Do you want to understand your home inspection report? We will examine the five main sections and then the other sections of the home inspection report, along with some other aspects surrounding the report.
Note: This is an updated version of an article that I wrote for my clients in 2006. Then in 2008, I published the different sections with some changes as separate posts. Now I am combining those individual posts into one comprehensive overview of a Texas Home Inspection report format. I have rewritten a few sections to reflect new aspects of this report.
The time you spend discussing the job that the inspector has done for you will be brief compared to other aspects of the purchasing process. You should ask questions of the inspector, so you understand what he has found. He will present his findings in a written report, which is produced according to the standards outlined by the Texas Real Estate Commission.
A report from one inspector to another should not have too many differences, if each inspector is investigating the house properly. A report could state very plainly the observed conditions, or it could become extremely wordy, but the intention of any report is to inform you of the condition of the property at the time of inspection. Inspectors may have different ways of stressing a significant point to you about the house, but when the inspector suggests that a licensed or qualified professional who specializes in a certain field examine a component of the house, you should realize that as an area you should pay special attention to. It is up to you whether the specialist should be called in, so determine if the issue is important enough to you to warrant further investigation. Do not be afraid to ask the inspector about his report. An inspector is there to help you understand the state the house is in, so he should be willing to answer any question.
The report will be divided into six main sections: Structural Systems; Electrical Systems; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning; Plumbing System; Appliances; and Optional Systems. The report also includes a statement from the Texas Real Estate Commission, which basically describes the purpose of the report. Here is where reports from various home inspectors can differ. On the first page, you will find a section entitled “Additional Information Provided By The Inspector”. This section can include statements by the inspector about how his report is created, or it could contain information about conditions under which the inspection was or will be performed. The inspector could leave this section blank, but if he does not, the information there is usually about how, when, or under what terms the inspection was performed, and not about any specific concern for the house under investigation. Lastly, there is an “Additional Comments” section. These comments are up to the inspector. It might state some details of how the inspection was conducted, or it might state something that was in the report for emphasis, but it could also contain a statement by the inspector of the conditions under which the report was produced. It might also contain concerns about the house that are not part of the normal inspection. You should read the last two sections mentioned, since each inspector will place his own information in those spaces. Ask questions of your inspector, if something in these sections does not make sense to you.
As for the six main sections, the inspector is not there to find what the cause of a problem is or to fix the problem; he is there to determine if there is a problem. He may or may not know why the air conditioner is not working, but he should not tell you. Why, you ask? Well, did he spend all his time taking apart the unit? Probably not. He spent his time looking at all of the house, so he would not have devoted enough time to accurately determine the real reason for the air conditioner’s failure. To determine the cause for each issue with the house could take days, and the inspector is spending about three hours at the home. For purchasing a home, you need general information about the condition, not exact causes. The inspector is looking at the parts of the house which are easily accessible. He will not move furniture or boxes out of the way to inspect an area, unless he can easily do so. The next sections will discuss in general what a home inspector is looking at for his report.
A. Strucutral: An explanation of what an inspector will include on a home inspection report when examining the structural system.
This section of the report consists of eleven parts: foundations; grading and drainage; roof covering; roof structure and attic; walls (interior and exterior); ceilings and floors; doors; windows; fireplace/chimney; porches, decks, and carports(attached); and other.
The foundation is the base on which your house sits. Unless your foundation is on bedrock, it will move due to the soil condition around your house. The inspector will be looking at the type of foundation you have, and if the foundation is functioning the way it should . Most of the foundation is under the ground, so the inspector will be reporting on signs to indicate what is happening. He will tell you the type of foundation, and he will give you a written opinion on its performance. If the foundation is pier and beam, the inspector should tell you how he examined the foundation. If he can, he should be going under the home for this examination.
Connected to the foundation’s performance is the grading and drainage. If the round is too dry or too wet, the foundation can move as the soil around expands and contracts with the amount of water in it. When the soil is too high, water and insects have better opportunities to do damage to your walls and siding.
The next section is roof covering. No one can tell you exactly how long a roof will last, but an inspector will be indicating signs which might lead (or which have already led) to problems with water or pest damage. The inspector will be writing down the signs which indicate current condition, so you can look to see if this worsens. He will tell you the type of covering, and indications as to how it is functioning. Home inspector’s are required to have a ladder that can reach a one story roof. There are supposed to go onto the roof for the examination, as long as it is safe to do so.
Roof structure and attic will be discussed next. Ventilation of the attic is important to the life of the roof as well as cooling the house. The inspector will also mention any concerns about the support system of the roof. Here is where he will use the specific terms for the members of the structure, so ask what he means by a purlin, if you do not know what it is. He will tell you how he inspected the attic. The inspector should comment on attic insulation and pest problems here.
