Glossary of Home Inspection Terms
(See Below for Freddie Mac Glossary of Home Inspection Terms)
Glossary of Terms (From the NACHI Standards of
NACHI - National Association of Certified Home Inspectors
4.1. Accessible: Can be approached or entered by the inspector safely, without difficulty, fear or danger.
4.2. 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.
4.3. Adversely Affect: Constitute, or potentially constitute, a negative or destructive impact.
4.4. 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.
4.5. 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.
4.6. 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.
4.7. Component: A permanently installed or attached fixture, element or part of a system.
4.8. Condition: The visible and conspicuous state of being of an object.
4.9. Crawlspace: The area within the confines of the foundation and between the ground and the underside of the lowest
floor structural component.
4.10. Decorative: Ornamental; not required for the operation of essential systems and components of a home.
4.11. Describe: Report in writing a system or component by its type, or other observed characteristics, to distinguish
it from other components used for the same purpose.
4.12. Determine: To arrive at an opinion or conclusion pursuant to examination.
4.13. Dismantle: To open, take apart or remove any component, device or piece that would not typically be opened, taken
apart or removed by an ordinary occupant.
4.14. Engineering Service: Any professional service or creative work requiring engineering education, training, and
experience and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to such professional
service or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design and supervision of construction for
the purpose of assuring compliance with the specifications and design, in conjunction with structures, buildings, machines,
equipment, works or processes.
4.15. Enter: To go into an area to observe all visible components.
4.16. Evaluate: To assess the systems, structures or components of a dwelling.
4.17. Examine: To visually look. See Inspect.
4.18. Foundation: The base upon which the structure or wall rests; usually masonry, concrete, or stone, and generally
4.19. Function: The action for which an item, component, or system is specially fitted or used or for which an item,
component or system exists; to be in action or perform a task.
4.20. Functional: Performing, or able to perform, a function.
4.21. Home Inspection: The process by which an inspector visually examines the readily accessible systems and components
of a home and operates those systems and components utilizing these Standards of Practice as a guideline.
4.22. Household Appliances: Kitchen and laundry appliances, room air conditioners, and similar appliances.
4.23. Inspect: To visually look at readily accessible systems and components safely, using normal operating controls
and accessing readily accessible panels and areas.
4.24. Inspected Property: The readily accessible areas of the buildings,
site, items, components, and systems included in the inspection.
4.25. Inspector: One who performs a real estate inspection.
4.26. Installed: Attached or connected such that the installed item requires tool for removal.
4.27. Material Defect: Refer to section 1.2.
4.28. Normal Operating Controls: Devices such as thermostats that would be operated by ordinary occupants which require
no specialized skill or knowledge.
4.29. Observe: To see through visually directed attention.
4.30. Operate: To cause systems to function or turn on with normal operating controls.
4.31. Readily Accessible: An item or component is readily accessible if, in the judgment of the inspector, it is capable
of being safely observed without movement of obstacles, detachment or disengagement of connecting or securing devices, or
other unsafe or difficult procedures to gain access.
4.32. Recreational Facilities: Spas, saunas, steam baths, swimming pools, tennis courts, playground equipment, and
other exercise, entertainment or athletic facilities.
4.33. Report: A written communication (possibly including digital images) of any material defects seen during the inspection.
4.34. Representative Number: A sufficient number to serve as a typical or characteristic example of the item(s) inspected.
4.35. Safety Glazing: Tempered glass, laminated glass, or rigid plastic.
4.36. Shut Down: Turned off, unplugged, inactive, not in service, not operational, etc.
4.37. Structural Component: A component which supports non-variable forces or weights (dead loads) and variable forces
or weights (live loads).
4.38. System: An assembly of various components to function as a whole.
4.39. Technically Exhaustive: A comprehensive and detailed examination beyond the scope if a real estate home inspection
which would involve or include, but would not be limited to: dismantling, specialized knowledge or training, special equipment,
measurements, calculations, testing, research, analysis or other means.
