Know Your Home Know Your Home

Table of Contents

StructuresStructures
The structure of the home is what gives it shape and strength. The most commonly asked questions of a professional home inspector are related to evaluating the condition of the structure. The two main components of the structure are the foundation and the framing system. Each of these components are critical in providing the building with long lasting comfort and stability. Major defects in the structure can be very expensive and extensive to repair.

Structures - FoundationsStructures - Foundations
The foundation is often viewed as the most important part of a dwelling. It supports the entire home, its contents, and the live load in it (people). The type of foundation is noted and then inspected for cracks, settling, water leaks, and overall condition. Different types of foundations are prone to different problems, but all foundations have the same major job, to hold up the building. All visible and accessible portions of the foundation are inspected carefully for defects.

Structures - Foundations - Poured ConcreteStructures - Foundations - Poured Concrete
Poured concrete walls should be steel reinforced. When poured, the footing will have a V-shaped groove at the top with rebar from the footing- exposed to tie the wall steel. The concrete wall should be 8 inches thick and it should be poured in a single pour. The inspector will evaluate the condition of the concrete foundation and examine any cracks or other defects, signs of water seepage, etc. Any problems, severe or otherwise, will be brought to the attention of the buyer and recommendations made to correct these problems.

Structures-Foundations-Cement BlockStructures - Foundations - Cement Block
Concrete blocks, also referred to as concrete masonry units (CMU) are used as basement walls as well as retaining and crawl space walls. Regardless of the end use, a concrete block wall must have a supportable footing. A horizontal crack in a basement wall, even if it is only a hairline crack, can be the most significant crack observed and the most costly to repair. The inspector will carefully examine all visible foundation cracks and make recommendations depending on the severity of the crack. A significant crack may cause a wall to fail and be very costly to repair.

Structures-Foundations-BrickStructures - Foundations - Brick
Brick foundations are usually seen in older homes. It is no longer cost effective to install brick foundations and this type of foundation is often not as durable compared to other modern installations such as poured concrete or cement block. A brick foundation is installed in much the same way that a solid brick house is built except it is below grade and should rest on a solid footing. It is not uncommon however that some of these foundations were not placed on footings and now may be settled badly. Brick foundations are inspected carefully for the particular defects that they are prone to such as, settling, water seepage and deterioration of the bricks themselves. Many brick foundations have been sealed with wire lathe and cement stucco giving them a look of a poured concrete foundation.

Structures-Foundations-StoneStructures - Foundations - Stone
Stone foundations are usually seen in older homes. They were seldom used in construction dating after WW II. Stone foundations can be prone to settling and water seepage. A unique problem to stone foundations is that the foundation itself can be a source of Radon gas, which is an environmental hazard. This type of installation is also prone to such problems as settling and water seepage. A stone foundation when maintained well is a very aesthetically appealing installation, but must be inspected carefully. Joints wear quickly because they are usually not smooth and uniform. Shifting or settling can occur because of the uneven nature of stones.

Structures-Foundations-SlabStructures - Foundations - Slab
Slab-on-grade foundation is used when the structure is built directly on the ground. Monolithic slab-on-grade foundations require a wide base and steel reinforcement. A floating slab is a reinforced slab placed between two walls and footings. Aside from the usual defects (cracking, seepage) the inspector will be looking for, slab foundations are more susceptible to termites and other insects. Slab homes are difficult to inspect because almost all of the entire structure is enclosed and not visible. Other areas will be inspected more carefully for indications of problems related to slab-type construction.

Structures-Framing SystemsStructures - Framing Systems
The many components of the framing system make up the support system for the floors, ceilings, walls, and roof. Most homes are constructed using timber framing and a small percentage using metal. The buildings basic design and location will dictate the type of framing used. In some parts of the country, buildings must be designed with special resistance to earthquakes, winds, or heavy snow. All structures should be built to reduce the effects of shrinkage, warping, fire, and water damage. The majority or sometimes entire framing system is often hidden by the finished materials on the walls, ceilings and floors. The finished materials are inspected carefully to see if they give clues to defects which may not be readily accessible. There are two basic types of framing systems. Both systems must be inspected very carefully for defects such as poor installation, settling, rot, insect damage, and more.

Structures-Framing Systems-West Platform FramingStructures - Framing Systems - West Platform Framing
Most modern residential and light commercial designs use platform framing. The first floor is built on top of the foundation walls like a “platform”. The walls are then constructed and raised on the platform and the second story floor or platform is built on the raised walls. This process is repeated for each additional floor. This type of construction provides a safe and simple form of building. When a slab is used for the foundation, the first story walls are raised and the second floor becomes the first “platform” of the building. Your inspector can quickly identify the type of framing used for construction and adjust his inspection according to each style.

Structures - Framing Systems - Balloon Framing Structures - Framing Systems - Balloon Framing
Balloon framing is seldom used in modern construction but still often seen in older homes. The wall studs start at the base of the building and are continuous to the attic. The floor beams or joists are attached to the wall studs and supported by a ribbon board. There is limited shrinkage of the wood in balloon framing reducing vertical settlement of the building. Fire stops must be installed to prevent fires from quickly spreading from one floor to the next.

Structures - Framing Systems - Post and   BeamStructures - Framing Systems - Post
and Beam

Post and beam framing is a style of construction often found in rustic type of housing or exotic homes. This style of framing lends itself to large open areas. Posts are the upright timbers used to support the roofing system and form the exterior walls. Beams are horizontal timbers used to tie the structure together and support live loads. Post and beam framing is also often referred to as timber frame construction. This type of dwelling is more complex in design because the joining of each post and beam is a crucial element to the structural stability of the building. Most of the timbers are exposed which will enable your inspector to carefully check many of these areas with his well trained eyes.


