The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, Inc. has produced the International Standards of Practice for Performing a General Home Inspection. From this SOP comes the checklist used by many home inspectors to make a visual inspection and produce a written report. What’s in it? Let’s take a look.

Let’s Start With aBit of Jargon

If a component or system has an issue that is likely to pose an unreasonable risk to people or significantly hurt the value of the property, it is referred to as a material defect. Material defects come in three categories.

Major Defects

Major defects are those that cause a component or system to be deemed unsafe or non-functioning / non-working / non-performing. These require the services of a professional contractor.

Minor Defects

Minor defectsare similar to the above with the exception that further assessment and subsequent repair by a contractor may not be necessary. The homeowner may be confident and competent enough to correct the defect without help.

Cosmetic Defects

Cosmetic defects, as the name implies, are superficial imperfections, they do not affect safety or function of the property, but may affect the value.

Where Do Inspectors Inspect?

Here’s a quick rundown on the what and how. Not all the items listed here will necessarily be thoroughly inspected, or inspected at all. In some houses, certain areas will be inaccessible.


The roof may be inspected from ground level, from the eaves, from a window, or even while standing on it. An inspector may use a ladder or a camera on an extension pole. It’s largely a matter of access willingness and how much you are prepared to pay.

Gutters and Roof Penetrations

Gutters and downspouts are also inspected for functionality and appearance. Roof penetrations such as vents, flashing, skylights and chimneys are inspected for watertight integrity.

General Roof Structure

Different houses provide different access to the roof. An inspector will endeavor to look inside the roof structure to ensure that it is sound and free of leaks.

Exterior Walls

The wall covering material, such as siding or brickwork, is examined. Exterior doors,the garage door, and a representative number of window are checked.The flashing and trim are inspected for defects, so are eaves, soffits and fascias.

Outdoor Living and Traffic Areas

Driveways, ramps, walkways, stairs, stoops, steps and stairways are all inspected for functionality, safety and appearance. Carports, patios, porches, decks and balconies will also pass under the inspector’s eye. Handrails, railings and guards are inspected for safety.


Surface drainage, retaining walls, vegetation and the grading of the property are checked to ensure there is no moisture intrusion.


Foundations vary from one type of structure to another. In some cases there will be a basement, in others, just a slab; it may have a crawl-space. Whatever kind of foundation it is, your inspector will determine whether it is up to the task or in need of repair. For a few of the more common signs of foundation movement, check out our post on the Difference between Subsidence and a Sinkhole.

Inspectors will also be looking for water penetration and wooden parts of the structure in contact with the soil (or nearly in contact.)


Any holes, cuts, notches or other compromises to the integrity of framing are looked for in places where framing is exposed.

Heating and Cooling

These units will be turned on, if they seem to safely produce heat or cool, that’s about all the inspection they get. Determining whether a cooling system is going to keep a given area cool in the height of summer is not a simple job.


The main water supply shut-off valve should be checked, so should the main fuel supply shut-off valve if there is one. The water heater gets a bit more attention, the energy source, reliefvalves, Watts 210 valves, seismic bracing and venting connections all come under scrutiny.

The interior water supply, including all faucets and fixtures, are checked by running the water and flushing the toilets. Water pressure issues will be noted, as will any lack in the number of faucets. The condition, operation and proper anchoring of toilets is noted.

Showers, sinks and tubs are checked for effective drainage. Sump pumps and systems such as drains, waste and vent systems are all scrutinized. Existence and operation of mechanical drain stops is looked for.


The type of water supply (public or private) and the water pressure readingshould be noted. The location of the fuel-storage system and the water heater capacity should also be on the report.


The electricity wires that go from your house to the pole standing in the street are called the service drop. This, along with all its features such as drip loops and attachment points are all inspected to see if they are up to standard. A representative number of switches, lighting fixtures and sockets are tested. The meter, circuit breakers,smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors,and the service grounding and bonding are also checked.


The fireplaces, chimneys and the lintels above the fireplace openings are checked for deterioration. If possible, the damper doors are checked by opening and closing them. Cleanouts must be made of non-combustible material.

Insulation and Ventilation

Ventilation of unfinished spaces such as foundations, attics and crawlspaces is assessed. Exhaust systems are inspected. The average depth of insulation is estimated from the unfinished attic floor.

Indoor Appearances

A representative number of doors and windows are tested by opening and closing them. Walls, ceilings and floors are inspected, so are handrails, guards and rails.

Optional Extras

Many extras such as garden sprinklers, food waste disposal, dishwasher, trash compactor, pool, spa, even the doorbell can be inspected in a home inspection. The list goes on and on.

I Think We Covered It

So there you have it, a brief summary of what inspectors are actually achieving with all that crawling, climbing and poking around. Not a bad effort on their part, really.

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