FAQ’s and Tips
Answers to some of our most commonly asked questions.
A home inspection is a comprehensive visual examination of the home’s overall structure, major systems and components. A trained and qualified HIABC home inspector will review your house as a system, looking at how one component of the house might affect the operability or lifespan of another. Components that are not performing properly should be identified, as well as items that are beyond their useful life or are unsafe. The purpose of the home inspection is to provide the client with a better understanding of the property conditions, as observed at the time of the inspection. Consumer Protection BC ‘s website states: A home inspection is an educational process which is designed to reduce a consumer’s risk when buying a home, and is not a guarantee or a warranty on a property.
It is important to recognize that at this time, all home inspectors in BC are not always equal. In 2016 the industry regulator, Consumer Protection BC, reduced the qualifications for home inspectors to become licensed in BC, eliminated the need for annual continued education and the need for home inspectors to belong to a professional home inspection association in the province. Consumers should be aware that unaligned inspectors have no support, oversight, or mandated scope of inspection provided by a professional association.
Home Inspectors are free to set the price for their service based on their own criteria. Criteria for pricing may be based on:
- Type of Home (House, Townhouse, Condo, etc)
- Characteristics of Home (square footage, number of living units, etc)
- Extra Costs (crawlspaces, detached garages, driving distances, etc)
- Inspector Experience (established inspectors often charge a premium for experience)
- Location (different regions of BC have different market prices)
- Extra Services (non-standard items like inspecting appliances)
- Your inspector should be able to provide a firm quote in advance of the inspection.
Buyers should be aware of inspectors lowering their price to get the inspection job. Be careful not to eliminate experience and professional training to save a few dollars.
A typical home inspection has numerous elements. There is the site visit and inspection itself, often a verbal review with the client, and there is a required written report. New HIA member inspectors are required to demonstrate they can perform the site inspection for a detached house in 3 hours, excluding verbal and written reports. In practice, every home inspector will be a little different based on their personal style, the type of home, inspector experience, extra services, and reporting methods.
Typical House Inspection – 2.5 to 3.5 hours for the inspection plus verbal and written reports
Typical Townhouse Inspection – 1.5 to 2 hours for the inspection plus verbal and written reports
Typical Condo Inspection – 1 to 2 hours for the inspection plus verbal and written reports
Depending on the size, age and condition of the house, timelines can vary significantly. It is critical that the inspector has ready access to all areas and/or systems. If certain areas are inaccessible, the client may need to reschedule and pay for a return visit to the site.
Home Inspectors must provide a written report (this is a licensing requirement). Inspectors are free to produce the report in any style they would like so long as it contains requirements as stipulated by Consumer Protection BC and meets the HIABC Scope of Inspection.
Be sure to ask your inspector to include photos, particularly of every deficiency noted in the report.
Although most inspectors have retired their checklist type reports for more mainstream electronic reporting systems, a checklist report should always be clear and should include detailed narrative information. Ask your inspector in advance what type of reporting system he uses and if he takes photos.
As a consumer, retaining the services of an HIA member to perform your home inspection assures you that you are hiring a licensed professional with proven ability, experience and impartiality, who can give you peace of mind and help you make a confident and informed buying decision.
As a real estate professional, referring your client to the HIABC office or website for the names of qualified home inspectors can reinforce your relationship with your clients. They will feel more confident with the condition of the property, and the quality of your advice.
Are you buying a home? A pre-purchase home inspection can provide you with the information you need to know about the condition of the house you plan to purchase. More information equals an informed purchase decision, which equals fewer surprises. Minimize the risk to your investment. No one wants to face serious, unexpected costs shortly after a purchase.
Considering a renovation? A home inspection can help homeowners prioritize repairs and maintenance. A pre-renovation inspection equals money spent in the right places.
Selling a home? Show prospective purchasers that every effort has been made to disclose the condition of the home. A listing inspection can equal a faster sale.
Gain an understanding of the systems in your home, their operation, and required maintenance. Preventative maintenance equals fewer headaches later.
