If you have visions of your professional home inspector poking around a house with a magnifying glass and yardstick, it’s time to update your mental image.
Your home inspector may very well own a magnifying glass and yardstick, but be assured, he’s got modern tools to put to work for you, and they may look like something out of Star Trek.
Home inspectors don’t all carry the same tools. However, if you know about some of them, you’ll have just that much more confidence in your inspector’s ability to do the job for you and give you the report you need.
Some inspectors carry a thermal imager that uses infrared technology. It’s for such things as energy efficiency surveys, electrical service inspection, industrial maintenance and building inspection. A thermal imager helps identify overloaded circuits, loose or corroded connections and failing breakers in electrical panels. It also helps find blown fuses, overloads, phase imbalance and harmonics problems.
And that’s not all. A thermal imager also helps find inefficient heating and cooling transfer. If there are drafts from missing insulation in rafters, walls and floors, it will locate them. It’s important to find such problems in order to reduce the loss or gain of heat and figure out what kind of preventive maintenance needs to be done.
Sometimes too much or too little air is a problem. For example, Your inspector will use his thermal imager to check distribution of air to detect blockage in pipes, damage in duct work and insulation, stuck valves or burst pipes.
Moisture in roofs or walls is another problem a thermal imaging device can pinpoint. The thermal and digital images can be viewed on the device’s screen or on a computer.
Your home inspector may also use a non-contact voltage tester. If so he can detect voltage from 25 to 122,000 AC volts without any physical connections. This tester may give him audible and visual signals.
Your home inspector might also carry a general purpose pin type moisture meter. It’s used for building surveying, timber inspection, and a number of other uses. He can get instant moisture readings in wood, drywall, and other building materials.
Your inspector may use a high tech level that surpasses the basic bubble level you’ve seen before. He’s likely to use a three way laser level. It directs its beams at right angles for perfect placement. It features three 90 degree beams that provide simultaneous horizontal and vertical reference points.
When it comes to measuring, your inspector might have an ultrasonic distance measuring tool with a laser targeting range finder that can measure distances up to 60 feet. No ordinary tape measure can do that. A high visibility laser shows him where he’s aiming and displays measurements to the quarter inch. It can compute area and volume, too, and measures in feet and inches as well as meters and centimeters. Plus, it can hold several measurements in its memory at one time.
A radon detector may be another one of your home inspector’s tools. It detects levels of radon, which is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless radioactive gas that’s produced by the breakdown of uranium in the soil. If radon is allowed to accumulate to high levels, it can be hazardous to long-term health. That’s because it’s a leading cause of lung cancer.
There are different kinds of radon detectors, so your inspector may have one that can be left at the house for a period of time to monitor any fluctuations over a certain period of time.
Not all home inspectors are qualified to deal with radon problems, so your inspector may refer you to someone who is specially qualified in radon mitigation.
Another tool your inspector might have is a little device to monitor the size of cracks in walls. He might also have lead detection swabs to check for lead in the paint on walls or other surfaces in the house. If lead is present, a chemical reaction causes the swab tip to turn pink.
It’s possible your inspector might also have a multitool that combines several functions, such as detecting moisture, studs, voltage and metal. He may have variations on any of the tools mentioned above, as well as tools not covered here. There’s not enough space to discuss them all.
Would you believe your home inspector has tools that work for you back at his office? He has computer software and programs that help him put together all the data he has gathered so he can give you the report you need.
Your inspector’s most important tool sits between his ears. He has to know the laws and codes that pertain to where the inspected home is. Furthermore, no matter how good his computer equipment is at the office, he’s the one responsible to put together the quality report you’ve hired him to provide.
Regardless of the assortment of tools your home inspector has, a competent home inspector knows how to use them for your benefit as he puts them to work for you.