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Don’t Forget the Basics of a Home Inspection

Matching the home inspector with the home is our number tip and golden rule, but this assumes you’ve found a qualified inspector who is already going to be sure to cover the essential aspects of a home inspection. Even within these basics, there is plenty of potential for complications.


Roofing: The roof is the most underrated component of a home’s overall structural integrity. It’s easy to imagine a roof springing a leak, patching the leak, and calling it good. What’s just as common is a leak that runs down the side of the home into the basement and foundation and wrecking the structural integrity of the entire home.


More than just the home inspector’s knowledge, you have to think about the roof’s accessibility. At the very least, be sure to communicate to the home inspector if the roof provides limited access. Specialized equipment may be needed to visualize certain areas of the roof. What you want to avoid is a home inspector who says something like, “Well, I was able to get up there and see most of the roof, except on that southeast side, and from what I saw, the roof looks to be in good shape.” In cases in which the home has a specialized and/or especially difficult to access roof, a separate roof inspector may be needed to feel 100% confident about the home’s condition.


Foundation: The roof and the foundation are elements 1A and 1B for the exterior condition of the home. The age and design of the foundation can help determine if the foundation has finished settling and what, if any, ongoing vulnerabilities the foundation may face—from the surrounding soil as well as from the home structure itself. The importance of the foundation can be seen throughout the home. Even a slightly shifted foundation can cause windows and doors that no longer fit right in their jambs. In this way, the entire home inspection serves as an inspection of the foundation. If the foundation has seen repair work before, the home inspector will assess the condition of the repair work. An epoxy filler, for example, should be monitored periodically to see if the crack around the epoxy has grown. The home inspector should thus take a meticulous measurement of these types of foundation cracks.


HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning is a fundamental component of any home, but these systems have a large amount of variety all on their own. It’s also been one of the areas of home construction that has experienced and continues to experience a lot of research and development of new technologies. Evaluating the condition of solar panels is different than geothermal systems is different than heat pumps is different than forced-air heating, not to mention the ductwork, steam pipes, radiant flooring that goes along with these systems.


Inspections on older homes tend to be more focused on air leaks and draftiness, whereas inspections on newer homes tend to focus on the installation and condition of HVAC systems, including assurances that the home has adequate ventilation. What, if any, home improvements might make sense strictly from the energy-efficiency/utility bill savings? What, if any, improvements might make the home more comfortable to live in?


Plumbing: Knowing whether the home has modern pipes and the general condition, design, and gradient of the home’s plumbing is crucial to plan for the home’s future maintenance and/or renovation costs. In some cases, the potential for major plumbing failures might intersect with vulnerabilities in the foundation that could raise a serious red flag. The same goes for water heating system. For some properties, it may also be necessary to get someone to run a camera line through the mainline out to the city sewer line. For other typically more rural properties, part of the inspection may include an evaluation of the water well or septic tank system.


Electrical: Here, the potential risk goes beyond mere property loss. Worn, torn, corroded, or outdated wiring can be a huge fire hazard. Inspection of the home’s electrical system—or other kinds of home energy systems—is standard, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted, either. Is there one outlet in the home that looks sketchy compared to the rest? How hard would it be to install an additional outlet in this room? How hard would it be to install a dimmer switch in the kitchen? Know what the deal is with these questions before the inspector leaves.


READ NEXT: How Much Should YOUR Home Inspection Cost?

How to Get the Most Out of Your Home Inspection

A lot of people will get a home inspection for a specific reason. Buying or selling a home is the most common reason. You might also have a shifting foundation or an old, potentially leaky roof. Determining how to best spend your budget to increase your home’s energy-efficiency performance is another good reason. Most real estate experts also advise homeowners to get a home inspection at least once every ten years.


The Most Important Question to Ask

Pretty much every kind of home has something to look out for. Older homes may have years of slow deterioration that require a meticulous investigation. Foreclosed home may have suffered more acute damage resulting from neglect, even from otherwise conscientious people who simply couldn’t afford their home any longer.


Even newer homes have no guarantee to be problem-free. In fact, there’s even a name for newer homes, known as “sick homes,” that experience problems with stagnant air from a home that’s been sealed too tight. Combining superior energy efficiency with adequate home ventilation is no simple task.


All of this leads to what we think is the single most important thing to look for and ask about when choosing a home inspector. Do you have experience inspecting this type of home? In one older neighborhood where I used to live, for example, there were a lot of homes with dug out half-basement areas—and there was some question as to the stability of the rest of the foundation of the home. It was the home inspector who was able to reassure us about the foundation and to tell us the full story that it was during the late 60s and early 70s that there a huge push to remodel our neighborhood of homes with dug-out basement additions that could serve as a place for a laundry area.


Get to Know the Home Before the Inspection

You’re never going to get the most out of your home inspection if you don’t spend some time in the house first. You may have fallen in love with the home during the first 30 minutes of the open house, but you need more time and more opportunity to discover all the idiosyncrasies of the home and property. Even the most thorough, experienced, and well-spoken home inspector can’t know everything you’re thinking or everything you might have questions about once you’ve moved in. But more than just imagining what moving in will be like, try to imagine what you might want to do years down the road. There are likely questions you want to ask that go like this, “If we ever wanted to, could we….?”


Now, any home inspector worth their salt will tell you give you their information and encourage you to contact them with any follow-up questions. But there are no guarantees. If you’re not paying close attention, you might not think of the question until 6 months later and by then the inspector may have limited recall of the property, if they’re still available at all. Which is why you want to get to know the home before the inspection.


READ NEXT: Don’t Forget the Basics of a Home Inspection

Welcome to Marshburn Home Inspections

Marshburn Home Inspections is our effort to improve the home inspection industry. We’ve had years and years of experience with home inspections, and while there’s the rare bad actor in any field, there’s nothing particularly broken about the industry. Arguably, the biggest problem that ails the industry, especially in recent years, has been a shortage of home inspectors.



What’s more, the volatility of the home inspection industry is consistently underappreciated by those outside the industry. This is a natural consequence of being so directly connected to boom-and-bust cycles of the real estate market. It also serves as a new career opportunity for people from very diverse business backgrounds. Thus, depending on the market, customers may have more options and the ability to carefully consider the background, experience, and cost of their home inspectors. At other times, it’s a mad scramble just to find any certified home inspector with time in their schedule.


We also want to help customers get more out of their home inspection experience. In addition to important structural analysis, don’t underestimate the value of a home inspector taking you on a detailed tour of the home. Room-by-room, feature-by-feature, big stuff and little stuff, you should have a newfound confidence in exactly what the property has to offer, what its oddities are, and what its future potential could be.


We want to point out the potential differences in professional backgrounds for home inspectors and what that means for your inspection. We also want to point to what makes for a great home inspector and home inspection in general. That’s why we’re called Marshburn Home Inspections.