InterNACHI South Africa

Understanding the Residential Standards of Practice

InterNACHI South Africa’s Standards of Practice are minimum guidelines that define what must be inspected by our members. These Standards are typically exceeded, and this is encouraged.

Information listed below in blue font indicates glossary terms. Explanations of the various clauses is given in green font.

These Standards are a minimum guideline and may be exceeded at the inspector’s discretion.

  1. DEFINITIONS and SCOPE
    1. A General Home Inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of a residential dwelling, performed for a fee, which is designed to identify observed material defects in home systems and their major components, and safety hazards within said dwelling.  Components may include any combination of mechanical, structural, electrical, plumbing, or other essential systems or portions of the home, as identified and agreed to by the Client and Inspector, prior to the inspection process.
      1. The inspection is based on observations of the visible and apparent condition of the home systems and their major components at the time of the inspection, and does not include the prediction of future conditions.
      2. A home inspection will not reveal every concern that exists or ever could exist, but only those material defects observed on the day of the inspection.
      3. A home inspection can include a survey and/or analysis of energy flows and usage in a residential property if agreed to by the inspector and client.

 

  • General Home Inspection: the process by which an inspector visually examines the readily accessible systems and components of a residential property and operates those systems and components utilizing these Standards of Practice as a guideline.
  • inspect: to examine readily accessible systems and components safely, using normal operating controls, and accessing readily accessible areas, in accordance with these Standards of Practice.
  • Component: a permanently installed or attached fixture, element or part of a system.

 

A “non-invasive, visual examination” means that home inspectors are not required to damage, dismantle or remove materials or components, and that the inspection is limited to only those portions of the dwelling that are visible without taking invasive measures or entering areas that are unsafe.

An inspection report is intended to reflect the observed condition of the subject property only as it existed at the time of the inspection.

Any such energy survey or analysis would be an ancillary inspection and not required by the InterNACHI South Africa Standards of Practice.

  • Material Defect:  a condition of a residential real property or any portion of it, with the potential to have a significant adverse impact on the value of the real property or that involves an unreasonable risk to people on the property. The fact that a structural element, system or subsystem is near, at or beyond the end of its normal useful life is not, by itself, a material defect.

Failure through the natural aging process is not a material defect. In other words, natural aging causes deterioration, but not a defective condition. Premature failure is a material defect. Failure that can affect other systems is a material defect.  An old roof-covering material that allows leakage is an example. The deterioration of the roof-covering material is not a material failure, but is natural aging, however the leak may damage other portions of the home structure would be a material defect.

B. The General Home Inspection shall result in an inspection report, which shall identify and describe, in written format, the inspected systems, structures and components of the dwelling, and shall identify material defects observed. Inspection reports may contain recommendations regarding conditions reported or recommendations for correction, monitoring or further evaluation by professionals, but this is not required.

  • report: a written communication (possibly including digital images) of any material defects observed during the inspection.

The written inspection report must identify all the inspected systems and components. Simply listing defects and not mentioning inspected items that are in satisfactory condition is not acceptable.

II. LIMITATIONS, EXCEPTIONS, and EXCLUSIONS

A. Limitations

    1. An inspection is not technically exhaustive.
    2. An inspection does not include the use of invasive measures.
    3. An inspection will not identify concealed or latent defects.
    4. An inspection will not deal with aesthetic concerns or what could be deemed matters of taste, cosmetic defects etc.
    5. An inspection will not determine the suitability of the property for any use.
    6. An inspection does not determine the market value of the property or its marketability.
    7. An inspection does not determine the insurability of the property.
    8. An inspection does not determine the advisability or inadvisability of the purchase of the inspected property.
    9. An inspection does not determine the life expectancy of the property or any components or systems therein.
    10. An inspection does not include items not permanently installed.
    11. These Standards of Practice apply only to structures containing four or fewer physically connected dwelling units.

4.41. technically exhaustive:  a comprehensive and detailed examination beyond the scope of a real estate home inspection that would involve or include, but would not be limited to: dismantling, specialized knowledge or training, special equipment, measurements, calculations, testing, research, analysis, or other means.

An example of a technically exhaustive inspection is one in which a contractor would dismantle a an appliance in order to determine the condition of components that are otherwise not readily visible.

4.27  Invasive measures are intentional actions that result in damage to systems, components or materials.

An  example of an invasive measure is one in which walls are cut open to determine the condition of plumbing connections or the presence of mold.

4.28 A latent defect is a fault in the property that could not have been discovered by a reasonably thorough inspection before the sale.

Examples of latent defects are:

  • mold hidden inside a wall cavity
  • damaged wire insulation inside a ceiling light fixture that represented a potential fire hazard.

 

The life expectancy of a system or component can be affected by many factors including:

  • System or component quality;
  • Installation quality;
  • Quality of maintenance;
  • Manner of use;
  • Climate zone in which the home is located; and
  • Homesite conditions

Because the lifespan of identical products can vary widely depending on differences in the factors listed above, inspectors can easily be wrong in their estimate of lifespans. For this reason it is recommended that inspectors not offer opinions as to the lifespan of systems and components.

