What Are The Limitations During a Home Inspection?

Date Published: April 23, 2024

When conducting standard home inspections, it is our goal to provide our clients with the most thorough service possible. Our inspectors cover the exterior and roofing, foundation and structure, electrical and plumbing, heating and cooling systems, interior, and most appliances. Purchasing a home is a serious commitment – so we want to make sure our customers have a clear and comprehensive snap shot of their entire prospective home, before completing the deal.

However, there are times when we come across certain limitations or items that are out of the scope of a standard inspection. These can vary by house or season greatly, but we tend to re-inspect or refer a specialist where needed.

For an in-depth break down at what our inspectors look for, check out this article.

Physical Limitations

It is always our goal to inspect the whole home, but sometimes there are certain areas we just can’t access.

Roofs

While we always walk roofs where possible, roofs come in all shapes and sizes. And sometimes they are not very conducive for walking. We come across many roofs that are too high to access with a ladder, and some with pitches much too steep for walking. There are also certain roofing materials that we don’t walk on, such as concrete tiles, clay tiles, stone-coated metal, or wood shake shingles. It is our policy to avoid walking on these materials because they can be easily damaged. When facing these limitations, we will conduct our best visual assessment from the eaves or the ground, and recommend a roofer where needed.

Attics and Crawlspaces

Much like roofs, attics and crawlspaces vary from home to home. You never know what you’ll get. In some cases, a crawlspace may be so narrow that even an army crawl isn’t going to make the cut. When it comes to super tight crawlspaces, our inspectors will utilize high-powered flashlights to observe as much of the space as possible. The same goes for attic spaces – if the inspector can’t physically walk through the attic, they will use their flashlight to observe and document the area as thoroughly as possible.

Inspections limitation - small crawlspace

Image sourced from: https://acculevel.com

Obstructions

Sometimes household objects can also act as limitations. Stored items will often obstruct important areas, such as portions of the garage walls and/or flooring or sections of the basement foundation and/or slab. Using these spaces for storage is obviously very common; and in most cases, we are able to make a sound assessment of the area, regardless of a few minor obstructions. However, in extreme cases when too much clutter is in the way (like in the photo below), the inspector will be unable to make a complete assessment of the space. In these cases, we recommend removal of the obstruction(s) and a re-inspection.

inspection limitation - too much clutter

There are also, of course, intentionally constructed aspects of the house that might lead to inspection limitations. For instance, if a basement is completely finished, our inspectors will not be able to entirely inspect the structural features of the home. Additionally, a good majority of the plumbing will be running behind drywall in a finished home. Your inspector will be able to test the functionality of the plumbing and observe any visible parts of piping. But a lot of the piping is out of sight. That is why we always recommend a sewer scope inspection – the best way to inspect your drainage system!

Seasonal Limitations

Roofs Covered

Roofing is an extremely important part of the overall structure of a home, as it acts as its protective “helmet” from the outside elements. So naturally, we will want to take a close look at the roof, when possible. However, dangerous weather conditions such as snow, ice and rain will often prevent our inspectors from actually walking the roof.

Snowy Roof - Inspection Limitation

Sometimes, we can still conduct a visual inspection from a ladder. But heavy snow accumulation will often obstruct the majority of the roof. In those cases, we are able to schedule a roof re-inspection at a later date once the snow is melted, if necessary.

Grading/Exterior Foundation/Exterior Surfaces

Snowy weather can also affect the visibility around the exterior of the home. Surfaces such as decks, walkways, and driveways will sometimes become covered, leaving the inspector no way to properly evaluate them. If enough surfaces are obstructed at the time of inspection, this may warrant an exterior re-inspection.

Snowy Deck - Inspection limitation

At times, if the snow builds high enough, we might even have difficulty examining the exterior components of the foundation. However, if the inspector can access the foundation from the interior, they will generally be able to make a sufficient evaluation.

With enough snowfall, the grading can also be hard to evaluate. However, we can usually still get a sense of how the grading is sloped even with snow buildup present.

Air Conditioning Units and Evaporative Coolers

Once the temperature has dropped below an average of 65ºF, our inspectors are unable to test cooling systems. Operating AC units or evaporative coolers in cold temperatures, could cause damage and lead to costly repairs. We are still able to conduct a visible inspection to look for any overt defects. However, we cannot comment on the actual functionality of the system. We will recommend that a complete test be performed by a specialist when weather permits.

Air Conditioning inspection limitations

Sprinklers

Testing of lawn sprinkler systems is generally outside the scope of most standard home inspections. However, at Scott Home Inspection we will run and test sprinkler systems when the system is currently turned on and operational. However, this is another aspect of the inspection that will become limited when cold weather rolls in. As CO temperatures start to decrease in the fall, CO homeowners will have their lawn sprinkler systems winterized (or at least they should).

Sprinkler winterization is the process of blowing out all moisture from sprinkler lines so that the water doesn’t freeze and cause damage to the system. It is a very necessary annual practice for any cold-weather homeowner. Needless to say, we cannot test the sprinkler system once it has been winterized, but we can visually inspect the visible items.

Out of the Scope of a Standard Inspection

The final limitation our inspectors will face is anything that is simply out of the scope of our standard inspection. Items such as pools, hot tubs, saunas, elevators, solar panels, grills, etc. will not be operated. Our inspectors can provide a general visual inspection and make note of any apparent defects, but they will not conduct any extensive testing or operation.

Some items, like pools and hot tubs, are more of a specialty item that is so rare in our state that we have to defer to a professional. Other items, like wells or elevators, require specialized knowledge and tools to properly inspect. While we can call out visible defects with these things, its best to obtain a secondary inspection for these items.

Keep in mind that our inspectors have a wealth of knowledge about many aspects of your home, however as generalists, it’s important that we have a clear line on what we do and do not inspect. Our job is to identify issues and recommend evaluation or repair from a certified specialist. The specialist can then make the final call on what actions need to be taken.

Here at Scott Home Inspection, it is our goal to provide you with the most thorough and comprehensive home inspection services. And being transparent with our clients is a top priority. That is why we find it so important to clearly discuss our inspection capabilities and limitations!

If you have any more questions about our home inspections, feel free to send us a message through our “Ask Your Inspector” page.

If you are in need of any Colorado home inspection services, visit us online or contact us to book your services today!

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About the Author: Chris Kimmel

Chris Kimmel worked as an Associate Home Inspector for two years, handling numerous services including sewer scope inspections, pest inspections, mold air sample testing, radon testing, and water quality testing. Chris now works with Scott Home Inspection as a Content Writing Specialist.

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