Many factors affect length of inspection

Inspector's Eye

Characteristics of house result in variables

March 03, 2002|By Dean Uhler

Prospective clients frequently ask how long a home inspection will take. It's a good question, not just for planning your schedule, but also because there is a relationship between the length of the inspection and its thoroughness.

So there's an underlying question when someone asks how long an inspection will take, and that is how long it should take.

The length of an inspection is largely determined by the characteristics of the house, ranging from the obvious (how big and complicated is the house?) to the subtle (has a lot of the work in the house been done by someone lacking the necessary knowledge and skills?). Another factor is the inspector's experience level and thoroughness.

Experienced inspectors will more quickly recognize and understand what they are looking at, so they might move through a house more quickly. However, even a veteran will require considerable time to do the job thoroughly. Inspections consist of a lot of detailed looking, and that takes time. A quick inspection just won't reveal as much about the house.

For an average single-family detached home of 2,000 square feet, expect an inspection to take two to three hours. Many inspections will take longer, and unusually large and complicated houses might take as long as an entire day.

Among the characteristics of houses that affect the duration of an inspection are:

The size of the house.

The age of the house. Houses tend to become more complex with age, as repairs are made and components are replaced piecemeal.

The condition of the house's systems and components. Numerous defects require more decisions by the inspector and more writing to document them.

The number and complexity of heating systems. Two furnaces take twice as long to inspect as one, and multiple heating zones must be operated individually so that they can be evaluated.

The number of air conditioning systems.

The complexity of the electrical system. Separate electrical panels must be opened and checked individually.

Whether the house has aluminum wiring. The quality of aluminum wiring connections is critical; a number of devices might need to be checked to assess the connections.

The roof type and condition. A thorough inspection of a roof typically requires a ladder to get up close. If it's a roof that cannot or should not be walked on (e.g., slate), multiple ladder locations might be needed. Also, a number of roofs might have to be checked.

Additions. Parts of houses built at different times are usually structurally independent and often have different mechanical systems, materials and workmanship.

The number of foundations and foundation types (basement, crawlspace, slab, post and beam). Each must be evaluated.

The number of bathrooms and plumbing fixtures.

The age of plumbing fixtures. Certain problems are unique to old fixtures and take more time to evaluate, such as old tile showers that might have deteriorated, concealed liners under them.

Makeshift repairs or installations.

The number of appliances included in the inspection. Laundry equipment and refrigerators often are included in the sale; high-end kitchens can have many appliances.

Ease of access (to rooms, attics, roofs, mechanical systems, etc.). Cluttered or crowded houses and houses with poor access to equipment are harder to inspect.

Inspector's Eye

Dean Uhler has been a home inspector for more than 12 years and is president of Baltimore-based Boswell Building Surveys Inc. Uhler is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and is the treasurer of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of ASHI.

Questions, with name, address and daytime telephone number, about homes and home inspections can be faxed to 410-783-2517, e-mailed to or mailed to Inspector's Eye, Second Floor, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.

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