B. Exceptions and Exclusions

    1. The inspector is not required to inspect:
      1. Electrical systems including:
      2. service cables;
      3. meters;
      4. switchboards or their components;
      5. branch wiring; or
      6. hidden electrical components:
        1. low-voltage electrical systems such as, but not limited to:
        2. phone lines;
        3. cable lines;
        4. antennae;
        5. lights; or
        6. remote controls.
      7. Landscaping, including:
        1. condition or placement of flora;
        2. any landscape irrigation systems;
      8. Fire suppression systems
      9. Natural gas or Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) systems including:
        1. storage tanks and components;
        2. distribution or supply pipes, fittings or controls;  or
        3. gas-fired appliances.

Although inspectors are not allowed to inspect gas or electrical systems they are encouraged, but not required, to describe and/or include photographs of the primary gas and electrical shut off valve/switch locations.

    1. The inspector is not required to determine:
      1. Property boundary lines or encroachments.
      2. The condition of any component or system that is not readily accessible.
      3. The condition of any system or component buried underground
      4. The condition of any system or component that is not readily visible
      5. Soil composition or its adequacy for any purpose including building
      6. The service life expectancy of any component or system.
      7. The size, capacity, BTU, performance or efficiency of any component or system.
      8. The cause of, or reason for, any condition.
      9. The cause for the need of repair or replacement of any system or component.
      10. Future conditions.
      11. Compliance with any codes or regulations.
      12. The presence of evidence of infestations by rodents, animals, or wood-destroying insects.
      13. The presence, levels or species of mould fungi
      14. The presence of airborne hazards.
      15. The presence of toxic materials or materials that may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
      16. The presence of unwanted birds, insects, reptiles or mammals.
      17. The presence of pathogenic microbes
      18. The presence of other flora or fauna.
      19. The outdoor or indoor air quality.
      20. The presence of asbestos.
      21. The presence of environmental hazards.
      22. The presence of electromagnetic fields.
      23. The presence of hazardous materials including, but not limited to, the presence of lead in paint.
      24. Any hazardous waste conditions.
      25. Any manufacturers’ recalls or conformance with manufacturer installation, or any information included for consumer protection purposes.
      26. The acoustical properties of any systems.

Although an inspector may suspect that problems exist in one or more of the areas listed above, confirmation may require expertise that lies beyond that required of a home inspector, may require special equipment not normally used in performing a General Home Inspection, may require laboratory testing, or may require time not allowed for in a home inspection fee. Those home inspectors with the appropriate qualifications may offer such inspections as an ancillary inspections, but are not required by the Standards of Practice to identify these problems as part of a General Home Inspection.

The goal in home inspector qualification is not that inspectors must be experts in every home system and component, equal in knowledge to a specialist such as a contractor. Given the huge number of systems and components in each home system, this would be impossible, since staying current in a single home system is often a full time job.  Instead, the goal is that qualified home inspectors be generalists with enough expertise in each home system to recognize conditions that should be corrected or further evaluated by a specialist.

    1. The inspector is not required to provide estimates for:
      1.  the cost to operate or maintain any given system
      2. The cost to correct or repair any defective condition

The cost to operate or maintain a given system can vary widely depending on factors such as system and component quality, design, installation, use, climate and homesite conditions. Estimating such costs often requires specialist and sometimes local expertise, and exceeds the scope of a general home inspection.

The cost to correct or repair a defect not only requires specialist knowledge, but these costs can differ by area and among specialists such as contractors, and may change with the economic climate,so for these reasons providing any such estimate exceeds the scope of a general home inspection. In addition, in order to avoid a conflict of interest, InterNACHI South Africa members are prohibited by the InterNACHI South Africa Code of Ethics from offering to correct or repair any defect they identify during an inspection for a period of one year from the date of that inspection.

    1. The inspector is not required to operate:
      1. Any system that is shut down.
      2. Any system that does not function properly
      3. Any system that does not turn on with the use of normal operating controls.
      4. Any shut-off valves or manual stop valves.
      5. Any electrical disconnect or over-current protection devices.
      6. Any alarm systems.
      7. Moisture meters,  thermal imaging (infrared) cameras, combustible gas detectors, carbon monoxide analyzers, or similar equipment.
    2. The inspector is not required to:
      1.  move any personal items or other obstructions, such as, but not limited to:
        1. floor or wall coverings
        2. throw rugs
        3. ceiling tiles;
        4. window coverings;
        5. equipment;
        6. plants;
        7. ice;
        8. debris;
        9. snow;
        10. water;
        11. dirt;
        12. foliage; or
        13. pets.
      2. Dismantle, open or uncover any system or components
      3. Enter or access any area that may, in the opinion of the inspector, be unsafe or not readily accessible.
      4. Inspect underground items such as, but not limited to, underground storage tanks or indications of their presence, whether abandoned or actively used.
      5. Inspect decorative items
      6. Inspect common elements or areas in multi-unit housing.
      7. Inspect intercoms, speaker systems,  security devices, or landscape irrigation systems.
      8. Inspect on any system or component which is not included in these Standards.
      9. Offer guarantees or warranties.
      10. Offer or perform any engineering services.
      11. Offer or perform any trade or professional service other than home inspection.
      12. Research the history of the property; report on its potential for alteration, modification, extendibility or suitability for a specific or proposed use for occupancy.
      13. Determine the age of construction or installation of any system structure or component of a building, or differentiate between original construction and subsequent additions, improvements, renovations or replacements.
      14. Determine the insurability of a property.
      15. Do anything which, in the inspector’s opinion, is likely to be unsafe or dangerous to the inspector or others, or damage property, such as, but not limited to: walking on roof surfaces, climbing ladders, entering attic spaces, or negotiating with pets.

