions they are in since they will be tested depending on the time of year and temperature.
They will also be checking the interior plumbing, the home’s electrical systems, the roof, attic and visible insulation, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, and doors, the foundation, basement, crawl spaces, interior and exterior drainage, structural, and safety components. Below is a breakdown of what home inspectors will be looking at when doing a general home inspection
Exterior inspection (a general home inspector will be looking at these areas)
- Your home’s Exterior
- Attic and Chimney(s) (if applicable)
- Exterior Water Drainage and Water Disbursement
- Systems as Applicable (septic systems in a rural area or have an older home)
- Decks and Patios
Interior inspection for a general home inspection
- Electrical system
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
- Kitchen Appliances
- Fire Safety
- Lead Paint
- Interior Water Drainage and Water Disbursement
- Flooring Quality
- Noxious Gases
- Windows and Doors
- Basements and Crawl Spaces
Most general home inspectors and general home inspectors will not be checking for things such as for asbestos, radon, methane, radiation, wood-destroying organisms, mould, mildew and fungi, pests, rodents, or lead paint. Also, if you are looking to learn more about your roof or obtain a roof certification from a roofing company or a guarantee about the condition the roof is in, this will be something separate and additional. Additionally, it is important to note that the majority of general home inspectors do not inspect sewer systems, septic systems, or waste systems.
For a more in-depth analysis of home inspections in Toronto, and in-depth examination of what home inspectors will be looking for when they are doing a general home inspection, you can check out our article, Home inspection checklist when you are buying a home in Toronto [Inspection Checklist When Buying a Home in Toronto].
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) Systems Inspection
A general home inspector might take a temperature reading from your Air conditioning unit or your furnace that registers as being a low temperature. In this instance, a general home inspector might recommend that you bring in an HVAC specialist to inspect the unit and provide you with more information as to why it is running at a low temperature. You might need to have a furnace taken apart so you can figure out what is going on.
If this is the case, an HVAC specialist can provide you with information that can help you to gain an idea about potential HVAC problems, how much it might cost to fix these problems and whether or not you need to replace the whole unit.
Sewer or Septic System Inspection
If you are looking at buying an older home in an urban or suburban area, it might make sense for you to pay to have a sewage inspection, to learn about the condition the pipes connecting your home to your municipal sewer lines are in and if your home is in fact connected to the sewer lines. A sewage inspection might involve a specialized inspector using a digital camera to take a video of the inside of the pipes connecting to the municipal sewer lines.
If you are looking at buying a home in a more rural area or a home which has a septic system, you should consider getting a septic system inspection to ensure that everything is in good working order and hopefully learn about any issues your septic system has and learn whether or not you might need to replace anything.
If you are looking to buy a home with an older roof, it is recommended that you get a roof certification, even if the seller will not pay for this. It is important to note that a roof inspector is different from someone who would be replacing your roof. When looking for a company to do a roof inspection, you want to look for a reputable company that will ideally still be in business if you ever need to make a claim down the road.
If your inspector suspects plumbing issues for your plumbing or water systems, such as the presence of galvanized pipes they will recommend that you bring in a professional plumber to inspect your plumbing system. Galvanized pipes can become extremely clogged over time and might need to be replaced.
While a general home inspector can tell you whether or not an electrical box is older and might need to be brought up to city code, but an electrical inspector will be the only person who can tell you about the specifics of your electrical systems and replace your electrical box for you.
While a general home inspector will be able to tell you whether or not your home was built on a concrete slab or it has a raised foundation. However, a general home inspector will not be able to tell you if your home is sliding on concrete, if your foundation is faulty, or has sustained any subtle damage.
A general home inspector should make note of any noticeable faults in your foundation, such as evidence of water seepage, sloping or large cracks. In order to learn more about what condition the foundation of your home is in, you will need to bring in a certified foundation inspector. A major foundation and structural problems can be a dealbreaker for you.
Soil Testing and Soil Stability Tests and Inspection
It is recommended to have your soil tested if you are looking at buying a home on the side of the hill because the last thing you would want is for any part of the hill or the home to slide away during an intense downpour. Additionally, some areas are known for soil contamination.
