FAQ

Our most commonly asked questions.

  • Why do I need a home inspection?

    The purchase of a home is one of the single largest investments most people will ever make. You should be as informed and educated as you possibly can when considering a home purchase. A home inspection can provide that education. Many mortgage lenders do require or strongly recommend a home inspection be performed. A home inspection lets you know the condition of the property as well as identifies the need for any repairs before you buy, so that you can make an informed purchasing decision. A home inspection also informs the buyer of the positive aspects of the home, as well as any maintenance that may be recommended to keep the house in good shape and to keep all major systems operating smoothly. After the inspection, you will have a much better understanding of the property you intend to purchase. A home inspection is also valuable for homeowners for identifying any potential problems that may need tending to, as well as for learning preventive maintenance measures to help avoid any costly future repairs. If you intend to put your house on the market, a home inspection could identify items that would be called out on a buyer’s inspection, which allows you to be proactive in making repairs, thereby putting your house in a more sellable position.

  • What is the cost of a home inspection?

    The cost of a home inspection for a single family home varies due to the geographical location, as well as its size and age. The cost can also vary when additional inspection services are requested, such as septic, well, radon or pest inspections. However, you should not let cost be a factor in determining whether or not to have a home inspection performed or in choosing your home inspector. You should consider the money spent as an educational investment that will more than pay for itself. The most important consideration should be the qualifications, training and experience of the inspector, as well as any professional affiliations he or she may have. Get a free, instant, online home inspection price estimate!

  • What does the home inspection entail?

    There are four basic steps to the home inspection. First, the inspector arrives at the property, makes general introductions, explains what is going to take place, and asks about any special questions or requests.

    Next, while the inspection agreement is being reviewed, the inspector will make a quick circuit of the property sizing up the scope of the inspection. There will then be an in-depth walk-through inspection with the client. This involves inspecting all visible areas and reviewing all accessible items and areas, including the heating system, central air conditioning system, interior plumbing, electrical systems, the roof, attic space and all visible insulation, the walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows, basement or crawlspace area, and the foundation and all visible structural components. Any questions or items of special interest regarding a particular system or structural component are usually addressed at this time.

    Finally, a check of the entire property is made to verify that the condition of the property is the same as when the inspection started.

    After this last circuit, the inspector will complete the hard copy of the inspection report. All deficiencies and maintenance recommendations will be noted by the inspector and included with the final report.

  • Do I need to attend the inspection?

    It is not necessary that you attend the inspection. However, U.S. Inspect strongly recommends that you or your representative attend the inspection so that you are properly informed of the investment that you are considering. Given appropriate access, our inspector can perform the inspection and generate an inspection report, which will be delivered to you. Again, it is strongly recommended that you attend because you will be able to accompany the inspector and visually learn about the condition of your house, how the various systems operate and how to properly maintain them. You will also have a better understanding of the contents of the report if you are able to see it from the home inspector’s perspective and can ask him/her questions as they arise.

  • How long does the inspection take?

    An average home inspection will take between 2 and 3+ hours, depending on the size of the house. Larger and more complex houses will take longer for the inspector to completely and accurately evaluate. Another factor that may affect the inspection time is the relative condition of the components at the property. If the house and appliances have not been properly maintained, the inspector may need additional time to explain to the buyer what options they have to either maintain or replace the items.

  • What are the estimated life spans of all the systems in my house?

    There is no accurate method to determine exactly how long a particular system or component is going to last. This is due to a number of reasons: the geographic area; the physical location of the units; and the climate and weather. This is similar to asking how long a car lasts. There are too many variables to determine the life span of items that need maintenance and have thousands of integral components. For example, with heating systems, many factors can directly affect the life span of the appliance. If the furnace is located in an unconditioned crawlspace or in the attic, the elevated humidity levels can rapidly cause heat exchangers to prematurely rust. In addition, when furnaces are used in the colder months, the differences between the low air temperature and the high temperature of the heat exchanger can cause expansion/contraction cracking that can lead to leaks in the heat exchanger. Roofs, on the other hand, can be affected by factors like the amount of direct sunlight, adequacy of attic ventilation, number of layers of roofing material, as well as the quality of the roofing material itself. Climate and weather can affect the life of the roof also. For instance, in the West and Southwest parts of the U.S., asphalt composition shingles have a tendency to last no more than 10 to 15 years on average, whereas in the Northeastern states and around the Great Lakes area, the same roofing material can last 18 to 22 years or longer.