4.40. Unsafe: A condition in a readily accessible, installed system or component which is judged to be a 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 accepted residential construction standards.
4.41. Verify: To confirm or substantiate.
Freddie Mac Glossary of Home Inspection Terms
A unit measure of electricity.
The opening in pipes.
A naturally occurring mineral fiber sometimes found in older homes. It is hazardous to health when a
possibility exists of exposure to inhalable fibers. Homeowners should be alert for friable asbestos and always seek professional
advice in dealing with it.
A window with hinges at the top allowing it to open out and up.
Usually wood or vinyl installed around the perimeter of a room to cover the space where the wall and
A heating system with the heating unit located along the perimeter of the wall where the baseboard
would be. It can be either an electric or hot water system.
A metal box that contains circuit breakers or fuses that control the electrical current in the home.
Minimum local or state regulations established to protect public health and safety. They apply to
building design, construction, rehabilitation, repair, materials, occupancy and use.
The bending of a building material as a result of wear and tear or contact with a substance such as water.
A side hinged window that opens on hinges secured to the side of the window frame.
Material used to fill joints that may exist between floors and fixtures; around windows and doors, shower
stalls and bathtubs, etc.
The safety valves for electrical systems. It interrupts an electric circuit when an unusual condition
arises such as lightning and malfunctioning appliances. Unlike a fuse, it can be reset.
CLASS B DOOR:
A fire resistant rating applied by the Underwriters Laboratories Classification for a door having
a 1 to 1 1/2hour rating.
Plastic water piping rated for hot water.
Shallow space between the underside of the first floor of a house and the ground.
Valves used to shut water off, generally located under sinks or behind bathtub and shower access
panels. They cutoff hot and/or cold water at the source without cutting all water off throughout the house.
An air valve that regulates the flow of air inside the flue of a furnace or fireplace.
A device that grinds food sufficiently to enter drains for disposal without clogging.
A converted attic with windows projecting through a sloping roof.
DOUBLE HUNG WINDOW:
A window with sashes that slide vertically and allow opening from the top and bottom.
A gypsum board material used for walls or ceilings.
A system of distribution channels used to transmit heated or cooled air from a central system (HVAC)
throughout a home.
The section of the roof that overhangs the walls of a house.
Extracts air or excess heat from the interior of a home.
Sheet metal used at wall and roof junctions and around chimneys to prevent water entry.
An enclosed chamber in a fireplace that directs flames, smoke and other gases to the outside air.
Concrete set in the soil (foundation bed) that support the foundation of the house.
FORCED AIR FURNACE:
A unit that transfers heat from fuel and circulates heat throughout the ducts of a house.
The part of the structure upon which all other construction is built.
A metal box that contains the fuses that regulate electric current in a house.
GROUND FAULT INTERRUPTER (GFI):
A safety device that interrupts surges of electricity in appliances and other electrical
components found in a home.
GUTTER / DOWNSPOUT:
Channel of various materials including plastic and copper supported at the eaves to direct
water away from the foundation of a home through downspouts.
The fireproof surface of a fireplace, usually 18 inches wide.
A device used to transfer heat in a furnace.
A reverse cycle refrigeration unit that both heats and cools.
HOT WATER HEATING SYSTEM:
This system heats water to boiling in a water heater, and a circulator pumps it through
a system of pipes.
Heating, ventilating and air conditioning system.
Material used to resist the loss of heat energy. Materials such as fiber glass, mineral wool, cellulose
and foam are placed in the walls, ceilings, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation may be blown or installed in batt sections.
Horizontal timbers, beams or bars supporting a floor.
Strips of wood or other material used as a base for the installation of plaster.
A material used in pipes and paint of many older homes. We now know that lead is hazardous to health. The
local environmental protection agency should be consulted for guidelines on handling, removal and applicable laws.
Construction using materials such as tile, brick, cement, stone or similar materials.
