Starting a home inspection business is attractive for many reasons. You get to make your own schedule. You answer to yourself, so it’s easy to maintain your personal standards of excellence.
You also get to enjoy relatively low startup costs. As a home inspector, you’re not making repairs or contracting with clients for renovations, so you don’t need a pile of power tools or a heavy-duty pickup truck (unless you want one, of course!).
And while technically you could just arrive at the job with nothing but a pencil, clipboard, and your own keen eye for all things construction-related, having the right tools for the job will make things a whole lot easier.
So what should every great home inspector have in their tool kit? We’ve put together the ultimate list.
- An Electrical Tester: Part of an inspector’s job is to check for electrical issues and to test a representative number of switches and outlets. To do this, you’ll need an electrical tester that lets you check GFCI devices. The simplest ones will test GFCI devices on 120-volt receptacles.
- A Flashlight: InterNACHI recommends a flashlight for all home inspectors. This is crucial equipment for investigating any number of details in a home, whether it’s peeking into dark basement corners to look for signs of water damage or exploring attic crevices for adequate insulation. Choose a powerful lamp, and keep a stock of backup batteries so your work is always well lit. Having a small backup flashlight handy in case of an unexpected power outage is also a good idea.
- A Pair of Safety Glasses: You never know when a loose wire or unexpected debris will hit your eyes, so it’s crucial to have a good pair of safety glasses on at all times. These can be inexpensive, or you can splurge for a prescription pair from your eye doctor for greater comfort.
- A Pair of Gloves: Protecting your hands on the job is important — especially since you never know what you might come across when you reach into an unknown cupboard a crack in the wall. Durable gloves are a must, and you should consider ones with an insulating rubber layer to protect from electrical shock as well.
The best basics
- An AFCI/GFCI Tester: While bargain-basement electrical testers are technically fine, you may want to invest in a device that also tests arc-fault circuit interrupter devices. Even better, spring for one that allows you to test 240-volt receptacles as well — handy for when a dryer isn’t installed and you want to test the outlet.
- A Respirator: You never know what you’re walking into when you enter a property — especially if it hasn’t been inhabited in some time. A high-quality respirator will filter out pathogens such as dangerous mold, asbestos, lead paint dust, and more. You can choose a half-face model that covers the mouth and nose or one with an attached face shield to keep particles out of your eyes.
- A Carbon Monoxide Detector: Some states and localities require carbon monoxide detectors, but that doesn’t mean the house you’re inspecting has a working one. To be on the safe side, a portable carbon monoxide analyzer will measure levels of this colorless, odorless gas in parts per million to alert you to potential issues with combustion HVAC equipment.
- A Combustible Gas Detector: Natural gas and propane have a distinctive smell that will let you know if there’s a big leak, but many inspectors like to have a portable detector in their tool kit for added security. This can be especially useful if you have a cold or just want to keep your respirator on for the duration of your inspection.
- A Compass: Unless your sense of direction is impeccable, a compass will help you accurately describe the orientation of the house, which can be useful in the inspection report. It’s also helpful for reviewing the placement of solar panels and getting a feel for how energy-efficient the home may be overall.
- A Computer, a Mobile Device, and Inspection Software: Sure, you could use a clipboard with a checklist and a pen, but modern home inspectors embrace technology to write their reports. HomeGauge inspection software makes it easy to input your comments, add photos, and create detailed reports that clients will love. Using a portable tablet or other mobile device streamlines the process and helps you get reports done faster.
- A Microwave Tester: Believe it or not, you can’t always tell if an installed microwave works just by seeing if the light turns on. An inexpensive microwave tester will let you know if microwaves are being produced. It’s faster and more professional than bringing a bag of microwave popcorn to the job site!
- A Moisture Meter: A moisture meter is essential for getting a read on potential plumbing leaks in kitchens and bathrooms. If you see visible signs of water damage, the moisture meter will let you know if there’s an ongoing problem by detecting and measuring moisture behind walls and under floors.
- A Multi-Tool: Having a multi-tool in your pocket just makes everything easier. Need a screwdriver for the electrical panel? Check. A chisel tip to pry something open? Check. An awl to poke around for termite damage? Check. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
- A Pair of Roof Boots: What goes up must come down, but you definitely want that to be on your own terms when inspecting a roof. Roof boots with replaceable soles will keep you from slipping when you’re two or three stories up.
- A Set of Telescoping Tools: A telescoping mirror can help reduce neck strain as it helps you see around tight corners and into tight crevices. Likewise, a telescoping magnet makes it easy to find and pick up loose screws — and how great would it be never to worry about dropping a screw from an electrical panel ever again?
- A Smoke Pen: A smoke pen is a quick and easy way to detect drafts — just watch which way the smoke moves to see if there’s an air current in the room or a potentially dangerous backdraft around a furnace.
- A Telescoping Ladder: A lightweight, portable ladder is easy to fit into your car or truck, and it’s also convenient to carry around a home without worrying about banging into door frames or scuffing the walls. If you have space, an articulating ladder can be used as a step-ladder or against the side of a house to get onto the roof.
The next level
- A Continuous Radon Monitor: Radon testing isn’t part of a standard home inspection, but it’s a great extra service to offer your clients. If you decide to add radon testing to your menu of services, you’ll need a continuous radon monitor to track radon levels in the home for the duration of the testing period. A good monitor is a great investment in expanding your business.
- A Drone and Camera: Whether you’re afraid of heights, have bad knees, or just want to embrace the latest technology, a drone is a major upgrade to your home inspection tool kit. Equipped with a camera, you’ll be able to thoroughly inspect a roof while keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground. Drones are easier to use and less expensive than ever, so now’s the time to give one a whirl.
- An Infrared Camera: Infrared cameras turn hot and cold spots into colorful images that let you analyze issues with heating, cooling, insulation, and more. It’s up to you whether to use them during a standard inspection or to bring them out as part of upgraded services, which could include a home energy audit.
- A Laser Measure: Checking for clearances and answering homeowners’ questions about the space is lightning fast when you have a laser measure. You’ll get accurate measurements without having to ask someone to hold the other end of an old-fashioned tape measure.
- A Tool Vest: Once you’ve completed your collection of useful home inspector tools, it’s time to invest in a handy carrying case. While a standard toolbox is fine, a tool vest will allow you free use of both your hands, and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally leaving a tool behind at the job site.
Whether you’re just starting out or looking to upgrade your home inspection business to accommodate bigger and better jobs, the right tools will help you do a thorough job while keeping you organized and ready for whatever may come your way.