Breaking out the different gizmos and gadgets a home inspector in San Antonio would use is always fun for home owners. Considering the amount of money they are paying for the Home Inspection, most home owners want to see us show up with some specialty inspection equipment to feel they are getting their money’s worth. And there are a lot of tools that pretty much only home inspectors or building inspectors in general use.
While we carry a lot of tools to perform different tasks and test different components, much more important than the tools the inspector uses are the knowledge that they apply when using said tools. A home inspection in San Antonio or any other region is still a series of tests and observations, and the tools we use are merely instruments used to gather data that we will use in our documentation of the home.
From my experience, the most used tools tend to be the most basic and simple, and not every tool gets used on every inspection. The goal of our tool-box is to provide us with whatever we need for a given situation that arises during the course of a home inspection.
Tools Every Good Home Inspector Needs to Have Available to Them:
Gloves: Primarily used when digging in the front yard to verify the condition of the water meter or if a pressure regulation valve is present. Unfortunately not enough protection against snakes!
Several Flashlights: I carry at least two on me at any given time, a medium-sized rechargeable LED flashlight that is my go-to general purpose light, as well as a smaller “inspection” light with a narrower beam that is used for getting an isolated visual of a component. Every home inspector has at least one backup on their truck.
Headlamp: Yes, another flashlight. Absolutely mandatory when entering attics and crawlspaces.
A Scratch Awl or Probe: What is effectively an ice-pick with a slightly more blunted end, this tool is fantastic for prodding areas for signs of deterioration that have been hidden by paint, as well as prodding an area for plumbing (gently!), such as around water meters.
Electrical Receptacle Testers: Used on a representative sample of outlets per room, which means that at least one receptacle per room gets tested. Convenient for testing the wiring configuration of older outlets, as well as making sure GFCI protection is present where required. Every home inspector has a backup or five somewhere because of how frequently they get lost. I really like the yellow ones that have a voltage sniffer attached.
Larger Lamp/Flashlight: I told you we keep several lights on hand. In addition to the above flashlights, I keep a +1000w lamp for illuminating attics, crawlspaces, and scanning textured ceilings.
Infrared Thermometer: They look like laser guns, but they’re not. Used primarily for checking the temperature of air from the air-conditioning system. Make sure that you stand as close to the item you’re testing as possible when using these devices to ensure an accurate reading! Really only useful to determine if air is flowing out of the registers, but very good at that job!
Probe Thermometers: These are used for taking temperature differential (delta-T) measurements of the air-conditioning system much more accurately than the infrared. Always bring metal tape with you to cover up the holes you will end up making in the plenums.
Voltage Sniffer/Tester: Unlike the receptacle tester listed above, these devices test for electric currents by measuring the electromagnetic fields around an area. Energized circuits and wires will have a magnetic field and will cause the sniffer to let out a beeping sound to alert the inspector. These devices are notoriously inaccurate and it’s always advised to use a proper contact voltage test instead of non-contact voltage tester, but some of us like to live dangerously.
Combustible Gas Detector: Very nifty for finding small gas leaks, although big leaks will 9 times out of 10 be smell-able. I like to take pictures of this tool in use and put them in the report to prove that I did use the tool. Make sure you have a bottle of suds / soapy water so that when you do find an area where gas is present you can pinpoint the leak to make things easier on the plumber!
Drain Stop, Shower Pan Tester: Drain stops are important to have so that you can test the drain column on faucets, and the shower pan tester will allow you to safety fill a shower pan with minimal risk of it overflowing. In conjunction with the thermal imaging camera you will be amazed at how many leaks you will find!
Screwdriver: Preferably an insulated, switchable 6-in-1 screwdriver, but sometimes you have to make due with what you have. Used for electrical panel covers, cover plates, opening access doors for plumbing/hydro-massage therapy tubs, etc. Always carry extras.
Torpedo Level: This may be only me, but I find these guys useful for quick-glance confirmation that a door jamb or window is out of plumb, or a air-conditioning condenser is out of level. First test is with a small level, and then we break out the bigger 36″-48″ levels when necessary. Digital levels are nice but not necessary for most residential work.
Headlamp: More Lights! Headlamps are incredibly useful in confined spaces such as crawlspaces, attics, or even under cabinets.
Water Pressure Gauge: Pretty self-explanatory. Every home inspector in San Antonio or elsewhere should be testing for static water pressure of the plumbing system, and these guys fit conveniently on a hose bib.
Moisture Meter: Moisture meters come in multiple types and styles, but the two most common are pin-style probe meters and pin-less meters. Pin-type meters penetrate deeper into the wood or drywall that you’re testing for greater accuracy, but are “destructive” methods of testing that you avoid using when the item being tested is a finished surface. The pin-less meters are “non-destructive” methods of testing for moisture but are less accurate due to only detecting moisture on the surface. We prefer using pin-type meters for their accuracy and compensate for the damage to drywall and other surfaces by carrying putty and spackling in our vehicles to fill any holes in surfaces made.
Thermal Imaging Camera: I’ve upgraded this item to must-have status because it should be used on every two-story home, regardless of whether you are charging extra for it or not. Extremely useful for finding water penetration on first-story ceilings and other locations. You can charge extra to perform a full-house exterior scan.
Drone Camera: You’d be crazy not to have one of these for inspecting second story roofs. It could save your life one day. Plus, you look really cool when using this when the clients are present; really helps demonstrate your value as an inspector. Make sure to get your FAA 107 license before operating a drone for commercial purposes!
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Home Inspector Kyle D. Scott
TREC # 23813 - TDA # 819063
Ensure Home Inspections provides thorough inspections, detailed reports, and personalized consultations at affordable prices in San Antonio, TX & surrounding areas to Homebuyers, Homesellers, and their realtors. WDI/Termite Inspections, Thermal Imaging, Pool / Spa Inspections, Foundation Elevation Survey and more!
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