Residential Home Inspections - Maryland
What is a Home Inspection?
A residential home inspection is a limited visual evaluation of the property's primary structure and components.
An inspector should be following Maryland state standards of practice and be a member in good standing of a non-profit home inspection trade association such as the American Society of Home Inspectors or InterNACHI®. Showalter Property Consultants holds the highest membership in both associations. The inspector's qualifications should include hands-on experience in construction or architecture, and a true understanding of the structure and its components. Always verify that your home inspector is well-qualified to perform a proper, professional home inspection.
You should also understand a home inspection is not a warranty or guarantee. No one can predict when or if components or systems will fail. However, a good inspector will educate you about your property and how to maintain it, as well as point out potential problems. Separate warranties may be available through other agencies. Read the exclusions to ensure the systems are covered.
A good inspector can evaluate most major systems and verify they are in serviceable condition. They should also attend continuing education to ensure they are up to date with current industry standards and knowledge.
Some inspectors may also utilize specialized equipment, such as moisture meters, gas detectors, drones, and electronic testing devices. These tools are not required but can assist the inspector to perform a more thorough inspection.
Ask your inspector if they access roofs and crawlspaces. Sometimes weather conditions may impede the inspection process and some areas may need to be re-inspected. You should discuss potential additional fees with the inspector as well. You may also want repairs to be reinspected. Always insist all repairs are performed by a qualified or licensed contractor.
Builders and engineers may be great in their fields, but they are not trained home inspectors. Only after extensive training and hands-on experience can one gain the information and instinct needed to provide a comprehensive inspection.Inspection fees are typically based on square footage or the price of the home. If you are offered a low home inspection bid, we suggest caution. Look at the criteria we recommend below, get referrals, and ask lots of questions including the inspector’s related background and experience.
See the Maryland Code of Ethics and Minimum Standards for Home Inspectors
Included in the Home Inspection
Inspection of the grounds around any property is crucial. They control water runoff which affects the house and the foundation. A good inspection includes evaluation of the grounds immediate to the house to analyze overall drainage and surface conditions of the soil.
We will also evaluate and report on areas where the property’s siding is in contact with the ground or mulch. This condition puts the walls and floor framing at risk for water and/or wood boring insect damage. We will report on the walkways, decks, and overall condition of the driveway.
Decks are a great feature of any home, however deck age, wear, substandard workmanship, and antiquated building practices can pose potential concerns. We will evaluate the visible condition of the framing, support posts, ledger attachment, and flashing. We will also evaluate the condition of any railing and note potential safety concerns. There are many decking styles, designs and materials which have various maintenance requirements and concerns. Wood decks can show premature wear from power washing, while some composite decks have been recalled. Higher decks can pose safety concerns due to inadequate posts, ledger attachments, or component rot. We have extensive experience and training building decks and will educate you about maintenance, and potential problems. We may suggest improvements, noting safety concerns, as well as how to improve the remaining life of the deck.
Patios, like decks, may require routine maintenance. We will educate you on keeping your patio in safe and functional condition.
The exterior of your home is the barrier against the elements, such as rain and wind. From the ground level up, we will perform a detailed visual evaluation of the trim and siding. We may also perform random probing to collect additional information (with care to not to damage any surfaces).
We will evaluate the materials, methods and workmanship of the siding and trim. Some common materials used in the Mid-Atlantic area include wood, composites, vinyl aluminum, stucco and cement board. Our report will include the condition of these materials and finishes, and outline any maintenance that should be performed. We like to educate homeowners about the importance of exterior maintenance. This ensures the materials service their intended lifespan by preventing any air or moisture intrusion as well as heat loss.
We will also evaluate accessible windows and doors for overall condition and function.
Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, or EIFS, are also another common material found in homes in the Mid-Atlantic. This “synthetic stucco” is often found in homes with a history of water infiltration and damage. Call us if you need a referral for an EIFS specialist.
The foundation is one of the most important components of the home. The materials used will vary greatly depending on the home’s location and age. In the Mid-Atlantic area we have a wide range of foundation materials, the most common being masonry block and poured concrete. However, many homes are also built on concrete piers, wood piers, wood foundations, terracotta, stone and brick.
Water is the main cause of foundation failure, followed by soil conditions and workmanship. We report on the exposed foundation, noting visible signs of cracking, settlement or moisture. Conditions such as thermal expansion, hydrostatic pressure, rotation or differential cracks are more of a structural concern and may require action. We will report on all visible aspects of the foundation which may provide a baseline for monitoring the condition.