Walls are observed from interior and exterior. Although an interior wall and exterior wall are connected, they are treated separately since a problem may occur on one side but not on the other. Condition and deficiencies in steps and burglar bars will be reported on here. A key item to look for on walls are cracks larger than an 1/8 of an inch wide, since these may indicate more of a structural issue. The inspector is concerned with signs in the walls that are related to structural problems.
Moving on, the inspector will write about the ceilings and floors. He will be looking for cracks, water stains, condition of the coverings, and signs of structural problems. He will not report on a bad paint job, since this does not effect the house’s structure.
Windows actually consist of the framing around the unit, the unit’s frame and glass, the unit’s sealing from weather, and the screen. A concern for the inspector is if the glass should be tempered or not in certain locations. Tempered glass should be installed in locations where there might be a chance of someone going through the window. Screens are important in keeping out pests, and possibly preventing some damage to the glass.
Fireplace/chimney section will list any safety concerns or deficiencies that could lead to fire and improper fireplace operation. Safety issues for preventing injury to the owners will also be noted. Checking for creosote build-up is such a concern. He will look at the chimney as it goes through the attic and roof to the exterior. He may also be checking the function depending upon the type of fireplace.
B. The Electrical System: An explanation of what an inspector will include on a home inspection report when examining the electrical system.
This section of the report contains two parts: service entrance and panels; and branch circuits-connected devices and fixtures, which makes up the electrical system.
After a section with eleven areas, coming to a section with only two topics would make it seem less important; however, the inspector has a lot to check in the electrical system.
The service entrance is the power cables coming to your structure and the equipment used to bring it to your main panel, so this is the starting point for the electrical system in your home. Your main panel (sometimes called a breaker box) could be inside or outside, and it might handle everything for your house, or their might be sub-panels receiving their supply from the main. The inspector will mention safety and installation issues concerning the service entrance and panel (such as are the over head wires too low), if the breakers are sized correctly, and the condition of the panel (such as a missing cover). Moreover, he will check to see that you can turn off the main power quickly, for when you have an emergency. He will look for AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) breakers, which should be on the bedrooom circuits. This is a safety feature to turn off the power is an arc is heating up a piece of metal.
The next section deals more with the interior, but it will contain some exterior items. The branch circuits are the wires in your house that are connected together with one circuit breaker in a panel. The inspector cannot see the wiring in the wall, but he does have equipment to test if the wiring is functioning properly. He will report on the type of wiring. He will look for GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) receptacles in locations such as the bathroom, kitchen, garage, and outdoors. This type of outlet is needed in locations where the outlet could become wet. The inspector will look for loose, missing, or hazardous outlets and switches, and fixtures connected to the electrical system. A fixture will be items like a fan or a light. The newest outlet types are TR (tamper resistant) and WR (weather resistant). These outlets provide greater safety, but they are not commonly installed in homes built before 2009.
C. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems: An explanation of what an inspector will include on a home inspection report when examining the air conditioning (HVAC) system.
The header for this section is usually referred to as HVAC systems. Throughout the country, there are different ways for heating and cooling your home, but the most common air conditioning method in Texas is the forced air system. This section deals with this system in three parts: heating equipment; cooling equipment; and the ducts and vents.
A proper check of the HVAC system can be carried out by an HVAC professional, which some home buyers prefer. However, the home inspector will carry out a check that will indicate if further investigation is warranted. The basic components of the heating system are simple enough: some type of unit to heat the medium (water or air) which will heat your home, and another unit to deliver the heat to the rooms (radiant under floor heating or forced air conditioning). Of course there is more involved than this to the system. The inspector will check the condition of the components, look for signs of wear, and see how the system is functioning. He will tell you the type of system and its energy source.
Like the heating system, the cooling system does the same thing except for cooling.The outside condenser unit and the thermostat are usually listed here. The inspector will state the type of system, its energy source, its condition, and its ability to function. Condition and ability to function reasonably are inspected. Cooling equipment is not checked when the outside temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, since damage to the air conditioning unit could occur. The ducts and vents are the usual means for delivering your hot and cool air. Mainly condition, material, installation, and their ability to deliver air are checked.
The duct system will be examined. The condition of the ducts can effect the energy efficiency of the home, but can also lead to the appearance of a leak through condensation. Filters are examined as well.
D.Plumbing System An explanation of what an inspector will include on a home inspection report when examining the plumbing system.
This section deals with the water flowing through your house. Problems here frequently lead to damage to the structure if left unchecked. (Think of a pipe leaking onto a wood beam). There are four parts discussed under plumbing: water supply system and fixture; drains, wastes, vents; water heating equipment; and hydro-therapy equipment.
