Home Inspector Standards of Practice: Structures and Exteriors

Home inspector

The Standards of Practice that you’ll study follow you throughout your career.

Each home inspection organization has its own Standards of Practice. They set guidelines for inspectors to follow, which helps promote consistency and integrity in the industry.

While most Standards are largely the same, there are differences. One of the most noticeable is the use of the words “shall” or “will.” In legal writing, which is very near to the intent of the Standards, the two words are similar, but with one subtle difference.

“Shall” is a determination of fact; “will” is a promise. So where one set of Standards says the inspector “shall” perform a task, that means it’s essentially required. And where another set says the inspector “will” perform a task, by adhering to the standards, the inspector promises to perform that task.

The result is largely the same. An inspector following a set of Standards is expected to perform any task that he “shall” or “will” perform.

Because there are differences from one organization to the next, seeing them side-by-side can help clarify what you’ll see once you’re working in the industry. Here is a comparison between ASHI and NAHI’s Structural and Exterior segments of their Standards of Practice.

Home inspector

Defects under a home could create problems inside.

Section 1: Structural

ASHI calls this part of a building the “Structural System.” NAHI calls it “Foundations.”

ASHI’s description explains that Structural Systems “Include structural components including foundation and framing.”

ASHI inspectors shall:

  • Inspect the foundation and framing by probing only where deterioration is either suspected or visible. If there’s no deterioration, or if probing would destroy a finished surface, no probing is required.
  • Describe what the foundation looks like and its condition, including defects, and explain the methods employed to perform the inspection of the crawlspace, walls, ceiling, roof, and attic.

It goes on to explain that an ASHI inspector is not required to assist the customer with architectural services or advice, or offer any opinion on whether the building’s structure, bolting or bracing is adequate.

NAHI’s description explains that Foundations include the foundation walls, the systems of the first floor, any other support and structure systems, stairs, ventilation, and the grade or floor slab.

NAHI inspectors will:

  • Inspect the foundation for evidence of flood, moisture or other water infiltration.
  • Describe the structure, the material that it’s made of, and the same for all other structural items that are inspected.
  • Observe the visible and exposed areas of foundation walls, grade and floor slab, bearing walls, posts and piers, beams, joists and trusses, subfloors, chimney foundations, related structural components, as well as the subfloor crawlspace and its ventilation and vapor barriers.

NAHI inspectors are not required to enter crawlspaces with less than 3 feet of clearance, obstructions or other hazards that make accessing the area dangerous. They are also not required to move anything to access an area, or operate sump pumps that have internal switches.

Home inspector

House siding, such as brick, is only the beginning of exteriors.

Section 2: Exterior

Both ASHI and NAHI refer to this part of a building as the “Exterior.”

ASHI explains that an exterior consists of wall coverings plus flashing and trim, exterior doors, decks and balconies, stoops and steps, porches and railings, eaves, soffits, facia where it’s accessible from the ground, vegetation grading and surface drainage, retaining walls that do or could affect the building, driveways leading to the building entrance, walkways, and patios.

An ASHI inspector shall:

  • Inspect every component and element listed in the ASHI exterior description.

ASHI inspectors are not required to inspect screens, shutters, awnings, seasonal exterior accessories, fences, recreational facilities, outbuildings, seawalls and breakwalls, docks, erosion control, and geo-technical and hydrological conditions.

NAHI explains that exteriors consist of visible structural components, wall coverings and trim, protective coatings, doors and windows, porches, balconies, decks, steps, guardrails and handrails, carports, and chimney exteriors.

A NAHI inspector will:

  • Inspect attached decks and porches, balconies, steps, handrails and guardrails.
  • Observe components from the ground and report their condition, and that of a representative number of doors and windows.
  • Describe the wall covering and the type and material of those exterior components.

A NAHI inspector is not required to inspect any detached buildings, test security locks or systems, or inspect for thermal window seals, damaged glass or safety glass.

ASHI and NAHI are two of many different organizations across the country. And while every set of Standards is unique to its organization, every set also has the same goal: consistency and integrity.

ICA School helps prepare you for a career in home inspections. Part of your training includes learning what to expect from the Standards that you’ll encounter. There’s a lot to learn about inspecting real estate, but we give you the tools that you need. Enroll now, and you could complete the course in as little as a few weeks.

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