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Our methodology -- what exactly do we inspect?

Someone in our trade once added up the item evaluated during a good house or building inspection and it totaled over 400 items. Evaluation of an inspector's methodology is critical when looking to hire a home inspector, because even the best industry home inspection standard, which was created by ASHI, has many limitations. Many inspectors exceed those limitation as part of their service and many don't. During each home inspection, here are some of the many items inspected by Aberdeen Building Consulting, as applicable. If you're shopping around use this list to compare what we offer with other companies.

ROOF/CHIMNEY EXTERIOR: Assuming safe weather/building conditions, we will inspect the roof while walking on it.  Even if unsafe conditions are present, a lot can be learned by examining the roof from a ladder at the eaves.  By using a 2-story extension ladder, any building or house with the eaves at the top of the 2nd floor can be roof-accessed. (Taller buildings with flat roofs usually have roof access from the top floor.) Most inspectors do not use or carry such ladders and examine the roof from the street with binoculars. The condition and quality of installation of roofing materials cannot be verified from the street. Be sure the inspection company you hire will access the roof with a ladder.

The condition and quality of installation of roofing materials and flashing will be evaluated. The exterior of the chimney is also examined for needed maintenance and repairs. A proper examination of the interior of a masonry chimney can only be done after the chimney is thoroughly cleaned. We therefore recommended a Level II chimney interior examination, including a full video inspection, be performed by a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Sweep Institute of America (csia.org).

EXTERIOR/GROUNDS:  The condition of windows, siding, sidewalks, site drainage, roof drainage system, deck construction, garage, retaining walls, swimming pools, out-buildings, and fences are examined for condition and needed maintenance/repairs.

WATER ENTRY:  Prolonged water entry into buildings can cause serious problems including decay of structural components and mold. This is a very important portion of our process and there is a whole section in our report devoted to it. Note that many inspection companies have no defined methodology for evaluating water entry into buildings.

We search the entire building for water stains, damage, and leakage. We can determine how wet or dry water stains are by using a moisture meter. Active water stains could be an indication of extensive water damage behind finished surfaces as well as potential mold growth, a health hazard. We also scan the interior with an infrared camera, which has proven helpful over and over again to locate moisture on surfaces where no visible staining or damage is present. With the camera we can find leaks that would normally take weeks or months to visually manifest.

INTERIOR ROOMS:  All finished floors, walls, and ceilings are examined for condition, installation issues, and damages such as active water stains, or other conditions that could indicate structural issues.. 

STRUCTURE/FOUNDATION:  These areas are examined for deficiencies or failure. Houses and buildings built before 1950 or with amateur improvements are the most likely candidates for structure problems.

HEATING SYSTEM:  Fuel-burning heating systems are tested for the presence of excessive carbon monoxide (CO), which is a deadly gas, using a CO analyzer. Draft (the upward movement of combustion gases up the chimney) and stack temperature (temperature of combustion gases) are also checked.  The condition of the heating system including the potential for repair or replacement is evaluated.  Thermostats are operated.  All finished spaces are checked for operational heat sources.

AIR CONDITIONING:  Wall air conditioners and central A/C are examined and tested for operability and performance.  On houses with central A/C, each room is checked for an operational cooling source.  Duct work and condensate management are considered as well.  NOTE: Air conditioning equipment cannot be operated without risk of damage if the outside temperature is lower than 65ºF or if the central air system power has not been turned on for at least 24 hours. The compressor has a sealed motor lubricated by a very thick oil that does not readily flow in colder temperatures, which could result in a burned-out motor.

ELECTRICAL:  All main circuit panel and sub panel covers are removed so that wiring may be examined for safe practices.  Often home owners and/or amateur electricians use unsafe wiring practices out of ignorance or laziness, which can put the home or building at risk for an electrical fire.  The service entry is also examined.  Accessible electrical outlets are tested with an outlet wiring analyzer.  GFCI circuits are tested with a ground-fault simulator. AFCI circuits in new construction are tested with an arc-fault simulator.

PLUMBING:  All fixtures are tested for adequate pressure, drainage, and leaks.  The presence and temperature of hot water is also checked.  All accessible piping is examined for condition and quality of materials as well as the domestic water heating system.

