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What do home inspectors look at during a home inspection?

Submitted by Nest Bend on

Karen: Hi. Welcome to House Talk. I’m so excited today to have Kit Blackwelder here from Blackwelder & Son. He’s one of our top home inspectors here in Central Oregon and he also does consulting. So Kit, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to join us here on House Talk.

Kit:   You’re welcome.

Karen: Yeah, it’s great to have you. So when we sell a home it’s very interesting to me that we get ready for the home inspection and the client says, “Well, what’s going to be inspected?” They just don’t really know what you do. So I thought it would be great if you could just tell our listeners what do you do as a home inspector?

Kit:   Sure. So a typical home inspection consists of the grounds, the exterior, the mechanicals such as heating and air conditioning, electrical panel, water, heater, the interior of the structure, the roofing, and then into the kind of like the top and bottom of it which is the attic and the crawlspace. So all components of the house combined and then delivered in a report to the client where they can easily make out the information.

Karen: So do you start on the outside of the house first or how do you go about your home inspection?

Kit:   If I can I’ll get inside the house and turn on all the exhaust fans and turn on dishwashers or laundry, things that take cycle time and need a little bit of time to happen. The exhaust fans are key because they start at the inside of the structure and they have to make it to the outside, so then I go back to the outside of the structure, walk the grounds, walk the exterior, get to the rooftop, make sure that those fans are blowing outward as they should.

Karen: That makes sense. I never really, I guess I never thought about why you turn those on first.

Kit:   Yeah.

Karen: But that does make sense.

Kit:   Because I’m walking around and I’m looking and I’m listening and just checking everything out. And then from there I typically if I can I’ll go into the garage area where the mechanicals such as heating, water heater, garage doors, fire doors, things like that are located. And then from there I’ll make it to the inside. Once I get to the inside I turn on the water and all the faucets and run them on a kind of a medium flow and medium heat and monitor them. Go through doors, windows, floors, cabinets, walls.

Karen: So you kind of have a checklist.

Kit:   Exactly.

Karen: Do you have a kitchen checklist?

Kit:   I do.

Karen: Yeah, and then maybe a bathroom checklist. And so when we get the form and then we can show it to our buyer it’s all organized.

Kit:   Correct.

Karen: Yeah, so I’m kind of chatting with you on things I know, but I just know some of our listeners may have never had a home inspection report before. So that’s why I’m saying do we go room by room even though I know we go room by room, but they don’t know we go room by room.

Kit:   Yeah, so I’ll go room by room. I try and start out laundry to kitchen to bathrooms to bedrooms to the full interior, and then I’ll finish up with the attic and the crawlspace. And at that point depending upon findings or what I’ve come across I may revisit earlier portions of kind of the structure of the report with my way around it I guess. I’ll go back to the beginning if I need to.

Karen: Well, I can see that, like if you’re in the crawlspace and you see evidence of moisture and you didn’t notice that when you were on the main level of the home then you would probably go back to where that was.

Kit:   Correct. I may make it back to that bathroom and see what’s going on and get some more evidence at the top side.

Karen: Yeah, and then when you do the exterior are you looking at walkways, driveways? You don’t do sprinklers, right?

Kit:   I don’t do sprinklers. I will check the system and make sure that it has a backflow prevention device, and then see if there’s an electronic unit or a timer unit that keeps it running and whether or not it’s on or off. But other than that it can lead to say a big puddle that nobody has the time and energy for, and so to leave it back to somebody with a pair of board shorts and some flip-flops to make it through.

Karen: That’s great. So I bet because you do this in Central Oregon and you’ve been doing it for like 18 years 20 years?

Kit:   Yeah, I’ve been in the construction trades for over 20 years.

Karen: Wow. So when you do a home inspection in the winter like two winters ago what do you do about the roof? Do we just tell the buyer you got to go with this, there’s nothing you can see?

Kit:   I get the best information that I can. I don’t walk the roofs when there are dangerous conditions to either myself or damage to the property. So the last thing I want to do is go into a home and cause undue damage. So yes, notes will be taken, pictures taken, and sometimes it does leave more questions than answers.

Karen: Yeah, but also I’m thinking about it now, if there’s a heavy snow load and when you’re in the attic you’d be able to sometimes see if there was moisture coming through although water does seek odd paths many times in homes.