1.1 When, during an inspection an inspector encounters an electrical breaker or primary water valve that is shut down, that inspector has no way of knowing why that breaker or valve is shut off.  A problem may exist with the distribution system controlled by that switch or valve that may not be readily visible or apparent, and activating the switch or valve may ignite an electrical fire or cause flooding of the home.
For this reason it is recommended that inspectors not activate electrical breakers or main plumbing valves that they find closed. Those who ignore this recommendation risk burning down the home or flooding it, both of which have happened in the past when this recommendation was ignored.

1.2 – 1.5 For similar reasons, inspectors should not operate systems that do not appear to be functioning correctly, or operate systems by bypassing normal controls.

1.6 Alarms and home security systems are a specialist inspection.

1.7 Although home inspectors are not required to use moisture meters, many do. The advantage of using a moisture meter is that it allows inspectors to identify the presence of elevated moisture levels in materials before the moisture becomes visible. Those that don’t perform a visual inspection for moisture problems. The same is true for thermal imaging cameras. Although they may provide extended capability, their use is not mandated by the Standards of Practice. Other advanced detection instruments are also included in this clause.
2.1 Inspectors sometimes inspect homes containing extremely expensive, fragile furniture, the moving of which entails great liability. Inspectors cannot reasonably be expected assume this liability for the same inspection fee that they would charge for the inspection of a typical home.  Inspectors may also find rooms packed with moving boxes or large amounts of the occupant’s belongings, the moving of which would not be included in the inspector’s fee structure. Limitations related to time and fee structure extend to other areas also.

2.2 Inspectors are not required to dismantle equipment to determine its condition. The General Home Inspection is a visual inspection only.

2.3 InterNACHI South Africa does not require its members to enter areas deemed unsafe by the inspector. Because ability and agility varies among inspectors, determining what conditions are unsafe is left to the discretion of individual inspectors.

2.4 The General Home Inspection is a visual inspection and so does not include underground components.

2.5 The purpose of the General Home Inspection is to identify defective or potentially defective conditions, the identification of which requires some expertise, not to identify cosmetic problems apparent to the average person.

2.6 Home inspectors work for a particular client, and are not responsible for inspecting areas shared in common, for instance, by a series of flats.

2.7 Inspection of intercoms, speaker systems,  security devices, landscape irrigation systems, etc. is a specialist inspection. General Home Inspections are designed to evaluate the condition of common, fundamental home systems and their accessible components.

2.9 The General Home Inspection is designed to be a reflection of the condition of the visible and safely, readily accessible portions of the home at the time of the inspection. It does not represent a guarantee or warranty of the future condition of the property, its systems or components. Some inspectors may choose to offer home warranties, but they are a separate device from a General Home Inspection.

2.12  Researching information related to the history of a property is not included in the fee structure of a home inspection, and offering an opinion as to its suitability for alteration, modification or for a specific purpose can require specific expertise and lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection.

2.13 Although inspectors may point out items that can affect the insurability of a home, they are not required to determine the degree to which it is insurable.

 

A. Roof

  1. The inspector shall inspect from ground level or eaves, and report on the condition of:
    1. the primary roof-covering material;
    2. the gutters;
    3. the downspouts;
    4. the vents, flashing, skylights, chimney and other roof penetrations; and
    5. The general structure of the roof

Although the Standards of Practice (SOPs) require inspectors to inspect the roof, how this is accomplished can vary among inspectors; many inspectors never walk roofs. Inspectors may choose to walk roofs for a couple of reasons. They may feel that it gives them a business edge in a competitive market against their competition who do not walk roofs.

Inspectors who feel comfortable walking roofs typically feel that they are less likely to miss defective conditions than those who don’t, and they are generally correct, especially on roofs with portions that cannot be seen from the ground, from a ladder leaned against the roof eve, or from a window. However, some roofs are simply too steep, too slippery, or too fragile to walk without special equipment. These roofs require the services of a qualified contractor to inspect adequately. On these roofs, the home inspector should disclaim those portions of the roof he/she cannot inspect safely or without damaging the roof-covering material, and recommend that they be inspected by a qualified contractor.

Close examination of the roof-covering materials helps to identify the type of material used, and makes it easier to evaluate their condition.

The roof drainage system is important because it helps to protect the home foundation. If the soil that forms the structure foundation becomes saturated by water from roof runoff, its ability to support the weight of the structure above can be reduced.

Roof penetrations like vents, skylights and chimneys are basically holes designed into the roof, protected by components made of materials that will eventually fail and allow leakage- like metal flashing. Areas where the plane of the roof changes direction, like hips, valleys, headwalls, sidewalls, and ridges, are also weak points in the roof covering materials.

An inspector may be able to see problems with the roof structure from the home exterior. Some problems, like sagging of the ridge or rafters, may be easier to see from a distance. Other problems, like damaged or poorly constructed framing may be easier to see from the roofspace. Typically, problems with the roof structure will be visible from a distance and the cause of the problems, like damaged, decayed, or poorly designed or constructed framing, will be visible from a closer viewpoint like the roofspace.

