What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a limited visual evaluation of the property's primary structure and components.
An inspector should be following Maryland state standards of practice and be a member in good standing of a non-profit home inspection trade association such as the American Society of Home Inspectors or InterNACHI®. Showalter Property Consultants holds the highest membership in both associations. The inspector's qualifications should include hands-on experience in construction or architecture, and a true understanding of the structure and its components. Always verify that your home inspector is well-qualified to perform a proper, professional home inspection.
You should also understand a home inspection is not a warranty or guarantee. No one can predict when or if components or systems will fail. However, a good inspector will educate you about your property and how to maintain it, as well as point out potential problems. Separate warranties may be available through other agencies. Read the exclusions to ensure the systems are covered.
Some inspectors may also utilize some specialty equipment such as moisture meters, gas detectors and electronic testing devices which we do use. While these are useful and I recommend them, they are tools they may be used in suspect conditions and at the discretion of the inspector.
A good inspector can evaluate most major systems and verify they are in serviceable condition. They should also attend continuing education to ensure they are up to date with current industry standards and knowledge.
Some inspectors may utilize specialized equipment, such as moisture meters, gas detectors, drones, and electronic testing devices. These tools are not required but can assist the inspector to perform a more thorough inspection.
Ask your inspector if they access roofs and crawlspaces. Sometimes weather conditions may impede the inspection process and some areas may need to be re-inspected. You should discuss potential additional fees with the inspector as well. You may also want repairs to be re-inspected. Always insist all repairs are performed by a qualified or licensed contractor.
Included in the Home Inspection
Inspection of the grounds around any property is crucial. They control water runoff which affects the house and the foundation. A good inspection includes an evaluation of the grounds immediate to the house to analyze overall drainage and surface conditions of the soil.
We will also evaluate and report on areas where the property’s siding is in contact with the ground or mulch. This condition puts the walls and floor framing at risk for water and/or wood-boring insect damage. We will report on the walkways, decks, and overall condition of the driveway.
Decks are a great feature of any home, however deck age, wear, substandard workmanship, and antiquated building practices can pose potential concerns. We will evaluate the visible condition of the framing, support posts, ledger attachment, and flashing. We will also evaluate the condition of any railing and note potential safety concerns. There are many decking styles, designs and materials which have various maintenance requirements and concerns. Wood decks can show premature wear from power washing, while some composite decks have been recalled. Higher decks can pose safety concerns due to inadequate posts, ledger attachments, or component rot. We have extensive experience and training building decks and will educate you about maintenance, and potential problems. We may suggest improvements, noting safety concerns, as well as how to improve the remaining life of the deck.
Patios, like decks, may require routine maintenance. We will educate you on keeping your patio in safe and functional condition.
The exterior of your home is the barrier against the elements, such as rain and wind. From the ground level up, we will perform a detailed visual evaluation of the trim and siding. We may also perform random probing to collect additional information (with care not to damage any surfaces).
We will evaluate the siding and trim's materials, methods and workmanship. Some common materials used in the Mid-Atlantic area include wood, composites, vinyl aluminum, stucco, and cement board. Our report will include the condition of these materials and finishes and outline any maintenance that should be performed. We like to educate homeowners about the importance of exterior maintenance. This ensures the materials service their intended lifespan by preventing any air or moisture intrusion as well as heat loss.
We will also evaluate accessible windows and doors for overall condition and function.
Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, or EIFS, are also another common material found in homes in the Mid-Atlantic. This “synthetic stucco” is often found in homes with a history of water infiltration and damage. Call us if you need a referral for an EIFS specialist.
This is one of the most important components of the home. The materials used will vary greatly depending on the home’s location and age. In the Mid-Atlantic area, we have a wide range of foundation materials, the most common being masonry block and poured concrete. However, many homes are also built on concrete piers, wood piers, wood foundations, terracotta, stone, and brick.
Water is the main cause of foundation failure, followed by soil conditions and workmanship. We report on the exposed foundation, noting visible signs of cracking, settlement or moisture. Conditions such as thermal expansion, hydrostatic pressure, rotation, or differential cracks are more of a structural concern and may require action. We will report on all visible aspects of the foundation which may provide a baseline for monitoring the condition.
The structure is the backbone of the home and often referred to as the bones of the building. The materials used will vary greatly depending on the location and age. Older or historic homes may be built using balloon framing. Or, they may be masonry structures with wood floors and roofs. Newer homes are typically built using platform framing which may be built on-site, or, built off-site and erected using panelized walls or modular systems.
The materials used to frame your home can also vary. These can include traditional dimensional lumber such as 2x6's up to 2x12's, as well as engineered materials, such as laminated beams, solid web framing materials (I-Joists), and open web or floor and roof trusses. These all require specific installation methods, each having common concerns if improperly installed.
