Home Buyers: What Is Included In A Home Inspection?

Tyler Conkle, Sequim Home Inspector

While a home inspection is not required by law in Washington, it certainly is wise for a buyer to hire a home inspector to examine the home and discover any possible major problems that may effect their desire to complete the purchase.

While most people get that, there are some major misunderstandings about what a home inspection is and is not.  In this article, we interview Tyler Conkle of Vanguard Inspection Services Inc. in Sequim to learn what a home inspection is and what is and is not included in a home inspection.

I ask Tyler to tell us what is included in a home inspection.

A home inspection involves the inspection of key systems in a home, including:

1.  The grounds.  This includes service walks, driveways and parking, porches, steps, patios, decks and balconies, fences, landscaping that effects the foundation, retaining walls, hose bibs, and any other conditions that may effect the house itself.

2.  The electrical.  This includes the heating system, air conditioning or heat pump, outlets, and lighting.

3.  The roof.  We inspect the eaves, the gable, the roof covering (shingles), flashing, skylights, and plumbing vents.

4.  The exterior.  This includes the chimney, gutters and scuppers or eavestrough, siding, trim, soffets, fascia, flashing, windows, and crawlspace.

5.  The garage.  We inspect the garage door and the opener, the floor condition (concrete or otherwise), exterior service door, electrical issues, fire separation from the house, and the ceiling.

6.  The kitchen.  This includes countertops, cabinets, plumbing components, walls and ceiling, heating and cooling source, and appliances.

7.  The laundry room.  This includes the laundry sink, plumbing, venting for the dryer, electrical, G.F.C.I., appliances, and gas shut off.

8.  The bathrooms.  This includes a detailed inspection of the tubs and sinks and the plumbing, the shower, toilet, walls and ceilings, heating, circulation, and for each of the bathrooms.

9.  The bedrooms.  Each bedroom is inspected for all the necessary components, electrical outlets working, vents, heating and cooling, fans, ingress and egress, fire alarms, and doors.

10.  The interior.  This includes everything already listed but also interior windows, window seals, fireplace, stairs, steps, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

11.  The attic.  The attic is inspected for sound structure, the type of insulation and whether it is sufficient, venting, where fans are exhausted to, HVAC duct, chimney case, evidence of condensation or moisture, and vapor barriers.

12.  The crawl space.  This involves inspecting for access, foundation walls, siesmic bolts, drainage, ventilation, girders/beams/columns, joists, sub flooring, moisture stains, insulation, vapor barrier, and any signs of problems.

13.  The plumbing.  All plumbing systems are checked throughout the house, including water service and pressure, main shut offs, well pump, water heater (capacity and combusion air venting), and water softener.

14.  The heating system.  The system is examined and operated to test it for correct operations and heating, including electrical controls and systems.  Cooling systems are also tested extensively.

There is much more to an inspection, because these are just the categories and each category involves a detailed inspection.  While some inspectors rush in and out in 20 minutes, Tyler Conkle is known for often taking two or three hours to complete a home inspection, but that only points out how through his inspections are.

I ask Tyler what is one of the challenges for him in working with buyers.  “Buyers think that peripherals are part of the inspection.  But things outside the home, like sprinkler systems, hot tubs, septic systems, and so on are not part a home inspection.  These are what we call peripherals.  A home inspection inspects the home, not peripherals.”

“Sometimes buyers don’t understand when they hire a home inspector that there must be a signed contract and that the contract explains what is not included in an inspection.  We do a tremendous amount of work for $350 and we put all that in writing in a detailed written report, but some people are wanting a guarantee or an insurance policy.   Realtors often will tell buyers that a home inspection is cheap insurance, but is definitely not insurance.  What is sometimes hard for buyers to understand is that when my inspection is done, while I have done the inspection to the best of my ability, my liability ends when my inspection is done.  Home inspectors are not home insurers.  If a buyer wants insurance, they need to pay for an insurance policy through a company that offers warranties on home appliances and other items.”  Tyler explained that without the contract, the home inspector is not covered by his liability insurance.  It is his insurance company that requires he have a signed contract.

Can a person do their own inspection or just have their contractor do it?  Sure.  Is it a good idea?  No.  There’s a big difference between an experienced and professional home inspector and someone who has just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Tyler has taught home inspectors in seminars.  He would ask the students what time is was, and they would all look at their watch.  Then he would ask, “what color is the face of your watch?”  Immediately they would all look at their watches, because they don’t know.  Nine times out of ten a person doesn’t know what color their watch is even though they look at it 80 times a day.  This is the diference between a home inspector and someone who does not have a trained eye.

Even a contractor can be looking at a window in a house and see it diferently than a home inspector.  A contractor is looking to see if it was installed correctly and that it was caulked correctly.  Tyler asked a contractor once, “Did you notice the thermal seal is blown?”  “Oh, no I wasn’t looking for that.”  A home inspector is trained to inspect things most people don’t even notice.

Thanks to Tyler Conkle at Vanguard Inspection Services Inc. for spending time with us and sharing some of his knowledge.

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