Home Inspection Checklist: Smart Home Buyer Tools

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When you hire a home inspector, they will have their own process and checklist. Most often, the home buyer is provided with a written report rather than a verbal consultation.

This home inspection checklist will guide you through the standard items that should be inspected before buying a home. A home inspection checklist is not provided as a replacement for a home inspector, but rather a complimentary guide to inform the home buyer.

As a real estate agent, I always recommend a professional home inspection to my buyers, even in an as-is property sale.

Inspection Checklist

  • Inspection of foundation: cracks, leaks, settling, dampness.
  • Brick and stone veneer inspection: cracks, deterioration, flashing, drainage issues.
  • Frame inspection for rot, defects in wood or siding material
  • Exterior paint condition including fading and chipping
  • Inspection on the presence of water sources like gutters or downspouts to drain water away from exterior walls and structural components such as windows, doors, and foundations.
  • Inspecting peak for leaks or signs of wear/damage (shingles) including shingle granules falling off due to moisture penetration into the underlayment layer or holes made by birds pecking at loose granules; checking ventilation above attic areas – especially if there is a history of past moisture penetration/damage on the structure
  • Checking for peeling paint or water stains.
  • Inspecting masonry, concrete or stucco surfaces for cracks and deterioration; checking walls at corners where walls meet rooflines, windows or doors.
  • Inspect attic structure (wood trusses) for age and damage; moisture detection between wood members – especially if there is a past history of structural problems due to water damage such as softening of wood, bowing and cracking of rafters or ceiling joists.
  • Check for condition, composition, and water penetration or damage.
  • Check ducts and overall system condition. Repair or replace damaged parts and components as needed. Check for proper insulation around all heating/cooling components and repair if necessary (if accessible). Roof Inspection:
  • Inspection of roof: water damage, missing shingles, loose shingles, holes in roof deck.
  • Check attic access hatches for deterioration or damage.
  • Check the condition of electrical outlets; functionality; possible signs of shock hazard or fire hazard.
  • Outlet circuit protection devices should be present to prevent overloading circuits and potential fire hazards; check at the main panel box and at the individual plug. The GFCI protection device should be present on all outlets, in the bathroom(s) and kitchen.
  • Check for proper grounding of the electrical system including panel box (neutral), fixtures, adapters/extension cords, and lighting ballasts; repair or replace improper wiring.
  • Safety items include fire extinguishers for the prevention of fire hazards inside and outside the buildings. Fireplace check: inspection for gas leaks at seals; check the condition of glass fireplace doors to assure safety from sharp edges.
  • Check the landscaping for heavily saturated areas
  • Check floors for unevenness or dry rot.
  • Ensure drainage is moving away from the house
  • Check sub-slab drainage for clogs or damage
  • Inspection of interior: mold, pests, leaks. Check ceilings in all rooms to make sure they are not cracked or buckling.
  • Remove light fixtures to check for loose wiring connection or broken glass insulators.
  • Light switches should be checked for proper operation; circuit breakers and fuses/breakers should be assessed for proper function.
  • Check the functioning of all accessible smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire alarms, and extinguishers.
  • Check the overall condition of the furnace venting system by pulling off access panels in the attic and ensure that it is free from obstruction. Also, ensure that you have an adequate amount of combustion air entering your home through soffits (ventilating vented soffit) or vents near your foundation wall if you are using a gas or oil heating unit or fireplace.
  • Check the overall condition of the central air conditioning system by pulling off access panels in the attic and ensure that it is free from obstruction.
  • Ensure that you have an adequate amount of combustion air entering your home through soffits (ventilating vented soffit) or vents near your foundation wall if you are using a gas or oil heating unit or fireplace.
  • Inspect the plumbing fixtures, including toilets, bathtubs, sinks, showers/tubs, and all water-related fixtures. Check for loose handles or valves; looseness of the fixture to the wall; any leaks; and proper drainage (the shower drain should not be clogged).
  • Check all accessible light fixtures by removing bulbs and inspecting wiring connections. If you have an inaccessible fixture in your home, ask your electrician to perform a functional test on this item before closing escrow.
  • Inspect the overall condition of the cabinets, including their finish/finishes on doors and drawer faces. Look for openings where mice could enter your home—around electrical boxes, plumbing pipes above cabinet tops, etc., resulting in possible damage due to moisture intrusion as well as possible pest problems. Do this same inspection with respect to attic spaces above the top cabinets.
  • Check attic access hatches for deterioration or damage.
  • Inspect heating and cooling ducts for evidence of rodent infestation (droppings, urine, etc.)
  • Check range hoods for excessive grease accumulation; functioning vent system; proper clearance from combustible surfaces; signs of fire hazard due to improper operation or age (carbon monoxide detectors should be located near motorized range exhaust vents).
