.....Frequently Asked Questions.....

What is ASHI?

Who should attend the inspection?

Why choose At Home Inspections, Inc.?

Should new homes be inspected?

What does the home inspection report form look like?

What types of environmental tests are available?

A note on the following "What does the home inspector look for in...?" list of questions.

What does the home inspector look for in the heating system?

What does the home inspector look for in the air conditioning system?

What does the home inspector look for in the structure (foundation and slab)?

What does the home inspector look for in the structure (framing)?

What does the home inspector look for in the plumbing system?

What does the home inspector look for in the electrical system?

What does the home inspector look for on the interior of the home?

What does the home inspector look for in crawl spaces under homes?

What does the home inspector look for in attic crawlspaces?

What does the home inspector look for on the roof?

What does the home inspector look for on the exterior of the home?

What does the home inspector look for on the grounds around the home?

What does the home inspector look for in the basement?

What does the home inspector look for in the kitchen and laundry areas?

What does the home inspector look for in the garage?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is ASHI?

ASHI (the American Society of Home Inspectors) is the oldest and largest home inspector organization in the United States. To become a member, the home inspector must complete a minimum number of inspections, pass two exams, and submit inspection reports for review. To maintain ASHI membership, the home inspector must earn 20 continuing education credits annually. Contact ASHI at 1-800-743-2744 or visit the ASHI web site, ashi.com to learn more about the ASHI Standards of Practice and the ASHI Code of Ethics.
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Who should attend the inspection?

The homebuyer should always attend the home inspection, to receive the greatest value by asking questions, discussing concerns and remodeling ideas, and learning about home maintenance.
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Why choose At Home Inspections, Inc.?

All home inspection companies are NOT the same. Quality, experience, and education vary dramatically from company to company. When you choose At Home Inspections, Inc., our knowledge of contracting includes hands-on experience in ALL phases of residential construction, and at least 10,000 inspections completed per inspector. The ability of the inspector to recognize certain types of defects and trends with 'built-in' problems increases with the number of inspections completed. In the Washington, DC and Baltimore metro areas, At Home Inspections, Inc. has inspected virtually every type of residence of every age -- from new homes to 250 year old homes -- from Victorian to contempory styles of architecture -- from geodesic domes to apartments. At Home Inspections, Inc.'s policy is to hire only professionals with degrees in civil engineering or architecture.
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Should new homes be inspected?

Yes. New homes typically have three types of problems: (a) subcontractor unfamiliar with, or failing to follow manufacture's installation specifications, (b) general contractor unable to properly coordinate subcontractors, and (c) flawed architectural and engineering plans/design work. These problems result in missing, damaged, or improperly installed equipment, materials, and components. The new home inspection "punch list" can include items ranging from repairing a damaged door or window to replacing a driveway or an entire roof.

We recommend three inspections for new homes: (1) the foundation inspection, performed when the foundation wall is in place, prior to back-fill, (2) the framing inspection, performed when all framing, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work is complete, prior to the installation of the insulation, and (3) the pre-settlement walk-through, performed when the house is 100 percent complete.
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What does the home inspection report form look like?

The At Home Inspections, Inc. report form is 24 pages long and details essential information about the home. The report form is contained in a 305-page report/maintenance manual that covers all aspects of home maintenance and safety. The "Repairs Advised" page (typically one to six pages, depending on the property's condition) lists major, moderate, and mechanical (plumbing, electric, heating/air conditioning, and appliances) repairs. The "Recommended Maintenance" page lists the most common routine maintenance and minor repair functions around the home, with the applicable items checked off. The "Additional Comments" page contains the inspector's preventive maintenance recommendations, and additional observations about the property condition.

The report breaks the house down into eight sections: Structure, Water Control, Exterior (includes Roofing), Plumbing, Electrical, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Interior (includes Kitchens and Appliances). On the report page for each section, the inspector comments on the type and condition of the components of construction and the equipment. For example, under Heating, the type of furnace or boiler is noted along with the manufacture's name, date of manufacture, and the BTU per Hour input rating of the equipment. The furnace or boiler is given a 'grade' based on how well the equipment was maintained, and how 'worn' the equipment is. The type of distribution for the heating system is listed, and the distribution components are also 'graded'.

The report/maintenance manual includes a seasonal maintenance checklist, a life-cycle replacement/repair cost guide for the typical components in the home, an energy audit, energy savings upgrade recommendation(s), and invaluable health and safety tips.