The first section, Water Supply and Fixtures, deals with how the water enters your home, moves through your home, and how you access it through fixtures. The fixtures will be faucets, sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, laundry tubs, bidets, and hose bibs. Deficiencies in the parts, leaks, incorrect installation are reported. Another concern of this section is if dirty water has the chance of getting into your drinking water, so there needs to be some type of way to prevent back flow. The inspector also will check to see if there is adequate water pressure in the house.
The second section, Drains, Wastes, Vents, deals with how the water is leaving your house. The drain and waste takes the water out of the house, while the vent is to supply air to the pipes so water can flow freely. Think of a child sipping liquid into the straw, and then holding the top end of the straw to prevent the liquid from rushing out; the air is needed for a smooth flow.
The third section, Water Heating Equipment, deals with how your house is supplied with hot water, and what the energy source for the heat is. Condition and safety of the equipment are big concern for the inspector here. The TPR (temperature, pressure,relief) valve is a safety feature on the tank to prevent the heater from exploding, so this is a major concern.
The fourth section is called Hydro-Therapy Equipment, which is better known as a whirlpool or a Jacuzzi, which are name brands. The inspector will be looking at operation, safety, and leak concerns. Leaks from pipes may be reported somewhere in the Structure part of the report, since some water damage could be from a roof leak, or it may be from an inaccessible pipe. Signs of leaks around the fixtures, or for the potential of a leak causing damage will be reported in this part.
E. Appliances: An outline of what a home inspector will look for when examining appliances.
The fifth part of the report deals with those appliances which are considered built-in. They are: dishwasher, food waste disposer, range hood, ranges/cooktops/ovens, microwave cooking equipment (when mounted), trash compactor, bathroom exhaust fans and/or heaters; whole house vacuum systems; garage door operators; door bell and chimes; and dryer vents. Notice that the clothes washer/dryer and refrigerator are not listed, since many people take these with them. Even though the other appliances are considered built-in, a seller could change them out before he sells the house to you. Some inspectors will take down the serial numbers or other information to help you identify the equipment.
Ask the inspector about his practice in this regard, for you may find that the inspector looked at some new equipment which was replaced with a broken one. If you wish the inspector to check another appliance, such as the refrigerator, make that clear to him when discussing hiring him (he may charge extra). For all appliances the inspector will be looking at deficiencies in condition, function, and safety.
F. Optional Systems and G. Commnets : Optional systems are not always optional for a buyer, but an inspector may charge more to look at these systems. I know that I am requested to look at these items when inspecting around Houston.
The sixth part of the report has two main items: Lawn Sprinklers; and Swimming Pools and Equipment. This is a section where you will have to ask the inspector if he will inspect the equipment, since it is not required for him to do so. There is also spots for checking items which go with these features, such as an outdoor cooking area. Also included would be private water wells, outbuildings, gas systems like propane, and private sewage systems.
Not all inspectors will go over these systems, since it may require additional knowledge on the part of the inspector. Some inspectors may simply report on general safety concerns with this equipment. An inspector will probably ask for an additional fee for this equipment inspection. Pools are frequently inspected by pool suppliers, since they have better analysis tools for the job. Lawn Sprinklers can add an additional hour to the inspection, which some buyers and sellers do not like. An inspector will look for adequate water flow and pressure, condition of the parts, and leaks in a sprinkler system. With a pool, he will state the type of pool construction, along with any deficiencies in the surfaces or equipment. One concern for the buyer, is the inspector familiar with this equipment? All home inspectors are trained to examine this equipment, but they will be better to deduce problems if they work with it often.
This is the last page required by the Texas Real Estate Commission.It is meant for notes or other information the inspector wants you to have, but he has not placed in the body of the report, since it did not fit there. Sometimes a summary of the report is placed here. The inspector may just leave it blank. Any information in this section should be mentioned by the inspector.
Other Pages: Home Inspectors have the option of including any additional material they wish to a report, so you need to read.
Each inspector is different in how detailed his information is presented in the report, but the intention of this document is to tell you what you should be concerned about in the new home. If an inspector boasts that his report is forty-five pages long, can you easily find what you need to know before closing? But then again, that forty-five page report may contain information that is very useful to you after you buy your home. Some inspectors wish you to have the basic facts to help you and your real estate agent make a quick decision about concerns which need to be brought up to the seller. Afterwards, a report like this might not help you understand why the inspector said something was wrong. In either case, judge the report by the thoroughness of his investigation, and his willingness to explain it to you.
Personally, I prefer a basic report, so you can quickly access the information, so you and your realtor can determine if you need to discuss repairs with the seller. I try to show as much as possible to my client during the inspection process, but this is not always feasible, so I offer to come out after you have purchased your home, when we can go over the home in a relaxed fashion. Find out about your inspector’s practices in this matter. If your realtor is recommending an inspector to you, then that inspector delivers the information in such a way as to make it comprehensible to that agent, which is good for you, since the agent will know what to act upon quickly. However, it is your report, so it should be beneficial for you as well.