Kit:   Correct, yeah. So hopefully I’ll see problems coming from the outside in. And a good rainfall doesn’t hurt anything either on a construction day or an inspection day because you can check it out.

Karen: Yeah, that would give you a little bit more information. So once you do the home inspection how long does it take? How long are you generally in a home?

Kit:   I put in three hours on average per inspection. But some go quicker than that and some can go a little bit longer, it depends upon the property. But if we say the average home of 2,000 square feet or so, three to four bedrooms, two to three bathrooms, we’re looking at probably two hours on-site and then there’ll be another hour or so of report generation and I always make sure that people get the report the same night.

Karen: Now that’s one thing we really appreciate about you among others. Anyway, it’s time for us to take a break and thank our sponsors. We’ll be back and we’ll be talking with Kit, and we’re going to go over some good ideas for you before you have a home inspection – what you can do in your home? This is Karen Malanga and you’re listening to House Talk.

Automated Recording: Stay with us, more House Talk is straight ahead on 104.5 FM 1340 AM and This is House Talk, now once again here’s your host Karen Malanga.

Karen: We’re so delighted to have KiT Blackwelder here from Blackwelder & Sons. We’ve been talking about home inspections and what is a home inspection, and now, Kit, I’d like to kind of go on one of my favorite things. When we’re going to list a home I get so excited when the seller says, “I’m going to go ahead and have this house inspected.” And that gives us such a great feeling because we know then that we’re selling a product, we also know if there’s any issues with the home. So can you kind of speak to that, the importance of having a home inspection when you’re the seller?

Kit:   Sure. So a lot of times people wait for their buyer to get a home inspection, and more and more often listing sellers are having a home inspection done prior to putting their house up for sale, just to kind of find out what’s going on. It’s kind of like a doctor’s checkup prior to going out and hitting the hill. So with the pre-listing inspection I hit on all the same items that a home inspector would go and check for the client that is coming in to purchase it.

Karen: So it’s a formal home inspection just the same deal.

Kit:   The same deal. So going in and being as thorough as any home inspector can possibly be, going through and checking every item off the list from the grounds to the exterior to the rooftop, going through the mechanicals. And then I can provide the seller with the list of items that need attention so they know beforehand. And then they have the choice of whether or not they can have these items fixed and provide receipts back to potential buyers or just knowing what’s ticking, what’s going on with their home?

Karen: I think what I appreciate so much is just it gives me a sense of the seller has a lot of integrity, they’ve taken the step to have the home inspected so therefore they can now disclose if there were any issues, they can show how they were fixed. And it also gives the buyer peace of mind and the buyer’s agent, because they know that if the buyer wants they can request that inspection and can review it as part of the disclosure process.

Kit:   I for one really, really have a great deal of respect for proactive homeowners that go through and make the effort to make sure that things are checked out and corrected.

Karen: I also think just in the industry that I’m in as a real estate broker, I go home and I’m thinking, “Maybe I should just have my home inspected. I’m not selling it, but I don’t know what’s going on and I’m thinking where I’m sure I don’t have the right carbon monoxide locations for those alarms or the smoke alarms.” And so I’m wondering if that’s even something people might want to consider, is just having their home inspected to see what’s going on.

Kit:   It’s not a bad idea, I liken it to once again going to the doctor and getting a check-up every now and then. You just kind of want to know what’s ticking and what’s going on. Not a lot of people crawl in their attics, not a lot of people go through and test all their systems and go crawling under their homes. And to have somebody come do that every couple years it’s a minimal expense in the grand scheme of things of home ownership.

Karen: Well, yeah, and then you can do the proper maintenance and keep your home running well, which is kind of a good idea.

Kit:   Correct.

Karen: Yeah, so we’ve had I think the most common things we see when sellers do go ahead and have their homes inspected prior to us listing them is generally like what I mentioned, the carbon monoxide, the smoke alarms, and they think, “Well, my smoke alarm works fine, but how old can a smoke alarm be before you have to call it out?”

Kit:   They need to be less than 10 years old. And so 10 years old on smoke alarms the CO detectors don’t have an age limit on them, they’re a relatively new requirement but they should be at each level of the home and within 15 feet of bedrooms.

Karen: Okay, and then what’s another common thing that you see when you’re going in?

