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Interpreting the Home Inspection Report

Interpreting the Home Inspection ReportThe home inspection report is an important document that a potential buyer will have that accurately describes the conditions that exist in the house they are considering buying. It is crucial that your client receive a well written and detailed home inspection report.  Helping your client interpret the inspection report can eliminate confusion and indecision.  This article will attempt to give you some guidance to assist your buyers with interpreting a home inspection report.

There are many styles of reports used by property inspectors that may include a hand written checklist, a digital checklist, computer generated using inspection software, and the narrative style or any combination of the above.  The most important aspect with an inspection report is the descriptions given for each system or component.

A typical home inspection report will be divided up into systems that make up the building.  Each system is identified and a report on the condition of each system is delivered to the client. 

A system is a group of components assembled together through building techniques that make it complete.  For example a roofing system might be made up of several components such as rafters, sheathing, roof covering and flashing.  The inspection report will identify the visual components making up the system and report on their condition. 

If there is an issue with the condition of the system or component identified, the inspection report will comment on the type of deficiency and guide the buyer to possible recommendations.  A recommendation might include: replacement, repair, monitor or need further evaluation by a professional specializing in that system.

Deficient or Defective Items:  If an item is deemed deficient in the inspector’s opinion, then it is either not functioning as intended, has come to the end its’ useful life expectancy or has deteriorated to the point that replacement or repair is imminent.  For example:  A roof covering may have severely cracked and curled shingles, even if there is no sign of leaking the inspector may report this as deficient because the condition of the system is nearing the end of its useful life and replacement in the very near future in imminent. 

Safety Issues:  If the inspector finds safety issues in the home, the report will reflect the nature of the safety issue, where in the home the safety concern was found and a recommendation to correct the safety concern.  Safety issues can be minor in expense but important to the safety of the occupants of the home.  For example, a bathroom without a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) may only be $15.00 to repair, but the potential danger it poses for the occupants of the home would necessitate that item being in the report.

Maintenance: If a maintenance item is in the report the inspector has determined that some maintenance is needed to prevent either a safety item or the deterioration of another part of the home.  For example:  If the inspector finds the gutters are full debris but are properly attached to home and in good condition, they might put that in the report because during rain the gutters would overflow dumping large amounts of water next to the foundation of the home and eventually begin to erode the soil around the foundation. 

Common terms used in the inspection report:

  • Recommend: The inspectors’ opinion of how to guide the client to resolve noteworthy issues found during the inspection.  Common recommendations would be to replace, repair, monitor or evaluate.
  • Visual Inspection: The general scope of the inspection is limited to a visual inspection which means that the inspector is not required to disassemble equipment.
  • HVAC: Heating ventilation air condition system.
  • Condensate Line: The copper pipe that runs from the outside air conditioning condenser to the inside furnace (where the A/C coil is located).
  • Ductwork: A system of distribution channels used to transmit heated or cooled air from a central system (HVAC) throughout a home.
  • Damper: An air valve that regulates the flow of air inside the flue of a furnace or fireplace.
  • Pilot Light: A small, continuous flame (in a hot water heater, boiler, or furnace) that ignites gas or oil burners when needed.
  • Accessible: Can be approached or entered by the inspector safely, without difficulty, or danger.
  • Blown Insulation: Fiber insulation in loose form used to insulate attics and existing walls where framing members are not exposed.
  • Board and Batten: A method of siding in which the joints between vertically placed boards or plywood are covered by narrow strips of wood.
  • Buckling: The bending of a building material as a result of wear and tear or contact with a substance such as water.
  • Cantilever: A projecting beam or other structure supported only at one end. Any part of a structure that projects beyond its main support and is balanced on it.
  • Cast Iron: Heavy metal formed by casting on molds. The metal is covered with a porcelain enamel coating to make fixtures such as the cast iron tubs.
  • Ceiling Joist: One of a series of parallel framing members used to support ceiling loads and supported in turn by larger beams, girders or bearing walls. Also called roof joists.
  • Cellulose Insulation: Ground-up newspaper that is treated with a fire retardant.
  • Celotex:  A brand of black fibrous board that is used as exterior sheathing.
  • Flashing: Material used around any angle in a roof or wall to prevent leaks.
  • Earthquake Strap: A metal strap used to secure gas hot water heaters to the framing or foundation of a house. It is intended to reduce the chances of having the water heater fall over in an earthquake and causing a gas leak.
  • Sump: Pit or large plastic bucket/barrel inside the home designed to collect ground water from a perimeter drain system.
  • Sump Pump: A submersible pump in a sump pit that pumps any excess ground water to the outside of the home.
  • Trap: A plumbing fitting that holds water to prevent air, gas, and vermin from backing up into a fixture.
  • Knob and Tube Wiring: A common form of electrical wiring used before World War II. When in good condition it may still be functional for low amperage use such as smaller light fixtures.
  • BX Cable: Armored electrical cable wrapped in galvanized steel outer covering. A factory assembly of insulated conductors inside a flexible metallic covering.
  • Circuit Breaker: A protective device which automatically opens an electrical circuit when it is overloaded.
  • Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI): A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit
  • Grounded: Connected to earth or to some conducting body that serves in place of the earth.
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