What does my Home Inspection Report say?

We have compiled this dictionary of Home Inspection terminology to help you better understand your Inspection Report.  If you are still having trouble understanding your Inspection Report, please do not hesitate to contact us.

A/C: An abbreviation for air conditioner or air conditioning.

A/C Circuit: Alternating Current. The flow of current through a conductor first in one direction, then in reverse. It is used exclusively in residential and commercial wiring because it provides greater flexibility in voltage selection and simplicity of equipment design.

A/C Condenser: The outside fan unit of the air conditioning system. It removes the heat from the Freon gas and turns the gas back into a liquid and pumps the liquid back to the coil in the furnace.

A/C Disconnect: The main electrical ON-OFF switch near the A/C condenser.

Above Grade Wall: A wall more that is mostly above grade and enclosing conditioned space.

ABS: (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) Rigid black plastic pipe used only for drain lines.

Absolute Humidity: Amount of moisture in the air, indicated in grains per cubic foot

Accelerator: Any material added to stucco, plaster or mortar which speeds up the natural set.

Access: That which enables a device, appliance or equipment to be reached.

Access Panel: An opening in the wall or ceiling near the fixture that allows access for servicing the plumbing/electrical system.

Accessibility: Level of access a building offers people with disabilities.

Accessible: Can be approached or entered by the inspector safely, without difficulty, fear or danger.

Accessory Structure: An additional building to the primary building.

Acre: 43,560 square feet.

Acrylic: A glassy thermoplastic material that is vacuum-formed to cast and mold shapes that form the surface of fiberglass bathtubs, whirlpools, shower bases, and shower stalls.

Activate: To turn on, supply power, or enable systems, equipment, or devices to become active by normal operating controls. Examples include turning on the gas or water supply valves to the fixtures and appliances and activating electrical breakers or fuses.

Actual Dimension (Lumber): The exact measurement of lumber after it has been cut, dried and milled.

Actual Knowledge: The knowledge possessed by an individual as opposed to that discovered through document review.

Adaptor: A fitting that unites different types of pipe together, e.g. ABS to cast iron pipe.

Addition: An extension or increase in the conditioned space of a building.

Adhesion: The property of a coating or sealant to bond to the surface to which it is applied.

Adhesive Failure: Loss of bond of a coating or sealant from the surface to which it is applied.

Adverse Conditions: Conditions that may be dangerous for the inspector and may limit the walk-through survey portion of the inspection.

Adversely Affect: Constitute, or potentially constitute, a negative or destructive impact.

Aerator: An apparatus that mixes air into flowing water. It is screwed onto the end of a faucet spout to help reduce splashing.

Agent: Seller’s/owner(s) representative and/or person authorized to act on behalf of the seller/ owner(s) including a real estate broker or salesperson as defined in M.G.L. c 112, § 87PP.

Aggregate: Crushed stone, slag or water-worn gravel that comes in a wide range of sizes which is used to surface built-up roofs.

Air Chamber: A vertical, air-filled pipe that prevents water hammer by absorbing pressure when water is shut off at a faucet or valve.

Air Duct: Ducts, usually made of sheet metal, that carry cooled or heated air to all rooms.

Air Filters: Adhesive filters made of metal or various fibers that are coated with an adhesive liquid to which particles of lint and dust adhere. These filters will remove as much as 90% of the dirt if they do not become clogged. The more common filters are of the throwaway or disposable type.

Air Infiltration: The amount of air leaking in and out of a building through cracks in walls, windows and doors.

Air Intake: An opening in a building’s envelope whose purpose is to allow outside air to be drawn in to replace inside air.

Air Space: The area between insulation facing and interior of exterior wall coverings. Normally a 1″ air gap.

Air-Dried Lumber: Lumber that has been piled in yards or sheds for any length of time. For the United States as a whole, the minimum moisture content of thoroughly air dried lumber is 12 to 15 percent and the average is somewhat higher. In the South, air dried lumber may be no lower than 19 percent.

Airway: A space between roof insulation and roof boards provided for movement of air.

Aisle: An exit access component that provides a path of egress travel.

Alarm Signal: A signal indicating an emergency, such as a fire, requiring immediate action.

Alarm System: Warning devices, installed or free-standing, including but not limited to: carbon monoxide detectors, flue gas and other spillage detectors, security equipment, ejector pumps and smoke alarms.

