As you probably know, home inspections are an essential step in the home buying process. However, fewer people realize that there are many types of home inspections. A properly licensed home inspector is able to comment on the condition of your home, but they aren’t experts in everything.
Ancillary inspections are a closer look at specific issues of a property. After a properly licensed home inspector goes through a property, they may recommend an additional inspection with a specialist based on issues they discovered. This typically means they think there is an issue but do not have the expertise to fully comment on it. Here are a few examples of additional inspections you might run into:
- Radon testing
- Mold testing
- Termite inspection
- Sewer scope
- Water quality
- Well water testing
- Pool / spa inspection
- Lead-based paint testing
- Asbestos testing
- Air quality audit
- Energy audit
- Thermal imaging
Do I need an additional inspection?
The great news is that, in most cases, you won’t need any additional inspections. It just depends on what your home inspector finds and if they suspect more significant issues (i.e., no need for a termite inspection if there isn’t evidence of them on the property). However, you should always get an additional inspection when a professional recommends it.
It’s important to remember that the home inspector won’t recommend an inspection that isn’t necessary. Their mission is to ensure homebuyers have a complete understanding of the house before they commit to purchasing it. So home inspectors are genuinely there to look out for your best interest.
So, what are these inspections, and when do you need them? Let’s break it down:
1. Radon testing
You may not realize it, but radon is a very real hazard. Radon is an odorless, tasteless gas that you cannot see. The level of radon gas depends on where your home is and the type of foundation. In small amounts, the radon gas we breathe in all the time doesn’t pose a significant health risk. However, when radon builds up in a home, it can become dangerous. It’s a radioactive gas, and the Surgeon General has released a statement warning that indoor radon is the second-biggest cause of lung cancer each year.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every homeowner should test for the presence of radon. It’s in all kinds of houses and every state, so there’s no way of escaping it or predicting which homes are safe without testing. Furthermore, if the property you want to buy shows high radon levels when tested, you should negotiate the sales price to cover the cost of mitigation.
You can check the EPA’s radon map to find out which areas have higher radon levels than others, but you should still test for it even if you’re in a lower radon area just to be safe. For example, older houses with dirt basement floors and exposed crawl spaces may be at higher risk of elevated radon levels. Also, if you rely on a well for your water, you should test for radon and other contaminants.
2. Mold testing
Mold is a fungus that thrives in moist areas. It not only damages the surfaces it grows on, but it can also make allergies and asthma worse.
It spreads by giving off spores that float in the air until they land on another surface. Mold spores are everywhere, though, and it’s almost impossible to remove them all from the atmosphere. However, mold spores only grow when they land on a damp surface, so if you can keep your home dry, then there’s a good chance you’ll escape from any mold issues.
Typical mold inspections require the inspector to talk to the property owner about any moisture problems, past water damage, if the property has been unoccupied, or if they have seen mold. They will then go over the house very thoroughly to look where mold is prone to grow.
If potential mold is found, the inspector will test it to be sure, try to find out what is causing it, and discuss a mold remediation plan with the homeowner.
3. Termite (WDI/WDO) inspection
Next up are the dreaded termites! They don’t just eat wood - they eat into your bank account, too. They can cause a massive amount of damage and require professional help to remedy.
If you’re trying to get a mortgage to buy a home, then you will likely be required to obtain a WDI/WDO inspection by your mortgage company or bank. Wood destroying insects (or organisms)
It’s not just termites that are classed as WDIs. Carpenter ants, carpenter bees, powderpost beetles, and other wood-hungry insects go undetected under the surface of the wood. As a result, they’re often not noticed by the property owner until it’s too late. The Environmental protection agency (EPA) says that termites alone cause structural damage running into the billions each year.
Here’s the scary part for potential homebuyers - the EPA estimates a typical termite infestation can cost over $3,000 in repairs alone. That figure doesn’t include the cost of termite treatments, either! If it weren’t bad enough... homeowners insurance rarely covers termite damage.
The bottom line: inspecting for WDI/WDOs is a must if an inspector finds evidence of them.
4. Sewer scope
Did you know that the cost of repairing a broken sewer line can run you thousands of dollars? It’s around $250-$300 per foot of repaired line (it’s a lot, we know). A sewer scope inspection can give you peace of mind that no potential problems are building in your sewer line.
This inspection usually only takes a few minutes to do, and it involves the inspector running a specialized, flexible borescope camera through the piping of the property, checking for any potential problems or damage.
The inspector will check for a number of things including:
- Clogs or backlogs in the pipes
- Cracks, broken seals, or damage
- Piping material
- Presence of tree roots
- Septic tank issues (if present)
5. Water quality testing
Water quality is very important for your family’s health and safety. So, once you find your dream home, don’t forget to have the water tested by a professional.
