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Home Inspection Checklist For Buyers and Sellers

I know whether you’re buying or selling a home, sometimes you want an idea of what the home inspector is looking for. There are other times, you want to take a look for yourself and see if you can find anything that needs fixed. So in this article, I’m creating a home inspection checklist for Buyers and Sellers.

Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers

Now it should go without saying, every home is different and I cannot possibly cover everything in a “list” that may be wrong with a home. I’ve been doing Tulsa home inspections for many years, so what I find would be a lot different from what you’ll find. Besides, every home is different. Even those cookie cutter new homes you see in a lot of the new subdivisions.

At best, this will be a general home inspections checklist for Buyers. So here goes!

  • Check with the Sellers to see if any improvements or modifications have been made to the home. If there has been, confirm whether or not the proper permits where pulled. You’ll also want to view receipts and invoices and double check to see if there are any warranties on the modifications or additions.
  • Further, if the home is 10 years old or less, most Builders put a 10 year structural warranty on their homes. You’ll want to see if the Builder of this home offered this and if so, how to get it transferred over to you (assuming you bought the home).

Crawlspace Inspection Checklist

If so, here are some of the things you need to look for. I inspect the Crawlspace at the end of the inspection. By this time, I’ve run all the water in the home. I’ve filled sinks and tubs and drained them. I’ve run stand-alone showers for at least 10 minutes. I’ve flushed toilets several times. Why? Because once I enter the crawlspace, I’m want to see if any leaks exist in the plumbing.

  1. Look for an entrance. It should be about 24×18 inches in size. It should be large enough to enter for inspection. If not, don’t expect your home inspector or the termite inspector to enter it. The opening should be sealed and lockable to keep animals and kids out. A piece of plywood leaned up against the opening with a concrete block holding it in place won’t suffice!
  2. Entering the crawlspace can be very dangerous. There are multiple hazards in a crawlspace and you shouldn’t enter unless you have the proper training and safety gear.
  3. Let’s assume you have everything mentioned in #2 above. Once you enter, you’ll want to check the condition of the foundation itself. What is it made of? Cinder blocks, rocks? or is the home supported by piers only? If the home has a cinder block or rock foundation, make sure they are in good shape. If it’s simply setting on wood posts, make sure there is not rot. Piers, whether cinder blocks or post, should be plumb and not leaning.
  4. Is there a vapor barrier over the ground? If not, there should be. A vapor barrier can simply be 6 mil plastic laid over the soil. This prevents moisture from rising up into the structure, sometimes causing mold. If you see a lot of mold beneath your house, that’s a good indication you need corrective measures. This starts by contacting a good Mold Inspector.
  5. Is there standing water? (if so, this is a safety hazard to the Inspector and should be avoided) If so, where did it come from? Is it a sewer leak or has there been recent rain where runoff entered the crawlspace? Are gutters terminating near openings to the crawlspace and directing water beneath the home?
  6. If there are concrete blocks supporting beams, check to make sure those blocks are turned properly. The holes in the blocks should be facing up and down. If they’re facing sideways where you can see through them, they’re wrong. They are designed to carry weight when placed with the holes vertical.
  7. Check the drain lines for leaks while under there. That’s why you should have run all the plumbing fixtures first. Also, check to make sure drain lines are properly sloped.
  8. Are there electrical lines in the crawlspace? If so, you should avoid entering the space. Especially if the soil is damp or no vapor barrier exists. In older homes, there can be knob and tube wiring. This wiring is not insulated and if it’s live, you could be electrocuted if you come into contact with it. Take my word for it, no one wants to pull your dead body out from under a home. It’s not worth it!
  9. Are there vents in the crawlspace? If the foundation wall consists of cinder blocks, concrete, rocks or something similar, the space will need to be vented. If not, moisture could build up and create moisture issues like rot, mold and fungus growth.
  10. Is there an indication of vermin, animals or insects? If you’re seeing a lot of mice or rat turds, you may need a Pest Control technician to clean it up and take care of the problem. Likewise, if you’re seeing mud tubes, rotted wood or damaged wood, you may have termites. An inspection by a licensed Pest Control company will help get this problem corrected.

Here’s a short video of standing water and cinder blocks space improperly in a crawlspace.

Slab Foundation Inspection Checklist

If you’re home has a poured concrete slab foundation, here are a few things you’re going to want to inspect.