Mechanical SystemsMechanical Systems
The mechanical systems of the dwelling are designed to provide a comfortable and safe living environment. Each system has many components and there are many types of each system. An inspector's skills and experience are used to evaluate the safe operational condition of each system and to report any defects discovered. The mechanical systems encompass the entire dwelling and exterior portions. Your inspector's unique training, skills and experience will separate him in these areas from un-trained or inexperienced inspectors.

Mechanical Systems - Heating SystemsMechanical Systems - Heating Systems
The mechanical systems of the dwelling are designed to provide a comfortable and safe living environment. Each system has many components and there are many types of each system. An inspector's skills and experience are used to evaluate the safe operational condition of each system and to report any defects discovered. The mechanical systems encompass the entire dwelling and exterior portions. Your inspector's unique training, skills and experience will separate him in these areas from un-trained or inexperienced inspectors.

  Mechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Hydronic HeatingMechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Hydronic Heating
A hydronic heating system, typically referred to as a hot water or steam system, is one that uses water or steam as a medium of transporting heat from the heating unit. The heating unit itself is called a boiler because it heats or boils water in a vessel made out of cast iron or steel. The heated water is then distributed through the desired areas of the dwelling to create an even temperature throughout. The desired temperature is controlled by the thermostat. The boiler goes on and off automatically to keep the water temperature within it to a range which enables the maximum benefit of the system. Almost all hydronic systems in operation today use either gas or oil for fuel. Most systems have significant controls for safety and efficiency. It is our job as professional inspectors to operate the system using normal controls to expose defects or maintenance requirements. It is possible though not typical to find combination steam and hot water systems. These installations are usually seen in expanded older systems and can be prone to maintenance problems because of the two types of operation from the same vessel.

Mechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Hydronic Heating - SteamMechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Hydronic Heating - Steam
Steam heating systems are usually found in older homes, though they are still sometimes installed today. A steam boiler heats water to a boiling temperature creating super heated steam. The steam from the boiling water rises through the distribution system of piping and is delivered to either radiators or baseboard convectors. As the steam passes through the convection system and exchanges the heat into the air, it cools and returns to the boiler. A steam system operates at low pressure and has unique features for its operation such as low water cut off switches, automatic feed valves, glass gauges and other controls. Steam systems must be installed well or knocking from condensation in pipes, excess water use, or incomplete delivery of the steam may occur.

BaseboardBaseboard
Baseboard convectors can be used for either steam or hot water. They can be run along the walls in portions of the rooms and when installed correctly supply a very even method of heat distribution. Baseboard is used in steam usually when old cast iron radiators are removed. The professional inspector must check carefully to make certain there is heat in every room that is functional. If too much baseboard is installed then the rooms farther from the heating plant will not get adequate heat. If too little is installed then many of the rooms may be to cool or the system will not be efficient. Proper installation of the system is important to keep maintenance to a minimum.

RadiatorsRadiators
Radiators are used in either steam or hot water systems. They are usually seen only in older homes. Steam radiators look the same as hot water radiators except there is a steam check valve on them. This valve allows air out of the radiator when steam comes in and closes to prevent the steam from escaping. The inspector checks these radiators carefully because they can be prone to air binding, leaks and bad valves. Converting radiator systems to baseboard systems can be much more expensive than anticipated depending on the original piping installation.

PipingPiping
The piping system in a hot water or steam hydronic heating system delivers the heated element to the final convector used to exchange the heat. Pipes are usually made of steel, iron or copper. A proper design and installation of the piping system is crucial for the efficient and proper operation of your new home's heating system. Many older piping systems can be corroded or difficult to alter. They can also have asbestos, a commonly known health hazard, insulation. Most heat piping defects go undetected until a trained professional inspects the system.

Mechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Hydronic Heating - Hot WaterMechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Hydronic Heating - Hot Water
A hot water boiler heats water which moves through a system of piping and delivers heat using radiators, baseboard, or radiant convection systems. Gravity simply means that the energy from the heat forces the hot water to move out of the boiler, like in a steam system, forcing the cooler water back into the boiler for reheating. Most hot water systems today are forced systems using circulator pumps to move the water through one or more zones. Most modern homes have multiple zones for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. A popular newer form of distribution using hot water is hydronic forced air. In this system the water is delivered to a coil in a duct. A fan blows on the hot coil to move air across it and deliver the warm air to the rooms through registers. This is often seen when the duct system is also used for air conditioning and saves on the installation of a separate distribution system for the heat.

BaseboardBaseboard
Baseboard convectors can be used for either steam or hot water. They can be run along the walls in portions of the rooms and when installed correctly supply a very even method of heat distribution. Baseboard is used in steam, usually when old cast iron radiators are removed. The professional inspector must check carefully to make certain there is heat in every room that is functional. If too much baseboard is installed then the rooms farther from the heating plant will not get adequate heat. If too little is installed then many of the rooms may be too cool or the system will not be efficient. Proper installation of the system is important to keep maintenance to a minimum.

RadiantRadiant
Radiant forced hot water is becoming popular again. Piping is installed in either the floor or ceiling and warms the areas where they are installed. Although this is not the most efficient installation, it is the most cosmetically appealing because the convection piping is not visible and it is the most comfortable when installed correctly. Older systems used copper tubing in the slab of the home to warm it like a hot plate. These systems however are prone to expensive maintenance after 20 or more years. When a leak occurs it is both difficult to locate or repair. Many of the these installations have been converted to baseboard convection because of costly repairs. Most modern installations use industrial plastic tubing which will be more durable than the previous copper tubing installations.

