Types of Inspections
Types of Inspections This section breaks down the inspection process into its component parts. A complete inspection will require all these sections. However, if you only need to do one of them, then the appropriate lesson should provide a good introduction.
On-site Outside of House
I believe all inspections fall into one of two categories. The first category consists of inspections that seek to answer the question, “What is actually wrong with the building?” Does it have a leaky roof? Is the plumbing in good working order? Do all the electrical outlets work? The second type of inspection goes beyond looking for what is wrong with the home and seeks to answer the question “What can go wrong with this home?” I also think that if you seek to perform your inspections to answer the second question, you will be able to more effectively and comprehensively answer the first.
This diagram shows typical areas where animals enter and/or leave sign of their presence in a home. Image by Stephen M. Vantassel.
The reason why your inspections should take the second approach stems from my concern about the potential for home inspectors to miss animal damage problems. I think it is sad to see a new homeowner have to pay for bat removal because the home inspector didn’t notice the signs evident in the attic. In this lesson, I intend to provide you with some important techniques to reduce the likelihood of you making the same mistake. On-site inspections can be a frustrating exercise. Crawling around attics, closets, and roofs is not only dirty but can be dangerous as well. Yet, these activities must be done in order to have accomplished a thorough inspection.
Some inspectors may not like the customer walking with them. However, if the client isn’t paranoid, I like to have them walk with me so that I can point out problems they need to deal with. Listen for clues in what your client tells you. Rarely do you get the full story the first time. Feel free to ask the same question stated a different way. I like to ask open ended questions sprinkled with yes/no questions. Phrase your questions in such a way that doesn’t lead the client.
I like to begin home inspections from the outside because, generally speaking, it is easier to find problems there than on the inside. Potential holes are more exposed to the outside and the hole (which will be dark) will often be in contrasting color to the house. Many problems will be exposed to the trained eye before you even climb a ladder. About ninety percent of the time, all I need to see will be discovered from the ground. (Another 2-3 percent will be discovered from the attic). Use the Nite-Tracker spotlight flashlight or similarly powerful flashlight to illuminate dark areas. I found that 500,000 candlelight power has been an invaluable tool for illuminating vents and eaves. If a spot remains dark after shining a beam on it, then I know that I have found a hole. Pay special attention at the corners, gables, eaves and vents, and any place where two boards meet. Over the years, moisture and heat cause the boards to expand and contract. Ultimately a gap forms between them. These are the places where squirrels, bats, mice, etc. like to enter.
Behind the gutters is another area you want to investigate. If the gutter is too flush with the soffit then you will need a ladder to look behind it. Whatever you do, don’t bypass this crucial inspection. Squirrels like to sit on the gutter and chew through the fascia board, which has been softened by water (often the gutters haven’t been cleaned of leaves in some time). Scan the roof for feces.
Raccoons often will defecate before entering the house. As you look at the eaves, don’t neglect the lower sections of the house. Animals, like red squirrels, chipmunks, and mice, can enter at ground level. Pipes, dryer vents, broken windows, and cracked foundations can permit small creatures to enter the house.
Look carefully at any holes ¼ inch or larger and for signs of wear around these holes that would signify use. Dirty smudge marks will often appear as the body oils of the creature rub off on the building. Investigate the corners of the house. Squirrels and raccoons can climb up downspouts. Raccoon prints will look like brown smears and scratches will be deep and pronounced. Squirrels, on the other hand, will leave no prints and the scratches will be very fine. If tree branches overhang or abut the roof, don’t be surprised if there are no signs of tracks. Always consider the routes an animal might use to access a home.
Doors of all types should be inspected as well. Many times hatchways and garage doors don’t close tightly. All of these resultant gaps are potential problems waiting for an animal to exploit, if it hasn’t already.
©2005 Stephen M. Vantassel