The last few weeks we've focused on how home inspectors use their different senses to detect potential problems in a home: sight, hearing, smell, and touch. That leaves us with taste, which doesn't really apply here, unless you're a home seller who offers the inspector some rather tasty lemonade on a hot day (this, of course, won't end up in the home inspection report, but it's always welcome).
Certified and experienced inspectors know that in many cases, the senses alone can only take them so far. While not technically required to complete a visual inspection, the use of extra equipment can add value to an inspection. For example, your inspector may sense the unevenness of a floor, but how drastic is the variation? What about floors that may appear to be even but are only slightly slanted? Exactly how wide and long is that troubling crack in the foundation? Do the railings on either side of the front steps have balusters spaced far enough apart to be safe for toddlers? Do those ground fault circuit interrupters in the kitchen work as they should?
Trained inspectors, like those at a-pro Home Inspection, understand that bringing the right equipment to a home inspection—beyond the standard flashlight, ladder, and safety gear—can give homeowners and sellers a more complete picture of the property. Here is a partial checklist of home inspection devices and why they're useful:
Foundation Level Survey: Floors that sag, squeak, or are uneven raise a red flag to a home inspector that foundational concerns may be at play. While walking on the floor will alert the inspector that there may be defects, quantifying the extent of the problem isn't possible without assistance. That's why A-Pro inspectors include a floor level measurement of every room in a home by using a special digital meter that accurately documents elevation. Results are then analyzed by the inspector and noted in an easy-to-understand table included in the home inspection report.
Why is this important? By recording the floor level in every room, immediate issues can be identified, prompting the inspector to check for other signs of foundational movement. Even if no significant variations are present, the survey provides a recorded baseline to be compared against future foundation level surveys. When rechecked, homeowners can refer to the levels recorded in the inspection report to determine if the home is settling and at what rate. The best news of all: A-Pro inspectors perform this service (a $150 value) for free as part of a standard foundation-to-roof inspection.
Smartphone: Times have changed. Forty years ago portable cell phones were big, bulky monsters that looked like something you'd use to bark out vital coordinates in a combat zone. Today, compact cell phones equipped with high-resolution cameras have become as essential as a good flashlight during a home inspection. A-Pro Home Inspection clients benefit from this handheld technology by receiving a promptly delivered home inspection report that's filled with images of the home.
A photo of a wall crack, for example, becomes invaluable documentation when a homeowner asks, “Is it just me, or has that crack gotten bigger since last year?” Now the homeowner doesn't need to question his memory. He can simply refer to the report, which visually displays both positive and negative aspects of the home in full color. In lieu of a smartphone, some inspectors carry a dedicated digital camera to document conditions in the home.
Along with taking photos, your inspector will bolster this visual evidence by using one of the least expensive but critical pieces of home inspection equipment: a tape measure. This can be used for recording precise measurements of cracks, risers and stair treads, the distance between railing balusters, and a host of other issues.
Electrical: Inspectors may use a variety of electrical testers to check receptacles for the presence of a current or for making sure ground fault circuit interrupters and arc fault circuit interrupters are functional.
Moisture Meters: As we've mentioned in other blogs, the presence of moisture on a floor, wall, ceiling, or beam can be checked by touch. But if the inspector suspects moisture but can't feel any or wants to check for hidden leaks that may be lurking underneath flooring or behind tiling, the use of a moisture meter can provide answers that otherwise might not be available.
Other Equipment: There are a variety of different thermometers that may be used for checking the home's heating and cooling system. A good set of screwdrivers will allow the inspector to safely remove panels (e.g., an opening to a crawlspace) without damage. When performing a Thermal Imaging Inspection (an added service), your inspector will use an infrared camera to detect energy and heat loss, structural defects, overheating from electrical wiring, and other problems. Sewer Scope Inspections (also an added service) require the use of a mini video camera to get a look inside the main sewer line. Unlike natural gas, which can be smelled by the inspector, detecting the presence of odorless carbon monoxide requires a special analyzer to measure levels of the dangerous gas.