Home Inspection Verses Code Inspection - What is the difference? What a home buyer should know.

Jan 15


Bruce Grant

Bruce Grant

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Home Inspection Verses Code Inspection - What the home buyer needs to know

I have been asked many times when contacted regarding the possibility of conducting a home inspection in Bracebridge,Home Inspection Verses Code Inspection - What is the difference? What a home buyer should know. Articles Gravenhurst, or Muskoka to explain the difference between a building inspection and a home inspection. It seems many buyers are unsure of the difference or they confuse aspects of the to . Here I will try to explain just what a building inspector looks at and for and what a home inspector looks at and for. The two are very different indeed.

In my opinion Building Inspectors have it easy!

Building inspectors in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Orillia and Muskoka indeed in all Ontario must follow the natural course of the home building process and they get to see the things they inspect as they are being built. They don't have to do any of the work but are able to closely investigate all items that need inspection prior to any being covered up . The contractor / builder must stop work for as long as it takes for the building inspector to attend the site and inspect the work. The building code inspector then has the ability to indicate to the builder if the work is correct in which case they may proceed to the next step or in the case of defective work or materials the inspector can stop the work and insist on changes to the job.  Let's use the example of the last addition I was responsible for building at my sons home in 2112. It was only a 12x12 addition but all the elements of a normal home went into it. I first drew up the building drawings and at that stage took them in to the building department where the building inspector and the building department plays their first hand in the process. The staff looks at the plans, checks them over for firstly conformity to local municipal bylaws such as front and side yard set backs, where you can and can not build on the lot etc. They then check for conformity to building codes ie. what type of foundation, beam, floor and wall frame will be used. Does the roof framing specified confirm to code or is the insulation level indicated the correct amount for the area. In my case they took the plans to check for approval after indicating everything looked ok but, between the day they got the plans and the day I took out the permit a week later the building code spec had changed for insulation and when I got the permit with a copy of the plans back it indicated the new requirements for the insulation level to be now r 50 rather than the r40 I had planned on. This change the building inspector had written on the plan and that was believe me much easier than changing the roof framing to accommodate the change.

The next building inspection takes place when the hole is dug for the foundation. The building inspector gets to view the hole to ensure all loose earth is gone, the foundation will be below frost level and on undisturbed soil or bare rock. Once the inspector has seen that they will allow the foundations to be poured at which time they return to closely examine the foundation to ensure it will meet code for structural stability and strength. This step which the building inspector, or code inspector, gets to see but a home inspector never does, is very important as the entire structure will rest on these foundations but be covered usually entirely as the building progresses.

The code inspector will then return when the framing is complete. The roof sheathing and usually roof covering, the doors and windows will be in place, of course any beams and floor joists along with the sub floor. Once again the code inspection will examine closely the sub structure of the home for poor attachments, undersized beams or joists, roof framing out of place or missing connectors etc. Almost all of these possible problems will be covered with wall coverings, siding, insulation in the attic, or other finishes by the time the home inspector gets to examine the home.

 Next the builder will install rough in plumbing electrical and Hvac ductwork each of which the installers are normally licensed to do and responsible to their own licensing agency for.  Electrical inspections are conducted outside of the local building department by specialists The building / code inspector will only see them as installed items but they do not inspect themselves other than a cursory look  at rough in plumbing they rely on the licensed trades to complete the work they do correctly. The building /code inspector will see and inspect the installation of the insulation and vapour barrier  during which pretty much all the electrical, most rough in plumbing and a lot of the HVAC is covered. They are there to ensure the home is properly insulated and its structural components are protected from  humidity and heat loss. Once again all these components will be covered when the home inspector gets to see the home.

The last building / code inspection scheduled is the final inspection. This inspection is generally a walk through by the code inspector to ensure the wall and floor finishes are in place,  Sinks for washing and food preparation along with faucets have been installed, A waste system and drainage for the the water system and lighting are in place and ready to use. The home has a heating system, the exterior of the home is protected from the elements and any stairs, decks, or handrails are safe.  The inspector must ensure for example the heating system is in place but systems are not tested by the code / building inspector for operation.  The code inspection here has no real minimum standards for finishes they just need to be provided. A home may be equipped with milk crates for kitchen cabinets as long as a countertop of some sort holds a sink with running water it can pass final inspection. In newer homes the final inspection will have a certificate of occupancy issued along with the final inspection report indicating the home is safe to occupy.  Oddly enough in the past the final inspection is the one most often missed by builders and home owners alike on both full home building projects and especially on additions. In short there no clues to follow, no hidden elements the code inspector has to worry about, when the inspections for compliance to code are carried out everything is visible and any failures or faults are visible to the inspector.

After it is all built and covered in, only then does a home inspector get a look.

The home inspector has I believe a much more difficult job to do. They have, after anything from several to more than a hundred years after the home was built, to try and determine not if the home meets code but if and where the building and all its components may be compromised. Has any of the original foundation failed, Remembering that the foundation on most homes is covered and or buried unlike the code inspector the foundation is not open to view and so the home inspector must deduce from any available evidence what is going on. Is the home level on the property? does the roof line droop to one corner or are there cracks or tapered splits in the wall coverings. From many items of evidence spread throughout the home both inside and out a home inspector may put together a picture of a home whose foundation is failing or the good news may be the home may have settled slightly but has moved little since and there are no concerns. Unlike the code inspection the home inspector should test all plumbing fixtures except the main valve and they should test the heating and or air conditioning system using normal controls.  An inspection of the heating system and its function as well as examining the electrical system including opening the deadfront on the main panel to view the wire and connections is also something the home inspection would include that the code inspection does not. Are the kitchen cabinets installed correctly? Are the doors within the home binding? installed properly? Do the exterior doors shut and seal as designed? Are the windows sealing and operating well? Has the bathroom and laundry area good venting and is it working right. What if anything in the home has failed. Roof flashing? seals on skylights? how about the sump pump is it working? check valve in place? does the hot water heater have a properly installed Temperature Pressure Relief Valve. Attic ? crawlspace? are there any issues that may affect the buyers purchase decision in these places? These and hundreds of other questions have to be answered during a home inspection.. None of the foregoing are of concern to a code inspector. The fact that the beams under the bathroom floor meet code means nothing if the last owner installed a hot tub that will add a ton of extra load to them. Posts originally installed to support beams may well meet code but after ten years in a damp basement may have rusted to the point of imminent failure. A home inspection unlike a code inspection must report on all the systems and elements of the home most are tested for proper function and only through experience and education can a home inspector put together the clues that will allow the client / buyer to make a well informed buying decision.

The difference between a code inspection report and a home inspection report is vast

I have seen final code inspections on a home that would not fill a half page while I have yet to write a home inspection report for a home in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst or Muskoka that was less than 30 pages along with at least 150 plus photos included at the end. One inspection report on a 123 year old Victorian home I inspected in the Orillia area ran to 63 pages and over 300 photos. It is not just deficiencies in the report a good home inspector sends out though There may also be items noted and information on needed maintenance the home. Advising clients on what to expect the home will need in coming years along with recommendations for products is also part of a good home inspection.  Using experience and education a good home inspection will inform the buyer of any conditions of failed or failing systems and  include recommendations for any maintenance, repair or replacement they may require. Unlike the building code inspector following a book, and where everything can be seen, the home inspection must use reason, logic and any visual clues to deduce what was , what is, and why. That I believe is a much different and more difficult task but it is what a home buyer needs to know.

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