Photo of a bad roof, alligatored roof coating, roll roofing run up the parapet, home
inspection client looking-onInspection & Reporting of Shut Down or Inaccessible Building Systems or Areas
What to do about inaccessible building areas or shut-down, inoperable equipment during a home inspection

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Inaccessible or shut down areas or components at home inspections & walkthroughs:

Advice on how to handle inaccessible building areas or shut-down mechanical systems or equipment that cannot be operated during the building inspection.

For building areas that could not be inspected or for mechanical systems, appliances, or other equipment that could not be operated during a home or building inspection, here are warnings as well as recommendations for further examination and testing.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Building Inspections & Walk-Throughs: inaccessible areas & shut-down or inoperative equipment

Vinyl siding buried by backfill invites wood destroying insects (C) Daniel FriedmanAreas or or items that could not be inspected during a home or building inspection often require further examination by the building or home buyer as well as suggestions for inspection or operation of building or areas during a final walk-through before closing purchase of a building.

Take a look at the photo at left where soil has buried building siding.

An astute inspector will not simply comment that some building areas or exterior coverings could not be examined. Instead she will explain to the client that burying siding with backfill is abnormal, a poor building practice that ultimately invites structural damage from rot and wood destroying insects, and that this detail might indicate a lack of experience that hints of other construction defects that may be harder to spot - in other words, that extra care needs to be taken in evaluating building condition.

The example inspection report text and warnings about abnormal building inspection limitations given below are taken from example home inspection report programs and text and describe a range of conditions that mean that there are hidden risks or needs for further investigation, equipment testing, or other measures.

Other Inspection Limitations

Examples of warnings that may appear in home inspection reports where inspection was limited so as to exclude areas or systems that normally would be evaluated include these:

Caution: home inspectors generally were unable to inspect the interior of closets, cabinets, and some living areas where stored materials and furnishings block or cover walls/ceilings/floors.

We were unable to inspect systems that were shut down such as water, plumbing, heating, air conditioning systems. ... Either the inspector found no evidence of significant repair costs needed, or s/he may note that several repair items should be considered to address your liability, that of the current owner, for the safety of prospective buyers when the property is being shown, and for the safety of the ultimate owner.

Some unsafe "events" may be very unlikely, but serious if they occur. Usually repairs are of very modest expense. Our findings are detailed in the report. To permit us to be most helpful, if you have questions about our report or about maintaining this property in the future call us before you commit funds to a contractor. A re inspection fee, and where distance is involved, a modest travel fee are required if you need us to reexamine this property after repairs are made. There is no fee for telephone consulting between you and our office regarding these matters. Thank you for this opportunity to be of service.

Assure access to the property when scheduling a home inspection

In addition to confirming the inspection appointment with the property owner or real estate agent, please be sure that someone will be available, usually the realtor, to let the inspector and clients in to the building at the time and on the day of the inspection. As a courtesy, be sure the realtor/seller are informed that thorough, expert, detailed building inspections are often 3 1/2 hours in length, may be longer, and won't be ended until the client has finished asking initial questions at the site.

In discussing the inspection with the realtor or owner, make sure that all of the mechanical systems are turned on and working, such as heat, electricity, air conditioning. If any systems are to be left shut off or areas are to be inaccessible or locked, the inspection will be limited. Discuss these limitations with your inspector.

For example, an expert home inspector may spot evidence of a history of plumbing leaks at a fixture even if water to the building is shut down. But other critical data, such as fixture flow and drainage adequacy can't be assessed if there is no water.

Home Inspection Standard Definition of Shut Down Equipment, its Status & Responsibilities

A piece of equipment or system is considered shut down when it cannot be activated or operated by the device or control which normally operates it. Also, if the safety switch or fuse is in the "off" position or if the circuit breaker is in the "off" position, the inspector is not required to activate it. It is the responsibility of the sellers or their agents to ensure that the systems to be tested are not shut down at the time of the inspection, or to inform the buyer and inspector of these conditions in time to reschedule the inspection.

You should examine these items prior to closing. Should you find conditions which give rise to questions or any concerns please call us promptly for additional consultation (no fee). On your request home inspectors generally will perform a re inspection when examination is made possible - a modest fee is required for that service.

Electricity Off, No Heat, Frozen Pipes, Further Testing

Electrical service was shut down at time of our inspection. Therefore home inspectors generally did not test individual outlets and switches. A few safety repairs are recommended in the detailed portion of our report; they Minor electrical repairs to individual switches or outlets should involve only modest expense.

Testing of individual electrical outlets and lights should be performed when the power has been turned on at Final walkthrough.


