Print this page Print this page

NABIE Standards of Practice for Building Inspections

Randall W. Whitesides, P.E.

Course Outline

This web-based course will assist Professional Engineers, Home Inspectors, and Building Code Enforcement Officials in becoming familiar with the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (NABIE) Standards of Practice.

This course includes a true-false quiz at the end to test the studentís knowledge of the NABIE Standards of Practice.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this two hour course, the student will be familiar with the:

Course Introduction

The subject of independent, or third party, home/building inspections as a formalized method of information delivery has received increased interest in the last several years.Issues range from the qualifications, certification, and licensing of independent inspectors to proper conduct of these inspectors in the interaction with buyers and sellers of real property.

There are a multitude of independent home and building inspection agencies and organizations, some for-profit, who certify or otherwise endorse independent inspectors.The NABIE is the only known chartered affinity group of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).NABIE requires, at a minimum, that its members be licensed Professional Engineers or Registered Architects.NABIE supports a policy that expounds on the fact that additional licensing or certification of Professional Engineers as home/building inspectors is not necessary or logical.NABIE ( was established in 1989.

In recent years, many states have initiated direct regulation of non-governmental home/building inspectors to varying degrees.Many of these state rules and regulations contain state specific Standards of Practice and Codes of Ethics.Some states have modeled their standards after those of NABIE.Some have wholly adopted NABIE standards by reference; hence, the presentation of the NABIE Standards of Practice in this course.The student is strongly encouraged to research his or her state laws concerning the rules and regulations of non-official home/building inspectors.As of February 2006, the following twenty-nine states are those known to have instituted rules and regulations: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. For detailed content of the regulations, point your browser to:

Course Content

The sole content of this course is the presentation of the NABIE Standards of Practice which are reproduced with NABIE permission.Accordingly,

The Professional Engineer, using NABIE Standards, prepares a written report on the overall physical condition of the premises; describes pertinent component building systems; and identifies deficiencies or conditions that would present a threat to the public or occupants or are in immediate need of repair or replacement.

An inspection using these standards shall not be construed as a code compliance inspection or exhaustive technical analysis.

The following two areas of evaluation requiring engineering expertise are recommended for any inspection performed by an Associate, Member, or Diplomat of the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers:

1. Overall structural soundness based on visual evidence

2. Heating, air-conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems evaluated in terms of an overview in the opinion of the Engineer of the capacity and adequacy for use at the time of inspection.

Cost estimates are not normally provided in a standard inspection or report.

If the licensed Professional Engineer cannot evaluate an item in the standard, the reason will be stated in the report. The Engineer will be allowed to use his or her professional judgment as to whether items can be adequately examined.

a.       Detailed numerical analysis as required for a certificate of occupancy or building code compliance is not required. Recommendation for such analysis, if deemed necessary, should be made in the building inspection Engineer's report.

b.      Heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical evaluations will not include detailed numerical analysis or identification of electrical circuits, heating or cooling zones, etc., nor evaluation for code requirements. Recommendation for such analysis, if deemed necessary, should be made in the building inspection report.

Recognizing that licensed Professional Engineers are trained and licensed to provide opinions based on their judgment and experience, and that the Engineer is performing within the Engineer's area of expertise, the broad areas of evaluation stated herein should be included in any inspection provided by a member of the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (NABIE).

It is the intent of these standards of practice to encourage a practical approach in the performance of an inspection.Specific systems, which should receive inspection, include:


1.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate on-site characteristics as follows:

1.1.1 Surface drainage characteristics as it relates to the structure

1.1.2 Condition of walkways and exterior stairways

1.1.3 Condition of driveways and other paved or masonry areas

1.2 The Engineer is not required to examine/report on:

1.2.1 Retaining walls, sea walls, waterfront bulkheads, docks and piers. These and other items not included as part of the building inspection can be inspected by special agreement

1.2.2 Landscaping, trees and shrubs


2.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate structure and structural adequacy as follows:

2.1.1 Visible foundation components

2.1.2 Visible floor framing

2.1.3 Visible roof framing

2.1.4 Structural performance based on visual, detectable movement

2.1.5 Structural soundness and adequacy based on visual inspection

2.1.6 Visible evidence of significant rot, wood-boring insect damage, or other forms of structural deterioration which would have an impact on the overall structural soundness and structural integrity of the building

2.1.7 Visible evidence of structural distress or structural damage such as leaning walls, sagging beams or joist, unbraced trusses, damaged framing, fire damage, etc.

2.1.8 Visible evidence of failure or deterioration of the foundation system such as severe cracking, inward movement, frost heave, etc.

