The whole process involves hundreds of observations which must be recorded in a standardised format in regulations with the Australian Standards. It may appear that the comprehensive report you get is a bit lengthy, but it is necessary to convey to you a lot of information about the inspection itself and the property inspected.
In reality, a standard Building and Pest Inspection is actually 13 Home Inspections in one:
Landscaping and Grounds:
The position of the property in relation to other properties and the road as well as the contour of the land in relation to the house can all affect drainage towards or away from the house. In turn, this can affect the stability of footings and foundations as well as create moist conditions around the base of the house which will attract termites.
Excessive planting close to the house, particularly of large trees with deep roots could disrupt footings and foundations and also attract termites. The yard is inspected for evidence of termite colonies close to the dwelling which may be visible as mounds on the ground or in trees.
Pathways, Driveways & Paving:
Cracking and displacement of paved areas may be a symptom of more serious movement or simply a trip hazard.
Fences & Retaining Walls:
Fences and retaining walls deteriorate with time and can be affected by timber pests such as termites which both may pose a safety hazard and negatively affect drainage or represent a significant expense after purchase.
Freestanding Yard Structures:
Significant structures independent of the house may include gazebos, sheds, and cubby houses. These are assessed for their state of repair, level of workmanship and general safety, so you'll have a good idea of what future costs you may be up for.
The same attention to detail will be applied to the garage as to the rest of the property. In particular, slab cracking and deterioration, the state of internal linings, and evidence of termite access will be examined among other elements.
The inspector will examine each aspect of the property for its structural soundness and/or state of maintenance as well as the quality of its build and use of appropriate materials. In particular, alignment, deterioration, cracking, movement and dampness will be noted.
The property's cladding, wall alignment, state of brickwork and mortar are inspected. The property's rainwater goods, including downpipes, are examined to ensure that rain is diverted away from the base of the house to prevent destabilisation of footings and foundations or conditions conducive to termites.
Just as with the exterior, the inspector works methodically through the property, room by room, documenting evidence of structural problems, conditions which may later lead to structural issues, damage to secondary and finishing elements as well as defects to minor fixtures and fittings, although the latter may not be exhaustive as normal wear and tear is not reported on.
In particular, the inspector will look for serious cracking and movement, deformation, evidence of damp and water penetration, evidence of termite activity or conditions which may encourage termites. Among the numerous minor defects that may be recorded, the inspector will note missing or defective fixtures and fittings, poorly applied paint, loose, broken or springy floorboards, poor maintenance, cracked glass and so on.
Bathroom & Laundry:
Although not a special purpose inspection, wet areas are especially scrutinised as part of the property's interior because of their persistent damp conditions which can lead to rot, decay with ensuing structural problems and conditions attractive to termites.
Decks, Pergolas & Verandahs:
Although not a dedicated special purpose inspection, assessment of these high-risk structures is very important from a safety point of view. These will be inspected for structural integrity, level of maintenance and deterioration. Whether they have been installed correctly in a tradesmanlike fashion with appropriate materials, evidence of damp, fungal decay, missing or cracked boards, and appropriateness of fixings are all considered, among many factors.
The integrity of the property's roof is very important in keeping a house watertight so wherever possible, the inspector will check the line of the roof for sagging which may indicate structural issues, the state of roof coverings, whether tiles or sheeting for gaps, cracks, rust etc. Similarly, the state of flashings and pointing are also important for waterproofing and the pitch of the roof must prevent rainwater from ponding whereas gutters and downpipes need to be intact to divert rainwater away from the roof.
Leaks and dampness are best seen from within the roof cavity where providing safe access is possible, the inspector will examine trusses, braces, battens and rafters for structural integrity, bracing, fungal decay, and termite activity.
Sub - Floor:
With non slab-on-ground dwellings, the primary support to the property, the subfloor containing stumps, bearers, joists, and foundation walls is carefully checked for evidence of cracking, decay, movement and moisture penetration as indications of serious structural issues or problems that may become so in the future, evidence of termite activity or conditions that may encourage termites.
Timber Pest Inspection:
Owing to their secretive nature and the extent of damage they can do to a property in such short time, the inspector will work through the entire property both inside and out, tapping, employing thermal imaging, and closely checking for signs of subterranean termites, several species of which all behave differently.
Most importantly, you need to understand that the existence of conditions conducive to termites such as damp timber is just as important as whether or not termites were actually visible to the inspector at the time of inspection, because if attractive conditions exist, then termites will be present, visible or not, or will occur in the future as a matter of course. Nor are termites the only timber pests which also include various borers, fungal decay, and delignification.
Understandably, an inspector can only report upon defects in areas that they can readily access safely, that are not obstructed or completely blocked to the inspector. Your report should itemise these defects, their location, level of severity, and more importantly, whether you should seek further advice, from whom, and in what time frame.
A Building and Pest Inspection is far from simple and considering the host of inspections included, very good value for money!