Asbestos is a group of toxic minerals that in the past have been used to make products, stronger, long-lasting, and fire-resistant. It is important to note that before 1990, asbestos was commonly used in countries like Canada to insulate buildings and homes against the cold weather and noise, as well as to fireproof buildings.
Asbestos in the construction sector was commonly used in products such as:
- Cement and plaster
- Industrial furnaces and heating systems
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- House siding
What you can do to reduce your potential risk to asbestos exposure in your home by hiring a professional to test for the presence of asbestos before you do:
- Renovations remodelling
- Additions onto your home
If asbestos is found in your home, you will need to hire a qualified asbestos removal professional to take any asbestos out before beginning work on your home. You also should avoid disturbing any materials made with asbestos.
It is important to note that if your attic has vermiculite-based insulation, it might contain asbestos fibres. Under no circumstances should you even consider disturbing any vermiculite-based attic insulation in any way or attempt to remove it yourself.
To ensure that no one is accidentally exposed to asbestos via vermiculite-based insulation, you need to take to following precautions for your own safety:
- Ensure that no children enter any attic where they could stumble upon vermiculite-based insulation
- That an attic that might have vermiculite-based insulation is not used for storage or any other uses
- If you plan on doing any remodelling or renovations in your home that you hire professionals who have received training in how to safely handle asbestos
- Ensure that all of the cracks and holes in the ceilings of the rooms below insulation are sealed
- Ensure that you have someone caulk around the light fixtures and attic hatch to help prevent any insulation from falling through
If your attic has vermiculite-based insulation, it is possible that over time that some of this insulation has fallen from your attic into your walls. To prevent anyone from coming into contact with this insulation or asbestos fibres you should be sealing cracks and holes with caulking around the following areas:
- Window and door frames
- Along the baseboards
- Along with electrical outlets.
Radon and Methane Gas Testing
You should also have your home tested for the presence of radon and methane gas by a licensed mitigation contractor. This a basic inspection that you should have done because having radon and methane testing about your health.
A radon test might cost as little as $25 to $30. Radon gas is known as a silent killer since it is an odourless carcinogen, that might be present without you even realizing that it is doing you harm. Radon can seep from the outside of your home into the inside of your home. If a mitigation contractor finds radon in your home, they will need to take specific action to safely eliminate the presence of radon in your home.
Mould Inspection and Testing
Mould is a huge concern if you have children, asthma, a compromised immune system, etc. because mould can cause a whole variety of health problems and it is something that you want to avoid. If you are worried about the presence of mould, you should bring in a mould inspector because they will be able to distinguish between all of the different types of mould that might be growing in your home. A mould inspector will also be testing your home’s interior air quality and test for spores that could be migrating from one part of your home to another part of your home
Lead-based Paint Inspection and Testing
While in 1976 the Canadian government took measures to reduce the presence of lead in interior paints, but this does not mean that homeowners and landlords did not continue to use lead-based paint after it was banned in the United States in 1978. If your home was built before the 1990s you should have your home tested for lead. If a lead test uncovers lead, you will need to hire a certified lead abatement professional to remove the presence of lead.
Chimney Inspection as Applicable
Older chimneys, unlike more modern chimneys, usually do not have flue liner that helps protect it from internal fire damage. Additionally, older chimneys might have crumbling brick on the inside that could potentially be destroying them from the inside.
When a chimney inspector is inspecting your chimney, they will be making sure that when you have a fire in your fireplace that the smoke from the fire will be discharged from the top of your chimney instead of coming back into your home.
Pool or Spa (hot tub or outdoor jacuzzi) Inspection as Applicable
Having a pool or spa can be extremely exciting but they can be expensive and a lot of work to maintain. If you are buying a home with a pool and/or spa that you will be using, it is recommended that you bring in a professional to inspect them.
When you bring in a professional to inspect your pool and/or spa, they will be examining each unit, telling you about the life expectancy for each unit, checking the important components for the filtering systems, heaters, and blowers. The inspector will be checking for leaks and helping you to understand the warranties for each unit.
For this inspection, you would be bringing in a professional to check for evidence of pests in your home such as rodents or raccoons and such a professional would work with you to get rid of them. They would be looking for evidence of pests and can help you with getting them out of your house.
