Home buying is a complicated process with many steps, but few are as impactful as a home inspection. A home inspector has a checklist that can reveal many unobvious problems to the naked eye. For a home buyer, an inspection can help you avoid buying a home that will cost you a lot of money to maintain. For sellers, an inspection can help you address problems before you accept offers and get a higher asking price.
For buyers and sellers to better understand the home inspection checklist that an inspector investigates, here is a summary of what a home inspector will do.
What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a visual exam of a property to identify problems in its structure, materials, and systems as well as major safety issues.
Home inspection regulations vary by state and local laws. It’s a good idea to check your local and state regulations before your home inspection to better prepare for it.
What do home inspectors check?
A home inspector is a certified professional who provides you with an unbiased, detailed report on the condition of a property. After their inspection, they will create a report of information about the structure of a home and its major systems.
A home inspection report helps buyers make good decisions on the property and understand any problems that need to be addressed.
A home inspector doesn’t look at everything. For example, the alarm system won’t be examined, it’s a good idea to check it out on your own when conducting an inspection. There are certain things that home inspectors are not allowed to do, so brushing up on the home inspection checklist is a good way to make the process easier for buyers and sellers.
Home inspection checklist
The kitchen is a major area of your home that could hide many problems. Home inspectors check for problems with plumbing, wiring, appliances, mold, and vents.
- A working, outside-vented exhaust fan
- Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection for electrical outlets within 6 feet of the sinks
- Dishwasher drains completely; no leaks, baskets, operational door springs
- No leaks in pipes under sinks, no signs of water damage on pipes
- The floor in the cabinet under the sink is solid, with no stains or decay
- Water flow in sink adequate
- No excessive rust or deterioration on garbage disposal or waste pipes
- Built-in appliances are operational
- Cabinets in good condition: doors and drawers open and close
The bathroom is another area of your home that requires a thorough inspection. A home inspector will examine seals and grout and inspect tiles for cracks that could indicate water leaks.
- Working exhaust fan that doesn’t terminate in the attic space
- GFCI) outlets for all sockets within 6 feet of sinks
- Visible plumbing under the sink is in good condition and shows no signs of water damage
- Adequate flow and pressure at all fixtures for hot and cold water
- The toilet is stable, with no rocking at base
- Sink, tub, and shower all drain properly
- The plumbing and cabinet floor under the sink is in good condition
- If the sink is metal, it shows no sign of rust or overflow. The drain doesn’t leak
- Toilets are operational
- Toilet stable, no rocking, no stains around the base
- Caulking in good condition inside and outside of the tub and shower area
- Tub or shower tiles secure, wall surface solid
- No stains or evidence of past leaking around the base of the shower
Interior rooms include living rooms, bedrooms, and guest rooms. Your inspector will check the flooring, wiring, and insulation, among other things.
- Floors, walls, and ceilings appear straight, plumb, and level
- No stains on floors, walls, or ceilings
- Flooring material in good condition
- No significant cracks in wall or ceiling
- Windows and exterior doors operate and latch. There is no broken glass, decay, or sashes painted shut. Windows and doors have weather stripping and weep holes
- Interior doors operate and latch, with no damage or decay, and no broken hardware
- Paint, wall covering, and paneling in good condition
- Wood trim installed well and in good condition
- Lights and switches are operational
- Adequate number of three-pronged electrical outlets in each room
- Electrical outlets test properly in a spot check
- Heating/cooling source in each habitable room
- Evidence of proper insulation in the walls
- The fireplace has no cracking or damaged masonry. There is no evidence of backdrafting (this often appears as staining), the damper operates, and the flue is clean and lined.
- Stairway treads and risers are solid
The attic is often overlooked by homeowners, and yet, it can hide many problems. Attics are prone to animal infestations and also have a big effect on your energy bill. For example, if your attic isn’t insulated well enough, you can lose much of your home’s heat when the weather turns cold.
- No stains on the underside of roofing, especially roof penetrations
- No evidence of damage or decay of the structure
- Properly installed insulation (moisture barrier closest to the heated area of the house)
- Proper ventilation, clear path into the attic for air entering through soffit vents. Properly sized gable end louvers, all mechanical ventilation operational
- No plumbing, exhaust, or appliance vents terminating in the attic
- No open electrical splices
Home inspectors look for signs of damage that show your roof needs attention. The most common problems are gutters, warped or missing shingles, and flashing around roof penetrations.
