Does a home inspector go in the attic?

Monday, April 13, 2020

    Entering an attic is a standard part of any home inspection, except when doing so may be potentially hazardous to the inspector. The Standards of Practice for Florida-licensed inspectors, along with both national home inspector associations, agree on that point.The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) Standards of Practice state that “the inspector is not required to enter any attic or any unfinished spaces that are not readily accessible, or where entry could cause damage or, in the inspector’s opinion, pose a safety hazard.” 

    The Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) do not directly address attics, but do note that the inspector is not required to enter "areas that will, in the professional judgment of the inspector, likely be dangerous to the inspector or to other persons, or to damage the property or its systems and components."

    But the Florida DBPR Standards of Practice are more specific:

(3) The inspector is not required to enter or traverse any under-floor crawl space or attic, if in the opinion of the inspector:
(a) An unsafe or unsanitary condition exists;
(b) Enter areas in which inadequate clearance exists to allow the inspector safe entry or traversing;
(c) The potential exists to cause damage to insulation, ductwork, other components or stored items.

Like most inspectors, we try to examine as much of an attic as is safely possible, but there are a number of limiting factors:

  • An extremely small attic hatch opening, or an opening in a closet or other location that is obstructed by shelving and stored items, or does not have enough headroom above the hatch opening to safely enter and exit is often a problem in older homes. We end up poking our head in the attic or, sometimes, not even that.

  • Florida ttics are extremely hot during the summer months, which limits the amount of time an inspector can spend inside. Attic temperatures of 130º F or more are typical on a July afternoon.

  • If there are loose electrical wires, mold infestation from roof leakage, or extensive rat fecal matter, we may also choose not to enter. 

  • Large air conditioning ducts limit access to some parts of an attic. Occasionally, a duct running directly over an attic hatch even makes attic entry difficult. 

  • Attics in homes with a low roof pitch do not have sufficient height for an inspector to move around. While it might be possible for a slim 20-year-old to wiggle between truss cords and ducts in a low attic, most home inspectors are neither young or trim.

   Binoculars, a bright flashlight, and a camera with a long lens can help when access to an attic is limited, and each inspector has personal limits as to what is considered safe and acceptable for entry. 

    Also, see our blog post What makes a house fail the home inspection?

    Click on any of the links below to read other articles about what is required to be included, or not, in a home inspection:

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about ATTICS:

What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements? 

What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic? 

What is the most common type of roof-to-wall attachment? What are the building code requirements for installing an appliance (furnace, air handler, water heater) in the attic?

How do I safely remove a dead rodent (rat, mouse or squirrel) from the attic?

What are the common problems with attic insulation? 

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

How do I safely clean up rodent (rat, mouse or squirrel) urine or droppings the attic?

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

 Is an attic required to have a light by the building code? 

What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door?

Why is vermiculite attic insulation a problem for both buyers and sellers of a home? 

What are the code requirements for NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable or Romex®) in an attic? 

What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?

Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?

How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic? 

• When was a fire separation in the attic first required between sides of a duplex? 

     Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC and “DOES A HOME INSPECTOR…?” pages for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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