Home Inspection Specializations and Extra Services
Many inspectors will refer to the various specializations or services that they offer their clients. Homebuyers can utilize ASHI's Find An Inspector search to view the ASHI member profiles and their specialties listed under "Additional Services." This section allows ASHI members to efficiently compile their special offerings, so homebuyers understand the full scope of services they provide.
A key detail to consider is that each inspector has their own business model. Some additional services may be included as part of the home inspections and others may cost additional fees. In some instances, these are standalone services that can be administered separate from the home inspection itself. For any questions concerning a specific service, ASHI recommends the homebuyer communicates with their prospective inspector prior to the inspection. Some states may have regulations and/or require licensing or certification as a requirement to perform home inspections and certain ancillary services.
List of Additional Services
Arbitrators are hired to decide a dispute or settle differences, especially one formally empowered to examine the facts and determine the issue. Although homeowners can hire a home inspector to assist in arbitration, this is outside of the scope of a home inspection. Arbitrators typically are hired to arbitrate a specific issue or a dispute.
An asbestos inspection is conducted to inspect a building for the presence, location and quantity of asbestos-containing material (ACM) or suspected ACM. ACM is defined as material that contains greater than 1 percent asbestos. However, it is the abatement contractor's responsibility to confirm the actual volume and locations of ACMs. Because inspection for asbestos is an environmental inspection governed by EPA regulations and requires laboratory testing, it is outside of the scope of a home inspection.
Stand-alone deck inspections, like home inspections, are a visual non-invasive inspection that looks at the deck structure including but not limited to its attachment to the structure, the ledger board, beams/joists, post/columns, footings, fasteners, flashing, hardware, deck flooring, stairs, landings and handrails.
Deck inspections are important as decks support live and dead load (people, object, snow, material), and lateral loads. There are 40 million residential decks in the United States. According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), almost 50 percent of these decks are 20 to 40 years old and they have a typical life expectancy of 20 years. A significant percentage of decks are missing key components, are poorly constructed, lack proper maintenance and have significant safety issues.
ASHI encourages all ASHI home inspector members to be trained to perform disaster inspections by at least one of the subcontractors approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Unlike a typical home inspection, which is a visual non-invasive snapshot of the condition of the home at the time of the inspection, a disaster inspection focuses on damage. Disaster inspectors inspect homes where people have applied for disaster assistance from FEMA. While traditional home inspections provide insight into the condition of a house generally related to a real estate sale, disaster inspections offer homeowners the chance to understand the full weight of the damage their property has suffered from storms, fires and natural disasters.
Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS)/Stucco
Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) is an exterior wall cladding that utilizes rigid insulation boards on the exterior of the wall sheathing with a plaster appearance exterior skin. EIFS inspections are more quantitative in nature and utilize moisture meters, moisture meters with probes, infrared cameras and possible invasive processes to investigate the condition of the building/structure. EIFS inspections require special approval from the building owner as probes penetrate the finished surfaces, and in some case, core cuts are required.
A stucco inspection helps assess the condition of the stucco system by looking for visible installation flaws, inadequate water diversion, sealant failures and deterioration to evaluate the wall sheathing/framing behind the system for elevated moisture levels. It can be an invasive investigation and may be needed to determine the extent of water damage and access moisture issues.
EIFS and stucco inspections differ from home inspections as they can be invasive inspections. Because home inspection is a visual non-invasive inspection, EIFS and stucco inspections are outside of the scope of the inspection.
Home energy audits are also known as a home energy assessment. The energy audit help homeowners understand the big picture of the home's energy use. The audit typically helps determine how much energy a home uses, where the home is losing energy and helps prioritize repairs to make a home more efficient.
Unlike home inspections, energy audits typically include a thorough assessment of a home's energy use where the home energy assessment may utilize equipment such as blower doors and infrared cameras, which are tools that most home inspectors do not use.
Expert Witness Testimony/Litigation
Most home inspectors do not provide expert witness testimony. Expert witnesses are persons with specialized skill sets that offer opinions to give testimony to help a jury make sense of the factual evidence. Expert witnesses testify as to their opinion about specific facts or events as they do not have firsthand knowledge of the facts or circumstances. So, they use their technical knowledge, experience and skills to testify and offer their opinions in legal cases.