2.2 The Engineer is not required to:

2.2.1 Enter crawl spaces or attic spaces where access opening is less than 18"x24"

2.2.2 Enter spaces where headroom is less than 30"

2.2.3 Enter spaces where entry is obstructed

2.2.4 Enter spaces where adverse or dangerous situations are suspected

2.2.5 Enter spaces where entry may cause property damage


3.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate basement/crawl space water entry as follows:

3.1.1 Evidence of water entry into the crawl space or basement

3.1.2 Water control systems such as sumps, sump pumps, drains

3.1.3 Proper discharge of mechanical water control systems

3.1.4 Obstructions to proper operation

3.1.5 Roof rain water runoff system including gutters, downspouts, extensions or splash blocks, as it relates to possible crawl space/basement water entry

3.1.6 Relevance of exterior surface drainage to basement crawl space water ingress

3.1.7 All conditions which would restrict the Engineer's ability to examine the presence of water entry

3.2 The Engineer will test:

3.2.1 Water control systems, where possible, to confirm operation

3.3 The Engineer is not required to:

3.3.1 Operate inactive mechanical components

3.3.2 Excavate subsurface drainage systems


4.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate ventilation as follows:

4.1.1 Basement/crawl space ventilation

4.1.2 Attic ventilation

4.1.3 Mechanical ventilation for kitchens and bathrooms

4.1.4 Laundry room ventilation

4.1.5 Evidence of condensation and other consequences of inadequate ventilation when visible using normal inspection techniques

4.2 The Engineer is not required to:

4.2.1 Evaluate ventilation relative to code compliance (evaluation is for practical adequacy)

4.2.2 Evaluate concealed ventilation systems


5.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate all permanently installed primary and secondary heating systems as follows:

5.1.1 Type of heat (steam, hot water, hot air, etc.)

5.1.2 Type of fuel or energy used

5.1.3 Type of heating unit (furnace, steel boiler, cast iron boiler), the manufacturer and the rated output capacity (BTUH) based on nameplate data

5.1.4 Physical condition of the heating equipment

5.1.5 Zoning/distribution

5.1.6 Condition of visible components including piping, ducts, thermostats, exposed flues

5.2 The Engineer will operate using operator controls:

5.2.1 All heating equipment

5.2.2 All accessories such as humidifier and/or electrostatic air cleaner

5.3 The Engineer is not required to:

5.3.1 Make heat loss calculations to determine adequacy of capacity

5.3.2 Operate equipment when weather conditions or other circumstances may cause equipment damage

5.3.3 Ignite solid fuel fires

5.3.4 Ignite gas pilot lights

5.3.5 Perform smoke or carbon monoxide tests on equipment

5.3.6 Override automatic safety controls to activate the equipment


6.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate all permanently installed primary and secondary central air conditioning equipment as follows:

6.1.1 Cooling and air handling equipment type

6.1.2 Physical condition of the cooling equipment

6.1.3 Zoning/distribution

6.2 The Engineer will test using operator controls:

6.2.1 All permanently installed equipment

6.3 The Engineer is not required to:

6.3.1 Test when weather conditions or other circumstances may cause equipment damage

6.3.2 Test prior to unit being serviced after seasonal shutdown or when off-season equipment covers are in place

6.3.3 Take pressure or temperature readings using gauges

6.3.4 Make calculations to determine capacity


7.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate energy efficiency as follows:

7.1.1 The presence or absence of insulation in the crawl space, basement and attic and appropriate vapor barrier

7.1.2 Presence or absence of storm windows

7.1.3 Recommendations for reducing energy losses when appropriate

7.2 The Engineer is not required to:

7.2.1 Perform energy calculations

7.2.2 Perform life cycle cost analysis


8.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate plumbing systems as follows:

8.1.1 Interior water supply distribution system including:

††††† Water supply and piping

††††† Fixtures and faucets

††††† Water pressure and water flow

††††† Evidence of leaks

††††† Presence of visible cross connections and backflow prevention devices

Pipe insulation

8.1.2 Interior drain, waste and vent system including:

††††† Traps, drains, waste, and vent piping, and piping supports

††††† Evidence of leaks

††††† Water pipe drainage

††††† Evidence of problems with wastewater systems

8.1.3 Domestic hot water systems including:

††††† Heating equipment and energy source

††††† Automatic safety controls

††††† Chimney, flue and vents

8.1.4 Fuel storage and distribution systems including:

††††† Interior fuel storage

††††† Leaks in above ground oil tanks and visible piping

††††† Condition of visible gas piping, gas metering and LPG gas systems

8.2 The Engineer will test:

8.2.1 All interior fixtures for adequacy of pressure where not connected to a household appliance

8.2.2 All interior fixtures for adequacy of drainage

8.2.3 All interior fixtures for presence or absence of leaks

8.3 The Engineer is not required to:

8.3.1 Test water pressure and water flow with the use of instruments or measurements

8.3.2 Inspect or test underground septic tank


9.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate electrical equipment as follows:

