Home inspection checklist: What to inspect
If you’ve signed a contract to purchase a home, a key step before completing the sale is getting a professional home inspection. Make sure to keep this home inspection checklist handy – the inspection is often the last chance you’ll have to go inside the home before the final walkthrough.
If your purchase agreement has an inspection contingency — and it should — a home inspection that reveals serious flaws can allow you to walk away from the deal without penalty. It can also allow you to ask the seller to make repairs before closing, saving you money and potentially some hassle.
Home inspection checklist: What home inspectors look for
Home inspectors are looking for the safety, operation and condition of each component they inspect. Does the item pose any safety hazards directly or indirectly to inhabitants? Does it operate as the manufacturer intended? Is it in good condition?
A home inspector will check many but not all components of the home because of limitations related to safety, accessibility and their expertise.
Here’s what inspectors will typically check, as outlined in the inspection standards put forth by 3 industry groups: the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Society of Home Inspectors (NSHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).
Interior of the home
An inspection of the home’s interior should include:
- Walls, ceilings and floors
- Steps, stairways and railings
- Countertops and cabinets
- Doors and windows
- Garage doors and operators
- Installed kitchen appliances
- An inspector might note whether a crack in a wall appears to be cosmetic or whether it might indicate a structural issue like a sinking foundation.
Exterior of the home
Outside the home, inspectors typically examine:
- Wall coverings, flashing and trim
- Exterior doors
- Decks, balconies, stoops, steps, porches and railings
- Eaves, soffits and fascias visible from the ground
- Plants, grading, drainage and retaining walls
- Garages and carports
- Walkways, patios and driveways
- An inspector will also examine the roof, gutters, downspouts, and any skylights, chimneys and other roof penetrations. In this part of the inspection, the home inspector will be looking for things like curled shingles that might indicate a roof is wearing out.
When it comes to plumbing, expect your home inspector to look at the:
- Fixtures and faucets
- Water heater
- Drain, waste and vent systems
- Sump pumps and sewage ejectors
The electrical inspection will include looking at:
- Service drops
- Service entrance conductors, cables and raceways
- Service equipment and main disconnects
- Service grounding
- Interior components of service panels and subpanels
- Overcurrent protection devices
- Light fixtures, switches and receptacles
- Circuit interrupters
- The major concern here is anything that might present a fire hazard.
For the home’s heating, ventilation and cooling system (HVAC), the inspector should check out:
- Access panels that can be readily opened
- Installed heating and cooling equipment
- Fuel-burning fireplaces and stoves
- Vent systems, exhaust systems, flues and chimneys
- Insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces
- Distribution systems
Home inspectors may enter crawlspaces, if they have enough clearance, and attics, if the load-bearing components aren’t covered by insulation. They may examine the:
- Home’s foundation
- Floor structure
- Wall structure, ceiling structure and roof structures
The bottom line
Getting a home inspection and carrying around a home inspection checklist are nearly always good ideas. Any inspection has limitations, but it’s worth the few hundred dollars you will pay to get a better idea of what you’re signing up for. Further, an inspection will often pay for itself in items you can ask the seller to repair.
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