You start by walking through the door. Wait a moment; back up. Most doors in homes you will be inspecting are left in the open position. On several occasions, my clients have been surprised to find that a door will not close. Opening and closing doors seems like kicking the tires on a car. You have heard of it, but who does it? Sticking doors are a constant problem, and the cause could be any number of things from the house settling to a foundation issue to new floors or floor covering. Look at the foundation section above to determine if you have a problem with the foundation or house settling. Look at the space around the door and its frame. If hung properly, the space should be even. In some instances, you may find that the door was hung wrong, or that the supports (hinges with the screws) have failed. To readjust the door, you can use shims between the hinges and the jamb. One manufacturer makes a plastic ez-shim for this purpose. The plastic is said to hold up better than a wood shim. Also check the hardware on the door. Door handles and their locking mechanisms are often overlooked.
Now you can move into the room.As an investor you will be concerned with wall covering, as an inspector you will be concerned with the condition. Look for unevenness or bowing walls and ceilings. Walk around the floor to see if it feels like you could bounce on it. Here is a trade secret: take your shoes off. You will notice more in your bare or stocking feet than with that hard covering of a shoe.
No wall or ceiling should have a hole in it.A common place for holes in cabinets, particularly ones with a sink. Floors that have a bounce need to be stiffened. This can be achieved with sistering a board to an existing joist and using plywood sheets over the floor. Unevenness or bowing could be do to framing or settling. The lumber used for building a wall is frequently bowed. If a builder is not cautious, he could place a bowed side out, leaving an imperfect wall. Structurally this is not a problem, but cabinet installers will have a tough time. If you see round heads for nails popping out, this can explain some bowing in walls and ceilings. Sheetrock should be installed with screws, but to save time many installers use nails, which will come out.
An inspector will look for lighting in all habitable areas and bathrooms of your home.Hallways and stairs need proper light with switches at both ends, and an attached garage is to be lighted. If you have a detached garage, it only requires a light when the building has power provided to it. All exterior doors which provides a grade level access need a light, but not a garage door for your car. Some builders have outlets controlled by a wall switch, but they cannot use this arrangement in a kitchen or bathroom. When they do have a switch for an outlet, many builders will turn the receptacle upside down to inform you that this outlet is the controlled unit. These outlets cannot use a dimmer. Some safety concerns for the physical fixture are involving the unit’s placement. Bathrooms are fun to light considering the restrictions on where the light can go. You will want a pendant light to be more than eight feet above and three feet away from your shower or tub. For this reason, I like to see fixtures that hug the ceiling instead of dangling down.
Closets should not have open incandescent bulbs. A recessed light (or a fluorescent) can be within six inches of a shelf. Fixtures that are ceiling mounted should be twelve inches away from the shelf. This is due to the fact that incandescents heat to a higher temperature than fluorescents. The only location in a closet where mounting a fixture on the wall is allowed would be above the door, as long as there is no shelf there. This may seem strange, but an inspector has to ensure that track lighting is a minimum of five feet above the floor. Can that fixture hit your head then? Yes. The idea applies to a track light over your seating areas and tables. Pendant (chandelier) fixtures can move by swinging when hit, but track lighting cannot. Recessed lighting will be attached above your ceiling. There is a rating for the housing saying the unit is IC rated. This rating is for situations where insulation can come into contact with the unit, like in an attic. A non-IC rated unit is meant for drop down ceilings where there is no insulation. Obviously, non-IC rated is cheaper, so people like to save money by using them. They can be placed in the attic when you adhere to the following: 1)the housing is a ½ inch away from an object that can burn; 2) the housing is three inches away from insulation. The problem that I find is that insulation eventually finds its way to the housing. A solution could be to create a barrier to prevent insulation from moving closer to the unit.
For all electrical fixtures, including lighting units, the fixtures need to be firmly attached to the wall. If they shake or move, stress is placed on the wiring, which could cause the wiring’s protective sheathing to fail. All receptacles and switches need a proper cover. There are actually quite a few rules governing the placement of receptacles and switches, but a rule of thumb would be the twelve feet apart and six feet from any opening. A hallway should have a receptacle every ten feet. Most inspectors will not check for this last one, but I was once a certified food service manager, so I like to see if the fixtures in the kitchen have one extra safety feature. Health codes require that for commercial kitchens lights in a food preparation area should be covered, so if the bulb bursts, the pieces will not fall in to your food. Fluorescents are coated with a poisonous material on their interior, and glass shards are never good in food. Lights over your cooktop in the range hood may have a cover missing. I see this a lot. Think about your family’s well being, and consider what would happen if the bulb in different kitchen fixtures breaks.
Open and close the window. Ensure that the hardware on the window is functioning. Since many people do not use windows often, they can stick. Determine if it is sticking due to paint, build-up, or a hardware problem. The screen in the window should sit in the frame well, and it should have no tears or holes. Screens seem to be a major issue during my inspections. Repair kits are sold at home centers. The post “Look through any Window” has some tips on this subject.