RadiatorsRadiators
Radiators are used in either steam or hot water systems. They are usually seen only in older homes. Steam radiators look the same as hot water radiators except there is a steam check valve on them. This valve allows air out of the radiator when steam comes in and closes to prevent the steam from escaping. The inspector checks these radiators carefully because they can be prone to air binding, leaks and bad valves. Converting radiator systems to baseboard systems can be much more expensive than anticipated depending on the original piping installation.

PipingPiping
The piping system in a hot water or steam hydronic heating system delivers the heated element to the final convector used to exchange the heat. Pipes are usually made of steel, iron or copper. A proper design and installation of the piping system is crucial for the efficient and proper operation of your new homes heating system. Many older piping systems can be corroded or difficult to alter. They can also have asbestos, a commonly known health hazard, insulation. Most heat piping defects go undetected until a trained professional inspects the system.

Mechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Forced AirMechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Forced Air
The forced warm air heating system uses a fan or blower to draw air from rooms through a return air duct way. The return air is passed through a furnace where it is heated. The heated air is then pushed into the plenum and distributed via ductwork to rooms as needed. Dampers within the ductwork are opened or closed to balance the heated air into the various rooms as desired. Furnaces are commonly set up to use fuel oil, natural gas or electricity in order to supply heat. Some systems incorporate a humidifier to lessen the dryness of the air. The moisture introduced into the system, however, can cause corrosion to the metal parts. The inspector with evaluate the overall condition of the furnace and control systems. Of all the major heating systems (Steam, Hot Water, Warm Air), warm air heating systems pose the greatest hazard. When the heat exchanger of a warm air furnace is cracked or leaking it can leak carbon monoxide gas into the living area. The heat exchanger is not visible for inspection.

  Mechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Forced Air - DuctsMechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Forced Air - Ducts
The forced warm air heating system uses a fan or blower to draw air from rooms through a return air duct way. The return air is passed through a furnace where it is heated. The heated air is then pushed into the plenum and distributed via ductwork to rooms as needed. Dampers within the ductwork are opened or closed to balance the heated air into the various rooms as desired. Furnaces are commonly set up to use fuel oil, natural gas or electricity in order to supply heat. Some systems incorporate a humidifier to lessen the dryness of the air. The moisture introduced into the system, however, can cause corrosion to the metal parts. The inspector with evaluate the overall condition of the furnace and control systems. Of all the major heating systems (Steam, Hot Water, Warm Air), warm air heating systems pose the greatest hazard. When the heat exchanger of a warm air furnace is cracked or leaking it can leak carbon monoxide gas into the living area. The heat exchanger is not visible for inspection.

Mechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Forced Air - Heat ExchangerMechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Forced Air - Heat Exchanger
The forced warm air heating system uses a fan or blower to draw air from rooms through a return air duct way. The return air is passed through a furnace where it is heated. The heated air is then pushed into the plenum and distributed via ductwork to rooms as needed. Dampers within the ductwork are opened or closed to balance the heated air into the various rooms as desired. Furnaces are commonly set up to use fuel oil, natural gas or electricity in order to supply heat. Some systems incorporate a humidifier to lessen the dryness of the air. The moisture introduced into the system, however, can cause corrosion to the metal parts. The inspector with evaluate the overall condition of the furnace and control systems. Of all the major heating systems (Steam, Hot Water, Warm Air), warm air heating systems pose the greatest hazard. When the heat exchanger of a warm air furnace is cracked or leaking it can leak carbon monoxide gas into the living area. The heat exchanger is not visible for inspection.

Mechanical Systems - Heating Systems - Electrical Resistance
Electrical resistance heat may be used as either a primary heating method such as, electric baseboard, electric radiant, electric furnace and electric boiler, or it is used more commonly as a back up heating source in a heat pump installation. Heat pumps are used to provide both air conditioning and heat to a home. In the heating mode they are effective in climates where temperatures seldom go below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. When the heat pump can no longer acquire enough heat from the ambient exterior air the auxiliary electric resistance heating elements turn on automatically to supplement the unit and supply adequate heat. The system then functions as an electric furnace. Electric resistance heating is common in areas where systems are not used for extended winter months or where electricity is economical. The inspector will pay careful attention to not only the function of the system, but the requirements of a large electrical supply to the home as it relates to the electrical system itself. This is the most common problem of systems installed in expanded homes and older homes. The electric service must be adequate for the installation of electric resistance heat.

Mechanical Systems - PlumbingMechanical Systems - Plumbing
Plumbing involves the installation, maintenance and alteration of piping, fixtures, appliances and accessories in connection with sanitary or storm drainage facilities, venting systems and public or private water supply systems. A plumbing system consists of three systems: (1) water supply (2) drain and waste disposal (3) mechanical, ample fixtures and equipment. Your inspector will inspect and operate all fixtures and run several gallons of water through the plumbing system, checking the overall condition of the system. Leaking pipes, dripping valves, clogged pipes, corrosion, reversed hot and cold water supplies, limited hot water or inadequate water pressure are all common ailments of a poor plumbing system. Remarks and recommendations will be made to correct problems found during inspection.

Mechanical Systems - Plumbing - Water SupplyMechanical Systems - Plumbing - Water Supply
The water supply to your home is one of the most important mechanical elements to your happy and safe enjoyment of the property you intend to purchase. The water supply can either be a public supply such as town water or private well system whether its a community or independently owned. It is very important to most homeowners to have both safe and adequate water to their homes. Each household typically uses several thousand gallons of water a month! Replacement of a water main or well system can be extremely expensive and should be considered carefully when evaluating your purchase. Old or undersized water supply piping can be a source of aggravation and health safety. Wells, which can only be evaluated on a limited basis by our inspection, require safe installation and often-ongoing maintenance. The type and condition of your water main or well could be an element easily overlooked without proper professional home inspection training and experience.