    SystemComponentEstimated Design Life
    RoofingAsphalt Composition Shingle18 – 22 Years
    Asphalt Composition Rolled Roofing10 – 15 Years
    Built-Up Roofing10 – 15 Years
    Elastomeric / Rubber Roofing10 – 15 Years
    Wood Shakes / Shingles15 – 25 Years
    Clay / Terra Cotta Tiles25 Plus Years
    Concrete / Asbestos Cement Tiles25 Plus Years
    Slate Roofing50 Plus Years
    Metal Roofing (flat, standing-seam, corrugated)Indefinite
    Plastic / Fiberglass corrugated panels15 Plus Years
    Glass Panels (sun rooms, etc.)15 Plus Years
    Gutters and Downspouts15 – 20 Years
    HeatingBoiler (Steam / Hydronic)25 – 40 Years
    Forced Air Furnace – Gas / Oil15 – 35 Years
    Forced Air Furnace – Electric15 – 25 Years
    Electric Resistance, Baseboard15 – 25 Years
    CoolingHeat Pump10 – 15 Years
    Central Split System10 – 15 Years
    A/C Compressor10 – 15 Years
    Window A/C Unit10 – 15 Years
    Evaporative (Swamp) Cooler10 – 20 Years
    PlumbingWater Heater – Electric12 – 18 Years
    Water Heater – Gas / Oil10 – 15 Years
    Solid Waste Pump5 – 10 Years
    Sump Pump5 – 8 Years
    Submersible Well Pump10 – 15 Years
    Shallow or Deep Well Jet Pump10 – 15 Years
    Kitchen / AppliancesDishwasher5 – 10 Years
    Garbage Disposal5 – 10 Years
    Cook Top – (Electric / Gas)15 – 20 Years
    Range / Oven15 – 20 Years
    Refrigerator5 – 25 Years
    Trash Compactor5 – 10 Years
    Ventilator / Draft Hood8 – 12 Years
    Washing Machine / Clothes Dryer8 – 12 Years
    MiscellaneousChemical Termite Treatment (subterranean)5 Years
    Fumigation for Drywood Termites2 Years
    Radon Mitigation SystemLife of the fan
  • Why do I need a home inspection on a house that I am having built?

    An inspection on a new home is important for the buyer to level the playing field. As in any job, there are shortcuts and tricks of the trade that someone who is unfamiliar with them can easily miss. A home inspector is better able to see nuances that may not be readily visible to an untrained eye. You also need an inspector to offset the builder’s or contractor’s interest. There is actually quite a lot of information about a home that most people either take for granted or simply don’t know. An inspection of the house before the drywall is installed, otherwise known as a “pre close-in” inspection, provides a level of quality assurance for the buyer that many builders don’t usually provide for their contractors. This inspection gives you a better chance of identifying and correcting potential problems when they are much easier and less expensive to fix, before they become physically or financially prohibitive, such as moving a wall so that kitchen cabinets don’t protrude into a doorway opening, or moving electrical receptacles so they are placed where you need them.

  • Can I store items in my attic?

    Before you store anything in your attic, you need to ensure that the attic framing is designed and capable of supporting the loads you intend to place there. There are basically two methods of construction in the attics of single family dwellings–conventional or stick-framing, and engineered or truss-framing. Conventionally framed roofs consist of rafters or boards that make up the slope of the roof; ceiling joists that make up both the floor of the attic space and the ceiling framing for the floor below; and the ridge board, which provides both an anchoring point and additional support to the tops of the rafters. Conventional roof framing is usually made up of large stock dimensional lumber such as 2×8, 2×10, or 2×12 boards. Trusses are engineered products that are designed and built to combine the rafter, ceiling joist and ridge all into one component, and are usually built of 2×4 lumber secured together using perforated metal plates at all joints. Unless they are specifically designed for carrying the additional load, trusses will not adequately support your stored items. You will experience cracking and damage to the finished ceiling in the floor below, as well as possible structural damage to the trusses themselves. Conventionally framed roofs may be more forgiving, however, a licensed contractor or structural engineer should be consulted before making any modifications to your attic framing. Practically speaking, attics, unless reinforced, well vented, or designed as conditioned space, are generally not an ideal place to store items. Temperatures may vary too much, pests may be involved, and the risk of falling through the ceiling is greatest in the attic. Not to mention the accelerated deterioration heat will have on your paper momentos and Kodak pictures.

  • What are expansive soils? Can they really cause a great amount of damage in a short time?

    Expansive or reactive clay soils are known to cause adverse effects on residential structures. Expansive soil expands and contracts, often times excessively, due to changes in the moisture content of the soil. These changes can cause structural problems through differential movement of the structure. Learn more about expansive soils.

  • What are the problems with negative grading and how do I fix it?

    Grading or slope of the land is important around the home because it will determine which direction surface water will flow. Negative grading is when the surface slopes towards the foundation wall. This can allow surface water to run directly against the wall and potentially seep into the basement or crawlspace. Regrading the area around the foundation walls repairs the majority of the basement water penetration problems. Many problems occur when people install flower gardens or put mulch up against a foundation wall. In order to properly fix a negative grading condition, the top, porous soil must be removed in the affected area and well-compacted, non-porous clay or similar soil must be added and re-graded. The newly added soil around the perimeter of the home should slope away (at a minimum rate of one inch per foot for the first 6 feet) from the house to prevent rainwater from accumulating next to the foundation. Learn more about grading and controlling surface water.

