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Home Inspector Accessibility

Home inspection is a visual evaluation of the structure by the inspector, making accessibility an indispensable factor. Ideally the structure should be unoccupied and completely empty of furniture and all other belongings, including storage items, both inside and outside the property. All doors and other entrances should be unlocked. The inspector’s job is not to shift any extraneous item to achieve better visibility. With items blocking the inspector’s way or line of vision, moisture stains on interior wall surfaces, inoperability of windows, substandard outlets, un-level floors, leaks at plumbing, water supply and drainage lines may go unnoticed among other deficiencies, leading to costly repairs.   Attic and crawl space areas must be fully accessible and storage areas cleared. Only full accessibility leads to the best quality in home inspection.

Additional Accessibility Concerns

The crawlspace and attic can be very important to the inspection. A lot of the systems (plumbing, electrical, framing, foundation) will be visually accessible in these areas and if the inspector is unable to access this area, a significant amount of information can be overlooked.

Some areas of a home, such as the crawlspace and attic, can be very difficult to gain access to or to maneuver through once you are in.

Sometimes the access hatches to these areas are not the correct size or the clearance dimensions are not adequate for the inspector to fit. What this means is ideally you want an inspector that is agile enough to fit and maneuver in small spaces.

You also want an inspector that is willing to go into areas that are not the correct size or do not have adequate clearance.

The attic access hatch will most likely be located in the ceiling area of the hall or closet. First, it should be accessible and storage items should be removed.

Attic access hatch minimum dimension requirements:

  • Attic access is required if the attic is greater than 30 sq. ft. and greater than 30 in. high measured from top of ceiling framing to underside of roof framing.
  • Attic access opening (rough-framed) minimum 22 in. X 30 in. readily accessible.

Attic minimum clearance requirements:

  • Attic opening in ceiling minimum 30 in. headroom at some point above opening measured from bottom of ceiling framing.

If the attic space has blown-in insulation, the inspector will not traverse the attic space, as to not compact or damage the insulation.

If there are storage items, framing members or HVAC ducts blocking access at the inside attic space, the inspector may not traverse the attic space. If the inspector is not physically fit and able to traverse the attic space, this may be of concern.

Another area of concern, more importantly than the attic space, is the crawlspace area. If the home is built on a concrete slab, then there will be no crawlspace area. In that case the inspector will look for signs of foundation movement or settlement.

For example, diagonal cracks at the corners of doors and windows, on the inside and outside wall surfaces, doors or windows binding on their jambs, or un-level floors.

If the structure does have a crawlspace area, it will give access to the foundation, which is a very important aspect of the inspection. It is in the client’s best interest to confirm that this area is accessible in its entirety. The inspector will access the crawlspace area through the access hatch, which will be located at the perimeter exterior wall surface or an interior closet floor area. There should be no storage items blocking access to these areas and the hatch cover should not be permanently installed.

Crawlspace access hatch minimum dimension requirements:

  • Through floor openings minimum 18 in. X 24in.
  • Perimeter wall openings minimum 16 in. high X 24 in. wide

Crawlspace minimum clearance requirements:

  • Joists and subflooring minimum 18 in. clearance above earth
  • Girders minimum 12 in. clearance above earth

If your structures’ access hatch dimensions are less than what is noted it is more likely the inspector will not be able to, or will be more difficult to access the area.

If any sections of the crawlspace is less than this, it will be difficult for the inspector to access these areas and they will go unchecked. A physically unfit inspector may not be able to access these areas. Since the interior crawlspace recommended height is a minimum 12 inches of clearance under the floor girders, most such areas will be accessible, save for older homes. So the older a property is, the more likely it is that some areas will be inaccessible.

Some other concerns that can block access in the crawlspace area are plumbing lines, HVAC ducts, rodent feces or areas recently treated with pesticides.

Home Inspector Accessibility September 29, 2016

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