Not all home inspectors are equally trained and qualified! Always choose an HIABC member to do your home inspection. Go to the ‘Find an Inspector’ link at www.hiabc.ca to find a licensed and qualified professional inspector.
The best source is by far a “word of mouth” referral; ask a friend, family or co-worker if they can recommend a home inspector they have used in the past and were satisfied with the services. Other sources are your mortgage lender or mortgage broker. Use the Home Inspectors Association website or our toll-free number for a referral to a home inspector.
Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) article “Hiring a Home Inspector” recommends that potential home buyers accompany the inspector as the inspection takes place. It can be a valuable learning experience. You can also take this opportunity to get more familiar with your new home, to take measurements of rooms and/or windows. More importantly, you can ask your home inspector questions on the spot.
Homeowners should be aware that inspectors cannot move personal effects during the course of an inspection. Here are a few suggestions to prepare a home for an inspection:
Remove any furniture and stored material from around access panels, crawl spaces, attic hatches, electrical panel boxes, furnaces, hot water tanks and water shut-offs.
If the access panel to the crawl space or attic is in a closet, you might want to remove the clothes from that closet or cover the clothes with a sheet, in order to protect them from bits of insulation and debris that might fall down in the process of removing the access panel.
Over friendly or unfriendly dogs or other family pets can complicate the inspection process and are best keep either away from the house or in a contained space during the period of an inspection.
Home Inspectors Association home inspectors offer a wide range of services including commercial inspections, indoor air quality investigations, new construction deficiencies list, building envelope surveys, WETT (wood stove) inspections, etc. Ask your potential inspector about any additional services you may need. For Commercial and WETT inspectors, simply link to ‘Find an Inspector’ and click on the ‘area of service’ for a complete list.
In most BC homes built prior to 1990, the presence of some building materials with asbestos is almost always present. It was commonly used in office buildings, public buildings and schools. It insulated hot water heating systems and was put into walls and ceilings as insulation against fire and sound. It has also been found in many products around the house: clapboard; shingles and felt for roofing; exterior siding; pipe covering; compounds and cement; textured and latex paints; acoustical ceiling tiles and plaster; vinyl floor tiles; and appliance wiring to name a few.
Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) cautions: “To avoid health risks through prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres, proper precautions must be taken when repairs or renovations disturb asbestos-containing materials, such as: disturbing loose-fill vermiculite insulation which may contain asbestos; removing deteriorating roofing shingles and siding containing asbestos; ripping away old asbestos insulation from around a hot water tank; sanding or scraping vinyl asbestos floor tiles; breaking apart acoustical ceiling tiles containing asbestos; sanding or scraping older water-based asbestos coatings such as roofing compounds, spackling, sealants, paint, putty, caulking or drywall….” Safe practices for handling asbestos can be found at www.worksafebc.com.
Health Canada updated their information on asbestos in June 2015: http:// healthycanadians.gc.ca/healthy-living-vie-saine/environment-environnement/air/contaminants/asbestos-amiante-eng.php
Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. As a gas, radon is slowly released from the ground, water, and some building materials that contain very small amounts of uranium, such as concrete, bricks, tiles and gyproc. Radon gas breaks down further to form additional radioactive particles called radon daughters, or ““progeny”” that can be breathed into the lungs.
Radon cannot be detected by the senses, i.e., it is colourless, odourless and tasteless; however, it can be detected with special instruments.
When radon is released from the ground outside it mixes with fresh air and gets diluted resulting in concentrations too low to be of concern. However, when radon enters an enclosed space, such as a house or basement, it can accumulate to high concentrations and become a health risk.
Radon concentrations fluctuate seasonally, but are usually higher in winter than in summer, and are usually higher at night than during the day. This is because the sealing of buildings (to conserve energy) and the closing of doors and windows (at bedtime), reduce the intake of outdoor air and allow the build-up of radon.
For more information, please visit the Health Canada website at: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/ radiation/radon/faq_fq-eng.php
CREA offers the following valuable information: www.crea.ca/sites/default/files/
Poly B, also referred to as Polybutylene, is a flexible grey pipe used in hot water systems and residential plumbing. It was manufactured in between the years of 1978 and 1998 because of its flexibility, low cost, and ease of installation. It is estimated that in Canada alone there are over 700,000 homes that had this piping installed prior to it being discontinued.
