A standard home inspection provides you with a detailed report on the home you're hoping to buy, but it doesn't tell you everything.
Depending on the age, location and condition of the home you're considering, you may need additional inspections. Radon testing, termite inspection, mold inspection and foundation inspection are among the most common of these specialized types of home inspections.
Here's what a home inspection includes, and why your inspector might recommend — or you might want — one of these different inspections.
What is included in a home inspection?
Home inspectors typically conduct a visual inspection of all parts of the property that are readily accessible. That leaves out anything that's not easily viewed (or even visible), like some types of pest infestation, as well as any areas that are hard to safely reach (think wells and chimney interiors).
Parts of the home that are commonly included in a home inspection:
Structural components (floors, walls, ceilings, stairs).
Exterior components (siding, attached decks, porches).
Heating and air conditioning.
Fireplaces and wood stoves.
Windows and doors.
Different types of home inspections
Depending on what they find, your home inspector may suggest some of these additional inspections. They may also recommend that a knowledgeable tradesperson evaluate any issues identified (having an electrician look at faulty wiring, for example).
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that results from the gradual breakdown of radioactive elements in the Earth. It is released from well water, building materials and soil, and can enter your home through cracks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the surgeon general’s office estimate that, after smoking, radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. And it's everywhere — according to the EPA, roughly 1 in 15 homes has an elevated radon level.
“According to the EPA, roughly 1 in 15 homes has an elevated radon level.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Long-term (over 90-day) radon testing is generally recommended; but when you're trying to close on a home, you don't have the luxury of waiting three months. What can you do?
First, ask the seller if they have any previous radon test results. If they do, these results can give you a point of comparison. Either way, you can get a new short-term test done. A professional radon inspector may be able to report results within days of completing a 48-hour test. Alternatively, you can use an off-the-shelf kit to test radon levels yourself, but you'll have to send the device off to a lab and wait to get the results.
If test results are elevated or you're not confident about DIY testing, look to the National Radon Proficiency Program or the National Radon Safety Board to find a pro. Both of these groups' credentialing programs are accepted by the EPA, which is helpful since not all states license radon inspectors. Professional radon testing costs a few hundred dollars, on average.
Wood-destroying organism (WDO) inspection
More commonly called a termite inspection, a wood-destroying organism inspection ensures your future home doesn't already have six-legged tenants. Termites, wood-boring beetles and carpenter ants are among the most concerning culprits, though WDO inspectors will also look for dry rot caused by fungi.
Many states require a WDO inspection to close on a home, and even outside those states, cities or counties may demand one. If you're using a VA loan or FHA loan, a WDO inspection may be required regardless of location.
During a WDO inspection, the inspector will look for signs of active infestation (shed termite wings), signs of past infestation (soft wood) and potential trouble spots (crevices or gaps that could let in pests). You'll get a report with detailed findings, as well as suggestions for addressing any issues that come up.
To locate a licensed inspector or exterminator, the National Pest Management Association is a good place to start; the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors also licenses WDO inspectors. Termite inspection costs can vary, but are generally around $100.
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The EPA's recommendation about mold testing is essentially if you see mold, you've got mold — and you might need to go straight to remediation. But if you’re concerned about what you can't see (or smell), a home mold inspection may be in order.
A mold inspector uses a moisture meter to detect dampness in drywall, insulation and other building materials. They may also take air samples from inside and outside the home.
To find a certified mold inspector near you, try the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors. Mold inspection costs vary based on home size; you can expect to pay from $200 to over $600.
A home inspector will look at the house's foundation and note potential issues like drainage problems, nearby tree roots, cracks or other indications of movement. If anything looks worrisome, the inspector may suggest having the property examined by a residential structural engineer.
A structural engineer can provide a comprehensive inspection of the foundation, diagnose the causes of any issues and explain how they can be addressed. Before you hire an engineer, check their credentials with your state's licensing board — you can find a comprehensive list of links on the National Society of Professional Engineers website. Foundation inspection costs vary depending on where you live, but are generally about $500.