GAS SERVICE:  All accessible gas pipes are tested for leaks using a combustible gas detector. Older installations generally have pipe joint compound which has dried out and is a very common cause of gas leaks. About 60% - 70% of houses and buildings we see have gas leakage.

ATTIC:  An attic is the space between the roof and the top floor. If the attic is accessible, we go in.   The quantity of insulation and quality of installation is evaluated.  Signs of past/present water leakage/damage and attic ventilation are also checked, as well as evidence of animal habitation. The attic is a good place to see if there is roof leakage.

BASEMENT/CRAWL SPACE: The spaces below ground level usually offer a lot of information about a house or building. Some buildings have a crawl space, which is like a basement where you can't stand up. Assuming the crawl space is accessible, we go in.

TERMITES:  Each inspection includes a NYS termite report (Form NPMA-33) that you can use for your closing -- you will not need a separate termite inspection.

ENERGY UPGRADES: For houses, we provide recommendations for relatively simple things that can be done to help manage energy costs.

Cost estimates for concerns requiring major expenditures is included in each report.

Other services

(not included in normal inspection fee)

What about Home Warranties that I have seen advertised?

Some real estate offices and home inspectiona> companies sell or include these warranties as part of their service. While these warranties make for a nice selling point, they typically feature per-occurance fees, deductibles and restrictions/limitations. If these warranties sound attractive to you, be sure to read the terms of the agreement first, as they may not be as worthwhile as they appear.

How long does an inspection take?

A smaller house such as a 3-bedroom ranch or cape, typically takes about 1½-2 hours.  A larger house, such as a brownstone or a 5-bedroom colonial with central air, a pool, and a second kitchen will take 2 - 3 hours or more. Multi-family or multi-floor buildings similarly take longer.  We confer with clients afterward for a verbal discussion of everything observed. Typically verbal reports can last anywhere from 20 - 30 minutes up to an hour or even longer, depending upon how much information needs to be presented. The inspection can go quicker if conditions are obvious, and slower if conditions are more complicated. Buildings and houses with more equipment take longer. After the inspection, the report is delivered within one business day by email and the hard copy arrives shortly after that.

Should I attend the inspection?

You get the most out of the service by attending.  Not only will you have the opportunity to see how a house/building inspection is performed, but also we give an extensive verbal report at the end of the inspection that will help reinforce the information appearing in the written report. 

When is the right time in the purchase process to do an inspection??

Customarily, the inspection happens between the time when your offer is accepted and when the sales contract is signed. It is important to have a property inspected prior to signing a contract, as information could be revealed causing you to require further negotiation or possibly affecting your decision to buy the house altogether. Once you sign a contract, your ability to negotiate is greatly reduced or eliminated.

What else should be done to prepare for the inspection?

At the inspection site, it is recommended to limit the amount of family members present, as home owners may already be stressed out and they may not wish to have several strangers walking all over their house.  It is also recommended to avoid bringing small children as they may cause distractions. And if the building is vacant, try to ensure all utilities (electricity, gas, heat) are turned on for the inspection.

Be sure that all areas are accessible. This means that keys should be available for garages and other locked areas. Heavy storage should be moved away where they block access to utilities and crawl spaces/attics. If tenants are involved, they may need to be present for the inspection. Because tenants have no vested interest in the sale, they can be sometimes difficult to deal with. Multiple tenants can complicate access even further, as you might imagine. For apartment buildings, make sure that access will be provided for the roof and basement areas.

Does this building/addition/modification meet code?

That is usually impossible to answer from a typical inspection, and can only be proven by documentation on file with the building department. For any building department to certify a structure as code-compliant, various municipal building inspectors (for plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.) visit the property during different phases of construction to verify that components, which will eventually be concealed by finished walls, have been installed properly. Once walls are finished, this verification is impossible. In fact, for a building department to certify construction that was done without permission, very often they will require removal of walls to see the concealed wiring, plumbing, etc. Generally, if work was done to code at the time it was built, it is grandfathered. However it is typically quite difficult to know precisely when construction was done and what prevailing codes were at that time. So the best way to verify that a given building is code-compliant is to get the Certificate of Occupancy from the local building department. A Certificate of Occupancy states that a building or modification was approved by the prevailing authority and in the case of living space is legally habitable.