There is a basic procedure that is covered by most home inspection companies when performing a home inspection that includes the: roof, exterior, garage, attic, room by room, bathrooms, and kitchen. A typical home inspection in California is not a code inspection but a limited visual inspection to check for safety hazards, items at the end of life span, or inoperable items. Some items may be a good item to be fixed by the seller before you move in, while others are deferred maintenance items that are good to know about your new home.
The items that are discovered for safety items may include: water heaters that are not properly installed which includes the earthquake safety straps, main electrical panels that are known safety issues like the Zinsco panel, poor or faulty electrical wiring done by current owners, or old single pane windows that are not safety glass, to name a few. Older homes many times have the laundry sink in the garage with an outlet directly above the sink. This is now considered a safety hazard as there is documentation for children each year being hurt when they touch the outlet when standing in the sink as it is full of water. This happens after they have been outside playing in the dirt and a parent puts them in the sink to wash their feet. Now it is required for outlets near sinks to be GFCI protected.
End of lifespan items are usually working such as older water heaters, heating and cooling systems that are over 20 years old, electrical systems, plumbing systems, and the roof. While many of these systems may continue to give additional years of service it is valuable to know to budget for replacement in the future or at least to know that there is an older water heater that may last a day, a year, or a few years. Many times the older heating and cooling systems will continue to work for years to come with regular maintenance. Again it is good to know prior to moving in that there is a heating system that is over 20 years old and the ac system is the same age. In the case of the AC system each family has different expectations regarding cooling. Typically or inspectors will operate the heating system for 30 minutes and then the AC system for the same amount of time. Then you will be able to walk from room to room to evaluate the actual effectiveness along with the home inspector.
Sewer lines on older homes really need to have a separate inspection with a video camera to determine if the sewer line is at the end of its lifespan. All homes are recommended to have a sewer line inspection, but most buyers in the greater Sacramento area only get a sewer line inspection on older homes. Orangeburg pipe is and was mostly installed in the 1950’s to the 1070’s. The lifespan on this pipe was typically 25 years. So if you are buying an older house it may still have this older pipe. Most home buyers on the older homes will have a sewer line inspection company inspect the line with a video camera. It is interesting to note that many current homeowners do not know that they have the Orangeburg sewer line. So get it checked before close of escrow.
Inoperable items even include the AC system on some homes! It is not unusual for some home owners to not use the AC system in the summer due to personal preference and thus tell their Realtor that it “Works fine for me.” Having the system tested can help clear up any confusion regarding the AC system. Some families simply just open the windows and turn the fan on to circulate the air. So get the AC system tested at the home inspection. Appliances are checked and operated, electrical plugs checked, and the water system checked in the bathrooms and kitchen area. Whole house fans are a great system to use when the evenings are cool and many people do not use the AC at night after they use the whole house fan for 15-20 minutes in the evening.
Other inoperable items may even include electrical items on newer homes. At the main panel there are breakers called AFCI breakers that are connected to the electrical outlets typically in the bedrooms. These breakers will trip off if there is an issue with the electrical current in the wires that go to the outlets in the bedrooms. Recently we have been finding these to fail when tested on newer homes. The breakers just smoke and do not turn off. Yes, that is an item that needs to be replaced. Also the outlets on the outside of the home are usually GFCI protected to an outlet in the garage or on the exterior depending on the age and style of the home. If you plug an electrical item in the outlet in the backyard it helps to protect you and your children from electrical shock and injury.
If you have time it is a good idea to be at the home for the home inspection. Many times the home buyers do not have much time to check out the house before the offer is made. Many home inspection companies do not want the buyers at the house until the end of the home inspection or until the home inspection is finished. We operate a bit different. You may be their entire time and walk around the home as the home inspector inspects the house. At the end of the inspection we will show you pictures of items that have been found and answer any questions. Also the more sets of eyes the better! If you see anything that you are concerned about let us know so we can go over the items together.
If you have any other questions regarding the water heater, stains in the ceiling, an item you do not know what it is then just take a picture of it with your cell phone and text it directly to us. Even before you have the home inspection done you can text us pictures and ask all the questions you would like. There is no such thing as stupid questions. We learn new things about houses every day and we entering our 10th year of home inspections and have performed thousands of home inspections. We are glad to hear from you.
Make it a great day.