A basic building inspection can help you to identify cosmetic issues but typically a more thorough inspection is required to address any structural issues or maintenance needs.
You may not have have the expertise to identify potential structural issues but keeping in mind what to look out for when you look at a property can help you to notice common issues and make carefully considered choices.
Our building inspection checklist will provide tips and help you identify potential trouble spots but keep in mind, this is definitely not a replacement for a professional building inspection. A professional building inspector in your area should be consulted for a thorough building inspection so you can make logical choices before moving forward with your purchase.
Check each door to see if it operates smoothly without rubbing on the door frame or sticking and inspect each door to see if it’s square or has been shaped to fit a non-standard or misshapen frame.
• The gaps around the door should be evenly spaced inside the frame.
• The striker plate should be in its original position.
Take the time to open and close each window and look for signs of repairs that may be covering extensive damage. Check for the following signs of issues:
• Patched or painted frames
• Cracks in the glass
Walls and Ceilings
Take a careful look at the walls and ceilings to identify buckled areas, sagging, stains or patches. Brick walls should be checked for dampness, mould and stains. A sagging ceiling can be an indication of roof problems and previous leaks. Shining a flashlight along the surface of the wall can help you to identify repair sites and damage. A BPI North Coast inspection will use a thermal imaging camera to assess further.
In the kitchen, check for dampness or stains around the sink, especially along the backsplash.
The cabinetry under the sink should be dry and free of water stains or sour smells, and a gentle jiggle of the pipes will help to identify if the fittings are sound. Around the cooktop, check for the following issues:
• Adequate exhaust and ventilation systems that vent to the outdoors
• Signs of grease in the upper cupboards
• Visually check the roof for an exhaust flue
For each bathroom in the home, you should check for efficient, leak-free plumbing in the following areas:
• Turn each faucet on and off.
• Check to see how long it takes for hot water to reach the sink, bathtub or shower.
• Look underneath each sink for signs of water stains or active leaks.
• Check for missing seals or grout around the base of fixtures and tiles.
• Ensure that there is a working exhaust fan.
• Open and close shower doors to ensure they are working properly.
• If possible, check underneath the floor of each bathroom while the water is running to identify any active leaks.
In the laundry room, you should check for a secured trough, signs of stains or rust inside and out, and good seals around the trough and wall. The trough wall should be tiled, and an overflow drain pipe should be located in the floor, especially in apartments.
To inspect the toilets, you should visually check all around the toilet fixture for signs of leaks or broken seals.
• Check for overuse of caulking, as this is frequently used to cover up necessary repairs or active leaks.
• Flush the toilet and listen for running water or signs of leaks around the waste pipes.
• Check to ensure that the water shuts off after the cistern has filled.
• Push gently on the toilet to see if it is stable. If it moves, the base attachment screws are loose and the sewage flange may leak.
The plumbing system can take some time to inspect since the system runs throughout the building. The steps you should take include:
• Inspect the pipe at the water meter
• Identify the type of pipe that was used for the supply lines.
• Silver galvanised piping affects water quality and pressure, and the piping will need to be replaced in favour of copper or PVC.
• Take a close look at waste pipes to identify cracks or leaking seals.
Even a professional inspector will only provide a brief overview of your plumbing system. A licensed plumber can provide a complete inspection of the plumbing system using sophisticated testing to identify issues with water pressure or leaks.
As with plumbing, it is difficult to gain more than a general idea of the condition of the electrical system with your own inspection or with the help of a professional inspector.
However, a licensed electrician can test the wiring to thoroughly assess its condition and safety. For your own visual inspection, you can take the following steps:
• Examine the inside of the fuse box to identify if it contains actual fuses or if it has been updated to a circuit breaker system.
• Look for an earth-leakage circuit breaker. If one is not present, you will need to install it upon the purchase of the building for your safety.
• Check for the presence of white wiring in the attic or crawl space; this indicates that modern wiring is present in the house.
• If you see only black-coloured cable or timber cable trays, this is a sign that the building may need to be completely rewired.
The structure of the roof should be sound and free of damage or weakness. Accessing the attic can help you to visually inspect the following items:
• Identify the type of wood used in construction. If it is hardwood, you may experience creaking noises and ceiling cracks when the weather changes. Pine wood is ideal for roof construction, as it is very stable.
• Check for quality craftsmanship around skylights and vents; the trusses should not be compromised.
• Inspect the exterior roof for signs of sagging or uneven surfaces.
Roofing Materials and Gutters
The roof is responsible for keeping moisture out of the home, and checking carefully for signs of damage, camouflaged damage or leaks is an important part of your inspection. Watch for the following issues:
• Iron roofs should be rust free and should not be painted to cover over rust.
• Faded concrete roofing may be in need of sealing. It should be applied after the first 25 years and every seven to ten years thereafter.
• Terra cotta roofing that is older than 50 years will become very brittle requires service or replacement.
• Check for cracked or missing mortar, especially along peaks and valleys in the roof.
• Examine eaves, gutters and downpipes for damage and signs of rust. Rust stains may indicate a leak.
• Ensure that downpipes are connected to storm water outlets rather than pooling water around the foundation of the building.
When examining the exterior siding of the house, watch for the following potential signs of wear, dry rot or damage:
• Check for sagging or bowed areas in the boards that may indicate that the siding or building is moving.
• Examine window sills, plumbing pipes and ground surfaces for rotten wood or water stains.
• Inspect bricks for large cracks that indicate shifting; take a careful look at window and door openings, as this is typically where the first cracks that indicate a problem may be seen.
• Scrape the brick mortar with a metal tool to see if it is solid or if it is loose and dusty. If it is not intact, it may need to serviced and the mortar replaced by a bricklayer.
• Dry rot typically begins in joints or at the corners of a building; take a careful look in those areas for signs of weakness, water stains or damage.
• Inspect areas around trees, as the tree roots can damage the foundation and walls of the structure.
Subfloor and Crawl Space
The foundation is important to inspect carefully, as the footings or stumps should be solid and secure. If the stumps are wooden, poke them with a metal tool to determine if there are any soft areas or damage. Wood timber stumps that are older than 30 years may need to be replaced.
The soil underneath the structure should not be wet, and there should be pathways for adequate drainage. Water should not be allowed to pool under the structure. If there is a concrete slab, the garden soil should be below the level of the flooring.
Your Pre-Purchase Inspection
With a careful and detailed inspection, you can identify major issues or confirm that the house may be ideal for your needs. Doing your own inspection will help you to carefully evaluate buildings for purchase but always remember to contact us when you’re ready to go ahead withe the purchase.