Wood Destroying Pests
Carpenter ants, powder post beetles, and termites are all types of word destroying pests that could literally be eating away at your potential new home. If a general home inspector suspects that a wood-destroying pest might be potentially destroying your home or they suspect dry rot, they will recommend that you call a pest inspector to check for dry rot and the presence of these insects.
Well Water Inspection (if you are looking at a home that uses well water)
If you are looking to buy a home that is not connected to municipal or city water lines that relies on well water, you will need to have an inspector check to see the condition your well is in good shape and proper working order and your well water is safe to drink. A good inspection might start at $150 or $175.
Disaster Inspection (depending on where your home is located)
You might not need to get a disaster inspection if you are buying a home in an area such as Toronto. However, if you are looking at a home in an area where natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, tornados, earthquakes, etc. occur frequently, a place, like Houston, Texas, USA, it is recommended that you have a disaster inspection.
A disaster inspector can check from damage from any major natural disasters and let you know how well your home fared during such events and how well it might do during another natural disaster.
If you are looking at purchasing a home with a garden, yard, with trees, landscaping, etc. you might consider having an arborist to come and do an inspection. It is important to note that unhealthy trees have the potential to infect your grass and other plants, destroying your landscaping.
An arborist can let you know whether or not your trees are healthy and whether or not you should keep them. An arborist can also warn about any tree roots that could potentially puncture sewer lines and cause some serious plumbing issues.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Test and Inspection
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) might not be the first thing that comes to mind when buying a home, but this is something that you should be paying attention to. According to the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our indoor environment has the potential to be two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment. In some cases, the air inside your home might actually be 100 times more polluted than the air outdoors.
It is important to note that with new construction, many of the materials used in newly built homes contain alarming amounts of toxic formaldehyde, which is a colourless and flammable chemical that is used in many building materials. Additionally, given that harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are also present in many building materials should be cause for alarm. According to the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are some short term effects that you can suffer from being exposed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Short-term effects from short term exposure to VOCs might cause:
- Irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract
- Visual disorders
- Memory problems
Long-term exposure to various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) might cause:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
- Loss of coordination
- Damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system
Additionally, studies have demonstrated that smoke, fungal spores, and chemicals used in most man-made products including such as certain paints, varnishes, and cleaners are actually harmful to human health. You should learn about the quality of the air you are breathing by having an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) test done. Having an IAQ test done can help protect you and your family’s health as well as your pets’ health if you happen to have any pets.
If you are looking to buy a home, it is recommended that you have a survey done to confirm the actual size of your property and your property’s boundaries.
Document Inspection (this is not a physical home inspection)
It is important to note that not all inspections are physical, you should consider having someone to research and dig up records that can also provide a significant amount of information.
- Square footage/square meters: You should verify the square footage/square meters of your home because public records might contain mistakes. Lenders or buyers can hire an appraiser who can measure your home’s dimensions.
- Easements and encroachments: While your owner’s title policy will provide information about easements, you should ask the title company to send you the actual documents detailing easements from the public records. You might even consider hiring a surveyor to inspect and create an improvement location certificate (ILC), to show any encroachments.
- Your property’s lot size and boundaries: While performing a preliminary search for title policy, should provide you with a plat map, illustrating the boundaries and size of the lot. It is recommended that you hire a surveyor to verify this information and not rely on fences to indicate where property boundaries are located. However, hiring a surveyor to come and survey your property could cost at least $750 or $800.
- Permits and zoning: It is recommended that you go to your city planning department and ask about seeing the permits for your home, this is important because sometimes people might remodel without permits. This visit to the zoning department wherever you are located will provide you information as to whether or not you can legally run a business out of your home.
Hopefully, after reading this article you will have a better idea about what home inspections are, and what the different types of home inspections are. Ideally, you now have a better idea now of what to expect when it comes to home inspections and what you might need to have inspected if your initial, general home inspector’s report, indicates that you need to certain areas of your home further inspected.
Home inspections are meant to help you to learn more about your home so if you are buying a home you can make a more informed decision about what to do given the results from a home inspector’s results.