When a home inspector runs through a house to uncover all its hidden (or not-so-hidden) issues, you can expect him or her to be thorough—but there are a few things that aren’t covered by a general home inspection, which means you may need to be on the lookout for a few extra issues… or even hire specialty inspectors to make sure you’re not buying something that will end up costing you far more than cash in the long run.
What Standard Home Inspectors DON’T Cover
Typically, conditions that require lab samples—think mold, radon, and asbestos—aren’t part of a standard home inspection. They’re typically only uncovered by a specialty inspector (unless mold is obviously clinging to the walls and your standard home inspector finds it, for example).
Remember, a basic home inspection only covers things that the inspector can see or access easily. Sure, he or she will head up into the attic and peer into crawlspaces—but the inspector isn’t going to move a china cabinet to test the outlet behind it or scale a roof as steep as Mount Everest to examine the shingles. Still, a basic home inspection checklist has nearly 2,000 items, so it’s not as if your inspector will rush through the house with tunnel vision.
Other conditions a basic home inspection probably won’t cover (although you can ask your inspector beforehand just to be sure) include fireplaces and chimneys, the ground beneath the foundation, the swimming pool, and the well and septic system.
Fireplaces and Home Inspections
Your inspector will most likely open and close fireplace dampers, and shine his or her flashlight up the chimney to check for nests or other obstructions.
You’ll need a fireplace inspector to check for creosote buildup or sooty grime (either of which can start a fire), and to check whether there’s any lasting damage left over from earthquakes or big storms.
The Ground Below the Foundation
You’ll have to hire a specialty inspector, such as a geotechnical or structural engineer, to determine whether the land is structurally intact and find out whether it tilts, shifts, or has sinkholes. This kind of testing is typically very expensive, though.
Your inspector will test the pool pump and heater, but he or she probably won’t check its cracks and dents. That’s the realm of a professional pool inspector, who will perform water pressure tests, check out safety features, and examine the deck’s surface.
Wells and Septic Systems
Some home inspectors test well water, but that usually only happens in areas where well water is pretty common; in areas where most of the homes are on city water (like Lakewood and Long Beach are), you’ll most likely need to hire a specialty inspector. The same is true for septic systems.
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