A thorough home inspection is essential for more than just getting the financing on a home. A home inspection can help uncover serious, life-threatening problems or dangerous structural weaknesses. Without a home inspection, buyers are purchasing blind and can find themselves in trouble down the road. If you’re a new home inspector who just got your license or a homeowner looking to do a DIY inspection, you will need the right tools for the job. This comprehensive guide will cover the most common and essential tools for any home inspection.
Tool Box and Tool Belt
As you will see throughout this guide, there is no shortage of tools for home inspectors. You will need frequent and easy access to your tools when working on a site, so a good tool belt is essential. Many tools are also delicate and require a secure container, so a toolbox for storage and transportation is necessary. Alternatively, a tool bag combines the larger storage space of a toolbox with the ease and portability of a tool belt.
Many homes have rooms with no power or poor lighting. In these situations, a good flashlight can help you see clearly. Several flashlights can come in handy, such as a hands-free headlight for crawl spaces, a flood light for large areas, and a sturdy but smaller pocket light for dark spots. One of the most valuable flashlights to have is a high-powered LED flashlight – this type of flashlight produces a bright light, is lightweight, and is often rechargeable.
Ladders are needed to inspect hard-to-reach places. Having at least one step ladder and one extending ladder will allow you to get to the majority of locations in most houses. Another option is retractable ladders that fold down for easy transport but can sometimes come with restrictive weight limits.
Good Set of Gloves
Personal safety is paramount in inspections, and a good set of gloves will help keep your hands protected. Many gloves can protect you from electrical shocks and help you keep a firm grip on your tools.
Coveralls are thick, durable, and designed to protect you while standing up to the wear and tear of a demanding workday. When inspecting a home, you will be shimmying through crawl spaces and climbing through attics, so you should invest in a good set of protective clothing like coveralls.
While not the most attractive piece of personal protective equipment, safety glasses or goggles protect your eyes from dust, debris, and all manner of incidental shrapnel. The last thing you want is a serious eye injury from a bursting tool, blown electrical socket, or another accident.
A home inspector typically carries several levels, but three essentials are a 4-foot level, torpedo level, and bullseye level.
- Four-foot levels are great for measuring large, bumpy locations.
- Torpedo levels are small and perfect for tight spaces.
- Bullseye levels can measure appliances, floors, and other installations.
A tape measure is needed to ensure various elements of a home are up to code, such as the height of guardrails, clearance height for entryways, and much more. It’s also an invaluable tool for general home maintenance.
A pocket knife is a versatile tool that frequently comes in handy during inspections. From scraping away paint to prying open panels, a pocket knife is one of the most humble yet valuable tools on a belt.
Like the pocket knife, a screwdriver is a simple yet highly valuable tool for any home inspection. Screwdrivers will let you get access to locations like electrical panels or crawl spaces. You will need both flat head and Phillips head screwdrivers, preferably with long shanks for difficult-to-reach areas.
Binoculars help check locations like the roof, upper attic windows, or even gutters when access is limited, dangerous, or otherwise unavailable.
Taking photos is a core part of the inspection process. As you find various problems and areas needing repair, you must document them with accurate, clear photos. You will want a decent-quality camera with a bright flash. You can pick a quality camera for around $150 to $300.
Protective Face Mask or Respirator
While not always needed, you will be glad to have a clean air respirator when it is necessary. Clean air respirators or more basic face masks provide you with clean air or safer breathing in locations with high amounts of dust or unsafe gases. These are useful in crawl spaces, attics, or locations with older-style insulation.
Notepads and pencils are simple, essential tools for recording valuable information, jotting down notes, and writing out complex calculations while on the job. You can keep a small pocket notebook and a pencil in your tool belt or breast pocket for easy access.
A thermal probe, or temperature probe, is a long tool used to measure the internal temperature of closed systems like HVAC units. These probes can have several configurations and allow inspectors to determine the functionality of the system they are measuring.
Electrical GFCI Outlet Tester
This handy little circuit tester has three prongs and plugs into an outlet. Once plugged in, it tests the functionality and circuitry of the outlet while protecting you from electrical shock. Basically, it safely checks to see if the outlet is fried or unsafe to use. You can pick one up for just under $100.
Also known as a multimeter, multitester, volt meter, or VOHM, a voltage multimeter is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to test various wire elements. Depending on what kind of model you buy, it can measure multiple fields, but most allow you to test a wire’s voltage, current, amps, resistance, and frequency. These can range in price from $9.99 to over $35.00.
An inspection mirror or sometimes called a telescoping mirror is a small round mirror on the end of an extendable (and sometimes bendable) stick. These nifty little tools allow you to get a better look in tight spaces or around difficult-to-reach corners.
An infrared thermometer is similar to a thermal probe. The difference between the two is that thermal probes can only measure the insides of a closed system, while infrared thermometers can measure just about anything else. Water, room temperature, walls, electrical panel, fuse boxes, hot water heaters, you name it, and an infrared thermometer can probably measure its temperature. The price on one of these varies, with quality directly correlating to price, with cheaper models on the $15-20 scale and higher-end models ranging from $40-$60, and some coming with infrared cameras.
A moisture meter does what its name implies, measure moisture content. These tools are most commonly used to measure the amount of moisture inside walls, wood, drywall, or other porous materials. Lower-end moisture meters cost between $45.00 to $70.00, with higher-end, professional models costing several hundred dollars.
Sometimes accidents happen, and you drop a screw, bolt, or tool down somewhere you can’t reach. While embarrassing, this isn’t the end of the world, and a telescoping magnet is an excellent tool to help you retrieve these dropped items.
An awl, sometimes called a probe, is a small tool that resembles a thin steel spike, similar to an ice pick. This tool is standard in various professions, and its primary purpose is to puncture things or test an object’s resistance to damage. For inspections, it is used to test for termite damage, deterioration, and rot – it can also be used in more niche situations for moving an object around in tight spaces.
There are three primary kinds of gas detectors in home inspections: combustible gas detectors, radon detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors. A combustible detector identifies and measures the levels of dangerous, explosive gases inside an area. Carbon monoxide and radon detectors measure the levels of their respective gases in an area. These gases are highly dangerous, with gas leaks potentially leading to explosions and carbon monoxide being undetectable without a tool. All three detectors are expensive, with the combustible detector costing several hundred dollars. You can buy them separately or purchase an all-in-one model that measures multiple gasses.
Power Drill/Powered Screwdriver
Power drills and powered screwdrivers can make removing circuit breaker panels and access ports easier and quicker while also requiring less arm movement in cramped spaces. While a power drill can pack more of a punch and hold a charge for longer, it can be cumbersome in certain situations. Because of this size and bulk, many inspectors will instead opt for a small powered screwdriver.
Septic Dye Test Tablets
These vibrant tablets are helpful for inspectors and DIY-minded individuals alike. Drop a few of them into a water system, and it will quickly dye the water. This dye helps determine the leak’s location and lets the inspector trace the flow of a septic system. Most dyes are non-toxic and biodegradable, with the option for ultraviolet detection.
Home inspectors have no shortage of tool options, from the humble screwdriver to the essential safety goggles and high-tech moisture meter. While not all of the tools on this list are strict requirements, all of them can help assess the quality and safety of a home. When it comes to acquiring these tools, some are available at your local home improvement store or on Amazon, but you will want to look for an online supplier like Travers for high-quality tools. Furthermore, be wary of all-in-one toolkits that have too-good-to-be-true prices, as the individual tools in these can be very low quality.