A home inspection is a visual inspection performed by a trained professional to determine the condition of a home’s main elements. The inspection usually takes several hours, during which the professional takes multiple photos and notes, tracking information for a final report. After the inspection, the pro will create a printed report, complete with photos and detailed information, summarizing the condition of the house. A home inspection is often used by potential home buyers prior to purchase to determine if there are larger issues (such as dry rot or a faulty foundation) that are not immediately visible to the untrained eye but that would cost a lot of money to resolve. Home inspections are also used by real estate agents and home sellers to address any concerns before putting a home on the market. Longtime homeowners can also schedule a home inspection to get a snapshot of their current home condition and identify any issues that need to be addressed. A home inspection is not a legal document that can be used for divorce or estate settlements, nor can it be used to secure loans or mortgages.
A home inspection should tell you the true condition of a home. A competent home inspector closely inspects your home’s structure and foundation, looks for termites and signs of problems like mold, checks the wiring to ensure it’s in good condition, and investigates the HVAC system, among other items. To find a good home inspector, first research whether home inspection is licensed in your area; not all states require licensure.
If there is no regulatory body that licenses home inspection in your state, there are other ways to make sure you are hiring a trustworthy professional. Carefully look into the person’s reviews and ask for references. Ask if they are committed to continuing education, and whether they are active members in any reputable home inspector organizations. Some organizations that recognize and/or certify home inspectors are the American Society of Home Inspectors, National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and American Home Inspectors Training. Don’t be shy about asking to see credentials and licensing.
A fireplace makes a home cozy in winter, but it also requires cleaning to keep your family safe. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 28 percent of home heating fires are caused by a failure to clean solid-fueled heating equipment — primarily chimneys. On top of that scary fact, nearly 20 percent of all fire deaths are caused by home heating equipment. At a minimum, the NFPA urges homeowners to have chimneys and fireplaces inspected once a year to ensure there are no obstructions blocking the flow of air or any buildup of dangerous and highly flammable creosote. A certified chimney sweep will know what warning signs to look for and have the proper tools. Besides personal safety, saving money is a great motivation for having a chimney sweep regularly clean your chimney. If your chimney liner is not kept clean and in good working order, replacing it can cost thousands of dollars. A yearly cleaning is the baseline for a safe chimney. If your chimney is your main heating source, ask your chimney sweep whether you should have it cleaned more often. If your chimney is not venting properly and smoke is coming into your house, if you notice that the wood you burn is not burning efficiently (turning completely to ash), or if you have other concerns, call for a chimney cleaning and inspection right away.
A professional chimney sweep can clean your fireplace and chimney to help prevent chimney fires and keep your fireplace running in peak condition. Regular chimney cleanings are critical for removing the highly flammable creosote that can build up inside the walls of your chimney over time and cause chimney fires. When hiring a cleaning company, ask the chimney sweep if their cleaning fee includes removing soot, creosote and blockages from the chimney flue and liner, cleaning the smoke chamber and shelf, and cleaning the firebox and the damper to ensure that you’re getting a comprehensive cleaning. Expect the chimney sweep to cover the flooring around the fireplace and properly seal off your fireplace opening to catch any soot that comes out during the cleaning.
Look for a chimney sweep who has been certified by a nationally recognized organization such as the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), Fireplace Investigation Research and Education (FIRE), or the National Fireplace Institute (NFI). This will help ensure that your chimney work will be completed in a professional manner and your home will be safe from a chimney fire.
On average, you can expect a standard home inspection to take two to three hours. Your house size can affect inspection length, as can requesting additional services such as sprinkler system inspections, outbuilding inspections, radon testing, crawl space inspections, or pool house inspections. During the home inspection, the professional will be taking photos and looking in and around all parts of your home. The inspector will then compile a report that may be more than 20 pages. You should receive this report back within a few days to a week. The report should detail everything from minor imperfections and maintenance recommendations to major defects that need to be resolved as soon as possible, like structural failures or a leak in the basement. Your report should include photos and clearly outlined information about all major elements inspected, as well as recommendations for next steps.
Regularly having your chimney cleaned is highly recommended both to improve the chimney’s efficiency as a heat source and to prevent home fires. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends having your chimney inspected at least once a year. You can hire a chimney sweep to clean the chimney while also inspecting it to ensure there is no damage to the lining, firebox or masonry. If you’ve had a new fireplace or wood-burning stove installed, CSIA urges you to have it checked halfway into the first season of use to make sure it’s operating safely. According to industry standards, a chimney sweep is recommended if more than 1/8 of an inch of soot or creosote has built up in the chimney or flue. Some fireplace experts suggest having your chimney cleaned, regardless of buildup, after every 1-2 cords of wood burned. Consult with your chimney sweep about what is best for optimal efficiency and safety with your fireplace.