Kit:   HVAC equipment that hasn’t been service in 10 years.

Karen: We get that all the time.

Kit:   They may have clean filters and people are pretty good about that, but you should always have an HVAC tech come in and make sure your system is operating.

Karen: And it also is visual because I know when I’m showing a home a lot of times I’ll look at the HVAC system, and I’ll see if there’s a sticker on it that says if it’s been serviced. And it’s always a good feeling to see a sticker that says, and you see the dates like every year this furnace has been serviced. It gives you a good sense that the homes been maintained.

Kit:   Yeah, and when a home inspector comes in and sees that and looks at the tag and sees this record of maintenance they know once again they’re following after and looking after a proactive homeowner’s home.

Karen: Yeah, so the other thing I wanted to bring up too is, so we’ve kind of talked about having your home pre-inspected, I guess that’s what it would be. Well, I guess it’s inspected, but prior to listing the other thing I’m noticing more and more in Central Oregon and I mean I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I didn’t use to see so many calls out for pests. I mean, I think we’ve had more home inspections this year that we’ve had more mice, what’s going on?

Kit:   Well, that big winter that we had a couple winters ago drives them in.

Karen: Oh, it does.

Kit:   Yeah, and so and they’re looking for a warmth just as we are at the end of the day, so they’ll make it in one way or another, they’ll crawl under foundations, they’ll burrow in. I mean, if you can imagine a dime-sized hole anywhere around or underneath or on the side of a home a mouse can technically get in.

Karen: The round part of the dime or the thickness of the dime?

Kit:   Oh, the round part of the dime.

Karen: Oh, I think it’s got to be one skinny mouse.

Kit:   Yeah. And then the trick with home inspections is there may be evidence of mice, that doesn’t mean that they’re still there. You just don’t know.

Karen: So they come and go.

Kit:   They can come and go, the best thing to do is just always have some traps or always have some bait down there that you can take a peek at, monitor and see if somebody’s been down there munching on it.

Karen: Yeah, I was thinking not only maybe the big winter but also just all the construction and stirring up of the dirt.

Kit:   That’ll do it as well.

Karen: Like out in Tetherow.

Kit:   Yeah, movement of brush, taking away their habitat and then forcing them to look for somewhere else to go.

Karen: Yeah, it’s always a surprise. Well, it’s not always a surprise to sellers, but I’ve had many sellers be surprised and they say we don’t have mice, and I’m like, “Well, here’s the photo from underneath your home from the home inspector.” And there’s like a dead mouse laying there.

Kit:   Yeah, and some people can get, they’re so shocked because they keep a clean home on the inside and the outside, and all the places that they go and see on a regular basis.

Karen: That’s another reason to get a home inspection early.

Kit:   Right.

Karen: Anyway we’re going to take another break and make our sponsors happy here, and we’ll be back with more on House Talk and visiting with Kit Blackwelder.

Automated Recording: Stay with us, more House Talk is straight ahead on 104.5 FM, 1340 AM, and This is House Talk, now once again here’s your host Karen Malanga.

Karen: And we’re back with House Talk, and so lucky again to have Kit Blackwelder with us. So in this segment I thought that we could kind of talk about some of the common items that you see, Kit, when you’re inspecting a home. And I want you to talk about the things you see. But one thing I see that I hope you could address is the differences in the exterior siding that we have here in Central Oregon and particularly LP siding because we happen to have quite a bit of that on the homes that were built like in the 90s, and what a seller can do about that.

Kit:   Sure. Yeah, LP siding is pretty common in the Central Oregon area. And it’s a little bit different than LP siding that you would find say in Eugene, Portland, and the Valley area.

Karen: That’s good to know.

Kit:   It is good. And good for the siding here. So the difference in the siding – there is none. There’s no difference in the LP siding from the late 80s into the early 90s in our area versus Salem, Eugene, Portland. However, our climates are very different. And that leads to most of the LP siding in this area is in better shape. It ages better.

Karen: And is that because of moisture or lack of moisture.

Kit:   It’s because of a lack of moisture, correct. So LP siding has the potential to take on moisture and then take on more moisture and take on more moisture, and it swells. And it could cause potential mold, mildew issues, moisture infiltration, and failure of the siding.

Karen: Is it like a sponge?