9.1.1 Service entrance conductors

9.1.2 Service equipment, grounding, main over-current device, main and distribution panels

9.1.3 Amperage and voltage ratings

9.1.4 Branch circuit over-current devices

9.1.5 Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices

9.1.6 Need for immediate or imminent repairs and/or upgrading

9.1.7 Any observed aluminum or copper-clad aluminum branch circuit wiring

9.2 The Engineer will test:

9.2.1 Operation of a representative number of installed lighting fixtures, switches and receptacles located inside the house

9.2.2 Operation of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices

9.3 The Engineer is not required to:

9.3.1 Insert any tool, probe or testing device inside the panels

9.3.2 Test or operate any over-current device

9.3.3 Dismantle any electrical device or control other than to remove the cover of the main control panel

9.3.4 Evaluate telephone, security, cable TV intercoms or other low voltage ancillary wiring which are not parts of the primary electrical distribution system


10.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate interior components as follows:

10.1.1 Walls, ceilings, and floors including tile work and trim

10.1.2 Steps, stairways, balconies, and railings

10.1.3 Cabinets and counters

10.1.4 Representative number of windows and doors including hardware

10.1.5 Separation walls, ceilings, and doors between a dwelling unit and an attached garage or adjoining dwelling unit

10.2 The Engineer is not required to:

10.2.1 Comment on aesthetics or design

10.2.2 Comment on wear and tear


11.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate exterior components as follows:

11.1.1 Exterior wall coverings, flashings and trim

11.1.2 Primary windows and doors

11.1.3 Garage door operators including automatic reversing operation

11.1.4 Decks, balconies, stoops, steps, areaways, and porches including railings

11.1.5 Eaves, soffits and fascias

11.2 The Engineer is not required to:

11.2.1 Report on outbuildings unless included by separate agreement prior to the inspection


12.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate roofing as follows:

12.1.1 Roof surfacing

12.1.2 Roof drainage systems

12.1.3 Flashings

12.1.4 Skylights, chimneys and roof penetrations

12.1.5 Evidence of leaks, condensation

12.2 The Engineer is not required to:

12.2.1 Walk on the roofing but should describe the methods used to observe and evaluate the roofing components such as use of binoculars, ground observation, etc.


13.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate chimneys as follows:

13.1.1 Chimney flue liners where visible from grade level

13.1.2 Flue connections

13.1.3 Structural integrity of chimney

13.1.4 Configuration/location of chimneys

13.1.5 Fireplace dampers

13.1.6 Fireplaces

13.2 The Engineer is not required to:

13.2.1 Test combustion devices, such as fireplaces (lighting fireplace)

13.2.2 Examine chimney from rooftop


14.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate:

14.1.1 Condition and adequacy of handrails and guardrails

14.1.2 Condition of stairways

14.1.3 Glass vulnerable to human impact

14.1.4 Smoke alarms

14.1.5 Fire separation at chimneys and garages

14.1.6 Solid fuel appliance installation (wood stove)

14.2 The Engineer is not required to:

14.2.1 Check code compliance

14.2.2 Check ADA compliance


15.1 The Engineer will observe, report and evaluate:

15.1.1 Presence of suspected asbestos containing materials (ACM)

15.1.2 Evidence of underground storage tanks (UST)

15.1.3 Evidence of urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI)

15.2 The Engineer is not required to:

15.2.1 Conduct comprehensive environmental scans

15.2.2 Report of suspected hazardous materials not noted above

15.2.3 Conduct tests for hazardous materials


16.1 The Engineer is not required to inspect any of the following:

16.1.1 Solar heating systems

16.1.2 Geothermal systems

16.1.3 Outdoor barbecues

16.1.4 Saunas

16.1.5 Swimming pools

16.1.6 Tennis courts

16.1.7 Piers and docks

16.1.8 Boathouses

16.1.9 Waterfront bulk heading

16.1.10 Cabanas

16.1.11 Cottages/guesthouses

16.1.12 Private water supply

16.1.13 Private waste water analysis

16.1.14 Satellite dish systems

16.1.15 Any items not specifically included in this standard

NOTE: Any special or additional inspections may be available by special agreement prior to the inspection.

Additional Resources

Here are just a few of the organizations that are associated with the independent home/building inspection industry:

National Association of Real Estate Inspection & Evaluation Services (NARIES)
American Inspectors Society (AIS)
The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)
International Residential Inspectors Association (IRIA)
National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI)
National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI)

Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered professional engineer. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.