How To Read A Building And Pest Inspection Report

It’s important to be able to read and understand the report. This guide details what’s included in a building and pest report and how to interpret their findings.

Once you’ve found the perfect property, you’ll want to organise a building and pest inspection to avoid any nasty surprises. You’ll need to arrange for a professional building and pest inspector to come in and inspect your potential new home. They’ll inspect your property and provide you with a building and pest report that details their findings. 

While having a copy of the report is one thing, it’s important to be able to read and understand the report. This guide details what’s included in a building and pest report and how to interpret their findings.

What is a building and pest inspection?

A building and pest inspection is carried out by a licensed professional, like a surveyor, builder, or architect. They can help identify potential issues and defects that you’re not able to spot yourself, including:

  • Structural defects: like cracks or unevenness in the foundation, unsuitable installation of frames or roofing materials, leaks, etc.,  
  • Cosmetic defects: including wall and ceiling cracks, uneven floors, exposed gaps between walls, chipped paint, crumbling concrete, etc., and
  • Pest damage: like termites and carpenter ants, including any historical damage, existing damage and suggestions for preventative care.

While a building and pest inspection will likely set you back a few hundred dollars, major structural defects could end up costing you thousands. Depending on the severity of the issues, they could be reason enough for you to pull out of the sale. This is why it’s often worth including a building and pest clause in your contract of sale. 

It’s also worth noting that you can get a stand-alone building inspection or pest inspection, but sometimes you’re better off killing two birds with one stone by knocking them out of the way in one hit. 

What’s included in a building and pest inspection?

As part of the building and pest inspection, the building inspector will conduct a thorough inspection of the accessible areas of your property inside and out. The areas often covered as part of a building and pest inspection include:

  • Interior and exterior walls,
  • Roof space and roof exterior (subject to health and safety regulations),
  • Garage, carport and garden shed,
  • Separate laundry or toilet,
  • Non-structural retaining walls,
  • Steps, fencing and paths,
  • Driveways, and
  • Under-floor space.

The inspector will be looking out for issues like:

  • Water damage, moisture, damp, or rot,
  • Cracks and/or structural damage that can be seen with the eye,
  • Uneven flooring,
  • Visual evidence of pests, and
  • Signs of rust.

While most building and pest inspectors do their best to provide you with a thorough inspection, there are certain items that aren’t usually included in a standard building and pest report, including:

  • Inaccessible items, like areas covered by walls, ceilings, or large furniture,
  • Built-in home appliances, including air conditioning systems, ovens, and stovetops,
  • Home accessories, like alarm systems, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems,
  • Fireplaces, pools, or saunas,
  • Compliance with building codes, and
  • Land inspections.

Remember the term ‘buyer beware’? At the end of the day it’s up to you to do your due diligence on the property before going through with the sale.

Understanding the building and pest report terminology

When it comes to the terminology used in your building and pest inspection report, it’s important to interpret the findings as a comparison against other well-maintained buildings of a similar style and age. 

Inspectors often used certain phrases to describe the state of the building, including:

  • Low, typical, or high: This term refers to the level or frequency of major/minor defects expected for a well-maintained home of similar age and type,
  • Below average, average or above average: The average rating typically refers to the inspector's opinion in terms of the overall condition of the building when compared to homes of similar age and type, and 
  • Minor defects or major/significant defects: Defects are elements that might need repairs or improvements, depending on their severity and the desired condition you want to achieve for the home, if you decide to buy it.

Here are some other common key terms that you’re likely to come across in your building and pest report:

  • Damage: The building material or item has deteriorated or is not fit for its designed purpose,
  • Distortion, warping or twisting: The item has moved out of shape or moved from its position,
  • Water penetration or dampness: Moisture has gained access to unplanned and/or unacceptable areas, and
  • Material deterioration: The item is subject to one or more of the following defects; rusting, rotting, corrosion or decay.

Interpreting your building and pest report

Once the building and pest inspector has wrapped up their inspection of your property, they’ll provide you with a building and pest report. With that said, it’s often a good idea to attend the building and pest inspection yourself so the inspector can point out potential issues and explain things as they go.

Here are some of the main sections you can expect to see in the report:

  • Cover page: The cover page should include basic property details, including the address, date of inspection and the name and contact information of the inspector.
  • Summary: This section should highlight the major findings of the building and pest report. This can give you a quick overview of any significant issues.
  • Property details and scope of inspection: The inspection scope should provide you with a good understanding of what aspects of the property were inspected. This may include the interior, exterior, roof, subfloor and more.
  • Restrictions and access limitations: Your building and pest report might include a section detailing the restrictions and access limitations of the inspection. In some cases, your inspector might recommend you engage a licensed contractor to inspect specific areas that call for expert knowledge.
  • Recommendations for reinspections: While we’re on the topic of reinspections, your building and pest inspector will often include recommendations for areas that require further inspection and reporting by licensed professionals. This is often because these areas are outside of the scope of the building and pest inspection. This can include items like air conditioning, electrical and plumbing to name a few.
  • Property exterior: The section of the report that details the findings for the property exterior will typically include information about the condition of the external elements. This often includes the external walls, windows, doors, driveway, garage, fences and gates, concrete, tiled and paved areas, drainage, decks, pergolas, balconies and verandahs, gutters and downpipes.
  • Property interior: The interior section of the report details the condition of the internal elements of your property. This includes the internal roof system, insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, each room, and the internal stairs.

Building and pest reports typically include a range of photos to support the notes and defects detailed in the report. It’s also worth noting that different building and pest inspectors and companies are likely to have their own report templates, but the elements and terminology we’ve touched on should position you to be able to interpret a building and pest report. And remember, if you’re unsure of anything, you should be able to reach out to your inspector for further clarification.

This article is intended to provide general information only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Please consider seeking financial advice before making any decision based on this information.‍

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