Mechanical Systems - Plumbing - Drain and Waste DisposalMechanical Systems - Plumbing - Drain and
Waste Disposal

Drain and waste disposal is simply transporting the drain water from sinks, baths, etc., and waste from toilets through a proper channel. These systems excluding the fixtures and piping are either private such as, cesspool or septic tanks, or they are public sewer systems. Public sewer systems are obviously not inspected, but the mechanical equipment delivering the waste or drain water to the main waste line from the home is. Private systems can only be inspected on a limited basis because of the buried nature of the system. It is crucial to know which type of system you have so your inspector can advise you on typical maintenance procedures. One of the key elements looked for when inspecting your waste and drain system is cross connections between this system and your drinking supply water. This can be a serious health hazard and very difficult to find.

Mechanical Systems - Plumbing - Mechanical PlumbingMechanical Systems - Plumbing - Mechanical Plumbing
The mechanical systems in plumbing include fixtures, piping and valves. Although operating fixtures to see if they’re working is relatively easy, your inspector will do much more. While operating each fixture in your bathrooms and kitchen he will be considering the effects on the whole plumbing system including leaks, pressure, flow and quality of the existing installation. The piping and valve system of your new home must be in good working order. Old or improperly installed pipes are difficult to repair and often require expensive replacement. Only an experienced eye will pick up badly joined piping on a new installation of clean copper tubing, or consider the limitation of supply piping based on age, type of material and sizing.

Mechanical Systems - ElectricalMechanical Systems - Electrical
It would be hard to imagine life without electricity. Although electricity greatly affects the quality of our lives, the average person knows very little about it. A successful real estate inspector will have the knowledge and skills to perform a thorough inspection of the electrical system of a house or building. Electricity provides us with light, mechanical systems and heat. An inadequate electrical system containing overloaded circuits or defective wiring and outlets can be a severe safety and fire hazard. The inspector will carefully evaluate the condition of the entire electrical system and check for any improper wiring and hazards associated with outdated methods and poor quality workmanship.

Mechanical Systems - Electrical - Power SupplyMechanical Systems - Electrical - Power Supply
The electrical power supply to your home is delivered through either overhead cable or an underground conduit. The cables run through a meter to measure the amount of power you use for billing purposes to you local utility and then they are routed to a main panel box. The main feed cables must be sized correctly to supply your home with adequate power for the comfortable and safe operation of the equipment currently being used. Many new homebuyers ask, “can I add central air conditioning or a home office”. Although your inspector does not do an electrical load calculation for this purpose, he will be able to guide you on what type of system expansion is possible and advise you about the current supply of electricity to your home.

Mechanical Systems - Electrical - Circuit ProtectorsMechanical Systems - Electrical - Circuit Protectors
The two types of circuit protectors found in homes today are fuses and circuit breakers. Fuses are found mostly in older homes or for specific equipment installations. They are normally not desirable for your main panel box because normal replacement will require you to expose yourself to a potential electrical accident. Many old fuse boxes contain oversized fuses and in poor distribution for modern electrical requirements. Most homes today have a minimum 100 Ampere power supply with 110/220 voltage capability or greater. Some circuit breaker types are prone to over heating and malfunction. Your inspector will not normally turn breakers on and off or remove fuses because the failure of such devices could affect the current homeowner or the dwelling. He will however advise you in great detail about the current condition of these devices and possible repairs required.

Mechanical Systems - Electrical - WiringMechanical Systems - Electrical - Wiring
Wiring carries the power from the main box to the end switch, receptacle or fixture. Wiring can either be in conduit, metal sheathed (Bx), rubber sheathed (Romex®) or in old installations knob and tube. Wiring systems are either 2 wire or 3 wire applications, which may or may not be grounded properly. Conduit is used primarily in commercial installations. Bx cable has a ribbed metal covering to protect the wires inside of it. Romex®, which is the most abundantly used type of wiring in residential construction today, has a soft rubber covering. Your inspector will be checking the exposed wiring carefully to evaluate what alterations may be required. If your inspector finds old wiring such as knob and tube or certain types of Bx cable, he or she may recommend further evaluation by a licensed electrician. Romex® wiring should not be exposed in many areas as it is soft and can be a hazard. There are different materials that wire is made of including copper and aluminum. Copper wire when sized correctly is the most popular and best conductor for normal household electrical requirements. Aluminum wire was used in the early 70’s and turned out to be a potential fire hazard. Your inspector is always on the lookout for this type of installation.

ROMEX® is a registered trademark of Southwire Company.

Mechanical Systems - Electrical - Outlets, Switches and FixturesMechanical Systems - Electrical - Outlets, Switches and Fixtures
Most homebuyer’s knowledge of residential electrical applications involves use of outlets, switches and fixtures. Besides occasionally re-setting a circuit breaker or a GFCI type outlet, a typical homeowner does not feel comfortable working with electricity. A representative number of each of these devices will be tested throughout your new home. GFCI outlets, which have a safety shut off, will be checked in each applicable area. The installation of these safety devices are widely used and required in most homes today.

Mechanical Systems - Electrical - Panel BoxMechanical Systems - Electrical - Panel Box
There are many different varieties of main electrical panel boxes. Certain brands or types of boxes are known to be potential problems with maintenance or safety. The panel box must be installed correctly and sized properly for the incoming main electrical feed lines. Overcrowded and corroded boxes need to be addressed to prevent future problems. Your inspector's experience as a trained professional will be of vital importance when evaluating your electrical system.