A typical chimney cleaning takes between 30 and 60 minutes. Wood insert fireplaces may take longer to clean, as can chimneys that contain birds’ nests, excessive debris or wildlife. A chimney sweep will arrive at your location and assess the fireplace to be cleaned, and will set up protective coverings or dropcloths to prevent any ash or soot from escaping into your home during the cleaning. Using high-powered vacuums, they clean out ash and other debris in the firebox. With special, long-reach brushes they brush down the interior walls all the way to the top of the chimney to loosen and remove built-up soot and creosote. Many chimney sweeps also offer inspections in tandem with cleanings to make sure you don’t have any cracks or damage inside the chimney or out. Repair work or additions — such as installing a chimney cap — can increase the cleaning time.
Home appraisals and home inspections both assess your home and provide a report summarizing the condition or value of your home based on key measurements. Unlike a home inspection for the sale of a property, a home appraisal is used for loan applications, property value assessment for sales or settlements (divorce, estate, etc.), and taxes and insurance. If you’re having your home appraised for lending purposes, you’ll likely need a state-certified appraiser, so be sure to your research their credentials. Nationally, the average cost for a home appraisal is $340.
If you’re buying or selling a home, having a professional home inspection can be an invaluable tool for price-setting and negotiation, as well as learning what repairs are necessary. The national average home inspection cost is $310, ranging higher or lower depending on the inspection company, your location and the size of your home. Other factors that can affect cost are additional inspection services and pathogen testing. Here are some examples of average home inspection costs in various parts of the country:
- Home inspection in New York City: $425 or more.
- Condo inspection in New York City: $200 or more.
- Home inspection in Central Texas: $250 for homes up to 2,000 square feet.
- $275 for homes from 3,001-4,000 square feet.
- $300 for homes from 4,001-5,000 square feet.
- $325 for homes 5,001 square feet and up, plus 10 cents per additional square foot.
- Home inspection in Los Angeles: $199-$299 or more.
A complete home inspection involves a visual investigation of all major elements that make up your home. A home inspection is a vital part of buying or selling a home to ensure you’re not accidentally buying a termite-infested home or one with major structural defects. Paying for an inspection before purchasing a home can save you a lot of money in the long run. The national average home inspection cost is $310, with prices ranging higher or lower based on your location and the square footage of your home. After performing a walk-through inspection, the pro should provide you a printed report — complete with photos and recommendations — detailing what’s in good condition, what would benefit from minor repairs, and what needs immediate attention. Home inspection pros know how to spot trouble areas, but they’re not licensed contractors, electricians or plumbers, so they may suggest you hire a licensed pro to address specific problems. Here are the main components that a home inspection covers:
- Home structure
- Foundation, grading and drainage, roof covering, roof structure, interior and exterior attic walls, ceilings and floors, interior and exterior doors, windows, stairways, fireplace and chimney, porches, balconies, decks, attached carports, and crawl space.
- HVAC system, heating equipment, cooling equipment, ductwork and vents, fixtures and switches, branch circuits, receptacles, service entrance and panels.
- Water heater and equipment, drains, waste systems, vents, and plumbing fixtures.
- Garage door openers, garbage disposal, dishwasher, exhaust range, range hood, bathroom exhaust fans, cooktop, oven and microwave.
The national average chimney sweep cost is $100 to $130. The National Fire Protection Association recommends having your chimney inspected at least once a year, but daily use and other factors might mean you need more regular service. Here are several reasons your chimney sweep cost may be higher than the national average:
- Overly dirty chimney: If you haven’t cleaned your chimney in many years, or if you’ve just bought an older home and don’t know how long it has been since the chimney was cleaned, excessive grime could increase the cost of the job.
- Roof height or chimney height: The chimney sweep may also charge an extra fee if your roof is too high for a ladder to reach or is too steep to safely climb on without a harness.
- Frequency of use: If your fireplace is your primary heating source, the buildup of soot might be far greater than if you just use your fireplace a few times a winter when company comes over. This may impact cost.
- Excessive debris: Leaves, twigs, and other debris that’s collected in your chimney is a fire hazard and should be cleaned immediately. An excess of junk may result in higher chimney sweep costs.
- Live or dead animals: Prepare to pay extra if live or dead animals are in the chimney. Rodents, birds and bats can all set up camp in your chimney. A chimney cap can help prevent them from getting in, but once you hear something scurrying around, or smell the unmistakable scent of dead critter, call a chimney sweep immediately.
- Geographic location: Chimney sweep costs may be higher in your city due to factors such as a higher cost of living or higher cost do business (insurance, overhead, employee wages, etc.).
- Chimney repair: Any repairs that are needed internally or externally to your fireplace will increase costs. A thorough cleaning and inspection will reveal whether repairs to masonry, tuck-pointing, the back wall, bricks, the fireplace floor or the crown are needed.
- Chimney cap installation: A chimney cap prevents debris from collecting in your chimney as well as preventing animals such as birds, mice, or raccoons from taking up residence inside. The cost of the chimney cap plus the labor for installation can increase fees.