The Workcover Act  adopted by the jurisdiction in which an inspector works may or may not limit the conditions under which an inspector may walk a roof, for instance the version adopted by New South Wales “applies to the planning, preparation, and conduct of work for the installation, maintenance and removal of roof coverings and the movement of persons working on roofs of residential buildings.” Strictly interpreted, this would not apply to home inspectors since they are not performing installation, maintenance or other work on a roof, but more important is how the act is interpreted by those responsible for enforcing it. Inspectors wishing to walk roofs should take the time to learn about possible restrictions due to local regulations.

 

    1. The inspector is not required to:
      1. Walk on any pitched roof surface.
      2. Walk on any roof areas that appear, in the opinion of the inspector, to be unsafe.
      3. Walk on any roof areas if it might, in the opinion of the inspector, cause damage.
      4. Inspect underground roof drainage pipes.
      5. Inspect antennae, lightning arresters, de-icing equipment, or similar attachments.Identify the composition of the roof covering material
      6. Predict the service life expectancy.
      7. Remove snow, ice, debris or other conditions that prohibit the observation of the roof surfaces.
      8. Move insulation.
      9. Perform a water test.
      10. Warrant or certify the roof.
      11. Confirm proper fastening.

Underground roof drainage pipes fall into the “If you can’t see it, you can’t report it” category. Underground drainage systems can fail due to blockages from accumulation of silt, root systems, or collapsed pipes.

Inspecting antennae, satellite dishes, and similar items is not required, but a competent inspector will check their attachment points if they penetrate the roof-covering material.

Predicting the life expectancy of roof-covering materials with any accuracy is difficult, since lifespan is affected by many factors, such as the design and quality of the materials, installation, and maintenance, and the environment in which they are installed. It becomes even more difficult with roof-covering materials that have relatively long lifespans, such as tile. Inspectors are better off declining to make lifespan predictions of roof-covering materials.

Inspectors should be sure to make it very clear to clients that the inspection of the roof does not constitute a warranty or certification against leakage. Language to this affect should be in both the contract and inspection report.

 

B. EXTERIOR

  1. The inspector shall inspect:
    1. describe, and report on the condition of the exterior wall covering.
    2. and report on the condition of the siding, flashing and trim;
    3. and report on the condition of all door and window exteriors, decks, stoops, steps, stairs, porches, handrail assemblies and guardrails, eaves, soffits and fascias;
    4. and report on the condition of the vegetation, surface drainage, and retaining walls when these are likely to adversely affect the structure; and
    5. and report as non-compliant with modern safety standards any spacing between intermediate balusters, spindles and rails for steps, stairways, balconies and railings that permit the passage of an object greater than 125 mm in diameter;
    6. and report on the presence of a visible damp course.

Many inspectors start with a walk around the structure, viewing the roof and wall exteriors on each side first by stepping back to view the exterior from further away, and then stepping closer to examine components more closely. Depending on the reporting system used, an inspector may record information by taking notes, marking a checklist, entering information into a portable electronic device, talking into a voice recorder, or taking photographs.

An inspection report should identify the type and materials of the home’s exterior systems and major, visible components. Although it’s not required by the Standards of Practice, whenever possible, the report should identify the exterior wall structure type, for example double-wythe brick or framed walls with brick veneer. This is not mandatory because with some structural systems, this can be difficult since the wall structure is hidden behind interior and exterior wall coverings.

  1. The inspector is not required to:
    1. Evaluate trees or landscaping
    2. Inspect or operate screens, storm windows, shutters, awnings, or exterior accent lighting.
    3. Inspect fences or outbuildings,
    4. Inspect items, including window and door flashing that are not visible or readily accessible from the ground.
    5. Inspect recreational facilities or playground equipment.
    6. Inspect seawalls or docks.
    7. Inspect erosion-control or earth-stabilization measures.
    8. Inspect for safety-type glass.
    9. Inspect underground utilities.
    10. Inspect underground items.
    11. Inspect components of private water supply (bore) or springs.
    12. Inspect solar, wind or geothermal systems.
    13. Inspect swimming pools or spas.
    14. Inspect components of private onsite wastewater (septic) systems
    15. Inspect landscape irrigation systems.
    16. Inspect drain fields or dry wells.
    17. Determine the integrity of the thermal window seals or damaged glass.
    18. Identify geological, geotechnical, hydrological or soil conditions.

Although evaluating trees and landscaping is not mandatory according to the Standards of Practice, most inspectors will include in the report comments about trees that may pose a threat, such as mature trees with large branches that overhang the yard or structure. The proper recommendations is evaluation by a qualified arborist.

Inspectors should make clients aware that outbuildings, such as detached garages or barns, are not considered part of a General Home Inspection, but may be included in the inspection by agreement between the inspector and client, typically for an additional fee.

In homes with private water supply (bore) and  private onsite sewage treatment (septic) systems, the inspector should recommend that these items be inspected by a qualified contractor, since they can be very expensive to repair or replace. Specially-qualified inspectors may perform inspections of either of these, but they would be ancillary inspections, not part of a General Home Inspection. This is also true of the other items 1 through 18 listed above.

Regardless of whether it is a component required to be included in the inspection report by the Standards of Practice, any conditions that pose an immediate threat or safety hazard should be commented on in the report, and the client, seller, real estate agent(s) and occupants immediately notified verbally if possible, or electronically.