Algae: Microorganisms that may grow to colonies in damp environments, including certain rooftops. They can discolor shingles. Often described as “fungus.”

Alligatoring: A condition of paint or aged asphalt brought about by the loss of volatile oils and the oxidation caused by solar radiation. Causes a coarse checking pattern characterized by a slipping of the new paint coating over the old coating to the extent that the old coating can be seen through the fissures. “Alligatoring” produces a pattern of cracks resembling an alligator hide and is ultimately the result of the limited tolerance of paint or asphalt to thermal expansion or contraction.

Allowable Span: The distance between two supporting points for load bearing lumber such as joists, rafters or a girder.

Allowance(s): A sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items which have not been selected and specified in the construction contract. Best kept to a minimum number and used for items whose choice will not impact earlier stages of the construction. For example, selection of tile because flooring may require an alternative framing or underlayment material. (Also, money that your parents give you as a child.)

Alteration: Any construction or renovation to an existing structure other than a repair or addition. Also, a change in a mechanical system.

Aluminum Wire: A conductor made of aluminum for carrying electricity. Aluminum is generally limited to the larger wire sizes. Due to its lower conductivity, aluminum wire smaller than No. 12 is not made. Aluminum is lighter and less expensive than copper, but does not conduct as well. It also breaks easily.

Amortization: A payment plan by which a loan is reduced through monthly payments of principal and interest.

Ampacity: Refers to the how much current a wire can safely carry. For example, a 12 gauge electrical copper wire can safely carry up to 20 amps.

Amperage: The rate of flow of electricity through wire – measured in terms of amperes.

Amps (AMPERES): The rate at which electricity flows through a conductor.

Anchor Bolts: In residential construction, bolts used to secure a wooden sill plate to a concrete or masonry floor or wall. In commercial construction, bolts which fasten columns, girders or other members to concrete or masonry such as bolts used to anchor sills to masonry foundation.

Angle Iron: A piece of iron that forms a right angle and is used to span openings and support masonry at the openings. In brick veneer, they are used to secure the veneer to the foundation. Also known as shelf angle.

Angle Stop: A shutoff valve in which the inlet connects to the water supply pipe in the wall and the outlet angles 90 degrees upward toward the faucet or toilet.

Annealing: In the manufacturing of float glass, the process of controlled cooling done in a Lahr to prevent residual stresses in the glass. Re-annealing is the process of removing objectionable stresses in glass by re-heating to a suitable temperature followed by controlled cooling.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Annual cost of credit over the life of a loan, including interest, service charges, points, loan fees, mortgage insurance, and other items.

Anti-Scald: A valve that restricts water flow to help prevent burn injuries. See Pressure Balancing Valve and Thermostatic Valve. In some areas, plumbing codes require anti-scald valves. Speak to a professional in your area for more information and help with code requirements.

Anti-Siphon: A device that prevents waste water from being drawn back into supply lines and possibly contaminating the water supply.

Anti-Walk Blocks: Elastomeric blocks that limit lateral glass movement in the glazing channel which may result from thermal, seismic, wind load effects, building movement, and other forces that may apply.

Antiquated: No longer in use, useful or functioning, as in most home inspection associations. Obsolete.

APA Plywood: (APA=American Plywood Association) Plywood that has been rated by the American Plywood Association. For example, number one APA rated exterior plywood contains no voids between laminate layers.

Aperature: The opening in pipes.

Appliance: A household device operated by use of electricity or gas. Not included in this definition are components covered under central heating, central cooling or plumbing.

Appraisal: An expert valuation of property.

Approach: The area between the sidewalk and the street that leads to a driveway or the transition from the street as you approach a driveway.

Approve: Acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction. Also, accepted by an internationally recognized organization such as InterNACHI.

Apron: A trim board that is installed beneath a window sill.

Arbitration Service: A service to resolve complaints, as in NACHI’s Arbitration Service.

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter: A device intended to provide protection from the effects of arc faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by functioning to de-energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected.

Architect: A tradesman who designs and produces plans for buildings, often overseeing the building process.

Architects Rule (Ruler): Three sided ruler with different scales on each side. Also referred to as a “scale.”

