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Study Like a Pro! Must Know Home Inspection Terms

Man with a red hardhat on a step ladder leaning against a beige house and another man
Image provided by thepropertysource.ca

Featured here are some terms commonly used in home inspection reports. While it is helpful to review with the inspector, it is not always an option for some buyers. This list may provide some helpful insight to the jargon used by inspectors. Often, the home buying process can feel overwhelming, but having an idea of notable terms can provide more clarity and empower the buyer to be informed when making choices in their future decisions. 


  • Air Gap Drainage- Refers to the unobstructed vertical space in the free atmosphere between the outlet of a waste pipe and the flood-level rim of the receiving receptacle. Despite the technical terminology, the concept is straightforward. The air gap is the vertical distance between the top of a basin or sink and the faucet above the sink. Understanding the air gap distance is especially relevant to home inspections, particularly in scenarios involving sink flooding. In such instances, the presence of a sufficient air gap prevents contaminated water from contacting the faucet opening, safeguarding both clean water and the integrity of the faucet against potential bacteria or other contaminants.


  • PVC (Pipes) - Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a thermoplastic polymer used  in the creation of these white plastic pipes, primarily for water supply and plumbing use. Known for its exceptional durability and extended service life, PVC pipes offer added advantages, such as lightweight material and an easy installation process. Furthermore, the materials resistance to corrosion ensures a long lifespan in various environmental conditions. Notably, the chemical composition of PVC allows these pipes to be more flame retardant compared to other types of pipes. This ensures the lifespan and resilience while the pipes are in use. 

PVC pipes
Image provided by millerplastics.com

  • Drip Edge - A drip edge refers to metal sheets, often constructed in an 'L' shape, carefully installed along the perimeter of a roof to efficiently direct water away from the fascia. The absence of a drip edge on a home disrupts water channeling into the gutter system and downspouts. As a result, the accumulation of water along the roof's edges presents a significant risk of potential water damage. This water damage can create costly repairs for home buyers and residents alike.  


  • Expansion Tank - An expansion tank is a valuable component found on a water heater unit, offering important advantages to homeowners. The primary function is to mitigate water pressure and temperature that occur as the water heater works. By providing a reservoir for the expansion of both water and air, this device regulates pressure levels, and can extend the lifespan of the water heater. The installation of an expansion tank serves to relieve the pressure on the appliance against the wear and tear resulting from daily usage.


  • Hardie Boards -  These specifically named boards have several advantages for a home. Composed of fiber and cement, Hardie boards are known for their exceptional durability against weather related elements and pests. The siding consist of a blend of cement, sand, and other reinforcing additives, making them highly resistant to flames. This fire retardant ability, compared to alternative siding options, is a notable bonus when choosing a strong siding option for homeowners. The brand also prides itself on offering a range of colors and styles, providing consumers with plenty of options to complement various design preferences.


Blue Hardie siding on a home against the sky
Image provided by jameshardie.com
  • Fascia - With a name bearing resemblance to the protective tissue in our bodies, fascia serves a similar purpose to a home's structure and integrity. Installed along the lower edge of the roof, fascia, paired with the soffit, provides defense against insects and the elements. This structure offers support to the roof, which can prevent the risk of the roof collapsing. Additionally, beyond its structural role, fascia contributes to the aesthetic appeal of a home, adding a polished finish that highlights curb appeal for both current residents and prospective buyers.


  • Soffit - Complementing the fascia, is also a critical component in the structure of a home's roof. In addition to providing protection against environmental elements and pests, the soffit serves as a ventilation system for the attic space. Its design functions as a barrier, acting to efficiently drain rainwater away from the home. This is critical in preventing water-related damage to the roof and potentially the foundation. The absence of soffit in homes with an older architecture design can pose significant risks. These risks include water damage, mold growth and development, and inadequate attic ventilation, The importance of its inclusion in roofing systems is for optimal structural integrity and protection against environmental elements.


Diagram of roofing structure showing fascia and soffit
Photo Provided by Wizehomedirect.com
  • Flashing- Flashing is a thin strip of water-resistant material implemented on roofing structures to strengthen vulnerable joints against water penetration. Primarily used around features such as vents, chimneys, walls, skylights, or windows, flashing plays a pivotal role in preventing water-related damage, which, if unchecked, can lead to the development of mold growth or worsen existing leaks. Moreover, flashing serves to reinforce weak points in the roof susceptible to weather-related deterioration or damage from high winds.


  • Junction Boxes - Junction boxes are integral components of electrical systems within buildings, designed to house electrical connections and protect them from elements such as moisture and dust. These boxes house wire connections, switches, or outlets, ensuring they remain securely enclosed, protecting them from damage. These boxes also protect people from accidental exposure. In the context of a home inspection, junction boxes play a critical role in assessing the safety of the electrical system. Inspectors evaluate the condition of junction boxes to ensure the wiring is properly contained, reducing the risk of electrical hazards such as short circuits or fires. Additionally, inspectors review the accessibility of junction boxes to ensure they can be easily reached for maintenance or repairs. Overall, junction boxes are critical components to maintain the safety of a home's electrical infrastructure.


The detailed explanations in this list provide clarity on the specific terms related to home inspections. Understanding these terms can help homeowners, potential buyers and real estate agents of residential properties better interpret home inspection reports, make informed decisions, and ensure the safety and integrity of their homes. Count on us to continue sharing useful tips and information to assist with home ownership and property maintenance!

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