Glossary of Inspection Terms
Below are definitions of common terms you will hear, read, and find in Inspection language.
Activate - to turn on, supply power, or enable systems, equipment, or devices to become active by normal control means, including:
(i) Turning on the gas or water supply valves to fixtures and appliances;
(ii) Activating electrical breakers or fuses.
Additional Inspection Services - any service offered in addition to the home inspection as defined in the Standards of Practice, including but not limited to:
(ii) Well water potability;
(iii) Functional ability of septic system; or
(iv) Air quality, to include the presence of contaminants, mold spores, noxious gases
and other harmful particulates in the air supply.
Adversely affect - to constitute, or potentially constitute, a negative or destructive impact on the durability or soundness of a structure.
Alarm System - a device to generate an audible or visible warning of an unsafe condition,
including but not limited to:
(i) A warning device installed or free-standing;
(ii) A carbon monoxide detector and alarm;
(iii) A flue gas detector;
(iv) A water or other spillage detector
(v) Security equipment;
(vi) An ejector pump; and
(vii) A smoke detector or alarm.
Automatic safety controls - a device designed and installed to protect
systems and components from unsafe conditions.
Component - a permanently installed appliance, fixture, element or part of a
system necessary for the system to operate as designed.
Decorative - ornamental or something not required for the operation of the
essential systems and components of a home.
Describe - to report a system or component by its type or other observed
significant characteristics to distinguish it from other systems or components.
Dismantle - to take apart or remove any component, device or piece of equipment that would not be taken apart or removed by a homeowner in the course of normal and routine homeowner maintenance.
Engineering service - a professional service or creative work requiring
(a) Engineering education, training, and experience; and
(b) The application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to such professional service or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design and supervision of construction for the purpose of assuring compliance with the specifications and design, in conjunction with structures, buildings, machines, equipment, works or processes.
Functional drainage - a drain which is:
(a) Able to empty in a reasonable amount of time; and
(b) Not subject to overflow when one of its supply faucets is left on.
Functional flow - sufficient water flow to provide uninterrupted supply to the highest, unrestricted tap or faucet farthest from the source when a single intermediate, unrestricted tap or faucet is operated simultaneously with uninterrupted flow.
Further evaluation - an examination and analysis by a qualified professional, tradesman, or service technician beyond that provided by the home inspection.
Heat source - a mechanical means to transfer heat, including but not limited to:
(i) A radiator;
(ii) A convector unit;
(iii) A radiant panel;
(iv) A heat pipe;
(vi) A grille;
(vii) A register; and
(viii) Any other device from which heat is intended to be emitted.
Household appliance - a kitchen or laundry apparatus designed to perform a
particular task or function, whether installed or free-standing.
Inspect -to examine readily accessible systems and components of a
building in accordance with these Standards of Practice, using normal operating controls and
opening, readily openable access panels.
Installed - attached such that removal requires tools.
Intended function - performing, or able to perform the usual function for which an item is designed, or fitted, and being in a condition or state of repair appropriate to this function, its age and location.
Normal operating control - a device such as a thermostat, switch, or valve
that may be operated by an individual and does not require specialized skill or knowledge.
Readily accessible - available for visual inspection without requiring moving of personal property, dismantling, destructive measures, or any action which will likely involve risk to a person or property.
Readily openable access panel - a panel provided for homeowner inspection
and maintenance that is within normal reach, can be easily removed by one person, and is not
sealed in place.
Recreational facility - a fitness or entertainment device or equipment, including, but not limited to:
(i) A spa;
(ii) A sauna;
(ii) A steam bath;
(iv) Exercise equipment;
(v) Entertainment devices;
(vi) Athletic equipment;
(vii) Playground equipment; and
(viii) Other similar equipment and associated accessories.
Representative number - a quantity of components of any system or structure
enough like others in its class or kind so as to serve as an example of the class or kind.
Roof drainage system - a component used to carry water off a roof and away
from a building.
Shut down - a state in which a system or component cannot be operated by
normal operating controls.
Significantly deficient - to be unsafe or not functioning as deigned or intended.
Solid fuel burning appliance - a hearth and fire chamber or similar prepared place, or a listed assembly of a fire chamber, its chimney and related factory-made parts designed for unit assembly without requiring field construction,
(i) in which a fire may be built; and
(ii) that is constructed in conjunction with a chimney.
Structural component - a component that supports nonvariable forces or weights and variable forces or weights.
Systems - a combination of interacting or interdependent components that are designed and assembled to carry out one or more functions.
Technically exhaustive - an investigation that involves dismantling, the extensive use of advanced techniques, measurements, instruments, testing, calculations, or other means to identify concealed conditions or latent defects.
Under-floor crawl space - the area within the confines of the foundation and between the ground and the underside of the floor.
Unsafe - a condition in a readily accessible, installed system or component which is deemed to create a significant risk of personal injury during normal, day-to-day use, which may be the result of damage, deterioration, improper installation or a change in accepted residential construction standards.
Wiring methods - the identification of electrical conductors or wires by their general type, including but not limited to:
(i) Non-metallic sheathed cable;
(ii) Armored cable; and
(iii) Knob and tube.
Absorptance – a measure of how much heat from the sun is absorbed by the roof. The number falls between zero and one. The closer the number is to 1.0, the more energy is absorbed. In climates that use more air conditioning than heating, it can be beneficial to have a roof with a number less than 0.5.