Architectural Service: Any practice involving the art and science of building design for construction of any structure or grouping of structures and the use of space within and surrounding the structures or the design, design development, preparation of construction contract documents, and administration of the construction contract

Area Wells: Corrugated metal or concrete barrier walls installed around a basement window to hold back the earth.

Areaway: An open subsurface space adjacent to a building used to admit light/air or as a means of access to a basement.

Associate Home Inspector: A person licensed pursuant to M.G.L. c. 112, § 223, conducting a Home Inspection of residential building(s) under the supervision of a licensed Home Inspector.

Attic Space: The unfinished space between the ceiling joists of the top story and the roof rafters.

Automatic Safety Controls: Devices designed and installed to protect systems and components from unsafe conditions.

Architectural Services: As defined in M.G.L. c. 112, §§ 60A through 60O (architect’s license required).

Architectural Study: A study requiring Architectural Services.

Asbestos: A common form of magnesium silicate which was used in various construction products due to its stability and resistance to fire. Asbestos exposure (caused by inhaling loose asbestos fibers) is associated with various forms of lung disease. The name given to certain inorganic minerals when they occur in fibrous form. Though fire-resistant, its extremely fine fibers are easily inhaled, and exposure to them over a period of years has been linked to cancers of the lung or lung-cavity lining and to asbestosis a severe lung impairment. A naturally occurring mineral fiber sometimes found in older homes. It is hazardous to your health when a possibility exists of exposure to inhalable fibers. Homeowners should be alert for friable (readily crumbled, brittle) asbestos and always seek professional advice in dealing with it.

Asphalt: A dark brown to black highly viscous hydrocarbon produced from the residue left after the distillation of petroleum. Asphalt is used on roofs and highways as a waterproofing agent.

Asphalt Plastic Cement: An asphalt-based cement used to bond roofing materials.

Assessment: A tax levied on a property, or a value placed on the worth of a property.

Associate Member: An indentured servant. Beginning level of inspection association membership. Slave. See Candidate.

Astragal: A molding which is attached to one of a pair of swinging doors against which the other door strikes.

Attic Access: An opening that is placed in the dry-walled ceiling of a home providing access to the attic.

Attic Ventilators: In houses, screened openings provided to ventilate an attic space. They are located in the soffit area as inlet ventilators and in the gable end or along the ridge as outlet ventilators. They can also consist of power-driven fans used as an exhaust system.

Auger: In carpentry, a wood-boring tool used by a carpenter to bore holes.

Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ): An organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure. The AHJ is often the building owner, health department, insurance agent, or fire Marshall.

Automatic: That which provides a function without the necessity of human intervention.

Automatic Fire-Extinguishing System: A system of devices and equipment which automatically detects a fire and discharges in an attempt to put it out.

Automatic Sprinkler System: An automated sprinkler system for fire protection purposes.

Awning Window: A window with hinges at the top allowing it to open out and up.

Basement/Cellar: That portion of a Dwelling that is partly or completely below grade.

Board: The Board of Registration of Home Inspectors established pursuant to M.G.L. c. 13, § 96.

Branch Circuit: The circuit conductors between the final overcurrent device protecting the circuit and the outlet(s).

Buyer’s Broker: A real estate broker or salesperson, as defined in M.G.L. c 112, § 87 YY½, who has a written contractual agreement or a written agency disclosure between the buyer and the real estate broker specifying that the real estate broker is acting exclusively for the buyer as a buyer’s broker.

Central Air Conditioning: A system that uses ducts to distribute cooled and/or dehumidified air to more than one room or uses pipes to distribute chilled water to heat exchangers in more than one room, and which is not plugged into an electrical convenience outlet.

Client: A person who engages the services of a Home Inspector for the purpose of obtaining inspection of and a written Report On the condition of a Dwelling and/or Residential Building(s).

Component: A Readily Accessible and Observable element comprising a part of a system and which is necessary for the safe and proper function of the system.

Conditioned Surface: The surface of the floor and/or ceiling that is being mechanically cooled and/or heated.

Continuing Education Credits: Formal coursework covering the elements directly related to the inspection of homes and/or commercial buildings. One contact hour shall equal one credit.

Continuing Education Program: Formal presentation such as a lecture or interactive session with specified learning objectives at which Registrants can earn Continuing Education Credits approved by the Board based on criteria set forth in 266 CMR 5.00 et seq.

