People interested in purchasing a property in Melbourne Victoria should always consider hiring a reputable building inspector to examine their real estate before committing to the contract. After all, it may be the biggest expense in their lifetime, so it is better to avoid any risk.
Remember that no property comes without its share of issues, and a structural inspection lets you make an informed decision about it. When the inspector arrives at your property, they perform a thorough inspection, checking for potential issues. In the end, they provide a report detailing significant structural defects they found.
What Is a Structural Building Inspection?
Structural inspections are visual assessments that structural engineers, licensed building inspectors, or registered builders perform to confirm whether the property is structurally sound. They are typically carried out before buying a home, after renovations, or during the construction of a new building.
Inspectors can perform the structural building inspection independently or in combination with other more specialized services, such as pest inspections. Nevertheless, you should think of them as a professional service that provides you with an accurate overview of the property in question.
Who Does Structural Building Inspections?
According to the Australian Standard, there are no regulations regarding who can conduct structural inspections. Some states, such as Queensland and South Australia, require every building inspector to be a member of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors.
Nonetheless, building surveyors, licensed builders, architects, or structural engineers carry out most of them. You can always request a sample report or check if they offer a money-back guarantee or insurance. These things give more credibility to the building inspector and can help you decide on the professional service you wish to contract.
What Does a Structural Building Inspection Include?
A structural building inspection includes the visual assessment of the following things:
- Electrical work of the property
- Plumbing and drainage
- All fixtures and fittings within the property
- All joinery (cupboards, kitchen cabinetry, etc.)
- Internal and external windows and frames
- Internal and external doors and frames
- Internal and external roof frame walls
- Internal and external guttering
- Floor and sub-floor space
- Driveways and paths
This is not an exhaustive list, and a property report might include more items or even fewer items depending on who performs.
Generally, a structural building inspection only reports on the condition of the property. It does not include estimates for the repair cost of found defects.
Additionally, building inspections do not cover minor problems or issues out of the inspector’s scope. If you want extensive details about the existing condition of your property, you can ask for a special-purpose inspection or pest inspection on top of the general building inspection.
Usually, structural building inspections take a couple of hours to finish at most. They do not determine whether the property complies with the National Construction Code. However, the report does follow a standard set in the Australian Standard 4349.1.
Inspectors do not comment on aesthetic damages unless they recognize it is a sign of a more significant structural issue or check parts of the house that they cannot access.
What Are Structural Defects?
According to the Australian Standard for the Inspection of Buildings, a structural defect is a fault or deviation from its intended structural performance. It also divides it into two categories: major and minor.
Major Structural Defect
It is a defect of a magnitude where rectification is necessary to avoid loss of utility, unsafe conditions, or further deterioration of the property. These include electrical, gas, and plumbing problems, damaged or deteriorated roof tiles and gutters, non-structural damp issues, and more.
Minor Structural Defect
It includes any problem that does not fall under the definition of the major defect clause. Occasionally, inspectors refer to them as maintenance defects because they are repairable with small efforts. Blemishes, cracks, corrosion, wall dents, and general deterioration are some examples of it.
Types of Structural Inspections
Most structural inspection agencies offer several types of inspections for property buyers, investors, and sellers. These provide you with a comprehensive report resulting from the visual inspection of the property in question. Here are some of the most common types they offer.
Pre-Purchase Building Inspections
Pre-purchase inspections are comprehensive visual assessments done by inspectors at the request of people looking to purchase a property. It is carried out in most cases once the property buyer and seller sign the contract.
A pre-purchase inspection usually includes a review of a property’s internal and external conditions, the roof space and void, floor and sub-floor, and the surrounding area.
The information you can gain from a pre-purchase inspection can prove invaluable when you negotiate the price if the building inspector finds any fault. Otherwise, it lets you proceed with the purchase normally.
Pre-Sale Building Inspections
A pre-sale inspection is almost the same as a pre-purchase inspection, the difference being that the vendor or real-estate agency organizes it. People usually request this structural inspection for two reasons:
- It is an excellent way to determine the state of the property before putting it for sale
- It gives the vendor the option to present the report to a prospective buyer
The first one is the typical reason people ask for it. After all, relying on a report from the vendor is not a good idea, even if they have the best intentions.
Pre-purchase inspections are simply the best course of action for buyers if they want to avoid potential issues. The vendor’s report could be out of date, or they could have hired a lenient inspector. Should a vendor present you with one, read it but don’t gamble on it if you want to avoid being stuck with a poor property.
Combined Building and Pest Inspections
Combined building and pest inspections are probably the most solicited type, considering it includes identifying the usual damages and structural defects alongside signs of pest activities or conditions favourable to them.
Timber pests have destructive impacts on a structure and can result in severe financial damages. When you hire combined building inspections, you often get the help of experienced professionals equipped with appropriate equipment to identify these issues.