Bad water can have a nasty taste and smell, but it can also be harmful to your health. Poor water quality is often linked to gastrointestinal issues, but it can also cause abdominal diseases and neurological disorders. Look no further than the Flint, Michigan stories to learn how important water quality is.
Older properties often times have service lines made of lead, leading to it leaching into the water. If you have an old property or are suspicious of issues, it’s never a bad idea to get your water quality tested.
6. Well water testing
While many of us rely on community water systems, millions still use water from private wells. The EPA recommends that well users have the water tested every year and if they suspect a problem.
A well water test should look for traces of total dissolved solids, nitrates, chemicals, pH, coliform bacteria, and other possible contaminants. As we just discussed, water quality is very important.
7. Pool/spa inspection
If you’re lucky enough to be buying a home with a pool or spa, make sure they are fit for purpose with a pool or spa inspection. You must make sure that the pool or spa is safe for you and your family, and that includes the equipment as well as the pool or spa itself.
Common safety issues with pools and spas include loose railings, faulty wiring, unsafe decks, ladders, and steps. A pool or spa inspection should cover the pumps, liners, ladders, heaters, and plumbing.
If you get a pool or spa inspection done, a small cost now could save you a huge one later if the inspection discovers a problem that is potentially expensive or dangerous.
8. Lead-based paint testing
If you are buying an older home, it’s wise to check for any lead-based paint. There were no regulations against using lead paints until the late 1970s when it was discovered that these paints create poisonous dust when it chips, peels, or deteriorates. The dust is tasteless and doesn’t smell, so children and pets can easily ingest it.
Even if the house has been remodeled, it’s still essential to get lead testing done. This is because lead dust and chips could have been dispersed around the property when the remodeling was done.
A lead inspection consists of checks on surfaces both inside and outside of a home to identify where lead paint is. Inspectors will examine problem areas along with other places where lead-based paint is suspected.
Lead paint is only harmful when disturbed or damaged, so even if there is lead paint in the property, if it’s in good condition and in an area where it won’t be disturbed, it can be left there.
9. Asbestos testing
Another hazard that may be lurking in older homes is asbestos. Before 1950, it was common for building materials to contain asbestos fibers, and you can’t tell if an item contains asbestos just by looking at it.
Common housing materials that can contain asbestos include insulation, shingles, textiles, paper, and cement products, and ceiling and floor tiles, as well as coatings. Vermiculite insulation is especially hazardous, as it doesn’t hold in the asbestos fibers very well.
Asbestos exposure can increase the likelihood of lung disease and lung cancer, so it’s crucial to get a professional to test for the presence of asbestos. This is especially true if you want to remodel your home in the future. Some states require homeowners to test for asbestos before any construction or renovation project and for contractors to obtain a written asbestos report from a building owner before work.
10. Indoor air quality testing
Our homes are where we spend a lot of time, so it makes sense to breathe good-quality air. However, did you know that the air in your home can get pretty unhealthy at times? Everyday dust and grime, pet dander, and air pollutants can make the air you breathe a lot less fresh than it should be!
Some materials in your home can also emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), and these can contribute to some health issues, like headaches and asthma symptoms.
Poor indoor air quality in a home can be caused by pollutants like moisture, mildew, mold, radon gas, smoke damage, chemicals, and improper ventilation.
11. Energy audit
The average American single-family home costs around $2,060 per year in electricity and other energy sources. While it's on the biggest bill, energy inefficiencies will add up over time.
One way to see where you can potentially save money is to have an energy audit done by a qualified home inspector. They will assess your house for current energy consumption and suggest what energy-saving measures you can use to make your home more efficient and reduce your energy bills.
12. Thermal imaging
While many home inspectors do thermal imaging as part of a routine home inspection these days, they can be done as a separate add-on if they aren’t covered in your home inspection.
One of the main areas thermal imaging excels in is discovering problems in a building that the human eye simply can’t see. Thermal imaging cameras identify thermal anomalies in the house structure to uncover things like trapped moisture, electrical problems, plumbing problems, and issues with roofs.
There are many different types of ancillary inspections, but the good news is that you will rarely ever need more than one (if any). This article is not designed to scare you but to help you better understand what you might run into when purchasing a home.
Home inspections are designed to protect buyers from issues that, often, the sellers aren’t even aware exist. For example, an inspection can protect you from buying a home with significant problems or overpaying for a home that needs a lot of TLC.
Whether you need a full inspection or ancillary service, we’ve got you covered. Our nationwide network of highly qualified, well-reviewed inspectors is available in just a few clicks. Click here to schedule your inspection in just a few minutes.