Contract: The written agreement between the Client and the Home Inspector, which spells out the responsibilities and duties of each party and the fee to be paid for the inspection.

Cross Connection: Any physical connection or arrangement between potable water and any source of contamination.

Dangerous or Adverse Situations: Situations that pose a threat of injury to the Inspector’s health and welfare as determined by the Inspector.

Direct Supervision: Direct supervision means on-site and in-view observation and guidance of a supervisee who is performing an assigned activity during a Home Inspection.

Dismantle: To take apart or remove any component, device, or piece of equipment that is bolted, screwed, or fastened that a homeowner in the course of normal household maintenance would not dismantle other than the electrical panel cover(s).

Division: The Division of Professional Licensure.

Dwelling: A house, townhouse, condominium, cottage, or a Residential Building containing not more that four dwelling units under one roof.

Educational Training Credits: Formal coursework covering the elements of the fundamentals of Home Inspection. One contact hour shall equal one credit.

Provider: A person approved by the Board to offer continuing education credits.

Electrical Services
: As defined in M.G.L. c. 141, M.G.L. c. 148, §§ 10D and 10E, and 527 CMR 12.00 (electrician license required).

Engineering Services: As defined in M.G.L. c. 112, §§ 81D through 81T. (Engineering license required).

Engineering Study: A study requiring Engineering Services.

Environmental Services: Services that require physical samples to be taken and analyzed by a laboratory to determine the type of and presence of contaminates and/or organic compounds and as defined in M.G.L. c. 112, §§ 81D through 81T and § 87LL. (License required).

Exclusions: Those items that are not part of and/or included in the 266 CMR 6.00: Standards of Practice and are to be provided by other specialists of the Client’s choice. However, they may be included in the inspection as part of Optional Fee Based Services as outlined in 266 CMR 6.07.

Fee Paid Inspection: A Home Inspection carried out in accordance with 266 CMR 6.04 for which the Client pays a fee and receives a Report.

Feeder: All circuit conductors between the service equipment, the source of a separately derived system, or other power supply source and the final branch-circuit overcurrent device.

Fully Depreciated: Item/System inspected is no longer under the manufacturer’s warranty, and it is reaching the end of its serviceable life. The Item/System/Component has no dollar or salvage value, and replacement should be anticipated.

Functional Drainage: A drain is functional when it empties in a reasonable amount of time and does not overflow when another fixture is drained simultaneously.

Functional Flow: A reasonable flow at the highest fixture in a dwelling when another fixture is operated simultaneously.

Heating Services: As defined in M.G.L. c. 148, §§ 10C and 10H, and 527 CMR 4.00: Oil Burning Equipment, plumber and electrician license required where applicable).

Home Inspection: The process by which an Inspector, pursuant to the sale and transfer of a residential building, Observes and Reports On those systems and components listed in 266 CMR 6.00 et seq with the exception of the noted exclusions and prohibitions.

Home Inspector: A person licensed pursuant to M.G.L. c. 112, § 222.

Household Appliances: Kitchen and laundry appliances, room air conditioners, and similar appliances.

Identify: To name.

Indirect Supervision: The oversight of activities, other than direct observation, performed by the Supervisor in order to provide guidance to the Associate Home Inspector. These activities may include meeting with the supervisee; reviewing Reports prepared by the supervisee; reviewing and evaluating the supervisee’s activities in connection with home inspections; and having supervisory conferences that may be conducted by telephone.

In Need of Repair: Does not adequately function or perform as intended and/or presents a Safety Hazard.

Installed: Attached or connected such that the installed item requires tools for removal.

Inspect/Inspected: To Observe the Readily Accessible systems or components as required by 266 CMR 6.04 et seq.

Inspector: A person licensed under M.G.L. c. 112, § 222 or 223.

Interior Wiring: Includes the exposed and Readily Observable Feeder and Branch Circuit wiring in the dwelling.

Mock Inspection: A simulated home inspection carried out for training purposes only and there is no Client involved.

Normal Operating Controls: Homeowner Operated devices such as a thermostat or wall switches.

Note: Record in the Report.

Observable: Able to be observed at the time of the inspection without the removal of fixed or finished coverings and/or stored materials.

Observe: The act of making a visual examination.

On-site Water Supply Quality: The condition of the potable water based on an evaluation of its bacterial, chemical, mineral, and solids content.

