Man measuring ceiling beams. Home inspection.

Home Inspection Checklist: A Beginner's Guide

Home inspections aid in understanding the state of a house. This is useful when buying a house to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Since most buyers will request a home inspection, as a seller a home inspection helps speed up the process. Here’s a general guide about what home inspectors inspect. 

General Home Inspections

A general home inspection covers the interior and exterior structural aspects of the home, along with the plumbing, electricity, and any heating/air condition systems (HVAC). According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), a general inspection should also cover “the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, [and] basement.” 

However, general home inspections are also relatively noninvasive, which means certain aspects of the home may need a specialty inspection. For example, you might consider a chimney part of the homes structural components, but it would not be included in a standard inspection. If you want the chimney inspected, you would need pay extra and/or hire a specialist to make sure it was up to code. 

This guide is based on ASHI’s list of what is to be inspected within those standard aspects of the home, based on the combined standards of ASHI, the National Society of Home Inspectors (NSHI), and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).

What are Inspectors Looking For?

Your home inspector will look over your home and make note of any obvious defects. They will decide if these defects are surface issues that need touching up or if they are indicative of a more serious problem like a sinking foundation. As well, the inspector will often detail if this problem needs to be fixed immediately to make the home sellable, or if it is an issue for the future. 

ASHI’s Specific Inspection Points

The interior structural inspection will include:

  • Doors, door frames, and windows
  • Walls, floors, and ceilings
  • Stairways, stairs, and railings or banisters
  • Countertops, cabinets, and any included appliances
  • Attic or basement
  • Garage doors and door openers
  • Visible wood, beams, or joists

Exterior inspection includes:

  • Window, door, and door frame exterior
  • Trim, flashing, and siding 
  • Decks, balconies, porches, garages, carports, walkways, or driveways
  • Stoops, steps and railings
  • Visible fascia, soffits, and eaves
  • Visible foundation
  • Grading, drainage and retaining walls, and plants
  • Skylights
  • Roof, gutters, downspouts, chimney

Plumbing inspection includes:

  • Water heaters
  • Faucets and fixtures
  • Drains, waste systems, vent systems
  • Water flow, evidence of visible rust, deterioration, or leaking of pipes
  • Toilet, tub/shower caulking
  • Water pump, well water, hot water temperature, 
  • Sewer ejector or sump pump

Electrical inspection includes: 

  • Service drops, grounding, entrance conductors, equipment 
  • Main disconnects
  • Cables and raceways
  • Inside service panels and subpanels
  • Overcurrent protection devices and conductors
  • Light fixtures, receptacles, and switches
  • Circuit interrupters and any other electrical fire hazards
  • Visible wiring

HVAC inspection includes:

  • Thermostats, access panels, 
  • Fireplaces, stoves, flues, or chimneys
  • Vent and exhaust systems
  • Vapor retarders or insulation in unfinished areas of home
  • Distribution system, ductwork
  • Clean air filters  
  • Heating and cooling system functionality 

Additional inspection points:

  • Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms,
  • Crawl spaces
  • Visible insulation

You can check these areas of your home before the inspector arrives to make any potential repairs and avoid multiple inspections. Find ASHI’s Total Home Inspection Checklist here

Specialty Inspections

Depending on where and how old your house is, and what types of bonuses it comes with, you may wish to employ other types of inspectors to ensure you aren’t buying a lot of problems. Additional recommended inspections may include:

  • Mold, wood destroying pests, asbestos, formaldehyde, or toxic lead
  • Radon gas (the EPA recommends all homes be tested for radon gas)
  • Pools or spas
  • Soil and trees 
  • Well and well water 
  • Roof certification or chimney 
  • Foundation 
  • Property size, property boundaries, easements, or encroachments
  • Permit and zoning appropriate