Not all home inspectors are qualified to offer expert witness services. Expert witnesses must be able to demonstrate their knowledge, skill, experience, training and education. They also should have more advanced credentials than the typical home inspector.
FHA Certification / VA / HUD / FmHA
For a Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Administration (VA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or Farmer Home Administration (FmHA) government-backed loan to be approved, the home may have to pass an inspection and appraisal by an approved representative of these agencies. That means it must be worth the purchase price and have basics such as electricity, drinkable water, adequate heat, a stable roof, fire exits and more. These inspections and appraisals are conducted to make sure the property is safe, secure and sturdy enough to live in according to the requirements set by each of these agencies. Their requirements are baseline safety issues, though. An FHA/VA/HUD/FmHA inspector determines whether the property meets the standards set by the agency and lists whether any particular issues must be remedied before the agency can approve the loan. To protect the investment in a more certain capacity, homeowners should have a separate home inspection performed according to the ASHI Standard of Practice.
An infrared survey is more quantitative in nature and uses infrared cameras and possible invasive processes to investigate the condition of the building/structure. Infrared cameras detect thermal anomalies that help to determine different temperature levels and convert them into a film or video image. The images are used to interpret moisture, energy efficiency, insulation value and more. Since infrared is outside of the scope of a home inspection, most home inspectors typically do not have the tools or training to conduct and properly interpret infrared survey images.
Insurance inspectors look for three basic things. First, they look for opportunities to increase security or safety, including potential fire hazards or liability risks. Second, they take measurements of the building, look for special features, check the quality of materials used in the construction of the home and check for updates to the electrical system, plumbing, heating, windows and roof. Third, they make sure that everything is well maintained. In contrast, a home inspector inspects the entire home and is a visual snapshot of the condition of the home at the time of the inspection.
Lawn irrigation inspections ensure the irrigation system is functioning adequately and does not have costly water leaks. Leaks and failures can lead to high water bills that will potentially damage your lawn, home and property. The irrigation inspection is outside of the scope of the inspection as the vast majority of the system is concealed (underground), whereas a home inspection is a visual inspection. A good irrigation inspector will perform a thorough evaluation of the operation of the irrigation system. The irrigation inspection typically includes the visible review of the controllers, connections, sprinkler head locations, pressure differentials, drains and sensors. All irrigation system inspections typically should include a backflow test. Most Irrigation inspector are licensed in most municipalities and/or states.
Lead inspections are outside of the scope of the home inspection as they require specialized equipment and/or lab tests. A lead inspection is a surface-by-surface investigation to determine whether there is lead-based paint present, including determining where it is located. Inspections typically can only be performed by certified lead inspectors. Lead-based paint inspections determine the presence of lead-based paint.
The three main types of tests for mold include air testing, surface testing or lift test and bulk testing, which are followed by laboratory analysis. Mold testing is best performed by a qualified mold professional. The only way to accurately assess the amount of mold in a home is to test for it.
Mold testing is outside of the scope of the home inspection as it requires specialized training, equipment, cosmetic damage when surface testing is performed and laboratory analysis. Home inspectors also are not required to report on molds and mold-like substances.
New Construction (both inspection service and property)
New construction inspections or phase inspections differ from home inspections as elements of a home that are not visible when inspecting an existing house are inspected. Buying a "new build" provides a unique opportunity for either a pre-drywall inspection or phased new construction inspection that gives the purchaser insight into the build quality that cannot be determined during a normal home inspection.
Phased new construction inspections must be coordinated with the builder's schedule. Typically, phased new construction inspections include foundation inspection and framing inspection after all the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are installed but before the installation of insulation, drywall and siding (wall cladding). The "final" inspection should be completed before the closing with enough time remaining for the builder to complete any necessary repairs. The "final" inspection is the same as a standard home inspection.
Radon mitigation is the process to reduce radon gas concentrations in occupied buildings or radon from water supplies. Radon is a significant contributor to environmental radioactivity and the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Mitigation of radon in the air is accomplished through ventilation, either collected below a concrete floor slab or in a membrane in crawl spaces, by creating a negative pressure under the foundation or by increasing the air changes per hour in the building. Mitigation systems should be installed by certified measurement and mitigation contractors.
