It goes without saying that a professional home inspector will do a more thorough job of inspecting a house than the average individual.
However, that does not mean that you can’t perform one yourself and do justice to it.
In certain circumstances, it is necessary to hire a certified inspector to conduct an inspection.
For example, when insurers need a qualified report (e.g. 4 point inspection, wind mitigation inspection) to tell the general condition of a house before underwriting a homeowners insurance policy.
Other times, hiring an inspector is not necessary when you deem having a professional opinion is just money down the drain.
Most of the time, they tell you what you already know anyway.
So if you have made the bold decision to conduct your own home inspection before taking over a house, good for you.
But surely natural instincts will tell you that you can’t possibly do it with your bare hands no matter how much of a hands-on person you are. You need tools and other miscellaneous items.
What do you need? I’m glad you asked.
Here is a general list and why you need them.
A handheld flashlight that fits in your pocket is usually sufficient.
However, if you know that there are huge areas are that are somehow in the dark, you might want to bring along a larger one as well.
A small flashlight is essential. A Godzilla-sized one is optional.
You need them to peek into pipes, chimneys, the dreaded crawl space, gaps between walls, small openings on fixtures, and even the spaces under fixtures and furniture that are lifted above the floor.
Even in the day with daylight in abundance, often times you will find spaces that are simply not bright enough for the human eye to see clearly.
Don’t strain those cute eyes of yours. You need them for watching your favorite dramas on prime time.
And please don’t make the cardinal mistake of forgetting the batteries.
Magnets are one of those things that fascinate us as kids. I remember a time when I even thought that a magnet would lose it’s magnetism if washed with water. :S
While magnetic forces can be fun to watch and behold, you need it here for a more practical purpose.
It is useful to check for iron pipes. It should be attracted to steel like a teenage boy to adult magazines.
It can also be used to verify any steel fixtures you have ordered your contractor to install.
For example, window frames, metal gates, exterior siding, etc.
Yes, I know that we are not going to the playground for a quick round of marbles. That is unless… your home has a playground…
Marbles are fun simple toys that don’t seem to have a specific function other than play. You will never be able to grab them with chopsticks too.
Even so, it can play a role in helping you determine if the floors are relatively level. They are great simple alternatives to a spirit level which people don’t often have.
Sloping floors in a house can be a symptom of major problems going on in places you cannot see. For landed property, think foundation, settlement, and structural issues.
For apartments, you might want to take a look at the ceilings of the neighbor’s house below to see what the hell is going on.
Just make sure you don’t knock against the marble in transit as they can be very fragile.
4) Ice pick or screwdriver
Ice picks don’t belong exclusively to winter or ice carving competitions. You are not going to be arrested by the police just for carrying one during summer or spring.
They are great tools for probing and piercing stuff. Which is exactly what you need it for.
Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to vandalize your own house before you even move in.
When you find rotting sections of wood or planks that look suspiciously infested with termites, the ice pick is the perfect tool to probe firmly and absolutely.
Termite infested wood for example, will be somewhat hollow on the inside. Poking into the wood would tell you for sure whether something funny is going on inside the wood. You shouldn’t be able to easily pierce wood when it’s not hollow on the inside.
The handle end will also be a good improvised device to softly knock on tiles and walls to check for hollow spots.
Please be careful when keeping it in your pocket as it can be hazardous not only to you. But also to the people generous enough with their time to tag along to the home inspection with you.
A common hassle that homeowners doing DIY home inspecting find too troublesome to undertake is to bring along a step ladder for the ride.
Not bringing a ladder to an inspection is like doing the task for the sake of doing it. You are not creating the best conditions for you to take on the task properly.
There are inevitably going to be odd spots that are out of your visual range.
For example wall fixtures, lighting fixtures, air-conditioner units, etc. You are already not hiring an inspector. At least do your best to take on the responsibilities of the job on hand.
And sometimes, you might find that a house has no pull-down steps to access the attic.
The size of the ladder will depend on what your needs are. But most of the time, you will never go wrong with a 6-foot stepladder. They are flexible, adjustable, and foldable for easy storage.