 

C . CELLAR and UNDER-FLOOR SPACES, & STRUCTURE

  1. The inspector shall inspect:
  2. the cellar and any under-floor spaces;
  3. and report on the location of under-floor access openings;
  4. and report on any condition that may represent a structural or safety concern;
  5. and report any present condition or clear indications of past moisture intrusion or leakage;
  6. and report any general indications of foundation movement, such as, but not limited to: cracks in interior or exterior wall coverings or concrete foundations, out-of-square door frames, or sloped floors.

Cellars and under-floor spaces are good places to see the under-structure of the home. Foundation movement and moisture problems such as seepage, rising groundwater, or leaking plumbing fittings may first become visible in these areas. These areas can also offer a good view of the floor structure. Look carefully for framing that has been cut or improperly notched to make life easier for a tradesman installing pipes or ductwork, and for support posts that are failing due to decay or poor workmanship.

  1. The inspector is not required to:
    1. Enter any under-floor areas that are not readily accessible or where entry could cause damage or pose a hazard to the inspector.
    2. Move stored items or debris.
    3. Operate sump pumps with inaccessible floats.
    4. Identify improper size, spacing, span, location or determine adequacy of foundation bolting, bracing, joists, joist spans or support systems.
    5. Provide any engineering or architectural service.
    6. Report on the adequacy of any structural system or component.

Your evaluation is based on observed conditions. Always report the facts as you have visually observed them; do not offer opinions or speculation. No one knows it all, so don’t hesitate to say so if you find conditions that are beyond your ability to evaluate. When in doubt regarding a structural (or any other) issue, defer further evaluation to a qualified contractor or a structural engineer.

Although not required to by the Standards of Practice, most inspectors will move some items in order to gain access to under-floor areas.

When evaluating structural components, rather than commenting on the adequacy of structural components, or identifying improper spacing, overspan,  or component size, which would require knowledge of engineering tables, inspectors should concentrate on identifying failing structural components.

 

D. HEATING

    1. The inspector shall inspect:
      1. identify the type of heating system installed
      2. identify the type of fuel used by the home heating system
      3. operate the heating system, using normal operating controls;
      4. report as in need of repair heating systems that do not respond to the controls;
      5. report if the heating systems are deemed inaccessible.

The heating system should be operating using normal controls. Inspectors may occasionally encounter electronic thermostats with which they are not familiar. Under these circumstances, the inspector should disclaim the heating system and recommend inspection by a qualified contractor. An inspector may be tempted to bypass or “overide” the thermostat by making direct electrical connections at the control board. This can result in damage to the control board for which the inspector will likely be found liable.The temptation to overide the thermostat should be resisted.

If the heating system has somehow been rendered inaccessible, the inspector should disclaim the heating system and recommend inspection by a qualified contractor.

    1. The inspector is not required to:
      1. Inspect or evaluate the interior of flues or chimneys, fire chambers, heat exchangers, combustion air systems, fresh air intakes, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, electronic air filters, geothermal systems, or solar heating systems.
      2. Inspect fuel tanks or underground or concealed fuel supply systems.
      3. Determine the uniformity, temperature, flow, balance, distribution, size, capacity, BTU, or supply adequacy of the heating system.
      4. Light or ignite pilot flames.
      5. Activate heating, heat pump systems or other heating systems when ambient temperatures or other circumstances are not conducive to safe operation or may damage the equipment.
      6. Override electronic thermostats.
      7. Evaluate fuel quality.
      8. Verify thermostat calibration, heat anticipation, or automatic setbacks, timers, programs or clocks.

Inspection of the heating system involves commenting on its operability and identifying the fuel source and heating method. Nothing else is required. Those inspectors who are qualified may wish to provide additional services.

It is recommended that inspectors not light pilot lights. If the pilot fails to light, but gas continues to flow, a dangerous condition may develop for which the inspector, as the person who initiated the condition by operating the valve, will bear responsibility.

Some systems can be damaged through improper operation. Do not operate any heating system you are not familiar with, instead, disclaim the heating system and recommend inspection by a qualified contractor.

 

E. FIREPLACE

  1. The inspector shall inspect:
    1. and report on the condition of the fireplace, including the:
      1. firebox
      2. proper operation of the damper, if readily accessible;
      3. the condition of the hearth; and
      4.  for adequate clearance from the firebox to combustibles.

The firebox should be examined for damaged or missing firebrick.

Wood-burning fireplaces should have operable dampers. The dampers of gas-burning fireplaces should not be closable. A closed damper would divert the toxic exhaust products of combustion into the living space, but since this exhaust is not easily visible, the occupants might be unaware of this dangerous condition.

The hearth and non-combustible materials on the face of the firebox near the firebox opening are safety features that should be commented on if they are inadequate.

  1. The inspector is not required to:
    1. Inspect the flue or vent system.
    2. Inspect the interior of chimneys or flues, fire doors or screens, seals or gaskets, or mantels.
    3. Determine the need for a chimney sweep.
    4. Operate gas fireplace inserts.
    5. Light pilot flames.
    6. Determine the appropriateness of any installation.
    7. Inspect automatic fuel-feed devices.
    8. Inspect combustion and/or make-up air devices.
    9. Inspect heat-distribution devices, whether gravity-controlled or fan-assisted.
    10. Ignite or extinguish fires.
    11. Determine the adequacy of drafts or draft characteristics.
    12. Move fireplace inserts or firebox contents.
    13. Perform a smoke test.
    14. Dismantle or remove any component.