Wood or steel elements that make up the framing and foundation of a structure such as 2 X 4 strips of lumber
cut to various lengths.
A bonding material used in the construction of brick or stone structures.
Strips of wood or the material used to cover joints between floors and walls, and walls and ceilings.
A low wall or railing along the edge of a roof, balcony, bridge or terrace constructed for protection,
to control water resulting from rain or artificial flooding or to insulate against the sun's rays.
A floor that is laid in rectangular or square patterns often made of prefinished wood or wood veneer
POINTING UP OR TUCK POINTING:
The removal of deteriorated mortar between bricks and replacement with new mortar.
Water piping used for interior piping and the main waterline to the street. Problems with this pipe
have curtailed its use.
An inspection performed by a specially trained inspector to provide a comprehensive report
on the condition of a house. This report is usually written and is often used in home sale negotiations.
A measurement of the ability of insulation to slow the transfer of heat or cold. The higher the R value,
the greater the insulation power.
RADIANT HEATING SYSTEM:
An electrical heating system that distributes heat through cables installed usually in baseboard
A colorless, odorless gas that is emitted from soils, rocks and water as a result of radioactive decay in
certain areas of the country. Radon is known to cause cancer. Homes should be tested for radon. The local environmental agency
should be consulted on its handling, removal and any applicable laws.
The structural member or beam that supports the roof. It spans from the exterior wall to the ridge board
of the peak of the roof.
Help to regulate the flow of air.
A vertical structure used to restrict the movement of soil or water.
Framework that holds the glass in a window or a door.
The lowering of elevation of a house or pavement due to weight or shrinkage.
Sheets of waterproof material used to cover the roofs of homes and other surfaces.
Finish material such as wood, vinyl and aluminum used on outside walls.
The lowest piece upon which a window or exterior door rests, usually slanted downward slightly to provide
for rain water runoff.
A concrete foundation or floor of a home. Houses built on slab usually do not have basements.
The underside part of a roof that extends beyond the outside walls of a structure.
Heat created from the gathering of solar energy from the sun. It can be passive or active. A positive
system takes advantage of winter sunlight through windows on the south side of a home. An active system heats through the
collection of solar energy through solar collectors.
An electric pump, usually installed in the basement to prevent water from entering the basement area.
It empties water from a "well or pit" where it is collected and pumps it to the outside of a home.
Helps to control temperatures within the home. Thermostats automatically turn heating or air conditioning
on or off as necessary to maintain a desired temperature.
A strip of metal, wood, marble or other material placed at the base of a door.
TPRV or Temperature Pressure Relief Valve
This valve on the water heater opens to release excess pressure caused
by water pressure surges or excessive temperature.
UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION:
A type of foamed in-place insulation that releases formaldehyde gas. It was banned
by the Consumer Public Safety Commission in 1982 from use in residences and schools. Holding that the risks had not been proven,
a Federal Court lifted the ban in 1983. The local consumer and/or environmental protection agency should be consulted for
additional information on this type of insulation.
Made of various materials used to reduce the escape of heat or air conditioning from a home.
It is usually installed around windows and doors.
The open subsurface space that provides light through a basement window.
A system that allows different temperatures in various parts of a structure.
Bibliography for Glossary
Appraisal Institute, The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, Chicago, Illinois The Appraisal Institute, 1993.
Boyce, Byrl N., ed. and comp., Real Estate Appraisal Terminology, Revised Edition,
Society of Real Estate Appraisers, Ballinger Publishing Company, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984.
Friedman, Jack P., Jack C. Harris, J. Bruce Linderman, Dictionary of Real Estate
Terms, 2nd Ed., Barron Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, New York, 1987.
Home Ownership Partners, Maintenance and Educational Manual, Home Ownership Partners, Louisville, Kentucky.
R.S. Means, Inc. Means Illustrated Construction Dictionary, New Unabr. Ed., R.S. Means, Inc., Kingston, Massachusetts,
Copyright 1995 Freddie Mac. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission from Freddie Mac