Home inspectors typically do not have the training to install mitigations systems. The installation of a mitigation system for home inspection clients is a violation of the ASHI Code of Ethics as home inspectors are not allowed to make repairs for clients.
Radon testing for real estate sales should be conducted with devices approved as per EPA testing protocol. Radon gas and its decay product (finely divided metal, polonium) are radioactive, and insufficiently ingested amounts over a period of time may cause lung cancer (second only to smoking). EPA recommends mitigation (specialized, but simple ventilation systems) be installed when the test average reads 4.0 (or higher) pico curies per liter.
Radon testing is outside of the scope of the inspection as it requires specialized equipment and training. A home inspection strictly is a visual inspection and typically not an environmental inspection.
Sewer Lateral Inspection/Scan
The sewer lateral inspection is outside of the scope of a home inspection, as sewer lateral pipes cannot be visually inspected without specialized equipment. The function of a sewer lateral camera inspection is to find out if there are any concerns with the main sewer lateral line of a home or building. Sewer lateral inspections are performed using a fiber optic waterproof camera that is pushed through the sewer laterally. The sewer lateral inspector will provide a written report with a narrated video recording of the inspection, as seen from the camera, in the main sewer lateral line. Typically, the 2" secondary lines, laundry lines, floor drains and kitchen lines are not included in this inspection.
The main lateral sewer service line is the waste pipe that extends from the building, under or through the foundation wall or an exterior wall to the sewer main, sewer easement or private drain.
Well Water Potability (Sampling)
Well water potability sampling/testing ensures the quality meets the state and or local requirements and the safety of the home's well water supply. Water quality testing of well water regularly is an essential part of maintaining a safe and reliable source. Well water test results allow homeowners to address the specific problems of a water supply. Testing helps ensure that the well water source is being properly protected from potential contamination, and that appropriate treatment is selected and operating correctly.
Well water testing may include checking for coliform bacteria and e coli, nitrates, manganese, pH, arsenic and more. Typically, water tests include taking a sample close to the pump, before the water goes through a treatment system. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine whether additional treatment is necessary. Well water potability sampling is outside of the scope of the home inspection as it not part of the standard of practice.
Well Water Supply Adequacy
The purpose of a water supply adequacy test is to determine if the well can sustain an adequate flow of water from the well to the house. While new wells are customarily tested at the well head, an existing system is tested by drawing water from an outside hose bib or as many fixtures as required. The flow test does not represent actual recovery in the well and may only reflect adequate storage in the well at the time of testing. If more extensive testing is desired, such as a true yield test where static, drawdown and recovery rates, the client should contact a well professional. Well water potability sampling is outside of the scope of the home inspection as it not part of the standard of practice.
Wind Mitigation came about because of severe storm damage during the 1990s. Wind mitigation inspection is outside of the home inspection as it is not covered in the ASHI Standard of Practice.
A wind mitigation inspection is when a certified inspector checks a home's wind-resistant features. Wind mitigation inspections typically include inspecting elements that may consist of anything from impact window and door protection, roof configuration, proper roof sheathing nailing, improved truss to wall connection, and secondary water-resistant roof barrier, to how the roof is sealed to prevent water from entering. A wind mitigation inspection looks at seven key areas of the roof to determine its ability to withstand strong winds and water intrusion. During a storm, heavy winds can push rain against the home, where, being water, it will find its way into any crack or crevice.
Wood-Destroying Insects (WDI)
Wood-destroying insect (WDI) inspections are sometimes commonly referred to as a "termite inspection." The inspection may include probing and/or sounding of unobstructed and accessible areas to determine the presence or absence of visual evidence of wood-destroying insects. This inspection may not include mold, mildew and non-insect destroying organisms. Some states may require a wood-destroying organism inspection in addition to a WDI inspection.
WDI inspectors may require specialized training and/or certifications. WDI inspections are outside of the scope of the home inspection as it requires specialized training, certifications or licensing in most municipalities and states. Home inspectors also are not required to report on wood-destroying organisms.