What is inspected
The full home inspection is designed to include:
HEATING AND COOLING
GRADING AND DRAINAGE
INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR WALLS
DOORS AND WINDOWS
CEILINGS AND FLOORS
FIREPLACES AND CHIMNEYS
AND MUCH MORE
The Purpose of the Inspection
The purpose of the home inspection is to identify any problems within the house that you're not willing to accept. When you make an offer to buy a house, the offer should be contingent upon a successful home inspection. In other words, if the inspector finds something you're not comfortable with, you should be able to back out of the deal. That's what it means when the offer is "contingent" upon the home inspection.
Generally, the inspection takes place after you've made an offer to purchase a home, and the sellers have accepted your offer. You should schedule it as soon as possible after this step.
What the Home Inspector Looks For
So, what does the home inspector look for during this process? While they might handle the process in different ways, most inspectors look at the same types of things.
The inspector will examine the roof, to make sure it's in a good state of repair. He will typically do this by using a ladder to climb up on the roof. Or he might just look at the roof through a pair of binoculars, while standing out in the street. They just want to make sure there's no major damage with the roof, since that's obviously a major cost that could be involved. They will check the condition of the shingles or tiles, the flashing around the chimney, and the overall integrity of the roof.
The home inspector is going to look at the foundation of the house, and possibly the walls as well. Here, the inspector wants to make sure there aren't any cracks or water damage that could be a sign of serious maintenance costs down the road.
The home inspector will check the electrical system in the house. He will ensure that the system is safe, and that there are no overrated fuses, overloaded circuit breakers, or faulty connections. And, of course, he will make sure everything works. He will go room by room and turn on all of the lights and electrical fixtures, throughout the entire house.
The home inspector will look at the HVAC system, if there is one. HVAC stands for heating,
ventilation and cooling. He will look for proper function of any system that's currently
installed -- central air, furnace, baseboard heat, etc. When he walks into the house, he
will probably turn on the air conditioner or heater to make sure it works. This is often the
first thing they do upon arrival. The inspector will let the system run while he's performing
the rest of the inspection. This allows him to test the thermostatic controls as well.
The inspector will look at the plumbing system inside and outside of the house. This
includes the sinks, toilets, bathtubs and outdoor spigots. He'll go room by room,
systematically, to make sure all of these items work. He will also look for any leaks around
plumbing pipes and fixtures.
The inspector will check any installed systems inside the house. In this context, "installed"
means anything that is attached to the home where its removal would require tools.
Garbage disposals are a good example. If the house has a sump pump in the basement
for removing moisture, he will check it for proper operation.
Looking for water staining
The inspector will look for water leaks, or evidence of water leaks. He will check all the
areas where water leaks generally occur. Inspectors know exactly where to look for this kind of thing -- on floors, along the foundation, in basements, etc. Leaking water can be a sign of two problems. First, it can suggest that the pipes need repair or replacement. Additionally, the water itself can cause damage and erosion to floors, ceilings and foundations.
This is just a bare minimum.
The inspector will probably look at some additional areas, above and beyond the items on this list. When he's done checking these things, he will give you what's known as the home inspector's report. He will sit down with you and go over each item on the list, noting any problems he found along he way. He will explain what the problem was, and what might be required to fix it. The potential repairs are obviously important to you, because they bring additional costs along with them.