Building water supply was shut down at time of our inspection. While home inspectors generally were able to perform the visual part of our inspection to look for water damage, corrosion, and other plumbing defects, home inspectors generally could not examine the functioning of the water supply and drainage systems, including presence of leaks, blocked drains, or supply or drain flow problems.

As heat had been left off it is possible that plumbing supply lines and fixtures which have been damaged by freezing.

It appeared as if the main water supply valve was shut down, though this could not be confirmed with certainty as in extreme cold lines may also have been frozen. Leaving this valve off should protect the building from substantial water damage if pipes were indeed burst.

When water service is restored you should operate every fixture, leaving all running for not less than 15 minutes, preferably an hour or more, so as to reduce the probability of undiscovered leaks in supply or drain lines or at the controls. Final walkthrough;check plumbing>

As the building is supplied with municipal water and sewer these tests will confirm adequate inflow and outflow through these systems.

Should you find any evidence of leakage from any fixture, supply, or drain line, please call us promptly for counsel.


The heating system was shut down at time of our inspection.

At request of the realtor home inspectors generally turned on electricity to and started operation of the heating system. That system operated normally. (Operation and test details are in the detailed section of your report.)

It is possible that heat was returned to the house in time to avoid burst fixtures and it is our understanding that the realtor was to check the house frequently over the next few days to assure that no leaks occur as possibly frozen pipes and fixtures thaw.

Water Off - brief comment, repetitive Caution: Fixtures were not operated, flow not examined, drainage not evaluated, as water supply was not operational.

Electric Off - brief comment, repetitive Caution: home inspectors generally did not operate the unit as electric power was turned off. Confirm operation at your final walkthrough before closing sale.

Water Supply, Plumbing & Drainage: Water Off - Final Walkthrough Tips

Be sure to run all fixtures all during your walk through prior to closing sale; look for interior leaks in cabinets below the fixture and in ceilings below the bathroom or kitchen areas. (Final walk-through re-check or check-further item)

NOTE: Look for wet areas in the septic field. While often only minor plumbing repairs are required, leaks in showers and wet areas in septic fields could involve significant expense and should be reviewed with us and with your attorney before closing. Significant expense;possible septic or plumbing. The longer you run such devices the better the test. Some small leaks may not be apparent when only brief or small volumes of water are run.

If domestic hot water is supplied by a hot water coil on a heating boiler you should compare hot and cold water pressure at several fixtures.

NOTE Significantly less hot than cold water pressure might indicate mineral clogging or other problems with the hot water coil. Water, hot water supply should be investigated further for evidence of hard water, scale formation in the water heater, scale formation in building piping, inadequate water pressure, inadequate hot water flow rate - all or any of which may be significant expenses to repair. (Final walkthrough check item)


Stored Materials - prevents inspection of foundation &c

Large amounts of stored material in this area also prevented inspection of foundation walls for certain indications of structural or moisture/water damage.

Other clues suggesting such problems were not found.

- or -

Other indications were found and are discussed in your report.

Framing not inspected:

Deck Framing when tehre is no access below: The area below this structure was not inspected as framing is built so close to the ground level as to prevent access. Inspecting from above home inspectors generally did (or did not) find indications of framing damage or defects. If home inspectors generally did, they are described here: ___

Framing & Other Structural Components that are Not Visible

Floor framing was not visible and could not be directly inspected. We did not see unusual floor deflection for buildings of this age and type.

Wall framing was not visible and could not be inspected directly. We did not see unusual wall bowing, cracking, movement for buildings of this age and type.

There was no access to and home inspectors generally did not inspect ceiling framing components. home inspectors generally recommend making access where possible, for inspection of framing and other items in this area. home inspectors generally did not see significant damage or unusual ceiling sagging or cracking compared with similar buildings.

Mechanical System Inspection Limitations or Shut Down Equipment

Hot Water Tank Not Inspected - the water heater was covered by insulation. This means that this building inspection was limited in scoppe: for example the inspector might state that a water heater or water storage tank was so covered by insulation as to prevent inspection of its exterior for signs of damage.

Watch out: Insulation should not cover the end of relief valve extension pipe - you'd want to know if it were dripping. If insulation excludes ready access to the heater's data plate home inspectors generally do not remove it to obtain that information.

Final Walkthrough Checks - al Walkthrough suggestions

See "Final Walkthrough" entries in the building inspection report Index. Also note the following suggestions:


As home inspectors generally do not operate appliances with a run cycle such as clothes washers and dryers, dish washers, self-cleaning cycles on electric ranges, etc. you should be sure to operate each of such systems through a full cycle prior to closing sale.

Special Equipment

As home inspectors generally do not test alarm systems or certain other special equipment, if you can obtain operation information from owner or other sources you should be sure to test these systems prior to closing sale.


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