Access to all areas of a home is crucial to a complete home inspection. Without access to every area, a home inspector simply can't do their job effectively. And that says nothing of all of the potential defects that can be missed because access was not possible.
Access can be restricted in many ways. As home inspectors, we generally don't move personal belongings because if anything were to happen to those items, the person that moved the items could be liable. NO THANKS!
Providing access is actually the responsibility of the home owner.
However, it may be possible for me to move a bicycle, for example, to access an electrical panel. As a home inspector, I have to be prepared for just about anything!
With that in mind, sometimes, providing adequate access is beyond the control of just about everyone. Under National Standards based on residential building code, a home inspector is not required to access any area that they feel may be unsafe to themselves, or to others. To give you an idea of what "safe"access is defined as by modern building codes, compare your home, or even use a tape measure, to understand the measurements in scale below.
Crawlspace minimum access size
Access shall be provided to all under-floor spaces. Access openings through the floor shall be a minimum of 18 inches by 24 inches (457 mm by 610 mm). Openings through a perimeter wall shall be not less than 16 inches by 24 inches (407 mm by 610 mm).
*One key point regarding any access to any part of a structure actually relates to how difficult it might be for emergency personnel to get access to that area in the event that your inspector or service technician has an emergency while in this area.
I will freely admit that most crawlspaces in this area do not meet the standard for access above. This limits any inspectors ability to properly inspect this area of the home.
Attic minimum access size
The 2012 International Residential Code requires an attic access opening for attics with an area greater than 30 square feet and a vertical height in excess of 30 inches. The rough framed opening must measure a minimum of 22 by 30 inches. If the opening is located in a wall, it must be at least 22 inches wide and 30 inches high.
*Newer homes mostly have an access stairway that meets the size requirement listed, if not always being safe to use themselves! Older homes typically have "scuttle holes" which usually do not come even close to meeting this access standard!
Attics With Mechanical EquipmentAttics containing mechanical equipment, such as an air conditioner, require an access opening regardless of the size of the attic itself. This opening must provide clear access of at least 20 by 30 inches; it must be large enough to allow for removal of the largest piece of equipment in the attic.
*This standard is important for the home inspector, and also for your HVAC technician when it comes time to service your attic mounted HVAC unit. Not all homes have HVAC units in the attic, but I would estimate that more than half of all newer homes do.
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