Air Barrier – the building components that reduce or stop conditioned air from moving between inside and outside. This is typically the top floor ceiling, the lowest floor, and the walls. To be effective the air barrier must be continuous and must be in contact with the thermal boundary.
AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) – the estimated energy efficiency of heating systems that use fossil fuels. It accounts for all losses related to the actual heating unit.
Base Load – the energy used by the appliances and fixtures in your home other than the heating, cooling, and hot water systems. Base load includes lighting, entertainment systems, computers, kitchen appliances, washer & dryer, etc.
Batt – a blanket of insulation that is provided in standard widths and thicknesses.
Blower Door – a large fan, removable door panel and gauges used to measure the degree of air leakage in a building’s envelope, and also used to locate the leaks in the air barrier.
Btu (British thermal unit) – an international standard unit of measuring energy content or power; one Btu is the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. 1,000 Btu equals 1 kBtu, and one million Btu (or 1,000 kBtu) equals 1 Mbtu.
Cathedral Ceiling – a sloped ceiling which is either part of or directly attached to the roof rafters, and is therefore part of the roof assembly. Cathedral ceilings can either be open, with exposed rafters, or have enclosed rafter cavities. Cathedral ceilings have no attic space.
Cellulose Insulation – insulation made from recycled newspapers, cardboard and/or wood waste that is treated with a fire retardant.
CO (Carbon Monoxide) – a colorless, odorless, deadly gas that can be produced by any equipment that burns fossil fuels.
COP (Coefficient of Performance) – a measure of the efficiency of a heating or cooling system that uses electricity as its fuel. The number typically falls between 1 and 10 with 10 being the most efficient. This is typically used only for ground source heat pumps.
Cooling Load – the maximum amount of heat removal required from the air conditioner when the outside temperature and humidity are at design conditions.
Dense Pack Insulation – a method of using loose fill insulation (cellulose or fiberglass) to completely fill a wall, floor, or ceiling cavity enough to significantly reduce air movement. Fibrous insulation (e.g. fiberglass or cellulose) will not stop air flow, but can reduce it when applied under pressure in an enclosed cavity.
Design Conditions – the temperature and humidity measurements used to calculate the amount of heating or cooling capacity needed by the house to maintain comfort. The temperature values are dependent on how severe the weather typically is in that location.
EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) – a measurement of the energy efficiency of air conditioners. Typically it is only applied to window or through the wall air conditioners. The number typically falls between 5 and 10 - the higher the number, the better.
Energy Factor – a measure of the efficiency of a water heater. The value typically falls between 0.5 and 1.0, although the most efficient systems can have an energy factor greater than 2.
Envelope – the part of the house that separates inside from outside. Typically the building envelope is comprised of the walls and windows, the lowest floor, and the ceiling.
Exfiltration – uncontrolled air flow out of the house. This is caused by pressure differences (stack effect, temperature gradients, and wind) or be mechanically driven (duct leakage). Exfiltration is a direct cause of infiltration.
Fiberglass – an insulation material made by spinning molten glass.
Heating Load – the maximum amount of heat needed by the house during design conditions.
HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) – a measure of the efficiency of an air source heat pump during the heating season. HSPF is typically between 6 and 12 - the higher the number, the more efficient the equipment.
HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.
Infiltration – the uncontrolled flow of air into the house as a direct result of exfiltration.
Insulation – any material with a relatively high thermal resistance or R-value.
kWh (kilowatt hour) – a unit of electric energy equal to one thousand watt-hours or 3412 Btu-hrs.
kBtu – equals one thousand Btu.
Mastic – a thick, gooey paste used to seal duct joints.
MBtu – equals one million Btu, or one thousand kBtu.
MWh (megawatt hour) – equals one thousand kWh, or one million watt-hours.
Mechanical Ventilation – the use of a fan to control the amount of air that moves into and out of a building.
R-value – a measure of a material’s resistance to heat flow - the higher the number, the more resistant to heat flow and thus the higher the insulation value. R-value is the inverse of U-factor.
Radiant Barrier – typically a shiny material that reflects radiant heat waves (e.g. heat from the sun) away from the house. This can be beneficial in climates where air conditioning requires more energy than heating on an annual basis. Radiant barriers have very low R-value.
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) – a measurement of the efficiency of a central air conditioner or the cooling efficiency of a heat pump. The number usually falls between 8 and 20, but can be higher. The higher the number, the more efficient the equipment.
SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) – a measure of how effective a window is at preventing radiant heat from passing through the glass. The number falls between 0.0 and 1.0 - the lower the number the more effective the window is.
Thermal boundary – the surfaces of a house that reduce heat movement between the inside and the outside by the application of insulation. The thermal boundary should be continuous and be in direct contact with (or be part of) the air barrier.
U-factor – a measure of the ability of a material or combination of materials to transfer heat, often used to express window efficiency. U-factor is the inverse of the R-value. The U-factor for windows is usually a decimal less than 1 - the smaller the number, the better the efficiency performance of the window.
Vaulted Ceiling – a sloped ceiling which is not directly part of or attached to the roof rafters and so is not part of the roof assembly. Vaulted ceilings have some degree of attic space above them.