Home Inspection Standard of Practice

1. Definitions and Scope

1.1.  A general home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property (as delineated below), performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector.  The scope of work may be modified by the Client and Inspector prior to the inspection process.

  1. The general home inspection is based on the observations made on the date of the inspection, and not a prediction of future conditions.
  2. The general home inspection will not reveal every issue that exists or ever could exist, but only those material defects observed on the date of the inspection.

1.2.  A material defect is a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people.  The fact that a system or component is near, at, or beyond the end of its normal, useful life is not, in itself, a material defect.

1.3.  A general home inspection report shall identify, in written format, defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector.  Inspection reports may include additional comments and recommendations.3. Standards of Practice

 
 
3.1. Roof
 

I. The inspector shall inspect from ground level or the eaves:

  1. the roof-covering materials;
  2. the gutters;
  3. the downspouts;
  4. the vents, flashing, skylights, chimney, and other roof penetrations; and
  5. the general structure of the roof from the readily accessible panels, doors or stairs.

II. The inspector shall describe:

  1. the type of roof-covering materials.
III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:
  1. observed indications of active roof leaks.
 
 
3.2. Exterior
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the exterior wall-covering materials, flashing and trim;
  2. all exterior doors;
  3. adjacent walkways and driveways;
  4. stairs, steps, stoops, stairways and ramps;
  5. porches, patios, decks, balconies and carports;
  6. railings, guards and handrails;
  7. the eaves, soffits and fascia;
  8. a representative number of windows; and
  9. vegetation, surface drainage, retaining walls and grading of the property, where they may adversely affect the structure due to moisture intrusion.
II. The inspector shall describe:
  1. the type of exterior wall-covering materials.
III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:
  1. any improper spacing between intermediate balusters, spindles and rails.
 
 
3.3. Basement, Foundation, Crawlspace & Structure
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the foundation;
  2. the basement;
  3. the crawlspace; and
  4. structural components.

II. The inspector shall describe:

  1. the type of foundation; and
  2. the location of the access to the under-floor space.

III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:

  1. observed indications of wood in contact with or near soil;
  2. observed indications of active water penetration;
  3. observed indications of possible foundation movement, such as sheetrock cracks, brick cracks, out-of-square door frames, and unlevel floors; and
  4. any observed cutting, notching and boring of framing members that may, in the inspector’s opinion, present a structural or safety concern.
 
 
3.4. Heating
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the heating system, using normal operating controls.

II. The inspector shall describe:

  1. the location of the thermostat for the heating system;
  2. the energy source; and
  3. the heating method.

III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:

  1. any heating system that did not operate; and
  2. if the heating system was deemed inaccessible.
 
3.5. Cooling
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the cooling system, using normal operating controls.

II. The inspector shall describe:

  1. the location of the thermostat for the cooling system; and
  2. the cooling method.

III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:

  1. any cooling system that did not operate; and
  2. if the cooling system was deemed inaccessible.
 
3.6. Plumbing
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the main water supply shut-off valve;
  2. the main fuel supply shut-off valve;
  3. the water heating equipment, including the energy source, venting connections, temperature/pressure-relief (TPR) valves, Watts 210 valves, and seismic bracing;
  4. interior water supply, including all fixtures and faucets, by running the water;
  5. all toilets for proper operation by flushing;
  6. all sinks, tubs and showers for functional drainage;
  7. the drain, waste and vent system; and
  8. drainage sump pumps with accessible floats.

II. The inspector shall describe:

  1. whether the water supply is public or private based upon observed evidence;
  2. the location of the main water supply shut-off valve;
  3. the location of the main fuel supply shut-off valve;
  4. the location of any observed fuel-storage system; and
  5. the capacity of the water heating equipment, if labeled.

III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:

  1. deficiencies in the water supply by viewing the functional flow in two fixtures operated simultaneously;
  2. deficiencies in the installation of hot and cold water faucets;
  3. mechanical drain stops that were missing or did not operate if installed in sinks, lavatories and tubs; and
  4. toilets that were damaged, had loose connections to the floor, were leaking, or had tank components that did not operate.
 