The remaining report pages are (a) "How to Make Best Use of This Report" - which simply tells you where to locate everything in the report, (b) "Additional Tests Available" - a list of specialized tests for those who are interested, (c) the Contract and Disclosure Statements, and (d) the "Summary" page - which highlights the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the property.
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What types of environmental tests are available?

At Home Inspections, Inc. works with an environmental lab that offers radon testing, mold and mildew analysis, asbestos, and lead testing. You can choose to schedule your environmental tests when you schedule your home inspection.
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A note on the following "What does the home inspector look for in...?" list of questions.

The answers to these questions represent the types of things your At Home Inspections, Inc. inspector generally checks in the home. They are NOT intended to be definitive, exhaustive 'checklists' used for inspecting a home. If you have particular concerns, interests, or questions that are not answered here, please call or e-mail us (contact info is on our home page).
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What does the home inspector look for in the heating system?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks for defects in the heating system (e.g., burner(s), exhaust vents, thermostat- humidistat-zone-ignition-blower- control equipment, distribution systems and equipment). Some examples of defects include cracked/perforated heat exchangers in gas and oil fired forced air furnaces, damaged/failed/improperly installed exhaust vents on gas and oil fired furnaces and boilers, leaking condensate line(s) on high efficiency furnaces/boilers, defective gas and oil ignition equipment, oil and gas supply line leaks, defective heat pump controllers, worn/defective wiring on heat pumps and electric furnaces, defective water level equipment in steam boilers (too little or too much water in boiler), missing pressure/temperature safety equipment on water and steam boiler systems, and damaged/defective space heating equipment. There are literally hundreds of other defects that could be diagnosed during the home inspection, and if nonstandard work is observed, the list is even longer.
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What does the home inspector look for in the air conditioning system?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks for defects in the air conditioning equipment -- whether it is central air conditioning or space cooling equipment. Unlike heating systems, which are required when the house is built, a/c systems are optional. Many systems are retrofitted (which can lead to a series of "built-in" problems), and many homeowners still use space a/c equipment (e.g., through-wall, and window units). Defects in a central a/c system can include dirty/ blocked refrigerant coil fins, missing/undersized returns, missing insulation on the refrigerant tubing, damaged/inoperable control equipment, worn/damaged wiring in the outside compressor/condensor fan/coil unit, low current draw on the compressor (typically indicates a low refrigerant charge and can mean replacement of the system), and leaking/damaged condensate drain pan/pipe/pump equipment. Amateur, or nonstandard work can result in almost any type of damage or defect.
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What does the home inspector look for in the structure (foundation and slab)?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional checks exposed sections of foundation walls for cracks (vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or stair-step), 'bowing' (a lateral or sideways shift in the wall from one end or corner to the next end or corner), 'bulging' (a lateral or sideways shift in the wall from top to bottom), and disintegration of the foundation wall (e.g., spalled brick/block/terra cotta tile, or structural failure of the masonry mortar or cast concrete wall as a result of incorrect proportions when mixing and placing the material). Repairs to foundations can be expensive (depending on soil type and condition of exterior grading/drainage). Exposed sections of concrete slabs are checked for cracking, 'uniform settlement' (entire slab settles uniformly - may have no effect on the structure of the house, but may cause major problems with water and sewer main pipes entering and leaving the house), 'heaving' - usually a function of an expansive clay under the slab, and 'voids' under the slab. (Most concrete slabs in residential work are supported by the soil underneath the slab, and if the soil was not properly prepared and compacted during construction, the soil will settle below the slab leaving the slab 'floating' in air - this could result in sections of the slab cracking and settling excessively.) Nonstandard work increases the risk for potential and costly repairs. Typical examples of nonstandard work are (a) an addition that was built without a proper footing/foundation and (b) the 'closed-in' patio (a nonbearing slab with no footing now supporting a structure attached to the house).
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What does the home inspector look for in the structure (framing)?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional checks for evidence of wood boring insect (e.g., termite) infestation, damage (new or old), and treatment. Molds, mildews, and other fungi feed on cellulose and can damage the structural framing of the house, in addition to being biohazards and health risks. Evidence of mold/mildew infestation is noted on the inspection report. Steel and wood posts/beams are checked for deflection, deformation, bearing and connections (bolts, weld joints, etc.). Joists and truss joists are checked for structural damage (cuts/splits/cracks/rot), and for the type/condition of connectors/fasteners (e.g., strap hangers). Roof rafters/trusses are checked for the same defects as the joists and beams. The roof sheathing is checked for mold/mildew/rot damage and water leakage. On townhouses more than 11 years old, the roof sheathing may be failed fire-retardant-treated plywood, and on single family homes 35 years and older, some non-treated plywood roof sheathing will fail.
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What does the home inspector look for in the plumbing system?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional checks all the fixtures and most of the cutoff valves in the house. Water volume flow rate is checked as a function of the total number of fixtures that can be operated at the same time. The type of material used in the plumbing system is checked. (For example, the supply pipe from the street main is identified as copper, polyethylene, lead, polybutylene or galvanized steel, while the supply pipes in the house are identified as copper, polyethylene, lead, polybutylene, galvanized steel, or chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC)). Water heaters are checked for age, size, recovery rate, burner, and exhaust system condition. On well systems (private water), the well pump compression tank, switch control and gauge are checked, and the plumbing connections for filtration equipment are checked.