Mechanical Systems - Air ConditioningMechanical Systems - Air Conditioning
When describing air conditioning/cooling equipment, inspectors often discuss the high side and low side of the system. The high and low sides of a cooling system refer to system pressure, not to physical location. High-side components include the condenser coil, condenser fan and compressor. Low-side components are the evaporator coil and metering device.

Compressor: The compressor is the most expensive and functionally important part of a complete refrigeration system. Its purpose is to circulate refrigerant through the system. The compressor motor requires 208 Volts AC to 230 Volts AC or 220 Volt AC to 240 Volt AC. The inspector will operate the system and check for proper cooling. Inspecting for any defects and improper installation will be reported and recommendations made.

Evaporator Coil: The evaporator coil is also known as an indoor coil and is constructed similarly to the condenser coil. The function of the evaporator is to absorb heat from the air before the air travels to the conditioned space. This is accomplished by running refrigerant, which has a lower temperature than the air blown over the evaporator coil, through the tubing. During an inspection, if the outside temperature is too cold (as in the fall and winter seasons), the air conditioning system can not be checked. The inspector will make recommendations and advise obtaining current homeowner representation of operation of units.


Roofing SystemsRoofing Systems
The roof is part of the exterior but requires more individual attention. It is designed to protect all the components of the dwelling. There are many roof styles and finished materials. Each style and material is inspected carefully for wear, leaks, defects and other deficiencies. Roofing problems that go undetected can cause serious harm to other components of the building. Styles and types of roofs are dictated by location, age, and preference. Your inspector will carefully evaluate the condition of the material used, note defects, and discuss the possible remaining life expectancy of the roof surface.

  Roofing Systems - CoveringsRoofing Systems - Coverings
There are many different types of roof coverings. Each one must be installed properly and has a design life expectance. Some roof coverings such has high grade slate or tile can last over 100 years! Other roof coverings such as asphalt rolled roofing last only 5-8 years. The various roof coverings are each prone to different types of problems. Usually the longer a roof covering is designed to last, the more expensive it is to repair or replace. Particular roof coverings are selected for a building based on the climate of the region, the cosmetic desire and the economic realities of matching the roof covering with the type of home. The roof surface is one of the most important components of the inspection. The protection of the inner building all starts at this point. The inspector will check the surface for any visible wear or damage. The inspector is also looking for improper installation and/or alterations which may be causing problems now or down the road. Besides end of normal life expectancy issues, bad installations are the most common reasons for roof failures. If a roof is installed improperly, repairs are usually only temporary and replacement is typically required.

Roofing Systems - Coverings - Asphalt ShingleRoofing Systems - Coverings - Asphalt Shingle
Asphalt shingle roofs are the most popular roof material. They cover approximately 70-80 percent of all residential construction. Asphalt shingles are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and requires little maintenance than other more complicated roof coverings. The shingles come in a multitude of colors and designs and last from 15 to 30 years typically. Another advantage of asphalt shingles is normally a second layer that can be applied after the first has worn out. A common practice of installing a third layer to save expense by homeowners and roofers is often undertaken. This usually is a problem because it puts too much weight on the roof, shingles wear rapidly and the roof surface becomes uneven and is prone to wind damage. Asphalt shingles are sometimes improperly installed over old wood shingled roofs and sometimes even old slate roofs.

Roofing Systems - Coverings - SlateRoofing Systems - Coverings - Slate
Slate roofing is typically considered a more expensive type of roofing material. The material itself costs more, it takes longer to install and some slates, being thicker, require a stronger supporting frame. If it's well constructed, a slate roof has a normal life expectancy of more than 50 years. A slate roof is also fireproof and waterproof. Slate requires very little maintenance and never needs any kind of preservative. The inspector will check for proper installation and any signs of defect. If shingles need to be replaced, it is important to use a slate that is compatible with the original roof.

Roofing Systems - Coverings - Wood ShingleRoofing Systems - Coverings - Wood Shingle
The life expectancy of a wood shingle or shake is 25 to 30 years. Some can even last up to 50 years. They are more expensive that asphalt shingles, but they’re popular because of their charming rustic appearance. It is recommended not to install untreated wood shingles and shakes where heat and humidity are severe because they are quite susceptible to decay from moss, mildew and fungus. Treated shingles should also be installed on low-slope roofs as a low-slope will not shed water as well as roofs with a higher pitch. Treated shingles should also be used on roofs shadowed by overhanging trees as this condition would keep a roof wet longer.

Roofing Systems - Coverings - Asphalt RolledRoofing Systems - Coverings - Asphalt Rolled
Asphalt rolled roofing should only be used on flat or low sloped roofs. This material has a short life expectancy of about 10 years and requires ongoing maintenance. The seams should be inspected periodically as the roof surface is prone to damage from water ponding and ice in northern climates. Since it is primarily used on low slopes the roof material degrades quickly from ultraviolet exposure and wear from the direct nature of the elements. Besides wearing out quickly these roofs are often installed poorly because it is a very inexpensive installation. Careful attention must be paid to flat or low sloped roofs with asphalt rolled roofing.

Roofing Systems - Coverings - TileRoofing Systems - Coverings - Tile
A well constructed clay or concrete tile roof should last more than 50 years. This is also an expensive type of roof covering as the materials are more expensive and require a strong frame to support the heavy load of the tiles. Tile roofs require very little maintenance and no preservatives. The tile is fireproof so fire insurance costs less for the entire life of the building. Clay and concrete tiles have similar physical properties and installation methods. Concrete is cheaper to make than clay and it can be made anywhere. Clay tile must be made near a clay quarry, so freight cost to the building site is often higher than for concrete tile.