The structure is the backbone of the home. The materials used will greatly vary depending on the location and age. Older or historic homes may be built using balloon framing or masonry structures with wood floor and roof structures. Newer homes are typically built using platform framing which can be built on site, built off site and erected using panelized walls or modular systems.
The materials can also vary such as the materials used to frame your home. These can include traditional dimensional lumber such as 2x6’s and 2x10’s to engineered materials such a laminated beams, solid web framing materials (I-Joists) and open web or floor and roof trusses. These all require specific installation methods and each has common concerns with improper use or installation.
Water is the main cause of structural failure, common compression and settlement followed by substandard workmanship or renovations. What we report on is the exposed sections of the framing which many times is limited to the framing in the lower levels and attic. Many times the framing is not accessible due to wall, ceiling and floor coverings. We recommend that you also obtain a separate inspection for termite and other wood boring insects. We may report on evidence however the licensed termite company will also report on any activity around the exterior and soil immediate to the house. We recommend that you maintain an annual termite policy from a reputable termite company.
The roof shingles or roof covering is the umbrella for the house or building. Its purpose is to keep the rain and weather out when in good condition and properly installed. We will access any roof within our skill level and that is safely accessible for the inspector and won;t result in damage to the roof covering. There are multiple types of roof covering materials from asphalt, composite, metal, slate, wood and many newer green synthetic materials. We will inspect the roof when accessible, evaluate the conduction and evaluate the overall installation and workmanship. As with our report we will document the roof condition with photographs for your records. With an extensive background in roofing and a certification from CertainTeed for a Master Shingle Applicator, we bring experience to the inspection.
With the attic we evaluate the accessible framing, and the presence and condition of the ventilation and insulation. Residential attic framing methods are typical made from wood including manufactured trusses and site built rafter systems.
The materials can also vary such as the materials used to frame your attic. These can include traditional dimensional lumber such as 2x6’s and 2x10’s to engineered materials such a laminated beams, solid web framing materials (I-Joists) and open web or floor and roof trusses. These all require specific installation methods and each has common concerns with improper use or installation.
Ask us about our free advice on home energy savings, as the attic is one of the leading sources of heat loss in your home.
We will perform a room by room evaluation and report on the over condition of the rooms and components. We will also identify the generals materials used in the rooms such as the floor, wall and ceiling coverings. We will report on any visible water stains, settlement or cracking that were visible on the day of the inspection. Lighting and the condition of the daylight can affect the visibility.
The interior survey of the rooms will also cover the bathrooms and the kitchen. We will operate all plumbing fixtures and report on any visible water leaks or water related damage. Using state of the art moisture meters we can report on the presence of any active leaks performing a limited representative sampling of high risk or suspect locations.
We will test all accessible receptacles for proper polarity including verification of the presence and condition of any GFCI receptacle where required. We may report on the presence of or lack thereof any HVAC in the perimeter rooms.
The Electrical System
The electrical system is one of the most important parts of the home if nothing more than for the safety. We will report on the overall visible condition of the system and report on the wiring materials and methods including any observed substandard workmanship. Starting with the receptacles we will test for proper polarity and grounding of all accessible receptacles. Next we will report on the presence or need for and ground fault circuit interrupter protection. We will also report on any adverse condition of the accessible receptacles. We will operate the light fixtures and report on the overall condition.
We will also remove any accessible electrical panels and report on the condition and wiring methods, presence of grounding and bonding in the panels. We will also report on any visible and accessible wiring methods in other parts of the house such as the basement and attic. We will report on any visible aluminum branch solid strand wiring and educate you about the potential safety concern.
The Plumbing System
When evaluating your plumbing system we inspect the water supply and distribution system for functional flow. This means you have an unrestricted flow of water to the fixtures and the overall condition of the water pressure. We will also identify the materials and the overall quality of the workmanship used.
We will report on the presence of systems with known failures such as polybutylene and educate you about the consequences and solutions. With your water heater we will identify the style and heating source and report on the age and overall condition.
With regards to your waste system we will report on the overall drainage at the time of the inspection and report on the condition and materials of any visible leaks or concerns. You may want to inquire about a separate water quality test especially if you are on well water.