Poly B was the first plastic plumbing pipe manufactured to be used as an alternative to a more expensive copper piping. The fact that is was inexpensive and easy to install made it very appealing to plumbers and contractors throughout the US and Canada. Although there has been a lot of controversy over the use of poly b, these water systems have acted without failure in many homes for extended periods of times.
Although largely driven by problems resulting in court actions in the US, some BC insurance companies have been known to offer coverage of Poly B with verification of copper fittings only, and on occasion will deny coverage of any Poly B piping.
January 2016, we have seen very few failure problems with this piping in Canada. A class action lawsuit was issued in 2011 against IPEX Inc., the manufacturer of Kitec®, alleging that the Kitec® System “may be subject to premature failure and otherwise may not perform in accordance with the reasonable expectation of users.”
The lawsuit includes other IPEX products in addition to Kitec®. Many of these are solid wall PEX pipes with no layer of embedded aluminum. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no premature material failures with these pipes.
IPEX and their insurance company settled, and set up a $125 million fund to provide compensation for those with Kitec® failures. One alleged issue is with fittings that contain high levels of zinc, resulting in corrosion and weakness over time; May result in leaks and water damage to the home; May also result in clogging and poor water pressure and flow.
We don’t know if the issue is limited to areas with certain water chemistry, for example, or whether there were manufacturing issues with some of the product. The other issue is dark spots and/or blisters forming on the pipe.
If incorrectly installed, aluminum wiring is both a safety hazard and an insurance issue.
While copper is known to have better conductivity, over 450,000 homes in Canada are estimated to have aluminum wiring. In some homes, both copper and aluminum conductors are installed. Most home owners have no issues with aluminum wiring, but when incorrect receptacles or conductors are installed, it becomes a safety hazard.
Verifying aluminum wiring is done by looking at the electrical wiring, either between the open floor joists, in the basement, up in the attic, or at the service panel. If the wiring is aluminum and manufactured before May 1977, the outer covering of the cable will be marked, at least every 12 inches, with the word ALUMINUM, or with an abbreviation, ALUM, or AL. If the cable was manufactured after May 1977, the marking may be either ALUMINUM ACM, ALUM ACM, or AL ACM.
Any house built prior to 1970 has a very high probability of a buried oil tank. This is an environmental concern and may affect both your insurance and mortgage.
Residential heating oil storage tanks have been installed and used in Canada for over 60 years. There are two types: aboveground tanks (typically found in basements or outside of a home) and underground tanks (buried). Many of these storage tanks are now abandoned or unused, as alternative heating sources – such as natural gas, propane, and electricity – have become available.
Underground storage tanks are a concern because they are a potential source of contamination of soil and groundwater. They also pose a fire and explosion hazard under certain conditions. For information on buried oil tanks and your responsibilities visit this BC Government link: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/site-remediation/residential-heating-oil-storage-tanks
The installations of wood burning appliances and fireplaces in Canada are covered by very specific codes. Due to the nature of these installations there is significant fire and safety concerns. WETT or Wood Energy Technology Transfer Inc. is an Association of installers, chimney sweeps, and inspectors who have been educated, trained and certified to install and inspect such installations to ensure they meet the applicable requirements. Here are some instances where a WETT inspection may be required:
- a new installation of a wood burning appliance or fireplace either in new construction or retrofit into an existing building.
- on sale or transfer of property.
- renovations around an existing wood burning installation which could change the performance or clearances.
- older installations or concern of homeowners or tenants about safety and performance of an installation.
- It’s becoming more frequent that a WETT inspection is necessary when obtaining fire insurance on a building containing a wood burning installation. This is a requirement of the insurance company and must be carried out by a certified WETT inspector. It is wise to have this inspection done as a condition of sale when purchasing a building as repair or replacement of a non-conforming installation can involve significant cost.
*Your inspector may recommend you have your wood burning stove inspected by a WETT certified inspector prior to use. Visit www.wetbc.ca for a list of all WETT certified HIABC home inspectors.