Most of us have a preference for basic functions – what type of toilet paper, wool or blended sweaters, etc. Ten years in as a home inspector, I’ve come to appreciate the finer things in life – as long as finer is indicative of “tools I simply must have in my inspection bag.” This isn’t your typical list, trust me. My profession can make use of lots of tools. These are the tools that help me stay safe, stay precise, and stay professional.

Top 10 Tools I Simply Must Have

  1. Flashlight.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised what I see contractors, Realtors, clients, engineers, pest inspectors, and homeowners using. Here’s my keenest advice – if your flashlight runs on disposable batteries and projects a yellow light, it’s time to ditch it. And actually, let’s just call them light beams since no one wants to have a flashing light in an attic or crawlspace. My choice still – Streamlight. They focus on front line, first responders, tactical, and hunting theme. But, no joke, one light lasts me 3-4 years on average and that’s being used 6 days per week, 2 homes per day, being turned on and off a gazillion times. I’ve dropped them, used them as a prybar, but never inspected a crawlspace without one. Never.

  1. Hygrometer.

If you don’t know what a hygrometer is, that’s okay. Most people don’t. In my line of work, you have to be able to know the relative humidity sometimes to best assess a likely culprit, or unhealthy indoor environment. There are a variety on the market, from very inexpensive to very expensive (very). I have a cheap one, one that is built into an anemometer, and one that is a sensor on an indoor air quality tool. The more expensive ones are more accurate, but it’s all relative – literally, it’s relative humidity. As long as you care for the hygrometer properly, it’s accuracy is only needed in terms of the space in which you are present and measuring. Now, if you take measurements and assess as part of a larger purpose (say, insurance adjuster or legal services), you may need the more high-end units. Ditto if you are a contractor that is assessing moisture inside wall cavities.

  1. Non-Disposable, Water-Resistant Garden Gloves.

Here’s the skinny – if you are using disposable gloves every time you go into a crawlspace, or attic, or both, then you are killing the planet and your bank account. One pair of $11 garden gloves can be washed every week or two (I highly recommend doing this as they start to stink) and they will last you up to 12 months before the water-resistant cover starts failing. I spent years using disposable, thick, expensive gloves. Then, I realized the error of my ways. About 1.5 years later COVID-19 hit and man was I glad I had made the switch.

  1. Thick, but Dexterous Roof Gloves.

Staying on the glove theme, if you ascend roof surfaces you know bare hands are as useless on a hot or cold roof surface as bare feet would be. A good pair of leather gloves, thick and durable, are entirely worth their money. Aim for something that provides protection over 30 seconds of direct conductive exposure, BUT also make sure you have traction/grip with them. I have crab-walked down many a roof surface (if I feel I may slip while descending) in a good glove. The protection is appreciated, as is the surety of not having to worry about my hands slipping. To boot, if they get wet from sweat or ice, they’ll dry and be just peachy.

  1. Continuous Radon Monitor.

Not everyone tests for radon. I get that. But, if you do test for it, you should be using equipment that gets you high accuracy and precision and leaves little to chance or question. CRMs are very expensive, particularly when you buy multiple units – they require annual calibration ($$), sometimes repair ($$), should be handled carefully/with love, and require periodic cross-checking to ensure accuracy between calibrations. If this sounds like a lot, it is. But, should you go the cheaper route – the requirements to ensure accurate test results using cheaper testers/tester kits are much more involved (if you actually care about your testing and helping clients with accurate information). Dollar for dollar, the higher end units are worth it. I invest heavily in SunRADON CRMS. For me, client safety in their home is well worth the investment.

  1. Binoculars.

This one is no joke. I know very little about binoculars. Very. Little. Like, turn the binoculars around and look out the other end kind of little. So, I was blown away when, after 9 years of using what I thought was a good pair of binoculars, I ordered Vortex binoculars. Vortex has many variants, none are your cheap variant. I ended up going with a $150 pair and the difference is simply astounding in comparison to my older binoculars. As a home inspector, binoculars are very important for roof review when you can’t access the roof due to weather conditions, site conditions, or height of surface. And, yes, I know there are drones out there. But, suffice it to say, I still feel there’s nothing better than seeing it with my own eyes. I’ll likely be buying a $500 pair in another year or so. It sounds crazy, but they are worth every penny. Every. Penny.

  1. Infrared Camera.

Once upon a time, Flir was the main game in town. Now, there are other ponies in the stable and Flir doesn’t stand alone. This means there are options out there that are competitive in price and carry almost identical features and resolutions (pixels). An infrared camera isn’t for all home inspectors – it comes with a need to understand the science and be well trained, lest you should bring hardship upon yourself. A decent infrared option will set you back $400-$1,000. You can spend A LOT more, but most home inspectors don’t need a lot more. Do your research on options, as well as reputable training programs. It’s a cool toy that can give you a ton of insight.

  1. Digital Camera.

 Now, this one may be controversial for many a home inspector. With such great technology, clarity, and resolution in cell phone cameras, it’s hard to make the argument for a stand alone digital camera. But, to me, there is an argument to be made. A good digital camera for home inspecting has to be water resistant, shock and dust proof, fairly responsive after taking thousands of pictures – literally, thousands upon thousands as each home yields between 120-210 pictures. These requirements rule out most cameras, but Cannon and this 2020 tough camera review blog are good places to start. If you read reviews, they are not great cameras when compared to non-waterproof units. But, they have worked well for me over time (I used the Fuji camera for years). With a cell phone, I feel you need two hands to steady and shoot – try doing that when you are monkeying through an attic, or crawling through a super gross crawlspace.

  1. An Umbrella.

No joke. I’ve been through as many umbrellas over ten years as pens. Sometimes I forget them. Sometimes they break. Often, they break. But, for a job that requires being in the rain, a well-sized and sturdy umbrella can really keep a home inspector’s spirits up. My greatest success usually involves golf umbrellas, but these break, too. While I haven’t a go-to option to share, I feel it imperative to proclaim the worthiness of having an umbrella on hand. I’ve considered a raincoat, but then I have to worry about drying out the raincoat. I can shake an umbrella out and put it in the car and it’s lesser surface area dries fairly well.

  1. GPS.

No list would be complete without paying homage to the only way I find myself in the nooks and crannies of the boonies that sometimes hide houses people buy. Literally, I’d be lost without a dependable and accurate GPS. For years, I depended on Garmin as my go-to option. However, in recent years I’ve discovered the lesser-known brands via Amazon and, as it turns out, the reviews are pretty spot on. While there are some glitches with software that didn’t exist with Garmin, most of the time these alternative options work well. If you have any history of using stand-alone GPS, you know two things: None of them are perfect (the routes they sometimes choose are strange). Cell phones will fail you when you lose service – it’s really hard to lose satellite service. It happens, but it’s pretty darn rare. So, yes, they make you feel like a clunky dinosaur; you’ll be a clunky dinosaur that can get wherever you need to go, even if it’s so far out the only thing you hear is a scream – of fainting goats and sad, lonely donkeys.

Up Next

Do Home Inspectors Belong Problem Solving or Should It Be, “Just The Facts, Ma’am?” We’ll take a look at expectations of real estate agents, clients, and the industry trends.