Kit:   It does act like a sponge. It can dry out but it won’t go back to its regular form, it will stay swollen and then take on more moisture again.

Karen: Now that’s bad.

Kit:   So LP siding is still sold to this day.

Karen: I didn’t realize that.

Kit:   And it’s a great product, they’re using it in building every day. The issue was is it took Louisiana Pacific or LP three recipes to really get it right, and those first three recipes were made between the late 80s and the mid 90s. So that zone of siding or that time period has the potential to have problems.

Karen: Okay, and in Central Oregon what can a seller do to maintain? I mean, I know that LP siding is fine if it’s maintained properly.

Kit:   Correct.

Karen: And what does that entail?

Kit:   First don’t let your sprinklers spray in your siding. So keeping your sprinklers from spraying on your siding, making sure that when we have heavy snow winters that there’s not snow sitting on one side of your home and leading against it for months at a time, keeping that snow away from the side, making sure that there’s a correct distance from the siding, bottom course of the siding, down to the ground soil.

Karen: So it’s not sitting on wet soil.

Kit:   Correct. Six inches would be a great distance just to maintain if you can.

Karen: And then what about painting and keeping it painted?

Kit:   The exposed edges and the bottom edge of the lap siding or the sheet siding is a problematic area, because it gets neglected. People don’t see it, they don’t pay attention to it, they look at the face of the paint and they go, “Okay, it looks great.” But it’s those exposed edges and caulk edges that should be caulked up, painted up. And the key is going to professional paint stores such as Den Fields, Sherwin Williams, and letting them know that you have LP siding and they have special formulations for that.

Karen: Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s great to know. So really LP siding itself is not a problem, it’s just maintaining it properly.

Kit:   Well, yes and no. I mean, it can potentially be a problem but if you’re up on your maintenance and paying attention to it, then it’s going to last much longer. Most of the LP siding out there that had problems everything goes back to its 25-year warranty and they’re all about that old. So there’s no longer warranty period anyway.

Karen: Okay, so what other issues are common that you find in Central Oregon?

Kit:   Let’s see, dirty filters on a furnace.

Karen: Sure. What about window seals?

Kit:   Windows seals, which is not necessarily the seal at the outside of the window allowing rain or snow to come in, it’s the seal in between the glass panes, those typically do fail on the sunniest side of the homes.

Karen: And why is that?

Kit:   It has to do with just that constant beating and heat of the sunlight will cause the seal between the two windows to fail. The insulated gas that’s trapped in there to give you a low E glass escapes and then it has the potential to then take on moisture and you start losing clarity of the glass.

Karen: And that’s when we walk into a home we can’t quite see through one of the windows, then we know it’s compromised.

Kit:   Yeah, or they have funny little speckles. There’s a bunch of little weird things that happen with them. Sometimes you can only see it in certain light, sometimes they’re very apparent.

Karen: So I have one more question, because we do work a lot in the old part of Downtown Bend. And I know there’s asbestos siding.

Kit:   There is such a thing.

Karen: Not that I’m so siding-focused, but I know I’ve sold a couple homes that have asbestos siding, and there’s a certain way that a seller has to maintain that properly.

Kit:   Yeah, so asbestos is kind of it’s a whole new ball of wax so to speak. There’s two types of states that asbestos can be in – there’s friable and there’s non-friable. And friable is dusty, broken, any type of way that it can be smashed up and ingestible, whether it’d be breathing, eating, getting into your body. So if it’s in a friable state it’s technically dangerous. If it’s intact and just sitting there doing nothing it’s a non-friable state and dangerous.

Karen: And keeping it painted would be really important.

Kit:   Keeping it painted would be important. The problem with asbestos comes into play is when people go to remove it. When you remove it pieces are being broken.

Karen: Just don’t touch it.

Kit:   Exactly. Don’t touch it.

Karen: I wish we had more time, but we ran out of time. So I just want to thank you so much for being here, Kit.

Kit:   You’re welcome. I’m happy to be here.

Karen: Yeah, and I want everyone out there thank you so much for listening to House Talk. It’s been a pleasure being here today, and I do have a trivia question. So for anyone that knows what Visqueen is and what it’s used for in homes, please go to and you can win some tickets to the movies. Thanks again for listening to House Talk and we’ll be back next week.