Some typical defects in plumbing systems are leaking washers (valve stem seals), leaking/rusted traps and pipes, wastewater/supply-water cross-connections, loose pipes and fixtures, leaking shower pans, missing plumbing vent on wasteline, inoperable fixture cutoff valves, etc. Any amateur or nonstandard work is considered defective.
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What does the home inspector look for in the electrical system?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional removes the main distribution panel cover to observe the type of main service entrance cable and the type of wiring used in the home. Some typical defects that the inspector looks for in the main electric distribution panel are over-fused circuits, overloaded neutrals, current on main ground, heat damage, loose connections, water damage, broken circuit breakers, inadequate power supply to the house, aluminum wire on 120 volt circuits, double-tapped circuitry, etc. For the house wiring, the inspector operates switches, and checks outlets for polarity, ground, and percent voltage drop. Any nonstandard electric equipment (e.g., wire splices not contained in junction boxes, missing cable box clamp connectors, lamp/extension cord powering fixed-in-place equipment, etc.) is considered defective.
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What does the home inspector look for on the interior of the home?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks for evidence of leakage, including damaged paint, buckled paneling, mold/mildew, water stains and/or patchwork. The inspector checks windows and doors for operability, and thermal pane doors and windows for failed thermal seals. Exposed hardwood flooring is checked for water damage and finish failure. Plaster walls and ceilings are checked for excessive cracking (older plaster on wood lath systems can separate and fail). Any nonstandard finish work - for example, rigid foam insulation panels used in suspended ceiling panel frames - is considered defective.

The inspector checks masonry fireplaces for loose brick in the firebox, damper operation, and cracking on the sides of the firebox and/or hearth (which could indicate structural settlement/failure of the chimney foundation). Prefab metal fireplaces are checked for damper operation, rust damage (rain cap missing/damaged), firebox-to-flue pipe connection, and fan operation (where applicable). Gas logs are turned on and checked for room safety valves, and the installation method is compared to manufacture's installation specifications. (Specifications are usually attached to gas log assembly.)
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What does the home inspector look for in crawlspaces under homes?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks for any signs of water intrusion and/or high moisture content such as stains, efflorescence, rust damage to structural steel beams and fasteners, mold, mildew, rotted wood, silt, water stains on vapor barriers, etc. The inspector checks insulation for approximate thickness and "R" rating. Missing, loose, or improperly installed insulation and/or vapor barrier, is considered defective. Framing is checked for active or past termite infestation. Ductwork, piping and wiring are checked for breaks, rust damage, leakage, and adequate support.
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What does the home inspector look for in attic crawlspaces?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks for stains - evidence of either leakage and/or condensation problems. Accessible roof framing components (e.g., trusses/rafters, sheathing, ridge plates/beams, connections, fasteners, etc.) are checked for defects and damage. (See "What does the home inspector look for in the structure (framing)?) The type, condition, and approximate thickness of the attic insulation are checked. The attic ventilation system is checked. Any nests ( squirrel, bird, or bee) and other pests that the inspector observes in the attic are reported.