3.7. Electrical
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. the service drop;
  2. the overhead service conductors and attachment point;
  3. the service head, gooseneck and drip loops;
  4. the service mast, service conduit and raceway;
  5. the electric meter and base;
  6. service-entrance conductors;
  7. the main service disconnect;
  8. panelboards and over-current protection devices (circuit breakers and fuses);
  9. service grounding and bonding;
  10. a representative number of switches, lighting fixtures and receptacles, including receptacles observed and deemed to be arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI)-protected using the AFCI test button, where possible;
  11. all ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacles and circuit breakers observed and deemed to be GFCIs using a GFCI tester, where possible; and
  12. smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors.
II. The inspector shall describe:
  1. the main service disconnect’s amperage rating, if labeled; and
  2. the type of wiring observed.
III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:
  1. deficiencies in the integrity of the service-entrance conductors’ insulation, drip loop, and vertical clearances from grade and roofs;
  2. any unused circuit-breaker panel opening that was not filled;
  3. the presence of solid conductor aluminum branch-circuit wiring, if readily visible;
  4. any tested receptacle in which power was not present, polarity was incorrect, the cover was not in place, the GFCI devices were not properly installed or did not operate properly, evidence of arcing or excessive heat, and where the receptacle was not grounded or was not secured to the wall; and
  5. the absence of smoke detectors.
 
3.8. Fireplace  
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. readily accessible and visible portions of the fireplaces and chimneys;
  2. lintels above the fireplace openings;
  3. damper doors by opening and closing them, if readily accessible and manually operable; and
  4. cleanout doors and frames.
II. The inspector shall describe:
  1. the type of fireplace.
III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:
  1. evidence of joint separation, damage or deterioration of the hearth, hearth extension or chambers;
  2. manually operated dampers that did not open and close;
  3. the lack of a smoke detector in the same room as the fireplace;
  4. the lack of a carbon-monoxide detector in the same room as the fireplace; and
  5. cleanouts not made of metal, pre-cast cement, or other non-combustible material.
 
3.9. Attic, Insulation & Ventilation
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. insulation in unfinished spaces, including attics, crawlspaces and foundation areas;
  2. ventilation of unfinished spaces, including attics, crawlspaces and foundation areas; and
  3. mechanical exhaust systems in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry area.
II. The inspector shall describe:
  1. the type of insulation observed; and
  2. the approximate average depth of insulation observed at the unfinished attic floor area or roof structure.
III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:
  1. the general absence of insulation or ventilation in unfinished spaces.
 
 
3.10. Doors, Windows & Interior
 

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. a representative number of doors and windows by opening and closing them;
  2. floors, walls and ceilings;
  3. stairs, steps, landings, stairways and ramps;
  4. railings, guards and handrails; and
  5. garage vehicle doors and the operation of garage vehicle door openers, using normal operating controls.
II. The inspector shall describe:
  1. a garage vehicle door as manually-operated or installed with a garage door opener.
III. The inspector shall report as in need of correction:
  1. improper spacing between intermediate balusters, spindles and rails for steps, stairways, guards and railings;
  2. photo-electric safety sensors that did not operate properly; and
  3. any window that was obviously fogged or displayed other evidence of broken seals.