Roofing Systems - AtticRoofing Systems - Attic
The attic of the home is the upper most portion of the dwelling, which remains in the interior. Attics are often used by homeowners for storage and sometimes finished for additional living space if construction style allows, unfortunately even when it doesn’t. When an attic is unfinished and accessible, the inspector can inspect for the quality of the construction, the insulation, water penetration, venting, pest or rodent entry and exposed electrical hazards. An inspector will always point out that when an attic is finished he/she will not be able to inspect the enclosed areas. Your inspector will be looking for signs that may indicate hidden problems as well as a safe and professional finishing job which will not interfere with the venting and insulation systems of the home.

Roofing Systems - Attic - InsulationRoofing Systems - Attic - Insulation
The insulation in the attic area retards the warm or cool air from escaping the living area. One of the least expensive and easiest ways to reduce heating and cooling costs is to properly insulate the attic area. The inspector will identify the type of insulation used, its condition and how well it has been installed. Most modern construction is insulated with fiberglass rolls or bats. Up to twelve inches may be advised for maximum effectiveness. Some older types of insulation such as: rock wool, vermiculite, and cellulose can be ineffective and possibly a fire hazard. Many non-professionals will install insulation into the soffits or against the roof sheathing between the rafters. These types of installations will be pointed out because they can cause damage to the building materials.

Roofing Systems - Attic - SheathingRoofing Systems - Attic - Sheathing
The roof sheathing is normally visible from the attic area. The sheathing is the material used over the rafters but under the roofing finished material. The most common type of sheathing used is plywood. It adds structural strength to the building and if kept dry has a very long life expectancy. Plywood and other laminated woods can sustain substantial damage if roof leaks are not repaired or poor venting causes condensation. Older homes and homes with exotic heavy roofs may be sheathed with wood planks. This type of sheathing is expensive but extremely durable. It is less prone to water damage because the boards used are whole pieces rather than glued or laminated and because they are smaller they allow air movement more easily, which helps prevent condensation damage. The inspector will be looking carefully for signs of roof leaks and condensation damage, which can be costly to repair.

Roofing Systems - Attic - VentilationRoofing Systems - Attic - Ventilation
Attic venting is another very inexpensive way to reduce energy costs, prolong roof life, and make the living space more comfortable. Non-professionals can often overlook adequate ventilation in the attic area. Many homeowners cover the attic vents in the winter to conserve heat and forget to remove the covering in the summer, which reduces roof life and cause massive damage to the sheathing and insulation. Attic venting can be passive such as soffit and gable vents, or it can be power assisted such as an attic roof fan. Power venting of the attic is the best way to quickly remove moisture and heat build up, but it must be checked carefully that it has adequate passive vents to allow air to pass through rather than draw from the living space. The inspector will carefully note the type of ventilation and make recommendations on whether or not improvements or alterations are required.


ExteriorExterior
The exterior of the building includes; siding, trim, gutters and downspouts, windows, roof, garage, stoops, decks, patios, grounds and related items. Each of these items is inspected not only for its condition, but how it relates to the dwelling. Defects in exterior components such as the siding or windows can greatly affect other components of the home. The exterior of the building is designed to protect the interior components from mother nature.

Exterior - SidingExterior - Siding
The siding of a home is the “skin” or outer most visible facing on the building. The siding on your new home is one of the most important and possibly expensive components. The type of siding is selected based on desired appearance, longevity, maintenance, and cost. There are many siding types such: as vinyl, stucco, brick, aluminum, wood, stone and synthetics. Each material has advantages and disadvantages which require different maintenance procedures and involve different cost factors. Your inspector will identify the type of siding and explain the normal maintenance requirements of each type as well as the existing defects.

Exterior - Siding - VinylExterior - Siding - Vinyl
One of the most popular forms of siding installed on new homes and used to refinish existing homes is vinyl siding. Usually installed with planks, vinyl siding is durable, easy to install and very low maintenance. Your inspector will look at the installation quality carefully, making sure the planks are not to tight which can cause buckling and that all areas are finished and secure to prevent water penetration. A good installation of vinyl siding has a very long life expectancy and allows for easy installation of additional insulation on older homes under the new vinyl.

Exterior - Siding - Wood ShingleExterior - Siding - Wood Shingle
Wood shingles and wood shakes are a very popular form of siding throughout the country. If maintained properly, an installation of this type can last many decades. Wood siding does require ongoing maintenance such as staining and replacement of worn or loose shingles. The installation of the water proof barrier under the siding is crucial to protecting the exterior wall sheathing. Wood shingle siding is a more time consuming and expensive installation when quality materials are used. Your inspector will be carefully examining both the quality of the material used on the installation, which greatly affects the life expectancy, as well as the current condition of the siding. Minor repairs or worn shingles can be replaced easily and inexpensively provided that the areas are not too large.