Note that not only wood-frame houses are a hotbed for these pests. Even properties with concrete foundations are prone to termite damage. As long as the critters find a small gap in your structure, they can cause significant damages.
New Building Inspections
Are you building a new property, but you are unsure whether the builder is proceeding with it while abiding with relevant standards? You can hire an inspector to ensure the builder is carrying it out as they should.
These new building inspections can include all stages of the construction process or just one or two.
The first stage, pre-slab inspection, reviews the overall slab dimensions and footing, waterproof membranes, waffle pods, steel reinforcements, and other building elements that keep the property standing upright.
The second stage, frame inspection, is a review of the steel and timber frames. It determines that the roof framing, room dimensions, concrete slabs, windows, and other structural elements meet the requirements.
The third stage, lockup inspection (pre plaster stage,) is an inspection of the external windows, walls, doors, gutters, and roof claddings. After this stage, the builders can begin installing internal appliances and fixtures.
The last stage, pre-completion, is probably the most important one. It is a thorough inspection of the property. The building contractor has to fix any defect found in this stage before handing the place over.
Special-purpose building inspections cover the typical problems found in a regular pre-purchase inspection while providing you with more details. These are notable minor defects inside or outside the building, the cost to fix any problem the inspector found, recommendations on the needed repairs or maintenance, and others.
People mostly request this type of inspection when buying a strata property with common areas. These typically include townhouses and unit blocks.
What Do Structural Building Inspection Reports Contain?
The content of the building report depends on several things, including the property’s size and age, condition, and the reporting process of the organization or consultant in charge. These aspects also influence the final cost of the comprehensive report.
Many of these adopt a standard format or use an extensive checklist. However, some building inspectors create an individually tailored review for each property they assess. Moreover, the inspection report may or may not include photographs.
Every report must comply with the Australian Standard (AS 4349.1 and 4349.3.) It should have enough information to make you aware property’s condition, including its existing structural defects.
It is important to note that a standard building inspection report is typically a visual inspection approved by the Victorian building authority As such, it may not identify major defects if they are hidden. If these issues concern you, it might be a good idea to get an additional assessment from an accredited specialist.
Contents of the Report
Here is the general information you can usually find in a building inspection report:
- Interior and exterior of the property
- Roof space and exterior
- Floor and under-floor space
Regarding the site, the detailed report typically includes the state of things such as:
- Carport, garage, and garden she
- Separate toiler or laundry
- Non-structural retaining walls
- Stormwater run-off
- Water drainage
- Driveways and paths
Remember that you can ask for particular items or areas on your property’s site to be inspected. Also, depending on who performs it, the list may include more items.
Things That a Structural Building Inspection Does Not Include
A building report usually does not include:
- Parts of the property that the inspector could not reach or see
- Things outside the consultant’s expertise
- Estimate of repair costs
- Any minor structural defect
- Detection of termites
A building inspection review is not an all-encompassing review that deals with every aspect of your property. It is best to see it as a reasonable attempt to identify significant existing structural defects noticeable at the moment of inspection.
Pest Inspection Reports
A pest report is an independent document completed in agreement with the Australian Standard 4349.3.
While a structural building report usually contains visible damages caused by termites and other wood-damaging pests, it does not include their detection or extermination. You should consider getting a combined inspection if the building is in a place where termites may pose an issue.
A special-purpose report includes most items covered in the building inspection following Australian Standards, with the following additions:
- Estimate repair cost of significant problems
- List of minor issues
- Recommendation of the maintenance and repair work necessary
It is a good idea to check with your building consultant regarding the information they include in the property inspection report and let them know if you wish to know more details.
Is There a Difference Between a Structural Building Inspection and a Structural Engineer Inspection?
A building inspection is more of a general assessment of the property. The inspector looks at the building elements, from walls to electrical wiring to drainage, to check their condition and provide advice to the property buyer or seller.
A structural engineer inspection is a more specialized process. It mainly focuses on the issues that can affect the structural integrity of the building, such as those present in the foundation or the building structure itself.
Both engineers and regular inspectors can perform building inspections, but only the former can discern and confirm structural issues. It is not rare to see engineers from consulting firms providing special-purpose inspections and new building inspections for that reason.
Choosing the Right Building Inspector
Most reports in the building inspection industry follow the same general structure dictated by the Australian Standard. However, the contents can significantly change depending on who you hire. Hiring the most affordable service you can find is not ideal if you consider that aspect.
When deciding the building inspector for your property, you need to ensure the consultant or the organization complies with some aspects. If you are in Victoria, Queensland, or South Australia, you can check whether they are a member of the state-wide regulation agency. Otherwise, determine whether they are a registered builder or a structural engineer.
Furthermore, it would be best to look for an inspector that offers professional indemnity insurance for their independent assessments. Asking for a report sample is also an excellent idea. A promising sign is if the inspector wrote it in clear terms and filled it with photos.