Fathom: When to call an inspection specialist

It is standard due diligence for your buying client to hire an inspector for a contracted property. But how do you know when a specialist in a particular trade needs to be called in for further examination? Major home systems involve a lot of money, so protect your client by hiring a specialist when an aspect of the home deserves special attention.

The initial inspection

Even when a home is nearly new, an inspector will notice some shortcomings. Your buyer doesn’t have to go for nickel and dime stuff, especially simple wear. This will irritate the seller and unnecessarily delay the transaction. But if the inspector discovers a problem with any of these major home components or systems, it is advisable to bring in a contractor in that trade to take a closer look.

The foundation

A simple settlement is expected, but it’s time to ask a foundation repair company for a detailed assessment if there are any signs of real change. These include:

  • Diagonal cracks on interior or exterior walls.

  • Cracks that cut through bricks, not just the mortar around them.

  • Doors and windows that stick.

  • Sloping floors.

The roof

Have a roofing specialist take a look if the inspector finds any of the following:

  • Shingles that are missing, cracked or have lost most of their grainy coating.

  • Flashing missing or gaping.

  • Proof of leaks inside the attic and / or on the ceilings just under the roof.

Electrical systems

As building codes have updated the standards, electrical deficiencies have become quite common in older homes. Homes built before 1980 may still have hazardous aluminum wiring that must be removed. A home should have circuit breakers, not fuses, and earth leakage circuit breaker (GFCI) in kitchens, bathrooms and wherever water is used. All-electrical outlets should have a left slot that is larger than the right. Home fire alarm alarms should be hardwired into the electrical system and connected to each other in a circuit. If the general home inspection reveals that any of these components are defective, hire a professional electrician to estimate the cost of the upgrade.

Heating and air conditioning

If the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is 20 years or older, major repairs may be on the horizon. Call an HVAC specialist for a quote on the system upgrade if:

  • A thermometer indicates that the vents are not cooling or heating enough.

  • The oven has a rickety heat exchanger.

  • Condenser fins are dented and dirty.

  • The thermostat is an older analog model.


Like electricity, plumbing is a major residential system that can easily fail to meet new code requirements. Have a plumbing professional inspect the system if it is at least 20 years old and has never been upgraded. If the house was built in the 1960s or before, the four-inch main drain line between the house and the city sewer system should be inspected with a camera, as the older pipes are made of galvanized metal which collapses and crumbles over time.

Most states require the seller to report past water damage in property condition reports. When previous leaks have produced mold, have a mold removal specialist inspect it to verify that it has been completely eradicated.

Xylophagous insects

Most states also require the seller to disclose past damage from wood-boring insects such as termites and carpenter ants. If the seller reports such damage, or if the inspector sees evidence of an active infestation, have a pest control professional inspect. Obtain copies of previous work orders and warranties.

Asbestos and lead

Between the 1930s and the 1970s, asbestos was used in insulation, flooring, and some wall coatings. It was banned in 1978 after being linked to cancer. In the same year, lead paint is also banned.

If a house was built before 1978, there may still be asbestos in its insulation, flooring, or ceiling coating. If you suspect the presence of asbestos or lead paint, have the county health department inspect and issue a report. Then ask the appropriate specialist to give you an estimate for the remediation.

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