Heating and Cooling System(s)
The Chimney and Fireplace
Many houses in the Maryland area have a wood burning fireplace which includes a chimney. When accessible we will evaluate the overall condition of the chimney, crown and firebox. There are 2 basic types of systems, manufactured and masonry. We will report on the overall condition of the firebox including any water related damage.
We will evaluate the flue damper and when possible the smoke chamber and presence of a flue liner. However many flue liners are not fully accessible and may require cleaning and a bore scope dropped down inside of the flue for a complete elevation. You relator can help make arrangements with a chimney specialist in your area. Flue liners are typically excluded from most home inspections due to the lack of access and specialty equipment required.
You should have you fireplace weather wood or gas serviced annually. We do not inspect on the condition of pellet stoves or wood stoves. If you have an insert we recommend it is thoroughly cleaned and evaluated prior to closing.
Building Inspection Report
We are proud to offer our comprehensive narritive computer generated building inspection reporting system.
Showalter Property Consultant's utilizes a comprehensive narritive computer generated report customized for your home. This narrative inspection report is complete with photos of your home, wheather it is for a pre-purchase inspection, prelisting or home maintenance, our report will provide a comprehensive overview of your home and all of the major systems as required by the Maryland Home Inspection Standards. By providing photos you can instantly see and understand what is stated in the narrative report.
Our report also comes with a summary section of the priorities so you will have a better understanding of which items reported on are maintenance and which are of immediate concern as we summarize the positive aspects and updates of the property as well. These are listed under priority 1,2,3 and 4.
We provide a copy of the Maryland Standard of practice along with the inspector's credentials with every report. We also recommend certain items to be aware of for preventive maintenance. The report is then emailed to you and uploaded to our secure and exclusive server for you to retrieve at any time .We also provide all of the photos for you in full size and resolution which are also uploaded to our secure server. This was you can review all of the photos in full size and detail.
Stephen L. Showalter, President of Showalter Property Consultants has been in the home inspection industry since 1988.
An innovator in the home inspection industry, Mr. Showalter developed an educational curriculum used to train home inspectors since 1993.
We take pride in the fact Mr. Showalter is Past President of the National Association of Home Inspectors.
Safety Related Concerns
When performing the home inspection we will report on visible Safety Related Concerns that in the judgment and experience of the home inspector warrant reporting. Some of these items are grandfathered in through the codes over the years however we may mention items that have become of concern over the more recent years and should be considered to be updated as needed.
These may include
•Visible electrical components
•Carbon monoxide concerns
•Any concerns reported on are as an overall consideration and beyond the scope of many home inspection standards.
Also See the Maryland Home Inspection Standards
One of the most important benefits of a Home Inspection from Showalter Property Consultants is the education that you will receive about taking care of your home and preventive maintenance.
After seeing neglected homes since 1988 I can say most could say thousands of dollars by learning how to take care of their home as they do their care. Many home owners do reactive maintenance on a home and preventive maintenance on a car. It is our mission to teach the home owner to better understand how to properly maintain their home and most expensive investment.
What you the Client can do, to prepare for and get the most from your home inspection?
• Be present for the entire inspection and accompany the inspector.
• Keep distractions at a minimal.
• Don’t have too much going on during the inspection, focus on the inspection.
• We prefer the seller is not present as it can be stressful and a distraction.
• If we are performing a radon test make sure the seller keeps all windows and doors closed 12 hours prior to us performing the inspection.
• Bring clothes that would be comfortable during the inspection.
• Bring your own flashlight and tape measure, I see many buyers wishing they had brought them.
• Bring a notepad to take notes. You may have questions about things you want to do to the house outside the scope of the inspection.
• Prepare yourself and don't get overwhelmed as most homes have concerns or some repairs that are needed, even new homes.
• Make sure if it is a foreclosure all utilities and systems are turned on to ensure we are able to properly evaluate all systems. These include, the water, electric and any gas appliances. Also make sure the water heater, furnace and other gas appliances such as fireplaces are turned on when possible.
• Have all systems turned on at the time of the inspection.
Make sure the seller has clear access to all areas such as the
• Attic access
• Electrical panel
• Main water shut off
• Water heater
• Perimeter walls in the basement and garage (when applicable)
• Basement Walls
• Below split foyer entry landing stoops
Final Walk Through
• When you perform your final walk through, don't be afraid to look in areas that were not accessible during the inspection for any water stains or other suspect areas
• Bring a flashlight and camera; this is the last time before you take possession of the house to identify any areas which were not accessible during the inspection. Your Realtor can advise you on this process.
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