The Standards of Practice do not require inspectors to examine the interior of fireplace exhaust flues, since fireplace flues sometimes cannot be examined without dismantling components. Over time, wood-burning fireplaces accumulate a flammable residue called creosote. If allowed to accumulate, creosote can ignite, causing a chimney fire that can ignite nearby combustible materials. If an inspector suspects that a chimney might need cleaning, he/she should recommend the services of a qualified chimney sweep. This is an alternative, not a requirement of the Standards of Practice.

Under no circumstances should an inspector ignite a wood fire in a fireplace in order to test it. If a fire is burning in the fireplace at the time of the inspection, then the firebox is not accessible for inspection and should be disclaimed.

Determining the overall safety and efficiency of the fireplace is beyond the scope of the Standards of Practice (and the ability of most home inspectors). If it is known that a client intends to use a fireplace, recommend that it be fully evaluated by a qualified professional.

 

F. COOLING

 

  1. The inspector shall:
    1. Identify the type of cooling system installed;
    2. Operate the cooling equipment using normal operating controls.

The inspector should identify the type of cooling system. Common types are split systems with the evaporator coils located inside the structure and the condenser unit located outside, and evaporative coolers which use no refrigerants, but cool air by passing it through a damp medium.

As is the case with heating units, cooling systems should be operated using only their normal controls.

Most inspectors perform their visual inspection of the cooling system by evaluating the components located outdoors, such as the condenser cabinet, refrigerant lines, and electrical disconnect. Inside the home, they inspect  the evaporator cabinet exterior and condensate drain lines.

 

  1. The inspector is not required to:
    1. Determine the uniformity, temperature, flow, balance, distribution, size, capacity, BTU, or supply adequacy of the cooling system.
    2. Determine proper condition of  electrical current, coolant fluids or gases, or presence of coolant leakage.
    3. Inspect window-mounted air conditioning units.
    4. Operate equipment or systems if the exterior temperature is below 18 degrees Celsius, or when other circumstances are not conducive to safe operation or may damage the equipment.
    5. Inspect or determine thermostat calibration, cooling anticipation, or automatic setbacks or clocks.

Inspection of the cooling system is limited to confirming adequate response to the controls.

The effectiveness of a cooling system can vary with the size of the cooling system in relation to the living space, with the design and condition of the cooling system, and with the design of the home. Confirming system adequacy in every home would require knowledge and performance of calculations that exceed the scope of the General Home Inspection.

Although the inspection report will comment on response to the controls,inspectors typically recommend service by a qualified contractor if the cooling system has not been operated recently, if it is older, or if it exhibits unusual noise or vibration.

Operating cooling equipment when the outside temperature is below a certain level can damage the condenser.

Window-mounted cooling systems are not considered to be permanently installed components, and so their inspection lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection.

G. PLUMBING

  1. The inspector shall:
    1. identify the water supply as public or private;
    2. inspect the water distribution system, including:
      1. identifying the location of the main water shut-off valve and it’s visible condition;
      2. visible distribution pipes, and identify as a potential health hazard any lead water supply pipes;
      3. all taps, fixtures and faucets for proper installation, operation and condition;
      4. water supply functional flow;
      5. the condition and proper operation of mechanical drain stops in sinks and tubs;
      6. plumbing fixtures for functional drainage.
    3. inspect the accessible, visible, drain, waste, and vent systems for functional drainage, operation and configuration;
    4. inspect the geyser, including:
      1.  venting;
      2. distribution pipe connections;
      3. identification of the energy source; and
      4. verification of the presence or absence of temperature-pressure relief (TPR) valves and properly terminated TPR discharge pipe;
    5. inspect and test accessible sump pumps;
    6. Inspect, flush and report as in need of repair toilets that:
      1. have loose tanks, or are loose at the floor;
      2. have cracks in the ceramic material;
      3. leak; or
      4. have tank components that do not operate as designed; and
    7. describe any visible fuel-storage systems.

Inspection of gas fuel systems lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection. These systems must be inspected by a qualified specialist. Although the inspection of gas fuel lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection, inspectors should identify the location of the primary gas shut-off valve.

1.a. Inspectors should determine whether the water supply is from a private well (bore) or a public supply.  An inspector may recommend water testing of a private water source to determine the quality or safety of the supply if there is some reason to suspect contamination. One such reason would be the location of a bore too close to septic system components.

 

Water to the home must be turned on for the inspector to perform a full inspection. If water to the home is turned off, it should never be turned on by an inspector. Broken pipes that can cause damage from flooding may not be visible. Inspectors will be asked to turn on water systems that are off when you arrive at the inspection. As an inspector, explain that you must refuse any such request for reasons of liability and advise . Inspectors should ask at the time they book the inspection whether the utilities are on, and if the water is turned off, request that it be turned on by a qualified plumbing contractor.  For similar reasons, inspectors should never activate electrical or gas systems that are shut down.

