When you’re in the process of buying a house, things move about as fast as toilet paper off of store shelves during a pandemic. You can search on REW for months, but open houses go by in hours, and offers during the busy months are often accepted in days. If you blink, you’ll miss it.
One thing you’d sure-as-rain-in-March not blink for is the home inspection. Bluntly put: you should not remove your subject to inspection when making an offer. Not that you were considering it, but it had to be said. There’s just too much at stake. Understanding and being prepared for the inspection is extremely important, which is where this handy dandy guide and checklist comes in. We’ve put together the ultimate home inspection checklist for Canadians looking to buy the house of their dreams. Let’s get to it.
What is a home inspection?
Sometimes, when we’re looking for a new home, we tend to get a superficial glance at all the beautiful aspects of it. Maybe the stunning London Plane out front caught your eye, or the wood-burning fireplace gives you “let’s roast chestnuts at Christmas” kind of vibes.
While the quick glance might make you feel warm and fuzzy, you won’t always get the full picture from the person who is selling the house to you, whether it be the homeowner or the estate agent in charge of the property. That tree might be about to drop a branch on your 18-year-old roof, and that fireplace might be less warm and cozy and more five-alarm hazard. Chestnut dreams, shattered.
Buying a home is a massive investment, and one of the biggest decisions a person can make in their lifetime. That’s why a proper home inspection is always recommended before you move in.
The American Society of Home Inspectors defines a home inspection as “An objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. After the inspection process, the inspector will send the client an inspection report (often within 24-48 hours) that covers their findings, complete with pictures, analysis and recommendations.”
A home inspection makes sure that you go beyond what you can see with your own eyes. An expert helps to investigate and check to see if there are foundation cracks, the condition of your plumbing, dangerous wiring or broken appliances, and so much more. The hope is to reveal as much as possible through the home inspection and address anything that needs to be rectified by the homeowner.
How to prepare for a home inspection.
Normally, there are four things that you should prepare for before doing a home inspection at your (potential) new home:
1. Make use of a home inspection checklist.
When you’re inspecting the new house, you want to make sure that you cover all the necessary items, but don’t waste time by analyzing the items that you’ve already checked. Head to the bottom of this guide for a PDF checklist that you can download to take with you to the inspection.
2. Look at the layout of the home.
While this may sound obvious, have a look at the size of the house, and then have a look at the size of your family. Will you be having more children in the future? Is the house large enough for your short and long term needs.
These are important questions to ask, that can save you a headache and minimize renovations down the road. Less Advil, more adventure.
3. Bring a trusted companion along for the inspection.
Nobody can spot all the issues by themselves. We recommend bringing a friend/partner/family member along with you for the inspection. Someone who’s built a wood deck, knows the difference between copper and aluminum wiring, and isn’t afraid to crawl around in the attic and look for signs of critters. That kind of person.
If you miss anything, hopefully your companion can also lend a pair of eyes to look out for the necessary items on the checklist. It’s also nice to have a second set of ears, don’t be afraid to ask your companion to take notes so that you can refer back later.
4. Make sure to hire a professional inspector.
Making use of a qualified home inspector will give you tremendous peace of mind, and satisfaction in the long term. Their job is to look at houses and ensure that everything is in working order. So while you may have a good eye for things, they are likely to look for things that you’re not even aware of, and will save you from needing to pay for those potential repairs from your own pocket in the future. It could be the best $500 you’ve ever spent. This is one of those times when you might want to look for the most reputable inspector as opposed to the most affordable. In some cases, the cheap comes out expensive.
Common home inspection problems.
If you’re doing a home inspection on a home that’s been around the block a few times, don’t be surprised to have a long deficiency list. It’s wise for you to arm yourself with this knowledge before attending your home inspection. That way, you can also contribute to the home inspection, along with the inspector. And bring that toque because you’ll be outside for part of the day!
1. Roofing issues.
A roof is probably one of the most important aspects of a house, since it protects us from the elements, and gives us a sense of comfort and security. Is a house without a roof really a house even? The question begs to be answered. Skylights are great, but they have their limits.
Unfortunately, roofing issues are very common and costly to repair. A roof that’s been replaced in the last few years is ideal, otherwise you’ll need to budget for the replacement.
A new roof in Canada is estimated to cost at least $1.17 per square foot for a new roof (including materials and installation). That’s the low-end estimate for an asphalt shingle roof, which is the cheapest material. They can run much more expensive than that, so be warned.
