A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

A Basic Tool Kit for Inspecting a Home

I thought going over some tools that an investor could use when they are looking at a home could make a good post. Some of my clients are surprised when they see that I do not drive a truck. They believe that I should have a lot of tools. Well, I do have a lot of tools, but I do not need them for an inspection. An inspection is defined in most states as being a visual inspection, but in reality, you are using all of your senses to make a determination if something is wrong. It is not in the inspector’s purview to say specifically what is wrong, but that a certain area is in need of attention. The main tool that an inspector has is his knowledge, and you can only obtain that by going through the training, which I have known some investors to do. But let us get back to the physical tools.

A Leatherman Multi-tool- I try to avoid mentioning name brands, but in this case, I have found no acceptable substitute. Pliers, different screwdriver heads, a knife, a saw, and more come on a standard multi-tool. Everything you need to help you peer into outlet covers or coverplates on various pieces of equipment. By lightly tapping the tool on tile, you will be able to hear if the mastic was done right. You can use the awl for probing wood.

A RayTec Mini-Temp – alright another name brand, but this is the best one about. This will give you an accurate reading of the temperature of the vent and return of the HVAC system, the temperature of an electrical panel before you touch it, the temperature of an oven once it has time to heat up, or any surface you may want the temperature of. RayTec makes various temperature guns that work well at different distances. The Mini-Temp is affordable, and it works over the distances you may want to check.

An outlet tester (specifically for GFCI)- outlet testers are easy to use. They give a clear reading of what could be wrong with the wiring of a receptacle. The GFCI version lets you test this type of outlet too. These tools can be found at home improvement centers or hardware stores in the electrical section.

A collapsible or telescoping ladder- you can fit these ladders in your trunk. Depending on the size, first story homes are always accessible, but two story homes may not always be. Since they fold into different shapes, they can be used as a step ladder too.

A good 25FT tape measure- there will always be something to check, so it is good to have around.

Auto mechanic work gloves- this type of glove gives you some grip and maneuverability. Pest control workers use a Nitrol glove, which is even better, but the mechanics gloves can be obtained at any auto supply shop.

A good checklist- No inspector walks onto a property without a specific rehearsed routine or a good list to follow. Any list is just the starting point, but by going down the list, you will make sure that you checked everything that you need to see. My list is based on the standards of practice for inspectors in Texas (and that standard is supposed to be the minimum that we do). On the additional help page is my e-mail if you want to request a pdf file version of my list, just send me a note.

These tools should get you started. They are the ones that I pull out at every inspection. Hopefully you will use a good inspector or contractor to assist you further.


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