  1. Walk around the perimeter. Inspect the face of the foundation. Are there any cracks? Any areas where the concrete is broken off? In many areas, you won’t be able to see the slab because of vegetation or high soil levels. If this is the case, in most instances, these need to be corrected. I also see a lot of veneers ran down to the soil. It’s not uncommon for brick and stone to run all the way down to the dirt. This is not correct although many builders still do this (this is a prime example of local code inspectors not doing their job) Building codes say that there should be at least 6″ of slab face showing above the soil.
  2. Are there any cracks in the exterior veneer? If the home has siding, you may not notice any cracks if the foundation is moving. Check the corners of the eaves where they come together. Are there gaps between the wood there? While it’s not uncommon for brick and stone to have minor settling cracks less than 1/8″, if you’re seeing cracks wider than that, or cracks that are larger at one end than the other, you may have foundation problems. Inside the home, some foundation problems you’ll want to look for are; doors and windows not opening and closing properly, cracks in the sheetrock larger than 1/8″. Floors that are unlevel. (use a golf ball or marble on hard surfaces to see if they roll freely)
  3. Run the plumbing fixtures on the inside of the home before heading out to do a slab foundation inspection. Sometimes a home with foundation problems can break drain pipes. In a few instances, you may notice water on the face of the foundation or wet areas outside or inside the home. These will need to be checked. A Plumber can video scope your drains to determine if they’ve been damaged by foundation movement.

Exterior Home Inspection Checklist

When walking around the exterior of your home, here are a few things you’ll want to look for.

  1. Rotted wood. Rotted wood is a conducive condition for insects, especially the wood destroying kind. Trim and wooden window sills are prime areas for rot.
  2. Gaps and cracks around openings in the exterior walls like windows, doors and protrusions. These will need to be sealed, typically with a good caulk.
  3. There are some types of siding that were under a recall or involved in class action lawsuits years ago. While most of the lawsuits have passed, there’s still a lot of siding out there that was never replaced. This site has a lot of information on the different types of siding recalls and class action lawsuits. How to identify siding that was involved in lawsuits
  4. Does the home have gutters and downspouts? All runoff should be removed a minimum of 6ft from the foundation. If gutter downspouts are terminating next to the home, they should be extended away from the foundation. Low areas that hold water next to the foundation should be graded away from the home.
  5. Speaking of gutters, make sure they are in good condition. They shouldn’t be sagging or full of debris. Damaged or disconnected downspouts need repaired or replaced.
  6. Is there flashing in places it’s supposed to be? Typical flashing locations are; over windows, over doors and where sidewalls meet a roof.
  7. Are outside outlets protected by a GFCI? If no, then they need to be.
  8. Is vegetation touching the exterior walls? This includes shrubs and tree limbs near or touching the home or roof. These allow insects to gain access to the home and they can damage the home in storms.
  9. Do decks 30″ and higher have guardrails? Do steps have a handrail? Are there vertical balusters in guardrails spaced no further than 4″ apart? Any rotted or damaged on decks or guardrails? Are the guardrails loose?
  10. Do outside faucets have backflow preventers on them?
  11. All power/phone/cable lines coming overhead into the home should be free and clear of tree limbs or other obstructions.
  12. Check all painted surfaces outdoors. Any peeling or flaking paint needs to be repainted.
  13. Check for holes in the soffit and eaves. Holes in the outside of your home can allow vermin entry into the home or attic.
  14. Vines such as Ivy may look cool, but they have no place on your home. They can cause damage, especially if you have brick or stone but I’ve also seen the tiny roots burrow into pressboard siding and damage it as well.
  15. Windows should obviously be free of any cracks or breaks. Moisture or fogging between the panes indicate windows with broken seals. These will need to be repaired or replaced. Windows with glazing compound will need to be reglazed if the old glazing is cracked or missing.
  16. Check the Dryer vent hood. One should be present and in good working order. You may need a mirror to make certain the flap isn’t clogged and not functioning because of lint. If it is, it needs cleaned. If there a screen over it, it needs removed. Dryer vent hoods are not allowed to have screens or other obstacles over them. Yes, I know they’re sold that way, but it still traps lint and could cause a house fire.
Always check dryer ducts for obstructions. The flapper on this one is clogged and held open from excessive lint. This can allow animals inside your home and create a fire hazard.