On-site Water Supply Quantity: The volume of water available measured over a period of time.

Operate: To cause systems or equipment to function.

Optional Services: Optional fee based services, which are beyond the scope of the Home Inspection as defined by 266 CMR 6.00 et seq.

Plumbing Services: As defined in M.G.L. c. 142 and 248 CMR 2.04 (plumber license required)

Primary Windows and Doors: Windows and exterior doors that are designed to remain in their respective openings year round.

Readily Accessible: Capable of being reached quickly for visual inspection without requiring the Inspector to climb over or remove any personal property, to dismantle, to use destructive measures, to resort to portable ladders and/or any action which will likely involve risk to persons or property.

Readily Operable Access Panel: A panel provided for homeowner inspection and maintenance, which has removable or operable fasteners or latch devices in order to be lifted, swung open, or otherwise removed by one person, and its edges and fasteners are not painted in place. (The panel must be within normal reach and not blocked by stored items, furniture or building components.)

Readily Observable Signs: Conditions of deterioration on the surface including, but not limited to: water stains, wood destroying fungi, insect infestation and deterioration suggesting the potential for concealed damage.

Recreational Facilities: Whirlpools, saunas, steam baths, swimming pools, tennis courts, playground equipment, and other entertainment or athletic facilities.

Registered Professional Home Inspector: A Registrant (person) licensed pursuant to M.G.L. c. 112, § 222, by the Division of Professional Licensure.

Registrant: “Register”, “Registered”, “Registrant”, and “registration” shall be used interchangeably with the words “license”, “licensed”, “licensee”, and “licensure”.

Repair: All repairs, when implemented by the buyer, seller, and/or homeowner shall comply with applicable requirements of the governing codes and sound construction practices.

Report: A written document setting forth findings of the Home Inspection unless otherwise specified in 266 CMR 2.00.

Report On: A written description of the condition of the systems and components observed. (The Inspector must state in his or her Report whether the System or Component has Readily Observable Signs indicating that it is need of repair or requires further investigation.

Representative Number: For multiple identical components such as windows, doors and electrical outlets, etc. one such component per room.

Residential Building: A structure consisting of one to four dwelling units under one roof.

Roof Drainage Systems.: Gutters, downspouts, leaders, splash blocks, and similar components used to carry water off a roof and away from a dwelling or residential building.

Safe Access: Access free of any encumbrances, hazardous materials, health and Safety Hazards such as climbing and/or standing on anything other than the ground and/or floor which may jeopardize the Inspector as determined by the Inspector.

Safety Glazing: Tempered glass, laminated glass, or rigid plastic.

Safety Hazard: A condition in a Readily Accessible, installed system or component, which is judged by the Inspector to be unsafe, or of significant risk of personal injury during normal day-to-day use. (The risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation or a change in the accepted residential construction standards.)

Seller/Seller’s Representative: The owner of the property or one legally authorized to act on behalf of the owner such as an administrator, executor, guardian, or trustee, whether or not a natural person or Agent representing the seller.

Shut Down: A piece of equipment or a system is shut down when the device or control cannot be Operated in a manner that a homeowner should normally use to Operate it. (Inspectors are prohibited from operating the equipment or system).

Solid Fuel Heating Device: Any wood, coal, or other similar organic fuel-burning device including, but not limited to, fireplaces (whether masonry or factory built), fireplace inserts, stoves, central furnaces, and any combination of these devices.

Structural Component: A component that supports non-variable forces or weights (dead loads) and variable forces or weights (live loads).

Sufficient Lighting: Fully lighted with a minimum of 50-lumens in all areas to be inspected.

Supervisor: The licensed Home Inspector designated to oversee and supervise the training of an Associate Home Inspector and/or Trainee.

System: A combination of interacting or interdependent components assembled to carry out one or more functions.

Technically Exhaustive: An inspection is technically exhaustive when it involves the use of measurements, instruments, testing, calculations, and other means to develop scientific or engineering findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Trainee: A person in the Associate Home Inspector Training Program for the purpose of meeting the requirements of M.G.L. c. 112, § 223 to qualify for licensure as an Associate Home Inspector.

Under Floor Crawl Space: The under-floor space between the bottom of the floor joists and the earth or floor under any Dwelling and/or Residential Building.

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