Preparing for inspection

The Old House Web

Editor's note: This story is adapted from theU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Residential RehabilitationInspection Guide, 2000. Clickhere for other stories in this series.

bowed wall

The bow in this brick wall resulted from years of water damage to the structural members of the house. A house inspection will reveal such defects, their causes, and possible fixes.
(D. Holmes photo)

Before the inspection

Before visiting the site, check with the local jurisdiction to determine:

  • The site's zoning, setback, height, and building coverage requirements,
  • Grandfathered uses and conditions, proffers, liens, and applicable fire regulations.
  • If the site is in a seismic zone.
  • If the site is in a hurricane or high tornado-risk region.
  • If the site is in a flood plain or other flood-risk zone.
  • If there is any record of hazards in the soil or water on or near the site.

Conducting the on-site inspection

Once at the site, conduct a brief walk-through of the site and the building.Note the property's overall appearance and condition. If it appears to havebeen well maintained, it is far less likely to have serious problems. Note thebuilding's style and period and try to determine when it was built.

Next, examine the quality of the building's design and construction andthat of its neighborhood. There is no substitute for good design and sound,durable construction. Finally, assess the building's functional layout. Does thebuilding "work" or will it have to be significantly altered to make itusable and marketable?

Look for signs of dampness and water damage. Water is usually a building'sbiggest enemy and a dry building will not have problems with wood decay,subterranean termites, or rusted and corroded equipment.

The formal inspection

After completing the initial walk-through, begin the formal inspectionprocess:

  • Inspect the site, building exterior, and building interior
  • Record pertinent information as needed.
  • Inspect the structural, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems
  • Record the size, capacity, and other relevant information about each system or component as needed.

While most inspections consist of observing, measuring, and testing buildingelements that are exposed to view, there are conditions that require the removalof some part of the building to observe, measure, or test otherwise concealedconstruction. Such intrusive inspections require some demolition and should beperformed only with the permission of the owner and by experienced, qualifiedmechanics.

Record general building data and site layouts, elevations, and floor plansfirst. This information will form the basis for later rehabilitation decisions.Then record the size, capacity, and condition/needed repairs information foreach building component. This will highlight what needs to be repaired orreplaced. The inspection may be completed in one visit or over several visits,depending on the property's condition, the weather, problems of access, andthe need for testing or expert help.

Click here for sample inspection forms on:

Site inspection ~~Building exterior ~~ Building interior ~~ Structural system ~~ Electrical system ~~ Plumbing system ~~ HVAC system

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