Roof Inspection Checklist

Climbing onto a roof is dangerous, especially if you’re not trained to do it properly. If you do decide to go and do your own roof inspection, here are a few things you need to look for. In this roof checklist, let’s assume you have asphalt composite shingles as most people do.

  1. Check to see how many layers of shingles you have. If you have more than two, most insurance companies will not insure them. Some may even have a problem if there are two layers and the top layer is old. Replacing roofs is expensive and your insurance company would rather take premiums rather than pay money out.
  2. Check for cracks or holes in the shingles. This can indicate damaged or aging shingles.
  3. Check around all roof protrusions to ensure they are properly sealed. There should be no cracks or gaps around vents coming through the roof.
  4. If you see shingles that are cupped or otherwise distorted, this could be a sign of trouble.
  5. Bend a shingle or three at the edge. Just a little to see if it’s flexible. Brittle shingles indicate old shingles (well as long as it’s above 60 degrees outside)
  6. Chimneys should have proper flashing around them. Google chimney flashing details and look at the illustrations. Yours should look similar.
  7. Look for discolored shingles. This can indicate previous repairs. Did the Seller disclose these?
  8. If the Seller indicated that the roof was new or recently replaced, make sure and get the name of the Contractor who performed the work. Also obtain the warranty on the roof and ensure it is transferable to you if you decide to buy the home.

Plumbing Inspection Checklist

Once you’re inside, start with the plumbing. I usually start in the Kitchen, but you can start anywhere you’d like. Some of the things I look for when doing a home inspection of the plumbing system are:

  1. I fill every sink unless the stopper is missing. You’ll find way more leaks by filling the sink than just by running water. Once the sink is full, I pull the drain and use a flashlight to watch the drains below the sink for leaks. While you’re down there, check to make sure the drain is sloped away from the sink.
  2. While filling the sinks, I operate the hot and cold controls. If the spout swivels, I turn it back and forth to ensure there are no leaks.
  3. When I’m in the Kitchen, and if it has a sprayer, I pull it out and test it.
  4. In the bathrooms, I start the sink and bathtubs filling. Then go to check other items like the toilet and sink drains.
  5. I flush each toilet several times to check for a proper flush. Take the back off and make sure there is no leak at the flush assembly (water coming out of the head) and make sure the toilet fills to the proper water level. (there’s usually a line marked on the tank that says “Fill Line” or something to that sort.
  6. After replacing the tank lid, I then check the toilet for looseness. I straddle the toilet and gently try to rock it back and forth with my knees. If it wobbles or it’s loose, it will need to be repaired.
  7. Once the tub is partially filled, I drain it and watch to make sure it’s draining properly. If it’s making weird noises, it could be a partially clogged drain or vent.
  8. If the home has a shower, I run the shower for about 10 minutes, checking both the hot cold function. I also look for leaks at the shower head. I check the shower head spout also. If it moves back and forth, it will need to be secured.
  9. While in the bathroom, I inspect any tile surface for loose, damaged or cracked tile or mortar joints. I’ll check the shower and tub for cracks and gaps around the perimeter. I want to see a properly caulked shower and tub surround.
  10. Also while I’m in the bathroom, I check for a vent fan. If one is present, I turn it on and take a piece of tissue and hold up to it to see if it is sucking air. If not, it will need to be repaired or replaced. If the unit has a light and heater, I check those as well.

Interior Wall and Structure Home Inspection Checklist

When I’m inspecting the interior walls and the structure, here are a few things I’m looking for.

  1. Cracks in the walls. Especially diagonal or horizontal cracks that are wider at one end than the other. A dead give-a-way that there are structural problems in the home.
  2. Bulging or sunken wall areas. These can simply be from when the home was constructed and the framers did a lousy job. But they can also be a sign of something more serious.
  3. Stains. I’m looking for any kinds of stains. New paint over old paint, brown water stains, etc. Stains can tell an experienced inspector a lot or they can tell them nothing!
  4. Newly repaired areas. These are sure signs that past repairs have been made. I want to know why! The answer can lead to discovering major issues.
  5. Crumbling drywall. This can be indicitive of previous water damage

Well, there’s your home inspection checklist for home Buyers and Sellers. I’ll be adding to this list as I have time, I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please share it with others!

InspectorDon

I'm a professional home inspector who serves Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Owasso, Jenks, Bixby, Coweta and all of Green Country in Oklahoma.

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