6) Binoculars, goggles, spectacles, magnifying glass
Binoculars are meant for your visual inspection of the roof should you decide not to get up there because of safety hazard. This is especially for pitched roofs.
In high-rise apartments, sometimes air-conditioner compressor units are fixed on exterior spaces that are inaccessible to family members. In this case, your only option for inspecting it might be to use those funky looking binoculars.
Goggles will be useful if you are inspecting a place that is still in a work-in-progress phase. As sand are flying around all over the place, your eyes are vulnerable when investigating and peering into tight spots.
Keeping in mind you could be meticulously focused on minor details to look for defects all over the house, your spectacles will make your life easier if you are short-sighted.
You wouldn’t need a magnifying glass most of the time. But when you need them, they can be a godsend. Like when you find a drifter ant and need a creative way to exterminate it.
Just kidding. 😀
I suggest to bring them along anyway.
No. It’s not that you need to do basic fever screening for everyone that enters the house. It’s also not for you to check your own temperature for paying over the odds for the house.
This is to check the temperature of domestic hot water.
The compass is not meant to help you navigate around the house. Don’t be a joker.
It will help you find out the orientation of the house and identify where the South and Southwest sections of the house is.
Areas facing this direction will get more exposure to the sun’s harmful rays compared to other areas.
Room facing these directions will be understandably hotter than other rooms. And the exterior walls facing these directions will be more susceptible to damage and defects.
9) Pen and paper
You can’t possibly store every little defect in your head like a hard drive.
Einstein suggests that everything that can be written down don’t need to be memorized. That some good advice coming from a Nobel Prize winner.
Bringing a clipboard would be nice too.
Even if defects are as clear as day, don’t be surprised to find that sellers, developers and builders won’t acknowledge them without evidence.
Pictures will often leave them with no place to hide and maneuver.
With the cutting edge technology we are lucky enough to pamper ourselves with today, your smartphone’s camera should be good enough for the job.
I always find it a hassle to transfer media like images and videos from an iPhone. So I use an Android device (Samsung) these days.
11) Masking tape
There are a lot of variances of masking tape when you walk into a hardware store. And they are created to serve specific functions.
The one that you need is the type that is white or off-white in color, tears easily, and can be easily be written on.
You need this to quickly mark out defects discovered.
For example, once you find a crack in a floor tile, tear a small piece of tape off and paste it beside the defect. Then write whatever side note you want on it. And move on.
Be careful when using on laminates and any thin surfaces because they can be damaged when you pull the tape right off.
Some people bring post-it sticky notepads instead. It’s really up to your preference. I like masking tape better.
This implicitly means that you also need…
12) Temporary and permanent markers
For obvious writing purposes on fixtures, boxes, and other writing material.
If possible, bring them in both fine and bold tip.
13) Measuring tape
This is to check the dimensions of anything and everything when appropriate.
- Height of kitchen counter top
- Length of particular wall
- Space in little corners
This is not just to ensure that the builder built the home according to the plan, but also for you to take proper measurements of vacant spaces where you plan to install something like a refrigerator, washing machine, or wardrobe.
While finding out that the actual dimensions is very far off the schematics will not encourage a builder to re-build everything, they might give you a discount from the balance payment if you are persuasive enough.
14) Test light or anything to test electrical output
A test light is basically a miniature electrical lamp shaped like a pen.
You won’t be able to use it to write with light. But it can assist you in determining that each power outlet is working.
If you don’t have such a device, just bring anything portable that you can use to quickly test for the presence of voltage in a socket.
I’ve seen people bring cell phone chargers, plug-in night lights, and various kind of USB devices to test for power.
15) Toilet paper
You might need this when conducting a real life test run on the toilet.
Other than the obvious, this will be very handy for quick wiping and cleaning of fixtures for more thorough inspection.
In many instances, what you think is a scratch can turn out to be just a mark that can be easily wiped off.
And just a note of warning. And I’m not trying to be gross here. 1 roll of toilet paper is very often not enough. But it is sure better than having none.
This is something very obvious yet people almost always forget.