4. Glossary of Terms

  • accessible:  In the opinion of the inspector, can be approached or entered safely, without difficulty, fear or danger.
  • activate:  To turn on, supply power, or enable systems, equipment or devices to become active by normal operating controls. Examples include turning on the gas or water supply valves to the fixtures and appliances, and activating electrical breakers or fuses.
  • adversely affect:  To constitute, or potentially constitute, a negative or destructive impact.
  • alarm system:  Warning devices, installed or freestanding, including, but not limited to: carbon-monoxide detectors, flue gas and other spillage detectors, security equipment, ejector pumps, and smoke alarms.
  • appliance:  A household device operated by the use of electricity or gas. Not included in this definition are components covered under central heating, central cooling or plumbing.
  • architectural service:  Any practice involving the art and science of building design for construction of any structure or grouping of structures, and the use of space within and surrounding the structures or the design, design development, preparation of construction contract documents, and administration of the construction contract.
  • component:  A permanently installed or attached fixture, element or part of a system.
  • condition:  The visible and conspicuous state of being of an object.
  • correction:  Something that is substituted or proposed for what is incorrect, deficient, unsafe, or a defect.
  • cosmetic defect:  An irregularity or imperfection in something, which could be corrected, but is not required.
  • crawlspace:  The area within the confines of the foundation and between the ground and the underside of the lowest floor’s structural component.
  • decorative:  Ornamental; not required for the operation of essential systems or components of a home.
  • describe:  To report in writing a system or component by its type or other observed characteristics in order to distinguish it from other components used for the same purpose.
  • determine:  To arrive at an opinion or conclusion pursuant to examination.
  • dismantle:  To open, take apart or remove any component, device or piece that would not typically be opened, taken apart or removed by an ordinary occupant.
  • engineering service:  Any professional service or creative work requiring engineering education, training and experience, and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to such professional service or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design and supervision of construction for the purpose of assuring compliance with the specifications and design, in conjunction with structures, buildings, machines, equipment, works and/or processes.
  • enter:  To go into an area to observe visible components.
  • evaluate:  To assess the systems, structures and/or components of a property.
  • evidence:  That which tends to prove or disprove something; something that makes plain or clear; grounds for belief; proof.
  • examine:  To visually look (see inspect).
  • foundation:  The base upon which the structure or wall rests, usually masonry, concrete or stone, and generally partially underground.
  • function:  The action for which an item, component or system is specially fitted or used, or for which an item, component or system exists; to be in action or perform a task.
  • functional:  Performing, or able to perform, a function.
  • functional defect:  A lack of or an abnormality in something that is necessary for normal and proper functioning and operation, and, therefore, requires further evaluation and correction.
  • general home inspection:  The process by which an inspector visually examines the readily accessible systems and components of a home and operates those systems and components utilizing this Standards of Practice as a guideline.
  • home inspection:  See general home inspection.
  • household appliances:  Kitchen and laundry appliances, room air conditioners, and similar appliances.
  • identify:  To notice and report.
  • indication:  That which serves to point out, show, or make known the present existence of something under certain conditions.
  • inspect:  To examine readily accessible systems and components safely, using normal operating controls, and accessing readily accessible areas, in accordance with this Standards of Practice.
  • inspected property:  The readily accessible areas of the buildings, site, items, components and systems included in the inspection.
  • inspection report:  A written communication (possibly including images) of any material defects observed during the inspection.
  • inspector:  One who performs a real estate inspection.
  • installed:  Attached or connected such that the installed item requires a tool for removal.
  • material defect:  A specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people.  The fact that a system or component is near, at, or beyond the end of its normal, useful life is not, in itself, a material defect.
  • normal operating controls:  Describes the method by which certain devices (such as thermostats) can be operated by ordinary occupants, as they require no specialized skill or knowledge.
  • observe:  To visually notice.
  • operate:  To cause systems to function or turn on with normal operating controls.
  • readily accessible:  A system or component that, in the judgment of the inspector, is capable of being safely observed without the removal of obstacles, detachment or disengagement of connecting or securing devices, or other unsafe or difficult procedures to gain access.
  • recreational facilities:  Spas, saunas, steam baths, swimming pools, tennis courts, playground equipment, and other exercise, entertainment and athletic facilities.
  • report (verb form): To express, communicate or provide information in writing; give a written account of.  (See also inspection report.)
  • representative number:  A number sufficient to serve as a typical or characteristic example of the item(s) inspected.
  • residential property:  Four or fewer residential units.
  • residential unit:  A home; a single unit providing complete and independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
  • safety glazing:  Tempered glass, laminated glass, or rigid plastic.
  • shut down:  Turned off, unplugged, inactive, not in service, not operational, etc.
  • structural component:  A component that supports non-variable forces or weights (dead loads) and variable forces or weights (live loads).
  • system:  An assembly of various components which function as a whole.
  • technically exhaustive:  A comprehensive and detailed examination beyond the scope of a real estate home inspection that would involve or include, but would not be limited to:  dismantling, specialized knowledge or training, special equipment, measurements, calculations, testing, research, analysis, or other means.
  • unsafe:  In the inspector’s opinion, a condition of an area, system, component or procedure that is judged to be a significant risk of injury during normal, day-to-day use. The risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation, or a change in accepted residential construction standards.
  • verify:  To confirm or substantiate.

 

These terms are found within the Standards of Practice.  Visit InterNACHI’s full Glossary.