The Ultimate Home Inspection Checklist

David Sherwood Sherwood Inspection Services, LLC Leave a Comment

Your SIS Home Inspection Checklist 

This home inspection checklist can be used as a preliminary review of the home to ensure you know all elements of your home. That said, it should not be used in place of a home inspection. It can be used in conjunction with a home inspection to help you build a list of tasks and prioritize what you want to get accomplished or resolved.

Even with an untrained eye, you can use this list to spot defects and aging that could cost unexpected fees which would ordinarily require a professional to notice. We recommend taking it one section of the house at a time and checking off items on the list as you determine that they are in good condition. You can also take notes on issues you encounter along the way.

Basic Checklist for the Grounds 

The basic principle here is water control to help keep the basement dry, condition of material, and safety. Keep this in mind when checking the basement, crawlspace, or slab. 

☐ Driveway (material condition and drainage) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Grading against the house (assure it pitches downward away for at least 3’) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Gutter Leader extensions (assure water is draining out at least 3’) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Vegetation (trimmed away from the house at least a foot) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Walks and steps (trip hazards and proper railings) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Retaining walls (proper drainage, improper pitch, and condition) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

Basic Checklist for the Exterior Envelope 

The main principle for the exterior envelope is to prevent water entry into the walls and interior areas. When looking at these areas, think long term and determine if these areas will protect the interior in the long run. Damages can be easily hidden so you can use this checklist to look for the signs, but oftentimes, it requires a professional to properly diagnose.

☐ Roof surfaces (missing, aging, and damaged areas of the surface material) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Roof penetrations, valleys, and ridges (aging, damage, debris) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Gutters (all homes need gutters! Clean, pitched, no sags, all connected) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Siding and trim (decay, loose, damaged) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Foundation (cracks, discoloration, movement, concerns) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

Front

Basic Checklist for the Exterior Structure 

In this section of the home, it’s especially important to consider safety. The wrong type of size fastener, bracket or support can cause injury from collapsing decks, porches, and balconies. Make sure you understand what components work with what and what is needed for strength and stability.  

☐ Decks, porches, and balconies (brackets, fasteners, footings, columns, carrying structure, railings, safety, stability,  rot, pitch, and sealant all need to be evaluated) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ House side walls and roof lines (check the structure for bows and unevenness)  

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Door and window frames (look for stability, under bow windows, and square framing) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Proper clearance from grade to siding (if not check for rot, some can be hidden) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Masonry Chimneys (Cracks to bricks or mortar, gaps, missing or worn crown, missing flue cap, branches over  chimney, level 2 flue inspection) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

Rear

Basic Checklist for the Attic 

Every house has an attic. This is the space between the ceiling joists and the roof sheathing. Sometimes it is not accessible and sometimes it is but a hatch was never installed. It is important to know the difference, and if possible, gain access to this area for review. If there is no floor it is strongly recommended that you do not walk in this space as it can be dangerous. This area has a lot of structures that can take a well-trained person to assess if it is installed properly and performing as intended. Over 70% of homes built do not have proper ventilation so this is a key indicator of a well-built structure. 

☐ Attic access (large enough to get into attic to work, no cables or wires near opening, proper framing, safe and  working pulldown stairs) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Roof sheathing, rafters, studs, joists (visible staining from water or potential mold, cracks, movement,  disconnected areas bowed, or missing collar ties, damage) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Proper ventilation (cannot have soffit, gable end and ridge – Either gable end or soffit and ridge, is ventilation  open all the way through) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Insulation (Vermiculite may contain asbestos, type, amount, condition, gaps, recessed lighting, attic opening  insulation kit) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Electrical (lights, outlets if needed, cables, recessed lights) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ HVAC unit/furnace (working space, lighting, filter, Condensate system, Line set, connectors, bracing, case  condition, aging) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Ductwork (insulation, bracing, connectors, No kinks, condition) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

Basic Checklist for the Interior Rooms 

The interior rooms generally have the most cosmetic concerns but do not often have a structural impact. This is area will have a limited view when furnished so do your best to look at each room as if it does not have anything in it. Check all surfaces and components, but as the standards say, do not move any personal belongings. Cracks can be common and you will not know if they are related to structural concerns without a professional. 

☐ Surfaces (walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows, and built -ins, check inside closets, closet doors, check walls and  floors for sloping, and ceilings for sagging) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Stairs (railings, risers, treads, trip hazards, level, lighting, deflection, support) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Masonry Fireplaces (check for cracks, missing mortar, stains on wall above FP, damper, flue, firebrick, cleanout)

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Gas Fireplaces (check for shutoff, “C” clamp, damper, gas line, fire log, improper staining)

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Electrical (this can be tricky so stay with the basics and let a trained person do the rest, check light switches and  outlets for operation, look for exposed wires and cables)

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ GFCI/AFCI circuits (check them by pressing the test button and make sure they trip and reset. Know where the  reset is before testing) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Plumbing (run water and check for sounds, slow drains, hot water, and leaks below) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Appliances and exhaust fans (check interior conditions, gaskets, basic effectiveness with unit in operation, aging,  and if you want to replace calculate that in) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Garage (rot & operation of overhead doors, safety stops, rot or damage to frames, water, and potential mold  staining, GFCI, floor slope, insect damage, fume barrier, fire door) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

Basic Checklist for the Basement/Crawlspace 

The basement/crawlspace is usually composed of many systems, so we recommend doing one system at a time. First, you want to focus on structure, then plumbing, HVAC, and finally electrical. Always start at the stairs and end at the stairs to avoid missing anything. Take it slow and do not get sidetracked with more than one system. If you do not know  something but it looks strange make a note and move on. The biggest expenses in the basement are foundation, water control, and structural issues.  

☐ Foundation (look for water/efflorescence staining, cracks to walls, discoloration, bowing or movement, check sill  and rim joist, if visible for insect damage, water stains, rot) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Sump pump/pump grinders (check pump operation, drainage at least 3 feet from foundation on exterior for  sump pump, proper sealed cover, electrical, check valve, bracing, water staining) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Wood framing (check floor joists, beam, columns for rot, movement, temporary supports, or changes made,  insect infestation, water damage) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Stairs (railing, treads, risers, stringers, fasteners, top support) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Plumbing (Drain lines for aging, leaks, pitch, Supply pipes for corrosion, pitting, leaks, proper supports, and  shutoff valves) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Boiler heat (check fuel supply, burner, firebox, check for leaks, corrosion, last time serviced and call company,  check circulating pumps, bleeder valves, exhaust, damper, casing condition, aging)  

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Furnace heat (check fuel supply, burner, firebox, check fan, filter, casing, ductwork, connections, dampers)
Note: Opening a firebox can cause burns, so we recommend leaving this to a professional home inspector to handle.

☐ Fuel supply (look for buried oil tank supply lines, check condition of fuel lines, if oil make sure lines are protected,  check for leaks, check oil tank if present, preform ultrasound test on tanks older than 18 years per EPA) 

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

☐ Electrical (check for open electrical boxes, exposed splices, damaged cables, loose cables, GFCI circuit, missing  cover plates)

 Notes: _____________________________________________________________ 

 Location: ____________________________________________________________

There are several systems and components not included in this checklist that a licensed inspector will inspect. Nonetheless, you can use this home inspection checklist to become better acquainted with your house and to prepare you for a walk-through with a home inspector. Have this list handy to use as a working sheet and take notes on elements that are important to you even if it didn’t make the list. For example, paint can be an expense even if it is a cosmetic concern and may be worth noting.

If you need a home inspection from a qualified, experienced ASHI-certified home inspector in your area, contact us or schedule an inspection directly through our site.

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