First off please understand a home inspector is a generalist similar to your family doctor. If something requires a specialist I will recommend you seek an additional evaluation. That said, I take a holistic approch to a home and the science that makes it function properly, often lacking in a specialist. Also home inspectors adhere to the Standards of Practices of our national orgainzations (InterNACHI or ASHI) which limit us to a visual inspection only. Often the home is currently occupied, so moving furniture and appliances is prohibited. Nevertheless, a relatively thorough examinination does still take place.
The inspections starts on the roof. If it is accesible the shingles (or other materials) are inspected for defects along with the flashings and penetrations. Special attention is paid to masonry chimneys.
Next the exterior siding and foundation are inspected for any defects, paying attention to vulnerable areas like window headers and sills, gutters and downspouts and grading. The exterior componants of the A/C system as well as the electrical service are checked. Any decks, porches and garages are inspected at this time.
I am looking for safety issues and big ticket items. In the course of my examination I also note other defects, many of which do not affect the actual function of the home.
The interior of the home comes next with a general inspection for water intrusion with the aid of a penetrating moisture meter. This detects moisture levels inside the wall cavity. The window are inspected for operation and condition as are the electrical outlets and switches. Safety and function are the primary goals, so cosmetic issues are not noted. Door operation is inspected as it is a good indicator of the structural integrity of the house.
The kitchen appliances are inspected and their serial numbers recorded and run against a master manufacture recall list.
All the plumbing fixtures are inspected for function and leaks. Odd configurations or improper repairs are noted. The temperature of the faucet hot water is taken and recorded for future homeowner adjustment (if necessary).
The attic is inspected if it is accessible. Depth readings of the insulation are noted along with any anomilies that need correction. The rafters and roof sheathing are inspected for areas of water intrusion or damage.
Then its down to the basement, where the home's structure is inspected. Foundation walls are checked for cracks or movement as well as water intrusion. Columns and beams are checked for soundness. The plumbing waste system and the water supply systems are inspected at this time, paying attention to function and leakage. The electrial service box is opened and analyzed for irregularities. Quite often, in the basement, much of the home's wiring is exposed for inspection as well.
The last part of the inspection is an analysis of the water heater and furnace/boiler systems. These are checked for exterior carbon monoxide levels, flue draft, natural gas leaks, as well as for function and age. Infrared photography is employed to inspect the ductwork or radiator functions as well as glimpse the effectiveness of the wall insulation.
After completing the field work of the home inspection, a walk-thru is conducted with the buyer explaining the home's function and any defects explained. The home inspection report is then prepared off-site and emailed in a PDF format. This PDF format allows for video links, digital photographs, hyperlinks, and illustrations to be included.