- Composition shingles: no curling, no cupping, no granule loss, no broken, damaged, or missing shingles, no more than two layers of roofing
- Wood shingles or shakes: no mold, rot, or decay. No cracked/broken/missing shingles, no curling
- Flat roofs: No noticeable patches, cracks, or splits. Minimal sun damage and wrinkles, no split deposits (caused by improper drainage), sealed tar at flashing
- Flashing around roof penetrations is present and in good condition
- No evidence of excess roofing cement/tar /caulk
- Soffits and fascia: no decay, no stains
- Exterior venting for eave areas – vents are clean and not painted over
- Gutters: no rust, joints are sealed and attached, no bending, no missing gutter or downspout pieces, clean channels, no mud buildup
- Chimneys: straight, flashed, no evidence of damaged bricks or cracked joints, mortar/cement cap is in good condition
Your basement often hides some of the worst problems that you can find in your home. Home inspectors can find issues like moisture and mold as well as structural and foundation damage.
- No evidence of moisture
- No evidence of water damage to the above floor
- The sump pump operates properly
- Exposed foundation: no stains or major cracks, no flaking, no efflorescence
- Visible structural wood: no sagging, damage, decay, discoloring. No evidence of insect damage, sills are attached to the foundation with anchor bolts
- Insulation at rim/bank joints
- Visible pipes: no damage, no evidence of leaks, no signs of stains on materials near pipes. Drainpipes slope downward towards the outlet to the septic/sewage system
- Water heater: no signs of rust, proper ventilation, and is the correct size for household needs
- Water pump: does not short cycle
- Galvanized pipes do not restrict water flow
- Well water test is acceptable
- Hot water temperature between 118 – 125 degrees Fahrenheit
- Visible wiring: in good condition, no knob-and-tube wiring, no exposed splices, cables are secure and protected
- Service panel: adequate capacity, all wires attached to the board with cable connectors. Fuses and breakers are not overheating.
- No aluminum cable for branch circuits
Heating / Cooling Systems (HVAC)
- Operates well throughout (good airflow on forced hot air systems)
- No gas odor
- Flues: no open seams, slopes up to chimney connection
- No rust around the cooling unit
- No combustion gas odor
- Air filters clean
- The ductwork is in good condition
- No asbestos on heating pipes, water pipes, or air ducts
- Separate flues for gas/oil/propane and wood/coal
External components of a home
- Proper drainage gradient, leading away from the home
- No evidence of standing water
- No leaks from a leach field or septic tank
- Yard, landscaping, trees, and walkway in good condition
- No bushes or branches touch the house or overhang the roof
- Exterior structures are in good condition. No evidence of termites or wood rot
- Railings on stairs and decks are secure and adequate
- Driveways, sidewalks, patio, and entrance landings are in good condition and pitched away from the structure
- Downspout drainage directed away from the structure
- Ridge and fascia board lines appear straight and level
- The sides of the house appear straight. No sagging or bowing.
- Windows and door frames appear square
- The visible foundation is in good condition, straight, with no significant cracks
- Adequate clearance between ground and wood siding (6” or more) with no wood in contact with the earth
- Siding: no cracking, curling, loose, rot, or decay
- Bricks appear undamaged with no cracks in joints
- Masonry veneers: no cracks in joints, no broken, spalling, or flaking components
- Stucco: no large cracks (discuss any stucco cracks with a professional inspector)
- Vinyl or aluminum siding: no dents, damage, no bowing or loose siding
- No vines on the surface of the structure
- Exterior paint or stain: no flaking or blisters
- No stains on exterior surfaces
Windows, Doors, and Wood Trims
- Wood frames and trim pieces are secure. No cracks, rot, or decay
- Caulked joints around frames
- No broken glass (window or storm panes) or damaged screens. No broken double-paned, insulated window seals
- Muntin and mullion glazing compound in good condition
- Storm windows or thermal glass used
- Drip caps installed over windows
- No condensation inside double-paned windows
The final word on a home inspection checklist
While a home inspection is a critical step of the home buying and selling process, each one is different.
This home inspection checklist is a guide to help you prepare to sell or buy a home and avoid major issues. The last thing you want is to have problems after buying a home and spend thousands of dollars on repairs.
We recommend printing this list ahead of your inspection as a guide to asking the right questions.
Use this checklist as a general guide, or use a checklist app for what is reviewed during a home inspection. Remember, only a licensed professional can provide an official home inspection. This list reflects the key areas of an inspection but is not all-encompassing.