Hugh Cairns: Inspecting on your own
Sep 2, 2013 / 5:00 am
Q. Before I hire a professional a professional home inspector, can you give me some tips on how to inspect a home that we are interested in buying?
A. You bet.
Whether you hire a Pro or do it yourself, the most important thing that you’ll need to inspect a home is time. Inspections are much like a jigsaw puzzle, a whole bunch of small pictures that fit together to make a large one. If you’re missing a piece you’ll never get the whole picture. Inspect once, then inspect again. Don’t move on to the next item unless you are satisfied that you have thoroughly inspected it.
You’ll need common sense and objectivity. Everything about a house can be fixed except for its location. Purchasing a seasoned product will entail accepting ownership for a structure that’s systems are in various stages of their service lives. Buying a new home can be an option, but just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s built right. There are plenty of examples of people who have purchased new homes that have been surprised by unforeseen items. Many new homes have warranties; however concern yourself about how claims are handled because you don’t want to end up being a file in a bureaucratic filing cabinet down the road.
The only way humans can see is with light. That means you’re going to need a really good flashlight, one that offers considerable lumens. For general investigations my small flashlight is 1,000 lumens. It’s great in crawlspaces and attics, but I also pack a 3,800 lumen flashlight for large spaces and when I need supplemental light for photos. If the flashlight you are considering to purchase doesn’t have a lumen specification it will not be bright enough. Make sure it is fully charged and bring back-up batteries.
For seeing heat, and thermal evaluations, I pack a thermal imaging camera. Most likely you won’t have access to one personally, since they cost several thousand dollars and are primarily used commercially. However, when you do find the right home, and you are ready for a professional final inspection, don’t waste your hard earned cash on an inspection that doesn’t include thermal imaging. Thermal imaging helps professional home inspectors that use them see beyond normal light.
Your digital camera will be your personal assistant and will record everything you see. You can never take enough pictures during an inspection. It will be your note taker and reminder. After you inspect, you’ll be able to go through your photo library to make notes and budgets. There is a lot of information gathered during home inspections; recording it on a camera is invaluable. Just like your flashlight, make sure it is fully charged and bring back-up batteries.
Usually you won’t need to bring an extension ladder. Accessing a roof can be dangerous and unnecessary. Instead, bring some binoculars or a camera with a high optical zoom to get up close. You will need to arrange for, or bring a ladder to access the attic. In some cases, a ladder can help with access into crawlspaces.
Inspect the electrical panel only if you are experienced. If you’re going to access the electrical panel, bring a multi screwdriver. Different brands have different screw heads. Pick up an economical polarity tester for verifying proper wiring at receptacles.
Lastly, bring a friend. An extra pair of eyes and an extra pair of hands will undoubtedly come in handy.
For information on home inspections and home inspectors click here.
Read more About the House - Hugh Cairns articles
- Hugh Cairns: Pre-sell inspections Dec 2
- Hugh Cairns: Is this house okay? Nov 25
- Hugh Cairns: Home inspection survival Nov 4
- Hugh Cairns: Hot water tank failure Oct 28
- Hugh Cairns: Making hot water Oct 21
- Hugh Cairns: Furnace service costs Oct 7
- Hugh Cairns: Furnace service Sep 30
- Hugh Cairns: Household humidity Sep 23
(Click for RSS instructions.)