2. Issues with the house’s foundation.
With a roof over your head, you’ll be protected from the rain, sunshine and snow. Maybe even satellite debris. However, if your home’s foundation is shaky, then it stands a chance of collapsing in on itself, which is extremely dangerous and, for lack of a better phrase, not ideal in the slightest.
When you’re going through the house, there are certain signs that you can look for when doing the inspection, such as cracks in plaster walls, a basement wall crack that extends from floor to ceiling, doors that stick, sagging floors, pooling water near a slab foundation, or a wet crawl space after precipitation falls.
There are some signs that are less subtle, such as strange smells coming from the basement (other than your teenage son) or uncomfortable indoor humidity. Sometimes signs of foundation problems are not immediately associated with foundation damage and go unnoticed by the untrained eye. So trust the experts.
3. Plumbing, heating and electricity.
When we look at a home, we normally analyze the foundation, the walls, and the exterior. But as your grade one teacher might have told you, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Beneath the exterior lies a maze of wiring and pipes that ensure that you’ll have heat, electricity and plumbing that works.
When a home inspection is done, often the major issues lie in these areas, because they are not apparent to the blind eye. Therefore, you might need to bring in an expert in each of these areas to get their professional approval before purchasing the house.
What a home inspection checklist should include.
Here are some of the most common items that you should include on your checklist:
- Inspect the countertops, the sinks, and check that all the cupboard doors are working.
- Run the tap and take a look under the sink at the pipes, and see that they’re not leaking.
- Pour water from the taps into the sinks, and see that the water is flowing correctly at the right pressure.
The Floors, Walls and Ceilings
- The floors, walls and ceilings usually suffer from cracks and wear and tear over the years, or water damage.
- Take your time and inspect the walls for any sort of strange bumps, or uneven surfaces. Don’t rush, be sure to take your time, and carefully inspect every room.
- Sometimes water that seeps into the walls causes water spots. These are usually discoloured, and you will notice that something doesn’t look right, because the normal paint will appear as a different colour.
- Turn on the taps in the bath and sink. Ensure that the water pressure is similar to that of the sink in the kitchen. Make sure that the water is a normal colour and texture. Check that both the hot and cold water taps are working, to ensure that the geyser/water heater is functioning correctly.
- Make sure to ask the listing agent/home inspector how the geyser/water heater works, to ensure that you are turning it on at the correct times, and using it to its maximum capacity.
- Flush all the toilets, and ensure that there are no blockages or leaks.
- Make sure that the water is draining correctly in the bathroom sinks, in the showers and in the baths.
- If there are tiles, ensure that they are in one piece and that there are no cracks or dents.
- Open all the cabinets and cupboard doors to ensure that they are still in good condition.
The Windows and The Doors
- Doors are the best way to break on through to the other side, as Jim Morrison would tell you. Go around the house and ensure that they all open and close correctly and that the latches are solid and in good condition.
- Have a look at the window panes, and check that there are no cracks or broken glass.
The Basement (If There is One)
- Have a look at the foundation for any cracks and/or stains.
- Make sure that water is not leaking into the basement.
- If there are wooden beams used to support the structure of the house, ensure that they are in working condition, and you don’t notice any decay or wear and tear.
The Attic (If There is One)
- Similar to the basement, the attic is one of the less frequently used rooms in a house. That’s why you should pay extra attention to it when doing the home inspection. You need to have a close look at the structure inside it, and make sure that there’s no water damage, opening to the outside that could invite critters, or signs of damage to the roof. The attic is the first line of defence against the natural elements.
- Ensure that the attic is providing proper insulation and ventilation so that nothing erodes over time.
Plumbing and Heating
- All houses contain plumbing and heating in Canada. Inspect all the heaters, electrical panels, wiring, taps and pipes to ensure that they are in working order.
The Exterior of the House
- Walk around the outside of the home, and inspect the structure and walls. Have a look at the driveway, the roof, the garage door (if there is one) and the garden, and ensure that they are all up to your standard.
Using our printable home inspection checklist
We’ve put together the most user-friendly home inspection checklist in Canada. It has all the instructions you’ll need to do a thorough home inspection.
Hopefully, your home inspection is the last leg of the journey on your home search adventure. Visit REW for an extensive list of homes for sale & MLS® listings in Canada.