  • Check the condition of all accessible electrical outlets; functionality; possible signs of shock hazard or fire hazard.
  • Check plug protectors on appliances that handle water (washing machine, dishwasher) for evidence of flood/water intrusion damage.
  • Inspect overall condition of ceilings including plaster cracks (this could lead to moisture infiltration problems); the presence of burning lights; possible fire hazard due to inadequate wiring or fixture mounting/support.
  • Also inspect the mechanical ventilation system (ductwork), especially at the supply registers, looking for excessive dust accumulation.
  • Check all accessible ceilings above kitchen cabinets for excessive accumulation of grease/dirt as well as signs of water intrusion damage.
  • Inspect floors looking for excess dirt; cracks in flooring; openings where mice could enter the house (see also comments under “Cabinets”) resulting in possible fire hazards due to moisture infiltration into subfloor areas.
  • Ensure that hot water pipes or heating elements are not located near cold surfaces such as refrigerator coils or basement concrete slabs.
  • Ensure the functionality of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors (and ensure that all hard-wired connections are in good condition).
  • Inspect all accessible windows for signs of water intrusion due to improper ventilation; excessive dirt accumulation; loose hardware; possible rodent infiltration.
  • Check electrical outlet receptacles along exposed outside walls for evidence of wetness and/or leaks (facilitates infiltration of moisture which can lead to damp conditions, mold growth, etc.); signs of possible electrical shock or fire hazard due to inadequate grounding or other wiring anomalies.
  • Look for evidence of rodent infestation along exposed drywall areas
  • Check exterior wall cavities for any water intrusion penetration into the building structure resulting in possible damage and/or fire hazard
  • Check all accessible sinks for excessive accumulation of lime deposits on faucets and sink fixtures (can result from inadequate water drainage due to clogged drainpipes); possible fire hazard due to inadequate grounding (a common problem with pedestal sinks in bathrooms).
  • Check all accessible kitchen and bathroom cabinets for adequate ventilation (including drawers, if applicable). This includes inspecting for excessive accumulation of dust inside the cabinet; possible rodent infestation resulting in potential damage and/or fire hazard.
  • Range hood: If you cannot turn on this piece of equipment due to the presence of grease buildup, you may have a fire hazard on your hands (which is not covered by most home insurance policies).
  • Recessed lighting: This could pose a possible fire hazard if it shorts out. It also causes excessive dust accumulation around the recessed housing typically involving multiple light fixtures.
  • Light bulbs: These could have been subjected to high heat (i.e., exposed to a ceiling fixture) and may not last as long or give off the same amount of light as brand new ones.
  • The Garbage disposal should be free of rust.
  • Check all accessible bathrooms and laundry areas for improper ventilation (causing excessive moisture/condensation buildup; resulting in possible mold or mildew growth).
  • Check range, oven, and refrigerator vents for proper operation.
  • Ensure that the exhaust vent of a clothes dryer is properly vented to the outside of the house (inspect accessible hoods at recessed lighting fixtures); ensure that there is no significant accumulation of lint inside this area. If lint has accumulated inside the ductwork below the roofline it could cause a fire hazard due to overheating; also see comments under “Attic” regarding possible rodent infestation resulting in damage potential.
  • Ensure that no trees or branches are touching the house.
  • On hard-to-reach areas such as inside ceilings, ensure that wiring is properly supported and contained within the wall cavity or raceways, to avoid electrical shock/fire hazards due to inadequate support or protruding wires.
  • Inspect visible portions of garage walls/ceilings for water penetration indicating a possible serious moisture problem resulting in possible structural damage and/or fire hazard.
  • Check possible water intrusion along ledges of wood framing typical of an exterior house wall; i.e., siding, flooring, etc. This can lead to increasing dampness in time if not corrected which can result in potential structural damage over time (increasingly widespread-outwards); mold growth due to excessive moisture levels; insect infestation from the above-mentioned sources.
  • Check window sills for signs of water leakage at the exterior side (leads to increased dampness and potential deterioration of the finish on exterior window trim).
  • The Stucco Pad: Typical stucco walls at the exterior of a house are susceptible to water leakage through cracks in the stucco finish. This is generally the result of an inadequate level of the bond between the mortar layer and the underlying brick/masonry wall causing excessive play-out over time.
  • Check the chimney flue for evidence of soot buildup (indicating possible burning problems) and/or bird nests in the chimney which may contain droppings that can be potentially very harmful to one’s health.
  • Gutters should be kept clean of leaves and debris.
  • Windows: Check the operable portion(s) to ensure that they are operational (not stuck in a closed position). Ensure that all window sashes move freely to their full operating range without any binding/sticking; also check for evidence of rust damage on exposed parts such as steel or aluminum sash frames, tracks, hinges, and pivots.
  • Check the sill plate around the perimeter of a window opening to verify its overall integrity and freedom from rot and excessive rotting due to moisture intrusion.