  • What is a failed insulated glass seal and why is it considered a defect?

    An insulated glass seal is a window made up of two or more layers of glass held together in a track or frame. A gasketed channel separates the two pieces of glass, and the space between the panes is filled with a moisture-free, inert gas such as nitrogen. When a gasket fails, the inert gas between the panes escapes to the exterior of the window and regular, moisture-laden air is drawn into the space. This does not greatly affect the insulation value of the window but will affect the visibility through the glass. When this happens, the window will look dirty or foggy and you will not be able to clean it off. This is because the fogged or filmed surface will be between the two panes of glass and not on the outer surfaces. If there is a lot of moisture in the air you will also see condensation on the interior of the window. There is no warning device on a window or door that will indicate when the seal will fail. Most window manufacturers have some kind of warranty that will cover possible seal failures, but the length of time the warranty covers varies. The longer the failed seal is present, coupled with major temperature differences between inside and outside environments, the more obvious the failure will become. Learn more about windows.

  • Can you tell me how to fix the foundation wall?

    Before fixing a foundation wall, you should first determine the problem. There are many possible conditions, ranging from shrinkage or step cracking, which could be repaired by epoxy injections or re-pointing the mortar joints, to major differential settlement that would require costly and involved repairs. A home inspector can identify what the symptoms may indicate and where to start to remedy the problem. If it is something that is in need of a specialist, he/she will be in a better position to make this type of call. Regardless of the degree of the cracking or movement noted, if you are concerned about how to fix or repair the damage, a home inspector may be able to identify what the problem is and what repairs might be needed.

  • How often should I seal my blacktop driveway?

    Ideally, an asphalt driveway should be coated every 2 years. However, with the number of different products on the market for coating driveways, it is best to check with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

  • Why is it important to enter a service agreement for my furnace?

    Murphy’s Law says: “The heat is going to quit on the coldest day of winter, and the air conditioning is going to quit on the hottest day of summer.” One of the greatest benefits of having a service agreement is that you are considered a paying customer. In the event that your heating or cooling quits when you need it most, the paying customer will usually get serviced before the occasional caller is even considered. Another benefit is that there is usually a service or maintenance plan that is included with the agreement. These plans regularly include things like annual maintenance cleaning, charging of the air conditioning system, cleaning of the blower, and filter replacement.

  • What things should I take into consideration when planning to finish my basement?

    If you are thinking of finishing your basement to provide additional living space, you need to take into account every major system that is going to be impacted or modified. These include the electrical system (Is the existing electrical service capable of handling the additional circuits that are going to be installed?); the plumbing (Do you plan on installing an additional bathroom or bar sink?); the heating and air conditioning (all finished/livable rooms need to have a permanent source of heat installed), as well as any possible concerns with water penetration or leakage into the basement.

  • What is a double-tapped circuit?

    Double-tapping, also known as “double-lugging,” is a condition where there is more than one wire conductor terminated in a service panel fuse or circuit breaker. Double-tapping is permissible only if the terminals are identified for that use. Most breakers and fuse connections are designed to hold and handle just a single incoming circuit, although there are some manufacturers, such as Square-D™, that market breakers designed to allow two wires to be securely attached. Any time repairs are performed on or within the electrical system and its components, a licensed electrician should be contacted to make these repairs.

  • How hard is it to upgrade the electric service in my house?

    Upgrading the electric service is an involved procedure that will include one or all of the following: replacement of the service entrance cable; upgrade and possible replacement of the main disconnect panel; installation of an additional branch circuit over current devices (commonly known as fuses and circuit breakers); and rewiring the branch circuit connections at the main disconnect panel. This is a question that you could ask an inspector and receive advice that may help you determine a reasonable plan of action. Anytime repairs are performed on or within the electrical system and its components, a licensed electrician should be contacted to make these repairs.

  • Do you carry errors and omissions insurance?

    Yes, we do!

  • Is the inspector licensed or certified?

    Not all states require home inspectors to be licensed. However, in those states where it is required, our inspectors are licensed. In those states that do not require licensing, all of our employee-inspectors are members of professional trade associations, such as the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) and American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or are in the process of becoming members. Many of our consultants are also trained and nationally licensed to perform radon and termite inspections in their operating areas.

  • How does a home inspection differ from a code inspection?

    A typical buyer’s inspection is an introduction to the house and is focused on informing and educating the client about the property. A code inspector, on the other hand, works for the local municipality and enforces the local and state codes with little or no concern for the buyer’s understanding of these codes. A code inspection does not communicate whether or not the house was well constructed. The general home inspector is usually aware of the local codes, and the inspection and report will consider these codes. However, the scope of a general home inspection is targeted more at providing an informative, detailed and objective evaluation of the house so that the buyer understands the bigger picture of the home that he/she is considering to purchase.