1.b  In examining primary water and gas shut-off valves, inspectors will be looking for and commenting on levels of visible corrosion that may affect valve functionality. It is recommended that inspectors not operate primary shut-off valves, since, as they’re seldom used, they tend to leak when operated.  This is especially true with gas valves. A dangerous condition can develop quickly if a leaking primary gas shut-off valve is located inside the home.When identifying the primary shut-off valves for water and gas many inspectors affix a tag to the valve. This allows the occupant to locate it more easily during an emergency, and since the tags can include the inspector’s contact information, it’s a good marketing practice.

1.c In many homes, the majority of the water distribution pipes will not be visible. Inspectors should disclaim the condition of water distribution pipes that are not visible. Inspectors will inspect those pipes that are visible for leakage, damage, proper installation, and/or corrosion. Inspection of water distribution systems includes operating all plumbing fixture valves, including hot and cold water at sinks, tubs, and showers, and the flushing of all toilets.

The inspector should be generous in running water at all the taps , checking for both functional flow and functional drainage, and operable sink stoppers. The inspection report should comment on fixtures that are slow to drain, and the recommendation should be evaluation and any necessary repairs be made by a qualified plumbing contractor.

With sinks having an overflow device, check to see if the overflow channel for corrosion that may allow it to leak. When facing sink, tub, or shower valves, the hot water valve should always be on the left. Always check the under-sink plumbing for a proper bend. The same is true for the kitchen, laundry, and any other drains requiring a bend.

1.d Inspection of the drain, waste and vent system includes checking for functional drainage at all fixtures, and for blockages or inadequate waste/drain pipe ventilation that could cause a siphon to develop.

1.e The geyser combustion exhaust vent should have a draft diverter where the flue attaches to the top of the heater. The flue should have adequate minimum slope and proper clearance from combustibles. If the flue is too long or has too many bends or other restrictions, corrosion from condensation may be visible, should be reported, and evaluation and correction by a qualified contractor recommended.

Both gas-fired and electric geysers must have a temperature/pressure relieve (TPR) valve with a properly-terminated discharge pipe attached.  It is recommended that inspectors not operate TPR valves, since they often leak after activation. Failure to activate is rare and the primary cause is corrosion, so any visible corrosion of the TPR valve should be reported and replacement by a qualified contractor recommended. Geysers that are shut down should be left that way and disclaimed.

With gas-fired geysers that don’t have sealed burn chambers, excessive amounts of rust scales accumulated on the floor of the chamber can indicate advanced corrosion of the tank. Do not open sealed burn chambers.

Do not give expected remaining lifespan estimates for geysers. Do record the serial numbers. The easiest way is usually to photograph the data plate. Sellers have been known to return after the inspection is complete and replace a new geyser with an old one. The date of manufacture is typically encoded in the serial number and although it is not required by the Standards, supplying the client with the date of manufacture may allow them to anticipate the need for replacement if the water heater is past its warranty date.

1.g Toilets that leak at the flange connection to the floor can weaken the hardware connection that anchors the toilet to the floor, especially when attached to wood floors, which can be weakened by decay caused by leakage. The easy way to test for a loose toilet connection to the floor is to grab the tank with your hands and the bowl with your knees and try to rock the toilet from side to side. Check that the connection of the water tank to the bowl is not loose. Leakage of water from the tank to the bowl can be detected through the use of inexpensive dye tablets, although identifying tank leakage is not required by the Standards. Flush all toilets. Especially in a home with a bore, inspectors should check to ensure that all toilets have stopped running before they leave the home. A toilet that runs continuously can burn out the bore pump motor.

1.h Fuel tanks such as those used to store liquid petroleum gas (LPG) should be described in the inspection report. If the tank or it’s visible components exhibit excessive levels of corrosion, the inspector should recommend inspection by a qualified contractor.

 

  1. The inspector is not required to :
    1. Inspect:
      1. the interior of flues or chimneys;
      2. water softener or filtering systems;
      3. bore pumps or tanks;
      4. floor drains;
      5. landscape irrigation systems; or
      6. fire suppression systems.
    2. inspect, test or evaluate private onsite wastewater and sewage treatment (septic) systems or their components.
    3. Inspect, test or evaluate the condition performance of any private water supply (bore) or springs or related equipment
    4. Inspect storage or distribution components for natural gas or Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG).
    5.  Inspect any underground or concealed fuel supply systems.
    6. Inspect or evaluate water treatment systems or water filters.
    7. Inspect water storage tanks, pressure pumps or bladder tanks.
    8. Inspect, test or evaluate ancillary systems or components, such as, but not limited to, those related to:
      1. solar water heating; or
      2. hot water re-circulation.
    9. Inspect clothes washing machines or their connections.
    10. inspect natural gas, LPG or any other type of fuel storage tanks.
    11. Determine the age, life expectancy, temperature or size adequacy of the water heater.
    12. Determine with accuracy the flow rate, volume, pressure, temperature or adequacy of the water supply.
    13. Determine the water quality, potability or reliability of the water supply or source.
    14. Determine the presence or effectiveness of anti-siphon, back-flow prevention or drain-stop devices.
    15. Determine whether there are sufficient cleanouts for effective cleaning of drain pipes.
    16. Determine the adequacy of combustion air supply;
    17. Evaluate for any compliance with local, territorial, or state conservation or energy standards, or the proper design or sizing of any water supply, waste or venting components, fixtures or piping.
    18. Evaluate wait-time to obtain hot water at fixtures, or perform testing of any kind to water heater elements.
    19. Evaluate or determine the adequacy of combustion air.
    20. Test, operate, open or close safety controls, manual stop valves and/or temperature/pressure relief valves.
    21. Test shower pans, tub and shower surrounds or enclosures for leakage.
    22. Open sealed plumbing access panels.
    23. Operate any primary or under-counter water or gas valve.
    24. Light or ignite pilot flames.