A new house or one that has just been vacated will be empty of furniture. Meaning there will be no chairs for you to sit on.
Keeping in mind that you could spend as much as 3 hours or more doing the inspection, it is best is have something to sit on during breaks.
Sitting on the floor can be bad for those with bad pain.
There are also cheap foldable field chairs that can be found in supermarkets. Those can be useful for outdoor activities too.
17) Mobile device charger or power bank
You’d reasonably expect your phone or tablet to last you the whole day. But that is without considering how much you will be using your smart devices.
Homeowners are usually very enthusiastic when finding defects. And that enthusiasm translates to sharing their finds on social media and instant messenger to share with friends for opinion.
Your batteries with go flat without you even realizing. This is why you need back up power.
18) Drinking water
To save time from having to go to the nearby convenient store, bring along a bottle of water.
You are going to sweat more than you think.
19) Small mirror
Sometimes you would come across tiny areas or small gaps that you are simply unable to look into because of the orientation.
Or maybe you want to put your head out of the windows to investigate some fixtures but the fixed window grills don’t allow you to.
While a periscope would do wonders, all you need is a mirror for reflection.
Optional advanced equipment
If you are going hardcore into the inspection, here are some more high tech tools to consider. They are a little more expensive.
An endoscope is one of those tools with a controller on one end and a long wire with camera affixed on the other.
It allows you to go deep into tiny enclosed areas to take a look at what’s inside.
Don’t for a moment think that is an exaggeration. Because I’ve found huge debris in plumbing traps. Probably due to workers who found it more convenient to dispose rouge building material in them rather than in a proper disposal bag.
21) Electrical tester
This is a device used for evaluating the electrical ground connection and polarity. And it is something that the average homeowner will not have.
Depending on the type of house and system of electrical wiring, it could be a critical gadget for appliance testing.
If you have a big budget, or your garage is a place where hidden treasures can sometimes appear out of nowhere, a multimeter would be even better.
22) Moisture meter
While water enables life, it is also the eternal enemy of a house.
A moisture meter helps you measure moisture content in wooden furniture, fixtures, walls, etc. This enables you to take action on areas where moisture content is too high for comfort.
Encountering a moist wall in a new house can be heartbreaking.
23) Infrared camera
For a lot of people, the only time (if ever) they hear about infrared cameras is in astronomy where astronomers attempt to make sense of what’s in the universe, or in military applications.
But they have a very legitimate use in home inspections.
Infrared cameras provide thermal imaging of a house. This aids in detecting insulation deficiencies, heat loss, specific areas infiltrated by air, and also moisture concentration.
24) UV torchlight
For those who are overwhelmingly inclined to cleanliness or suffer fits of OCD, the only way to really have peace of mind is to have a UV torchlight.
Unlike a flashlight, UV flashlights use a black light that enables you to see things that the human eye cannot.
Just be mentally prepared for what you might find.
25) Drone with camera
It used to be a default that drones come with cameras. But these days, they come without them too. Some even come with projectiles that fire!
So I need to specifically mention to bring one with a camera.
This will be useful when you refuse to go up the roof and need to inspect it for structural or cosmetic defects. Maybe you did go up. But later just want to have a second look but too lazy to climb up there again.
If the house you are inspecting is a high-rise apartment and you wish to take a look at the exterior wall for whatever reasons, the drone would become your savior.
On occasions, you might find water marks or stains in areas of the house that make no sense like the bedroom. While your intuition might be right, the only way to investigate further is to have a look at the exterior.
And by the way, the exterior of a condominium for example is under the care of the management or association. So don’t take responsibility for something that is not your responsibility.
Defects liability period
If you are inspecting a newly constructed house or a high-rise apartment, don’t despair when you find defects with no easy DIY fixes.
Developers and builders often offer a defects liability period where they will rectify any reasonable problematic issues arising from bad construction.
This is sort of like a warranty that comes with your purchase. A smart person would exploit it to the max.
If you are taking over a resale property, you have to either get the seller to fix the defects you’ve found, negotiate for a better price, or take on the responsibility of fixing them yourself.
What would you choose?