QDEAR BARRY: I'm confused about what home inspectors are required to inspect and what they aren't. It seems that some include decks, while others charge extra. Some include pools and spas, others exclude them. What exactly is the scope of a home inspection? -- Pat

ADEAR PAT: Home inspectors inspect conditions that are within the standards of practice of the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors and similar state associations. These standards are available for viewing at the official Web sites for these associations.

A home inspection has limits. Unfortunately, some home buyers hire inspectors without realizing the nature of these limits.

Basically, a home inspection is a visual inspection only, limited to those aspects of a property that are accessible at the time of the inspection. Primary considerations in a home inspection are defined aspects of the plumbing, heating, electrical, roofing and foundation systems, plus any other conditions that might be required by state law. To ensure that buyers and other parties understand these bounds, home inspection contracts and reports specify particular aspects of a property that are included in the inspection and those that are not. When these aspects are not clearly understood, needless conflicts sometimes arise in the aftermath of a purchase.

As to your specific concerns, spas and pools are optional items in the home inspection industry. In areas where there are many pools, inspectors typically include these as part of their service, although often for an additional charge. In most areas, decks are included in an inspection, although some inspectors will base the inspection fee on the size of the decks, just as they would charge more for a larger building.

Before you hire an inspector, ask any questions you may have about the scope of the inspection. This will help to avoid disappointments.

DEAR BARRY: I bought my house six months ago. Since then, I've noticed leakage and dry rot at the garage window, as well as some rot at the door frame. None of this was disclosed by the seller or the home inspector. Shouldn't someone have reported these defects? -- Mike

DEAR MIKE: Sellers are not always aware of defects such as garage window leaks or rot at door frames. A truly on-the-ball home inspector may pick up on the rotted wood, but that defect should have been reported by the pest control operator. Water stains, however, should have been noticed by both inspectors, unless the stains were concealed at the time of the inspection.

You should contact the home inspector and the pest control inspector. Ask them to come to the property for a review of these findings. See if they are willing to take some responsibility. Even if they are not, the repairs probably are not that expensive. With luck, the inspectors will help you to correct these conditions.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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