Wisconsin has Statutes and Administrative Codes in place for home inspectors to follow during a home inspection, and when preparing and writing a report.
Basically, a home inspector is supposed to inspect and report on allreadily accessible and observable systems and components of a house.
The State Codes do list components and systems which an inspector should never miss. Following that list would comprise the bare minimum requirements of a home inspector. Anything less would not meet code requirements.
Those Codes are refered to as Wisconsin's Standards of Practice for Home Inspectors. The requirements are found in Chapter SPS 131, Subchapter IV.
The following list comprises those minimum requirements:
Wisconsin administrative code (SPS 131.31) requires a home inspector to perform a reasonably competent and diligent home inspection of the readily accessible installed systems and components required to be inspected. Those requirements are in the list below. The purpose of the home inspection is to detect observable conditions of the home. The inspection is not required to be technically exhaustive.
Minimum legal requirements for a Wisconsin Home Inspector state that a reasonably competent and diligent home inspection shall include an inspection of, and report on, all of the following items that are present on the property at the time of the home inspection:
EXTERIORS. A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all the following: 1. Wall claddings, including type. 2. Flashings and trim. 3. Entryway doors and at least one window per side of a dwelling unit. 4. Garage door operators, including whether any garage door operator automatically reverses or stops when meeting reasonable resistance during closing. 5. Decks, balconies, stoops, steps and porches including railings. 6. Eaves, soffits, and fascias. 7. Grading, drainage, driveways, patios, walkways, and retaining walls that abut the dwelling unit. 8. A home inspector shall operate all entryway doors, garage doors, and at least one window per side of a dwelling unit (of course, the windows are operated from the inside of the home).
ROOFS. A home inspector shall describe the methods used to observe the roof (the inspector is not required to walk on the roof). A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all of the following. 1. Roof coverings, including type. 2. Roof drainage systems. 3. Flashings. 4. Skylights, chimneys and roof penetrations. 5. Signs of leaks or abnormal condensation on building components.
INTERIORS. A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all of the following: 1. Walls, ceilings and floors. 2. Steps, stairways, balconies and railings. 3. Counters and all sink base cabinets. 4. A random sample of doors and windows. 5. Separation walls, ceilings, and doors between a dwelling unit and an attached garage or another dwelling unit. 6. Signs of water penetration into the building or signs of abnormal or harmful condensation on building components.
INSULATION AND VENTILATION. A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all of the following: 1. The presence or absence of insulation in unfinished spaces. 2. Ventilation of attics and foundation areas. 3. Kitchen, bathroom, and laundry venting systems.
FLOORING SYSTEMS. A home inspector shall observe and describe the type and condition of flooring systems.
FOUNDATIONS. A home inspector shall observe and describe the type and condition of the foundation.
COLUMNS. A home inspector shall observe and describe the type and condition of columns.
PLUMBING SYSTEMS. A home inspector shall operate all plumbing fixtures, including their faucets and accessible exterior faucets attached to the dwelling unit. A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all of the following: 1. Interior water supply and distribution system, including piping materials, supports, fixtures, functional flow and drainage, leaks and cross connections. 2. Interior drain, waste and vent system, including traps, drain, waste, and vent piping, piping supports and leaks. 3. Hot water systems, including water heating equipment, normal operating controls, automatic safety controls, and the exterior surfaces of chimneys, flues, and vents. 4. Fuel storage and distribution systems, including interior fuel storage equipment, supply piping, venting, supports and leaks. 5. Sump pumps.
ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS. A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all of the following: 1. Service entrance conductors. 2. Service equipment, grounding equipment, main over current device. 3. Main and distribution panels, including their location. 4. Amperage and voltage ratings of the service, including whether service type is overhead or underground. 5. Branch circuit conductors, their over current devices, and the compatibility of their ampacities and voltages, including any aluminum branch circuit wiring. 6. The operation of a representative number of installed lighting fixtures, switches and receptacles located inside the house, garage and any exterior walls. 7. The polarity and grounding of all receptacles within 6 feet of interior plumbing fixtures, in the garage or carport, and on the exterior of inspected structures. 8. The operation of ground fault interrupters. 9. The functionality of the power sources for smoke detectors.
HEATING SYSTEMS. A home inspector shall operate the system using normal operating controls and open readily accessible panels provided by the manufacturer or installer for routine home owner maintenance. A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all of the following within a permanently installed heating system: 1. Heating equipment and distribution systems. 2. Normal operating controls and energy source. 3. Automatic safety controls. 4. Exterior surfaces of chimneys, flues and vents. 5. Solid fuel heating devices. 6. The presence of an installed heat source in each room.
CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING. A home inspector shall operate the systems, using normal operating controls and open readily accessible panels provided by the manufacturer or installer for routine home owner maintenance. A home inspector shall observe and describe the condition of all of the following: 1. Cooling and air handling equipment, including type and energy source. 2. Normal operating controls. 3. The presence of an installed cooling source in each room.
What happens during the actual inspection?
All readily accessible and observable systems and components of the home are observed, tested if applicable, and evaluated during the inspection process. The observed components and systems are to be described in the report, regardless of their condition. Doing so is a code requirement of the State of Wisconsin.
The first 20 - 40 minutes (amount of time is average and varies by house) are spent observing the outside conditions around the home.
How does the landscaping and grading affect moisture around the foundation?
Are there any perceived safety hazards in the yard?
What are the conditions of the exterior utilities and mechanical items?
Exterior components of the house are observed (foundation, windows, doors, siding, wall penetrations, trim, flashing, walkways and driveways, porches decks and stoops, caulks and sealants, and anything else uniquie to your new home).
Readily accessible components of electrical circuitry and devices are inspected for functionality and safety.
Indicators of structural distress are looked for.
Moving to the inside of the home, each room is observed and inspected.
Moisture issues are looked for.
Are there water stains or moisture from exterior leaks, interior plumbing leaks, interior condensation, or interior humidity/moisture problems?
A moisture meter is used (where applicable) to determine if moisture is really present.
Ceilings, walls, and floors are checked for abnormal conditions.
Plumbing fixtures (and their readily observable components) are tested and observed for leaks, functionality, proper and safe installations, and general conditions.
Electric circuitry (as determined by observable and readily accessible receptacles fixtures and switches) are observed for functionality and safety.
Attics are entered unless there are no readily accessible ports, or if doing so could result in injury to person or damage to home and/or furnishings.
The components in the attic to be inspected include (where readily accessible and observable) the underside of the roof deck, rafters or trusses, leaks/condensation and mold/mildew issues, bath and kitchen ventilator discharge locations, ventilation systems for the attic, thermal insulation, breaks in the living space envelope into the atti, electrical circuitry, evidence of mice bats birds or other such pests, and any other items unique to the home.
The basement (or the ground floor and/or a crawl space) is inspected. The foundation is observed for past, present, and potential leaks. Mold/mildew substances are noted.
The foundation walls and other components are inspected for structural integrity and other general conditions.
The floor structures above and below are inspected.
Thermal insulation, where necessary, is noted.
Girders and columns are inspected for rot or deterioration, and for improper configurations and/or attachments.
Observable electric circuitry and devices are inspected for proper installations and safety.
The heating systems are inspected for proper functionality, age, and proper connections to flues, fuel source, and electric branch circuitry.
Observable ducting is inspected for any potentially unsafe tape (asbestos), disconnections or other damage, configurations and support. Heating systems are activated with normal operational thermostats only.
Central air conditioning systems are operated only when outside air temperatures are above 65F. Operating them in colder temperatures can potentially result in damaged compressor motors. The observable components of the systems are inspected for proper connections and conditions.
The electric panels, and their internal wiring and connections are inspected for proper connections, functionality where applicable, and safety.
Plumbing, drain/waste/vent, and fuel gas/oil systems and components, where readily accessible and observable, are inspected for leaks, proper connections, and functionality.
The roofing on the home and garage is inspected from atop the roof (if ascent can be done so safely), from the eaves on top of a ladder, and/or through binoculars from the ground (or other vantage points).
The general condition of the roofing is noted.
Flashings (where readily accessible and/or observable) are inspected.
Penetrations through the roofing are inspected.
Chimney exteriors are inspected for normal deterioration and abnormal damage, proper construction and configurations, and for leaks.
Garages and outbuildings (if present) are inspected for structural issues, electrical component safety, functionality of key components, and conditions of other observable key components.
The reporting requirements of Wisconsin Codes SPS 131.33 are followed:
131.33(1): After completing a home inspection, a home inspector shall submit a written report to a client that does all of the following:
(a): Lists the items described in SPS 131.32 that a home inspector is required to inspect (the items listed near the top of this web page).
(b): Lists the items described in SPS 131.32 that a home inspector has inspected.
(c): Describes the condition of any item identified in SPS 131.32.
(d): Describes the condition of any item identified in SPS 131.32 that, if not repaired, will have significant adverse effect on the life expectancy of the identified item.
(e): Lists any material adverse facts that a home inspector has knowledge of or has observed.
Legal definition of Material Adverse Fact: SPS 131.02(17) "Material adverse fact" means a condition or occurrence that is generally recognized by a competent home inspector as doing any of the following:
(a) Significantly reducing the functionality or structural integrity of components or systems of the improvements to the property being inspected.
(b) Posing a signifiant health or safety risk to occupants of the improvements (dwelling).