Home Inspection Checklist: 7 Things You Shouldn’t Overlook

Peter Chambers

Feb 15, 2023

home inspection checklist

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Are you ready for a home inspection?

You have considerable work to do if you’re fortunate enough to be closing on your new home. Many people involved in new builds pay particular attention to their punch list, ensuring every custom piece of cabinet hardware and light switch meets their specifications. 

However, there are certain big-ticket items you don’t want to overlook, regardless of whether you’re purchasing a new or used home. Finding out you have a problem after purchase can cost you thousands in repairs. 

What do you need to pay extra attention to before signing on the dotted line? Here’s your home inspection checklist, including seven items you shouldn’t overlook. 

1. The Foundation 

A crumbling foundation is a sure sign of trouble. It can cost thousands to repair and denote other problems. For example, water dripping through walls via a leaky roof can begin to crumble your home’s foundation and also pose an electrical fire hazard.

You can inspect a home’s foundation by taking the following steps:

  • Walk the exterior: While small vertical cracks often occur during settling, horizontal cracks or those bigger than ¼ inch denote trouble. 
  • Check the walls and ceilings: Warped ceilings and walls can indicate water damage spreading to the foundation. 
  • Examine walls for cracks, leaning or bowing. 
  • Check the windows and doors: They should close completely without gaps. 
  • Scan the foundation: Look for obvious damage, such as rust on pier foundations that can indicate crumbling to come. 
  • Look for water damage: If the home has a crawl space, inspect it for signs of moisture. 
  • Note the chimney: A leaning chimney can indicate foundation trouble and pose a fire risk. 

2. The Septic Tank 

Like your foundation, a leaky septic tank can cost thousands to repair. It also poses the risk of environmental damage. For example, contaminated water could impact your family’s drinking supply, making you sick. It can also poison area wildlife. 

Inspecting a septic tank is a complicated procedure. While you can DIY, calling in the pros is preferable, as you’ll need several pieces of equipment to complete the job. Plus, having the need to work certified can benefit you during negotiations with the seller about necessary repairs. 

3. The Plumbing 

Faulty plumbing can create quite a headache, especially if the leak springs in an inaccessible location. For example, few homeowners relish the thought of entering a murky crawl space filled with heaven-knows-what kind of critters to fix a drip. 

Homes built before 1986 can have problems with lead, an environmental toxin that’s particularly hazardous for children. Check if possible and consider replacement or a filtration system designed to eliminate lead contaminants. 

Locate the shut-off valve and test it by ensuring no water comes from any faucet once you turn it off. After restoring function, check each faucet in each bathroom, looking under sinks for leaks. The water pressure in the furthest shower should equal that in other parts of the home — less indicates potential leaks. Ensure your water heater is adequate for your family’s size and that no roof vent obstructions will result in backups that leave you battling poo emerging from your shower drain. 

4. The HVAC System 

You want to be snug and cozy in your new home. Roasting in the summer is no better than freezing in winter — so make the HVAC system the next stop on your home inspection checklist. 

It’s probably best to call in a pro — after all, your home is likely your biggest investment. You should be fine in most new homes. However, please be aware that duct cleaning likely isn’t sufficient in older homes. You also need someone who can clean supply registers and grills, change filters and scrub and reinstall the blower motor, all things a qualified HVAC contractor can perform. 

5. The Wiring 

Faulty wiring can be hard to detect — it’s inside your walls, after all. However, you should inspect for these telltale signs of trouble and negotiate with the seller for requisite repairs before move-in:

  • Hot outlets: They should feel cool to the touch. 
  • Flickering lights
  • Burning smells 
  • Ungrounded shocks: You shouldn’t get a zap from touching metal on plugged-in items. 
  • Loose outlets
  • Signs of rodent activity: They can chew through wires inside walls, sparking fires. 

6. The Windows and Doors 

You already know that uneven gaps in windows and doors can indicate foundation trouble. However, ordinary leaks are no less problematic. Although not as costly as a one-time foundation repair, these energy vampires can suck your utility bills dry. 

Check to ensure you don’t feel a draft near any windows and doors. Inspect the windows — are they older single or dual-pane models? Ask yourself if this repair is one you’re willing to tackle or want to negotiate with the seller for remedy before closing. 

7. The Roof 

The final item on your home inspection checklist is the roof. A leaky version can cause electrical problems, foundation crumbling and toxic mold growth inside walls. 

Check for missing, cracked or broken shingles and tiles. Inspect the flashing on the inside and outside of vents and chimneys to ensure there’s no space for leaks. If buying an older home, take a look at the storm drains. Are they well-maintained and clear, or are there signs that the previous owner let debris accumulate, leading to water leakage inside walls? 

Please wear a hard hat if inspecting a roof two or more stories high. It’s also advisable to let your home inspector handle this task. 

Home Inspection Checklist 

Your home is many people’s biggest investment. It pays to go through a thorough home inspection checklist before closing. 

Consider this guide your home inspection checklist for those big items that don’t make the punch list. Taking a little extra time now can save you considerable money and headaches down the road. 

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