Skip to content
Home » News & Info » What We Don’t Inspect?

What We Don’t Inspect?

  • 9 min read

Although Jo observes and notes on hundreds of aspects of a home during an inspection there are some limits to the Standards of Practice (SOP) that either are not part of a General Home Inspection or cannot be observed visually at the time. Jo believes in honestly and clearly and wants everyone to be as prepared and aware of what to expect from and Inspection Report as possible. Below are some common areas people assume a Home Inspector might inspect that are actually outside of the SOP guidelines. 

Property Lines:

As an inspector we can make our best educated guess of a property line, by assessing many factors such as fencing, landscaping and other observations and in most cases this is all the information a homeowner needs. Most property lines are obvious, or already established by fencing or other structures. In the city and suburbs most people do not know their legal property lines because the social boundaries have already been established . However, in some instances, neighbors can find themselves in property disputes as to who “owns” the fence or when a property line starts. As home inspectors we are not the arbiters in a property line dispute. If you find yourself in this situation, first contact the county, city or village of the property to determine the property line, a land surveyor may also be able to help. 

Property Appraisals:

Although Jo is equipped with a lot real estate industry knowledge that can help her clients make informed decisions about the properties she inspects, one skill she still has yet to obtain in home appraisals. Jo does spend hours on your property getting to know the literal ins and outs of the building, but knowing the current condition of the property is not the same as have the education, training and industry knowledge needed to accurately, and legally appraise a property. Property Appraisals aren’t just wild guesses based on the asking price, but require lots of education and market research to appropriately give an estimate on the properties market value based on other homes and properties in the area, the housing market’s current status, as well as the building general condition.

High Rise Condo Roofs

**High Rise – Condominium roof decks. This one is hard for Jo too, who doesn’t want to go on the roof deck of a sky rise apartment complex, but unfortunately most High Rise Condominium buildings do not allow Home Inspectors access to the roof, unless maybe you’re the Penthouse Suite (I’m dying to find out one day). Do not fret ambitious sky high dwellers, with the exception of the roof, and generally the foundation (if a parking garage is below) Inspector Jo can still provide you with a full and comprehensive inspection report of all the components within the condo unit, and available shared facilities (laundry etc.). 

Covered Sumps and buried plumbing

The reality is an inspector cannot test a sump pump without access to the float, unless it happens to be conveniently raining at the time of the inspection. If you are a buyer that wants to ensure the sump is in good working order, ask your agent to request that the seller remove the lid and set it aside for the duration of the inspection. Sometimes this is not possible due to the sealing of the unit, or the design of the plumbing. — Sewer Ejectors and Rough Plumb Systems are open to the sewer and therefore a safety hazard for the inspector to test physically/manually like a sump pump. In order to properly test a sewer ejector or Rough Plumb System effectively the inspector needs access to some sort of water source that feeds the pit, often a basement restroom or a laundry tub. In some homes and in most Rough Plumb systems this test is not possible because such a water source has not yet been installed. As new homeowners, don’t worry, if a system could not be tested at the time of the inspection. Just because it could not be tested does not mean the unit is defective, it just means its function is unknown. Sometimes the unit is locked in a closet the inspector can not access, or deep in the crawlspace that is not safe to enter.  Most sump pumps and sewer ejectors are by nature inactive most of the year, but still function properly for years. 

Solar Panels, and Solar Energy Systems

As the rise in solar energy continues to climb in the midwest more and more properties we inspect are coming equipped with solar panels and solar energy systems. There are so many different manufactures and systems that can be installed, as since the industry is still in it’s infancy and has not established universal best practices and standards, and so it is not possible for a home inspector to have all the industry knowledge necessary to properly inspect the panels, the installation or the system. During the inspection we will view, photograph and provided as much information as possible about the system and its potential functions, however and true assessment of the system and its installation should be completed by a specialized solar panel installer.

Under Ground Systems & Turned off Features

Landscape Irrigation, ‘Pop Up Drains”, Subsurface drains, Underground Electrical Service. There are many tools on Inspector Jo’s tool belt, but one tool that is still missing is x-ray vision. Unfortunately, in a General Home Inspection the report can only reflect aspects of the home that can be visually tested. If the landscape irrigation turns on while Jo is there, great! Then observations like; damaged sprinkler heads or over flooded areas could be noted, but an inspector can only observe what they can see. During the inspection confirmation process Jo tries to prepare both the buyer and the seller of the property with what to expect and what each party can do to help prepare the property for an inspection. However, not everyone clicks on every link, or reads a whole email, and not everyone even has access to the property before the inspection to prepare it. So, if there is a specific feature of a property that the buyer wants to ensure gets properly inspected for example; a fireplace, a sprinkler system, a private well, radiant heated floors etc, as the buyer, urge your agent to contact the seller/sellers agent and request that the system be on, all remotes or controls are available and accessible, and any information about the unit be provided. *For Safety reasons – Inspector does NOT open/close any valves or Plug in or turn on any obviously shut down system.

Pop Up Drains

Buried or Underground aspects of roof drainage systems are unable to be properly evaluated, and often can contain cracks, or breaks in the buried line that can affect the water mitigation around the perimeter of the building foundation.

Sprinkler Systems

Landscape irrigation systems are often installed underground & a part of a complicated scheduling system. There are many aspects of sprinkler systems that can go wrong, & so many different brands they are outside of the SOP.

Turned off Heated Floors

Heated floors are a new luxury in homes, but Sellers often forget to turn the system on for the inspection. Systems heat up slowly making it difficult to accurately assess the condition of the underfloor heating elements.

Septic Tanks & Private Wells

Since a General Home inspection is visual in nature, a home inspector is unable to fully inspect and certify private septic/sewage and water sources as they are generally underground. During the inspection of the home, comments and notes will be made on the location of potential wells or septic systems as they are noted. Testing of the plumbing and drainage, as well as the function of the well will be made, if operational (some properties can be vacant for sometime). Any comments or inspection of the well content, potability, or the status of the septic system can be made beyond the observations visually noted while on the property. A land surveyor would be a great contact if you are looking for this type of specialized inspection. Often information about local well and septic services, as well as propane fuel services are located on or near the wells and fuel tanks. 

Septic Tanks & Absorption Fields

If there is some sort of visual indication of the location of the septic tank, like following the direction of the sewage drain, Jo will make note, but full evaluation of the septic system and absorption fields requires a specialist.

Private Wells & Inactive Pumps

When homes and properties are equipped with private wells Jo can only inspect what she can see of the well or pump. Some wells are buried or located in an outbuilding, or may not even be turned on for testing. Water potability and well evaluations require a specialist.

Buried Fuel & Propane Storage

Similar to septic systems and private wells, Jo is only able to note the existence of buried oil and fuel storage. When propane tanks or fuel tank gauges are found Jo reports on all aspects that she can see possibly including the current fuel levels, and average PSI based on gauges.