 

The list of items that inspectors are not required to inspect is mostly made up of items that lie beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection because proper inspection requires special expertise, invasive measures that may cause damage, that carry excessive liability, or that require time-consuming work that the inspector could not reasonably expect to be paid for and still remain competitive with other members of the home inspection industry.

The degree to which various inspectors are willing to exceed the standards by inspecting items on this list will vary with the qualifications of each inspector and their comfort level with assuming the liability inherent in performing these inspections.

The following examples apply to many of the items on the list:

G.2.a.i Inspecting the interior of flues, such as those of water heaters, would be technically exhaustive, and so lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection.

G.2.b Because most of their components are hidden underground, because of the many different types of systems and components installed over the years, and because proper evaluation requires calculations and the inclusion of factors not readily apparent, such as system design and long-term use of a system, inspection of septic systems lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection. Since septic systems can be extremely expensive to replace, inspectors should often recommend that they be inspected by a qualified contractor at the time of sale. Older systems are suspect, since abuse or neglect can cause them to fail. Systems installed at homes that appear to have been expanded considerably may not be of adequate size for an increased occupancy load. Septic systems are sometimes installed by those lacking knowledge of good practices; tanks are sometimes installed backwards, and other components can be installed in a manner that causes them to fail prematurely.

G.2.c Adequate water supply is crucial. The complete inspection of a bore requires testing and evaluation of mechanical and electrical components and testing for adequate yield, all of which requires expertise that exceeds that of most home inspectors, and so lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection. Qualified inspectors may offer inspection of bores as ancillary inspections. Inspectors who are not qualified should recommend inspection by a qualified contractor.

G.2.f Inspectors will find a great many types of water filtration systems installed, many of which have specialized filters, the identification of which requires special expertise or research. For these reasons, inspection of water filters and treatment systems lies beyond the scope of the General Home Inspection. Inspectors should disclaim water filters and treatment systems and recommend that they be inspected by a qualified contractor. Filters are generally installed to improve taste or to remove one or more of a variety of contaminants. Since some contaminants can be health hazards, and because filters typically lose effectiveness over time, inspectors should make their clients aware of the potential importance of maintaining these systems.

G.2.g Although inspectors are not required by the Standards to inspect bore equipment, including pressure tanks, inspectors working in areas in which bores are common should learn enough about their basic function to identify common problems, such as short-cycling caused by failure of the pressure tank bladder.

G.2.l Inspectors are not required to record water pressure or flow using gauges, but should include a comment in the report if flow is unreasonably low or seems restricted. Although it is not required, many inspectors will check water temperature to ensure that it doesn’t represent a scalding hazard, or that it is hot enough to reduce the chances of microbial contamination.

 

H. ROOFSPACE & INSULATION

  1. The inspector shall inspect:
    1. and report on the general absence or lack of insulation in unfinished spaces;
    2. the visible home structure;
The inspector should enter the attic space only if it is safe to do so. Many unfinished attics have no walkway, the ability of inspectors to move through a restricted space safely and without damaging the ceiling structure will vary from one person to the next.
Any inspection of the roofspace and insulation is inherently connected with other systems, such as the roof framing, the chimney, and the electrical system.

Inspectors should report on the general lack of insulation and insulation missing completely from areas, such as in this photo.

Although the inspection of electrical components is not part of the General Home Inspection, inspectors should always be alert for and mention kn the inspection report any potential fire hazards. Recessed ceiling lights should not be in direct contact with insulation unless they are rated for such contact.

In addition, electrical wiring routed directly above the light in the photo to the left is subject to damage from heat and is a potential fire hazard, so with the missing insulation, the inspector would be reporting a total of three defective conditions for this area of the roofspace.

Inspectors should inspect any of the home structure that is visible from the roofspace. This typically includes roof framing, ceiling framing and the framing of any walls or skylights visible, and sometimes the underside of roof-covering materials.

 

  1. The inspector is not required to:
    1. Enter the roofspace or any unfinished spaces that are not readily accessible, or where, in his or her opinion, entry could cause damage or pose a safety hazard to the inspector.
    2. Move, touch or disturb insulation.
    3. Move, touch or disturb vapor retarders.
    4. Break or otherwise damage the surface finish or weather seal on or around access panels or covers.
    5. Identify the composition or exact R-value of insulation material.
    6. Determine the types of materials used in insulation or wrapping of pipes, ducts, jackets, boilers or wiring.

When the roofspace is inaccessible due to lack of an access hatch, inadequate access hatch size, inadequate headroom, or blockages formed by mechanical equipment or the occupants belongings, the inspector should state in the inspection report that the roofspace was not inspected, mention why and disclaim any defective conditions in the roofspace. The report should also state that it is common for roofspaces to contain defective conditions and recommend inspection of the roofspace by a qualified professional if access can be provided in the future.

Roofspaces are considered to be confined spaces and whether a roofspace is safe to enter is the decision of each inspector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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