Exterior - Siding - Stucco (EIFS)Exterior - Siding - Stucco (EIFS)
Synthetic stucco, often referred to as EIFS, consists of a polymer based laminate that is wet-applied, usually in two coats, to rigid insulation board that is fastened to the wall with adhesive, mechanical fasteners, or both. Polymer based (PB) systems, sometimes known as thin coat, soft coat, or flexible finishes, are the most common. The base coat for PB systems is usually only 1/16 in. thick and finish coat thickness is typically no thicker than the maximum sand particle size in the finish coat. While the PB skin repels water very effectively, problems arise when moisture gets behind the synthetic stucco and is trapped inside the wall. Trapped moisture eventually rots insulation, sheathing, and wood framing. It also corrodes metal framing and metal attachments. There have been fewer problems with EIFS used over solid bases such as concrete or masonry because these substrates are very stable and are not subject to rot or corrosion. Polymer modified mineral based (PM) exterior insulation and finish systems are sometimes known as thick coat, hard coat, or rigid finishes. The mineral base is Portland cement, while the polymer is usually an acrylic. PM systems have greater impact resistance than the PB systems, but are typically less than 1/3 the thickness of traditional three-coat stucco.

Exterior - Siding - AluminumExterior - Siding - Aluminum
Aluminum siding first began appearing on homes in the early 1960s. This new product occasionally experienced corrosion, especially in areas of high humidity or salty ocean winds. Aluminum siding is still used today, but is not nearly as popular as vinyl. Aluminum planks can dent easily and are difficult to replace. Dark colors tend to fade in the sunlight. This type of siding does last indefinitely, but may wear cosmetically. Cosmetic repairs to aluminum siding can be costly and difficult.

Exterior - Siding - Wood PlankExterior - Siding - Wood Plank
Traditional horizontal lap siding goes by many names. It's known as clapboard siding in much of the East and as bevel siding elsewhere. Whatever you call it, it is one of the most popular and durable exterior building materials. Indeed, you'll find it in excellent condition on American homes more than 250 years old. Though long-lived, wood siding isn't all that tough. That's because it's usually milled from cedar, redwood or pine - softwood species that are easily cracked or gouged if struck by a ladder, falling tree branch or line drive. Another common problem: The boards tend to split if nailed too close to the end or edge, or if too many nails are used. This type of siding requires ongoing maintenance and your inspector will be checking carefully to see if the siding has been properly maintained.

Exterior - Siding - StoneExterior - Siding - Stone
Stone siding is perhaps the oldest siding material used in residential construction. Found on many older homes, it is still used today on mostly small portions of the exterior to add to the cosmetic appeal of other building materials. Primarily only older homes have complete stone siding installations. Stone work must be inspected carefully for settlement and water penetration. The joints, made of cement mortar, wear over time and must be pointed or repaired to prevent such occurrences. On newer veneer installations the stones are attached to the building with metal ties that keep the walls vertical and secure. There are many varieties of stones used for siding. Stone siding is expensive to install and almost always requires the work of a skilled craftsman to repair if required.

Exterior - Siding - BrickExterior - Siding - Brick
Brick is a durable and appealing installation used throughout the world. When installed and maintained properly it has an unlimited life span. Most modern installations use a veneer type of installation rather than solid brick. Veneer installations are a single row thick and tied to the home with metal ties. Solid brick installations found mostly on older homes are two rows thick held together with a bond course visible to the inspector. Your inspector will look carefully for proper installation, maintenance, and type of installation. Masonry siding installations such as brick or stone must have weep holes to allow moisture to escape. A common mistake of an unskilled craftsman or homeowner is to cover them or leave them out of the installation. This can cause extensive hidden damage to the protected building components.

Exterior - Siding - Cement StuccoExterior - Siding - Cement Stucco
Cement Stucco is durable and appealing siding installation. It can be installed directly onto cement blocks or over wire lathe. Cement stucco should not be confused with EIFS. It is not nearly as prone to the type of water damage associated with synthetic installations. Cement stucco can be prone to cracking and surface damage. Your inspector will identify whether or not your perspective home has a real cement stucco installation and the condition it is in.

Exterior - Gutters and DownspoutsExterior - Gutters and Downspouts
Gutters and downspouts are installed on sloped roofs to collect water in the gutter system on the lower edges of the roof and the downspouts direct the water away. A normal rainstorm can produce hundreds of gallons of water on a roof surface, which can easily find its way into your basement or undermine the structure itself! A well maintained drainage system can help protect your future home from a leaky or damp basement, insect infestations and deterioration of the lower exterior finishes. Gutters and downspouts require careful inspection for proper pitch, leakage and defect. The gutter and leader system cannot only cause a lot of moisture related problems, but may be hiding them even in a new installation. Many home owners repair or replace the gutter and leader system when they put their home on the market for sale, but the damage to fascia boards, soffits and other components may have already occurred from lack of maintenance and improper installation. In some areas of the country, gutters and downspouts are not used because the home is designed and built to keep water away with large eaves and are often used with slab construction which is less prone to water damage from poor roof drainage. This however is often not the case. A home not originally designed for good roof drainage without gutters and downspouts will most likely suffer damage. Your inspector will inform you what is required to repair or replace your drainage system as well as the effects of the existing system or lack of one on your new home.

Exterior - WindowsExterior - Windows
There are many types of windows, and materials used to make them. Most windows are made out of wood, steel and aluminum. Newer windows are vinyl covered with thermo pane glass. Thermo pane glass is two or more panes of glass with a sealed air space between panes and provides a good resistance to heat and cold. The most popular window types are double and single hung, casement, sliding and awning windows. Older windows can be drafty, leaky and difficult to operate. Window replacement is very expensive. Newer thermo pane installation windows used in the last 15 to 20 years can be prone to seal loss and a cloud or discoloration occurs in between the panes of glass, which can’t be removed. The inspector will look at the age, quality, installation and overall condition of the windows. Sometimes older windows, even though in excellent condition, should be replaced just to improve the insulation quality of the home. One of the most dramatic effects on heating and cooling expenses is to replace old or poor quality windows. The windows need to be installed well and maintained to prevent leaks around the exterior and for good operation. If large windows are poorly installed they will be difficult to operate in the future and the thermo pane seal may fail. Skylights and fixed wall light type windows are inspected carefully for leaks and quality. Skylights installed after a roof has been installed almost always leak! These leaks can cause tremendous damage to the surrounding building materials and go undetected for years.