  • The flooring: Carpeting can be the source of a mold infestation from dampness in time if not dried properly. Check for possible rodent damage to wood flooring as well as evidence of cracks or chips that may have been repaired (but not sufficiently) over time due to repeated use of the same spot/location and movement of furniture (not covered by most insurance policies).
  • The walls, ceiling, and trim around light fixtures: All should be checked for excessive accumulation of dust; this is an indication that there has been inadequate air circulation in time which could result in a potential fire hazard.
  • Lights: These need to be inspected for burned-out bulbs (and/or loose lamp holders), corrosion around bulb sockets, broken bulb stems, cracked lenses, and exposed electrical wiring where it shouldn’t be (usually in ceilings).
  • Bathroom/laundry room: All should have a laundry chute that is free from obstruction. Check for condensation around the window frame(s) in these rooms on exterior walls; this is an indication of significant moisture problems due to inadequate air circulation (and/or heat insulation) resulting in mold growth and possible decay of wood structure frames.
  • Walls, ceilings, and trim around vanity lights: These are common locations for excessive dust accumulation from air circulation problems resulting in a possible fire hazard.
  • Floors: These are another common place for dust accumulation from air circulation problems (as well as rodent activity, etc.) which can lead to a potential fire hazard if not cleaned at regular intervals.
  • Walls, floors, and baseboards around heating vents: These typically accumulate debris over time which could cause shorting of the heating system’s electrical wiring and/or excessive heat buildup that may result in a potential fire hazard.
  • Check the functioning of all switches; they should activate the light(s) to full brightness upon the operation and return to the off position when released without sticking or being difficult to operate. Also, check switches for any sign of corrosion on the contacts inside their mechanism (which may be an indication of a possible arcing problem).
  • Check all electrical outlets for corrosion and/or any sign that they may have been “fused” shut in order to prevent an electrical fire (a relatively common problem in some older homes).
  • HVAC system: Check the furnace’s heat exchanger for soot buildup, which may be an indication of excessive carbon monoxide production within the home that could lead to poisoning or the deterioration of smoke alarms that are located close by.
  • Check for excessive cool air blowing out of vents when the heat is not turned on for the season.
  • Check and verify that all registers open freely without sticking or being difficult to operate; these are another common location for dust accumulation from inadequate air circulation which can lead to potential fire hazards if left unattended.
  • The basement: Check for excessive moisture accumulation under any water heater, furnace, other heating/cooling equipment (if present), laundry machines, washing machines, etc. This could be an indication that there have been repeated plumbing leaks in time which may result in wood rot or even structural damage under these appliances; also check for evidence of rodent activity such as chewed insulation around heating ducts and electrical wiring.
  • Check for excessive moisture penetration under all exterior doors leading into the basement spaces (from outside); also check for accumulation of dirt on the bottoms of sealed interior door thresholds that could interfere with the movement of these doors and prevent them from properly sealing (this is a very common problem around entry doors to basements due to frequent foot traffic in and out these areas).
  • Check for evidence of mold growth anywhere within this area such as water stains, discolored surfaces, odor(s), and etc.; mold may be present due to termite or rodent activity, plumbing leaks over time, defective roofing &/or foundation drainage problems allowing groundwater intrusion.
  • Railing on stairs or decks should be free of splintering, excessive soiling (from dust or dirt accumulation), and/or the appearance of rot.
  • Check all stairs for excessive squeaking when walked upon; this is an indication that the stair treads may not be well secured to their risers resulting in a trip hazard; also check for evidence of recent repair(s) with nails.
  • Vinyl and Aluminum Siding: Check for evidence of siding peeling off the structure; this may be due to moisture penetration behind it which can lead to wood rot if left unattended.
  • Paint: Stains that penetrate into any areas between the siding boards are an indication of water penetration at some time in the past and should be treated as a potential moisture problem.
  • Check all windows for visibility obstruction; this is often caused by paint film accumulation on the glass (from air pollution) which could be causing excessive fading and/or other damage inside these spaces.
  • Some stains are normal such as from rain, insects, etc.; those that penetrate into window panes or are abnormal in appearance or location are indicators of possible future problems and/or have been present for time which may lead to damage or rot in these areas.
  • Check all decks, porches, and/or balconies for rotten wood in their joist support structures underneath; this is a common sign of moisture penetration at some time into the past that could result in structural collapse if left unattended.
  • Pavement such as concrete slabs should be free of cracks, signs of obvious settling and/or deterioration such as wet spots, etc.; crumbling edges are an indication they have been exposed to water for too long a period of time resulting in the deterioration from freeze-thaw cycles.

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