There are two kinds of home building inspections. The first type is done by a professional home inspector, usually when a house is being sold. The second type of home building inspection is done by a government employee when a new house is being built or an older house is being altered.
Buying a home is a large financial transaction; indeed, for many people, it is the largest financial decision they will ever make. A home building inspection describes the condition of the house and all its systems. Typically the inspector gives the prospective buyer a verbal review, usually when both parties are in the house, and a written review.
A home building inspection should cover all parts of the building. The exterior inspection covers the condition of the walls, including paint and caulk. It examines exterior electrical and plumbing fixtures, including lighting and sprinkler systems. It generally includes paving and grading as well.
The roof is examined for soundness and the condition of the shingles during a home building inspection. The chimney is evaluated for soundness and the condition of the flashing. Checking for proper roof ventilation and finding any leaks is a priority. Gutters and downspouts should be functional.
Structural components, such as the framing and foundation, are also examined during a home building inspection. The soundness of joists, rafters, and the foundation is emphasized. Doors and windows are checked for energy loss. The amount and condition of insulation is evaluated for energy loss. The basement is checked for dampness. All interior walls, ceilings, and floors are checked for damage, including bathroom tiling. Heating and cooling systems, electrical system, and the plumbing are all examined and evaluated.
The prospective buyer should have a very clear idea of the current condition of the house after a home building inspection. An inspection is not an appraisal, however. The inspector will not attempt to set a value on the house. A home building inspection is not a warranty, either. However, if the inspection reveals potential problems, the buyer could ask the seller to take out a special short-term insurance policy that would cover any repairs during the first year or so after the sale.
Inspectors are highly trained individuals, often with a background in engineering or construction. In most states, home inspectors must be licensed. Many are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
A government inspector begins the home building inspection for a new house before construction even starts, when the site is evaluated for suitability and safety. The blueprints for the house are examined to make sure they meet all state and local codes, including codes designed to meet the problems posed by the particular location, such as frequent earthquakes or wildfires. Blueprints for alterations to an existing house are evaluated in the same way. There is another home building inspection after the footings are dug, after the foundation is poured, and frequently after plumbing or electrical systems are installed. There is always a final building inspection before the house can be occupied.