Exterior - GaragesExterior - Garages
Garages whether attached or detached are inspected like the rest of your new home. Your inspector will check the roof, exterior and interior for all the same potential problems that have or may occur which are visible and accessible. The inspector will also look for safety hazards found only in this area as it relates to the vehicle usage, fire hazards and safety of the garage door opener. A great deal of homeowner handyman workmanship is often found in this area and will be pointed out when improperly done.

Exterior - GroundsExterior - Grounds
The grounds surrounding the home will include items such as grading for drainage, patios, landscaping (retaining walls and other alterations to the natural flow of the property), fences, trees and bushes which may have an effect on the home and all other items as they relate to the exterior of the house. Patios and surrounding soil should be pitched away from the house to keep water from lying against the foundation, penetrating the basement, or possibly underminding the footings of a slab home. Trees and bushes need to be kept away from the buildings components to prevent wear, damage or present a possible safety hazard. Other items such as retaining walls and fences are often overlooked by potential homebuyers but can be extremely costly to repair or replace. The general placement of the home on the property is closely examined as it relates to slopes and hills, which could direct high volumes of water towards the home in more severe weather. The experience with the geographical location of your new home that your professional inspector has can be important as it relates to flooding and high water tables which can be an unpleasant surprise.


InteriorsInterior
The interior of the home includes all the various rooms and related items, which are not covered in other aspects of your home inspection on the interior of the dwelling. Some items may overlap such as bathrooms and plumbing, rooms and electrical, and so on. The professional inspector will go through each and every room including all visible and accessible areas of your new home. This is a very important part of your home inspection because symptoms of larger problems are often visible in the various rooms of your home. Settling can be noticed in the floors and walls. Roof or plumbing leaks may be noticed on the ceilings. Poor quality workmanship on mechanical distributions such as outlets and heat convection may be visible. Your inspector will go through each room making notes of relevant defects. Although most cosmetic items, such as worn paint and old carpeting, are not important, they often indicate a general lack of maintenance in the home. Very few homeowners may have badly worn carpet and peeling paint, but they have maintained the much more expensive mechanical and structural components. When a home is in need of a lot of cosmetic work your inspector has already seen a red flag. Recently performed cosmetic work is also carefully inspected to try to determine if it has been done to conceal deeper, more extensive problems. An older home with brand new carpet and paint throughout is often a home that was neglected until resale. Very often the sellers are advised or take it upon themselves to cosmetically repair and upgrade as much as possible to increase the value and curb appeal of the property. Usually these upgrades are done with cost effectiveness in mind and may also be an attempt to mask major problems.

  Interior - BathroomsInterior - Bathrooms
The bathrooms of the home can be one of the most expensive areas to replace or refurbish. With simple maintenance, such as caulking and grouting of tub and shower areas, expensive repairs can be avoided. Many future homeowners badly underestimate the cost of bathroom replacement because of the underlying defects, which require repairs. A well maintained, but outdated bathroom can often be updated at a reasonable cost by replacing wallpaper, shower doors, sink vanity and other minor items. An item as small as a dripping valve inside a wall left un-repaired can be the difference between a $500 upgrade and a $5,000 one! When bathroom replacement is undertaken, it is advisable to change the wallboard and carefully inspect the sub-floor, electricity and the plumbing. The inspector will carefully check all areas including the tub and shower areas and around the toilet in particular. These areas are more prone to hidden water damage. The inspector will advise you of visible defects and alert you to potential hidden defects such as leaking shower pans, which can only be checked in a limited capacity by him/her. Bathrooms are a favorite place for homeowners to make cosmetic repairs which mask underlying problems. The inspector is always very suspicious of recent cosmetic work performed in the bathroom area.

Interior - KitchensInterior - Kitchens
The kitchen of a home is often considered the heart and soul. This is where the majority of the American public spends most of their time when indoors and not sleeping. Kitchens, which were installed using sub-standard materials and products, will be a source of expensive future upgrades. Poor quality or worn cabinets and counters may require expensive upgrading or repair. Complete kitchen replacement is very expensive. It is normal to spend more than $10,000 on a new kitchen! Recent cosmetic repairs will be looked at carefully to determine the quality of work and whether or not they were done to mask a more serious problem. The inspector will look for water damage around the sink, dishwasher and refrigerator as well as for safety hazards.

Interior - Walls, Ceilings, and FloorsInterior - Walls, Ceilings, and Floors
The walls, ceilings, and floors of the home can be covered by a wide variety of materials and divide the home into individual rooms and areas. Many of the walls in a home can often support floors or other portions of the home above. Future homebuyers often ask if they can remove a wall or if it must stay. The inspector normally can tell what walls are load bearing and which are partition and removable. Your professional home inspector will be on alert to carefully check for areas where it appears load-bearing walls have been altered or removed. This must be done using good structural design and professional workmanship. Ceilings are inspected for leaks from plumbing or roofs as well as for safe installations. Heavy old plaster ceilings can be a hazard when cracked and worn. Floors are, of course, looked at carefully for sagging and unevenness. Uneven floors may indicate major problems in the home. The majority of the home's most important parts are between the floors, ceilings and walls, and they are not visible for inspection. This is why it is so important to inspect the condition of these areas for indications of larger potential problems in the dwelling. Interior - Walls, Ceilings, and Floors

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