Expectations and Limitations

At HomeWright, we believe that meeting client expectations is the cornerstone of a successful home inspection. Experience has shown us, however, that some clients just don’t know what to expect. With this in mind, we’ve put together this informative article on expectations and limitations that will help you better appreciate what our service can and can not do for you.

Some common misconceptions about home inspections:

1. Will the home inspector will be able to identify problems that are concealed behind building finishes or exist in areas that are either inaccessible or only partially accessible?

A professional home inspection is limited to only visible and readily accessible systems and components in the home. The reason is simple. We are invited guests in someone else’s home, and as such, we are expected to treat the property with respect and leave it in the condition we found it in. We do not have permission to dismantle components or do destructive testing, such as take apart the furnace, knock holes in the drywall, and so on. Nor do we have permission to move personal belongings, clothing, storage items, furniture, carpeting, ceiling tiles, appliances, etc.

2. Will the home inspector will be able to identify problems that occur only sporadically?

Some problems may not reveal themselves during the inspection and therefore may not be detected. Water infiltration tends to be the most common of these types of problems. For example, some types of roof and basement leaks only occur during severe or unusual weather conditions, and it is unrealistic to expect your home inspector to identify this without clear evidence. Prolonged dry weather may eliminate any evidence of roof and/or basement leaks. It is important to understand that both major and minor problems can escape detection, especially when symptoms or clues are absent or concealed.

3. Will the home inspector will be responsible for problems that develop or occur after the inspection?

Your home inspector’s opinions and findings reflect what he or she observed on the day of the inspection only. If the furnace is working during the inspection, it is unrealistic to expect your home inspector to forecast its breakdown. A good analogy is that it is like looking at bald tires on a car. We all know that bald tires run a much higher risk of blowing than new tires, but who can say with any certainty when those tires will blow? They may last another year or two, or they may go flat tomorrow morning. Furthermore, even brand new tires go flat from time to time. The bottom line is that some mechanical systems may operate intermittently, and some may fail to operate altogether. Whether or not you’ll experience this type of problem is anyone’s guess.

4. Will the home inspector pay for any defects or problems that are missed during the inspection?

It is important to understand that a home inspection does not come with guarantees or warranties, and is not an insurance policy of any kind. The primary reason is that there are just too many limitations and restrictions with what we can do as guests in the Seller’s home. Although a home inspection can reduce your risk, it can not eliminate it, nor will your home inspector assume it. If this is a concern to you, Home Warranties are available for those looking for limited protection from potential unexpected problems.

5. Will a home inspection uncover problems with the "inner workings" of mechanical devices or components, such as heat exchangers, compressors, chimney flue interiors, drainage pipe interiors, etc?

In almost all cases, the inner workings of mechanical devices and components can only be accessed by dismantling the system or component, which is beyond the scope of a home inspection. Typically, a specialist is required to perform this type of invasive inspection.

6. Is a home inspection technically exhaustive in nature and will identify every problem with the house and property?

This is simply an unrealistic expectation. Such an inspection would take far longer than a standard home inspection and cost several thousand dollars, not to mention the disruption it would cause to the homeowner. Although a professional home inspection is comprehensive, the reality is that you will likely experience unexpected problems and spend money on repairs not noted in the report.

7. Home Inspectors are experts in every area of building construction and maintenance.

In actuality, home inspectors are generalists rather than specialists, much like your family doctor. When your inspector finds a defect or area of concern, he or she usually will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and repair recommendations.

8. Will a home inspection reveal whether or not underground drainpipes are broken or clogged with tree roots, or determine the likelihood of a sewer backup into the basement?

This type of problem can only be identified by a drain specialist with the proper camera equipment to view the interior of underground drainpipes. If you are concerned about the condition of the underground drainage system, we recommend you engage a drain specialist for further evaluation. The homeowner and/or the municipal works department may have information about past instances of sewer backups.

9. Will a home inspection identify environmental issues, such as the presence of, or danger from, mold, Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI), asbestos, mercury, lead paint and water-supply pipes, underground oil storage tanks, soil contamination, arsenic in pressure-treated lumber, indoor air quality, radon gas, and so on?

In fact, environmental issues are beyond the scope of a home inspection. The only way to identify the presence of mold, asbestos, UFFI, etc. is through laboratory testing. This type of inspection is usually performed by a qualified environmental specialist. Professional home inspectors know better than to offer opinions on issues that are outside their area of expertise and/or beyond the scope of their inspection.

HomeWright Inspections is certified to perform radon testing which is available as an option with a home inspection or as a radon only inspection. Other environmental specialist may be obtained through the yellow pages or you may contact the Environmental protection agency, The Consumer Product safety Commission, or other government agencies, trade associations, or municipal code enforcement officials for more information regarding these issues.

10. Will a home inspection identify building components or systems that do not meet current building codes or zoning?

When you consider that building codes and zoning change every few years, it is unrealistic to expect a house that was built say, in 1970, to conform to current building codes. However, in some instances where safety may be an issue, the inspector may look to the current building codes as a benchmark for what is presently considered safe.

11. Will a home inspection address the presence of, or the absence of wood-boring insects, such as termites or carpenter ants?

Actually, inspecting for wood-boring insects is beyond the scope of a home inspection, but most home inspectors will document any evidence of insect activity they happen to come across. Unfortunately, in many cases, evidence of wood-boring insects is well hidden and only becomes exposed after the existing homeowner moves out and the house is empty. If you are buying a home, it is a good idea to engage a pest control specialist for a wood-boring insect specific inspection.

What We Know For Sure

  1. No house or condo is free of defects.
  2. Sellers sometimes go to great lengths to conceal problems.
  3. You may find opinions that differ from ours.
  4. Your roof may leak if you don’t maintain it, repair damaged or worn areas, and replace it when the roof cover is at or nearing the end of it’s intended service life.
  5. Your basement or crawlspace may leak if you don’t keep your gutters clean and downspouts extended away from the foundation, and maintain proper foundation grading and, adequate site drainage away from the house.
  6. Your tub and /or shower may leak if you don’t maintain the caulking and grout around the tub, shower, faucets, and enclosure.
  7. Mechanical systems may operate intermittently, or fail to operate altogether.
  8. Cold weather can cause water-supply pipes to freeze.
  9. Failure to properly and regularly maintain any system or component will lead to premature failure and costly repairs.

A Final Word

The thing to remember is that at some point these types of problems and situations may eventually occur in almost all houses, new and old. If you are looking for a house that is free of problems and unexpected surprises, you will not find it. To avoid disappointment, your best course of action is to be sure to budget 1% to 3% of the cost of the home for immediate repairs, improvements, and upgrades.


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