A good home inspector is going to cover all of the basics; including making sure the faucets work, checking the electrical panel, and we hope, looking at the age and condition of your water heater. But you’d be surprised at how light most inspections are.
They don’t go deep in several major home systems like plumbing, heating and cooling because the inspectors are a) only there for a short time, b) not licensed or trained in those systems or c) because they would need specialized equipment. Unfortunately, a failed heating system or side sewer pipe can cost thousands of dollars later. So, if your inspector doesn’t cover these (and most don’t), we recommend that you do.
Check the main drains and sewer line.
Water may run easily inside the house but between you and the street may lie tree roots, collapsed or rotted pipe and potential for huge costly re-piping projects. A plumber can video inspect your sewer line to ensure you know what’s out there. The main drain may also need periodic cleaning, and if the seller hasn’t done it in a while, they can check and perform that too.
Taste and look at the water
Inspectors typically turn on taps and let them run while doing other reporting. Have a look at the first faucet or tub opened after it’s been sitting a while. If the water comes out with any rust, coloration or smell, that could indicate your pipes are bad.
Open the windows
Or more accurately see if they open or have been painted shut, are stuck or have broken parts.
Ask if they have had recent maintenance. Make sure they blow hot or cold in addition to just turning on. Look at how old that system is. Heating systems last about 15 years. If it’s that age, consider that you may need the funds to replace it soon.
Look under the carpet, especially in the basement
Check for mold and mildew and look at the condition of the floor below. Mold is a serious health concern and goes beyond the mere cost of replacing carpet.
Check the strength of the deck
So much inspection effort focuses on the inside of the house. If there is a deck, look for rusted nails and screws that may be weakened, and look at the wood itself for cracked boards and rot.
Inspect the chimney
Especially if you have a wood burning fireplace, a chimney inspection can save lives, not only from fires but carbon monoxide. Your general inspector may measure moisture around the chimney, which is good for finding cracks, but a professional chimney contractor can do a more thorough review of the overall condition and safety.
Don’t be shy in asking sellers to provide specialized inspections, plumbing or maintenances before closing on the sale. This is very common. And if they won’t you certainly can yourself. Sadly, some realtors may try to push you into not doing this because it can add negotiations.
When I purchased my Seattle home, I negotiated a furnace maintenance and chimney inspection into the purchase agreement as a condition of the sale. That gave me peace of mind. But even with that, my water heater tank burst within a week of moving in and the main drain backed up into the basement within 3 months. I didn’t have this list!
If you need plumbing or heating system inspection, Washington Energy Services provides these services, and we can fix or replace what you uncover, including plumbing and drain cleaning, re-piping and heating systems. Just call 800-398-4663.