Water is the main cause of structural failure, common compression, and settlement, followed by substandard workmanship or renovations. We report on the exposed sections of the framing, some potentially higher risk areas, as sometimes framing is not accessible due to wall, ceiling, and floor coverings. We recommend that you also obtain a separate inspection for termites and other wood-boring insects. We may note evidence of pest intrusion, however, the licensed termite company will also report on any activity around the exterior and soil immediate to the house. We recommend that you maintain an annual termite policy from a reputable termite company.
The roof shingles or roof covering is the umbrella for the house or building. Its purpose is to keep the rain and weather out when in good condition and properly installed. We will access any roof within our skill level and that is safely accessible for the inspector and won;t result in damage to the roof covering. There are multiple types of roof covering materials from asphalt, composite, metal, slate, wood and many newer green synthetic materials. We will inspect the roof when accessible, evaluate the conduction and evaluate the overall installation and workmanship. As with our report we will document the roof condition with photographs for your records. With an extensive background in roofing and a certification from CertainTeed for a Master Shingle Applicator, we bring experience to the inspection.
With the attic we evaluate the accessible framing, and the presence and condition of the ventilation and insulation. Residential attic framing methods are typical made from wood including manufactured trusses and site built rafter systems.
The materials can also vary such as the materials used to frame your attic. These can include traditional dimensional lumber such as 2x6’s up to 2x12’s to engineered materials such a laminated beams, solid web framing materials (I-Joists) and open web or floor and roof trusses. These all require specific installation methods and each has common concerns with improper use or installation.
Ask us about our free advice on home energy savings, as the attic is one of the leading sources of heat loss in your home.
We will perform a room-by-room evaluation and report on the overall condition of each room and components. We will also identify the materials used,for flooring, walls, and ceiling coverings. We will report visible water stains, settlement or cracking.
The interior survey will also cover the bathrooms and kitchen. We will operate all plumbing fixtures and report on any visible leaks or water-related damage. Using state-of-the-art moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras, we may report on the presence of any active leaks.
We will test all accessible receptacles for proper polarity including verification. We will report on the presence of or lack of HVAC in the perimeter rooms.
The Electrical System
This is one of the most important parts of the home, particularly for occupant’s safety. We will report on the overall visible condition of the system and report on the wiring materials and methods used, including any observed substandard workmanship. Starting with all accessible receptacles, we will test for proper polarity and grounding. Next we will report on the presence or need for any ground fault circuit interrupter protection. We will also report on any adverse condition of receptacles. We will operate the light fixtures and report on the overall condition.
We will also remove any accessible electrical panels and report on the condition and wiring methods used, as well as the presence of grounding and bonding in the panels. We will also report on any visible and accessible wiring methods in other parts of the house such as the basement and attic. We will report on any visible aluminum branch solid strand wiring and educate you about the potential safety concern.
The Plumbing System
When evaluating your plumbing system we inspect the water supply and distribution system for functional flow. We look for an unrestricted flow of water to the fixtures as we assess water pressure. We will also identify the materials and the overall quality of the workmanship used.
We will report on the presence of plumbing components with known failures such as polybutylene and CSST gas lines and educate you about the concerns and solutions. With your water heater, we will identify the style and heating source and report on the age and overall condition.
We evaluate the visible waste systems and will report on functional drainage at the time of the inspection. We will report on the condition and materials used, and any visible leaks or concerns. You may want to consider a separate water quality test, particularly if you are on well water.
Heating and Cooling System(s)
The Chimney and Fireplace
Many houses in Maryland have wood-burning fireplaces with chimneys. When accessible, we will evaluate the overall condition of the chimney, crown and firebox. There are 2 basic types of systems, manufactured and masonry. We will report on the overall condition of the firebox and any water-related damage.
We will evaluate the flue damper and, when possible, the smoke chamber and presence of a flue liner. Some flue liners are not fully accessible and may require cleaning and a level 2 chimney inspection using a bore scope inserted inside of the flue for a complete elevation. Your realtor can help make arrangements with a chimney specialist in your area. Flue liners are typically excluded from most home inspections due to the lack of access and specialty equipment required.
You should have your fireplace, whether wood or gas, serviced annually. We do not inspect the condition of pellet stoves or wood stoves. If you have an insert we recommend it is thoroughly cleaned and evaluated prior to closing.
Safety Related Concerns
When performing the home inspection we will report on visible safety-elated concerns.Some of these items are grandfathered in through building codes over the years. We may mention items that are a concern and may require updates.
These may include:
- Visible electrical components
- Carbon monoxide concerns
- Gas leaks
- Fall concerns
- Unpermitted work
- Substandard workmanship
- Garage doors
One of the most important benefits of a home inspection from Showalter Property Consultants is the education that you will receive about maintaining your home.
Many homeowners do “reactive” maintenance on their home and preventive maintenance on a car. It is our mission to teach the homeowner to better understand how to properly maintain their home and most expensive investment, and potentially save costly repairs.