There’s no crystal ball in home inspection

By Published On: November 4th, 2016Categories: Home Inspection Career Guide, News, Training0 Comments

As much as it would help the buyer in their decision to purchase a home, home inspectors can’t foresee what will happen once the buyer moves in. Simply put, there isn’t a crystal ball to look into to see the future. In a recent “Ask the Inspector” column in the (Wisconsin) Leader-Telegram, home inspector Rich Duerkop addressed the issue of why home inspectors do not provide warranties or guarantees for their work.

“It is impossible for home inspectors to predict what’s going to happen in the future,” Duerkop wrote, “especially if their recommendations and information in reports aren’t followed up on.”

Home inspectors can only report on the condition of the house as it is at the time of the inspection. In essence, the home inspector’s “guarantee” is the recommendations that are in his or her report. Even with a crystal ball, the buyer not taking action on any of those recommendations can lead to problems down the road. Duerkop offered these examples:


Old water stains are a sure sign moisture could be a problem in the home. Duerkop said he checks the condition of the gutters and length of downspouts to see if water steers clear of the foundation. Even with those checks, the Duerkop said there is no way to predict the damage from a heavy rainfall.

Water heater

If it’s at least 10 years old, Duerkop said he lets the client know that its close to the end of it’s normal lifespan. Rumbling or thumping sounds coming from the unit typically means a good amount of water is being displaced by sediment, which is causing the unit to work harder to heat more water.

To help get rid of sediment and extend the life of the water heater, Duerkop suggested draining a pail’s worth of water out of the spout on the bottom of the unit every month.


Because newer units are sealed, the only way to assess them is to do a carbon monoxide check at the nearest register and exhaust. For older furnaces, a look inside should reveal any cracks or rust. Duerkop recommended a clean and check if rust flakes are present.

Sometimes, a crystal ball isn’t needed to predict that a unit will eventually stop working. “If the furnace filter is extremely dirty, that tells me it has not been properly maintained and should be evaluated by a heating specialist,” Duerkop wrote.  “Some furnaces I recommended be checked weren’t and they failed.”


For this one, a crystal ball would come in handy, as it is an “unpredictable item.” There are several factors that need to be considered.

“If a roof is seven to 14 years old and showing signs of heavy granule loss, but its shingles are flat and show no signs of curling or cupping, I would mention that the shingles need to be monitored,” Duerkop wrote. “It is impossible to know for certain how much life you will get out of them.”

Contrarily, if the shingles are cupped, curled or have open blisters, the recommendation is to have a contractor evaluate the entire roof. In addition, more than three layers on a roof or roofs with shingles over cedar shakes is not recommended.

There are other areas of the home that do not fall under the home inspector’s scope of practice, such as removing carpeting or flooring. They also can’t evaluate what they can’t see, for example, walls that are hidden behind large amounts of storage.

Essentially, it’s up to the buyer to ensure recommendations and concerns are addressed. Home inspectors “offer the best advice we can, but we cannot predict the future,” Duerkop wrote.

Source: “Home inspectors can’t predict the future,” (Oct. 22, 2016)

About the Author: Kristin Warner

Kristin is the Marketing Director at AHIT. She has authored content for numerous real estate brands, and managed corporate communications for a public real estate company. She is passionate about the home inspection and real estate industries, and loves digging into research to provide insights that empower home inspectors and real estate agents in their businesses.