Most attic finish jobs are done by homeowners or 'handymen' (as opposed to licensed contractors) so the home inspector also looks for any evidence of amateur or nonstandard work. Amateur finish work may look unattractive, but generally will not be a safety risk. Amateur electric work is usually a very serious problem.
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What does the home inspector look for on the roof?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional walks most roofs. Very steep roofs, and roofs that are finished with brittle materials that break easily (e.g., slate, terra cotta, asbestos cement, lightweight concrete tiles, etc.) are typically not walked, but are almost always examined by ladder at an eave edge or off a porch or dormer. The inspector checks the condition of the finish roof "membrane" (e.g., slates, asphalt shingles, wood shingles, wood shakes, modified bitumin membrane, and metal panel). All roofing materials wear out over time. It is important for you, the home-buyer, to know whether your slate roof is going to last 2 more years or twenty more years. In addition to checking the actual pieces that make up the water impervious membrane, the inspector attempts to examine (if possible) the type of fasteners used, the condition of the fasteners, and the quality of the installation job, based on the way the fasteners were installed. Chimney tops, as well as exposed, accessible flashing materials, are checked. Low slope and 'flat' roof membrane systems are checked for signs of leakage through the membrane, as well as for wear. (These systems often do not have accessible 'attic crawl-spaces', and leak damage is often evident on the roof surface before water stains appear on the drywall or plaster ceiling below.) Gutters and downspouts are checked for alignment, clogging, and adequacy of fastening systems.
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What does the home inspector look for on the exterior of the home?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks for evidence of wood trim and wood siding rot and decay. Certain siding systems are prone to systemic failure - for example, some fiberboard siding products, and "panelized stucco systems" (EIFS - Exterior Insulated Finish Systems). The fiberboard siding products tend to fail as a function of a manufacturing defect, lack of proper maintenance, and/or defective installation. The panelized stucco systems tend to fail as a function of either leakage around improperly sealed/flashed openings in exterior walls and/or design defects that result in condensation and ventilation in exterior wall cavities. On houses that use no wood (aluminum, vinyl, vinyl clad aluminum or steel siding and trim), the inspector checks the siding system to see if the proper trim pieces have been used around doors and windows and at intersecting wall and roof joints. The trim/accessory pieces on manufactured siding systems (aluminum, vinyl, etc.) are necessary to prevent water and air infiltration into the house wall. The accessible flashing around doors, door sills, windows, and any projection from any house wall are checked for proper installation and ability to protect the house wall from water intrusion. The inspector checks the fastening system(s) on decks, porches, and stairs connected to the house.
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What does the home inspector look for on the grounds around the home?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks at drainage around the house, specifically noting if surface water run-off is directed AWAY from the house. This includes grading for proper drainage away from house foundation walls, addition foundation walls, retaining walls, patios, sidewalks, stoops, porches, steps, etc. Proper grading, drainage and surface water run-off control around the home is essential for minimizing basement and below-ground crawlspace leakage, and for reducing foundation settlement problems.

The home inspector checks the paved driveway and walkway(s) for cracks, settlement, drainage problems, and trip hazards. Retaining walls are checked for vertical settlement, horizontal shift (often indicating failure) and the presence of safety railings. The fastening systems and support framing systems for stairways, decks, and attached porches are checked for fastener corrosion, proper framing technique, safety railings, wood rot, rust damage to structural steel, concrete slab splitting, spalling, and shifting.

Attached stoops, slabs, and outside basement entrance stairs are checked for settlement problems. In addition to the obvious drainage and trip hazard problems that occur with settlement of attached stoops, slabs, and outside basement entrance stairs, additional damage to foundation walls often results.
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What does the home inspector look for in the basement?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional looks for any evidence of leakage, seepage, mold, mildew, high relative humidity - any type of staining or damage to finish materials that would indicate a problem with water control around the foundation. If any de-watering systems are present, the drains and pump equipment are checked (accessibility permitting).

Most basement 'finish' jobs are done by homeowners or handymen (as opposed to licensed contractors), so the home inspector looks for any evidence of amateur or nonstandard work. Amateur finish work may look unattractive, but generally will not be a safety risk. Amateur electric work is usually a very serious problem.
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What does the home inspector look for in the kitchen and laundry areas?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional runs all appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, icemaker, etc.) through a cycle, turns on garbage disposers, trash compactors, "instant hot" water heaters, exhaust fans, and fixed-in-place (not countertop) microwave ovens, and checks the temperatures of the oven(s) and refrigerator(s). Cabinets are checked for proper attachment to walls and broken hardware. Where possible, the inspector checks the electrical and gas connections for clothes dryers and stoves. Clothes washers on first and second floors over finished levels should have overflow pans with working drains -- pans are checked for cracks. GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) outlets are checked.
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What does the home inspector look for in the garage?

Your At Home Inspections, Inc. professional operates the garage bay door. On manual bay doors, the mechanical spring balance is checked, and on bay doors with electric motor operators, the auto safety reverse operations are checked (e.g., door striking object in path of travel and reversing, photocell safety switch). The concrete slab is checked for cracking and settlement. On attached garages, walls, ceilings, and door(s) into house are checked for fire-rating.
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