The following list is a collection of definitions and terms commonly found in commercial property inspection reports. The list includes both relevant technical and business definitions and terms. Understanding industry terms and definitions can go a long way. It can help inspectors effectively communicate with their clients and peers. It can also help inspector improve the quality of their inspection reports.

 

Terminology Commonly Found in Commercial Property Inspection Reports:

  • above-grade wall:  a wall that is mostly above grade and enclosing conditioned space.
  • access:  that which enables a device, appliance or equipment to be reached.
  • access panel:  a closure device used to cover an opening into a duct, an enclosure, or equipment.
  • accessibility:  level of access a building offers people with disabilities.
  • accessible:  in the opinion of the inspector, can be approached or entered safely without difficulty, fear or danger.
  • accessory structure:  an additional building to the primary building.
  • activate:  to turn on, supply power, or enable systems, equipment or devices to become active by normal operating controls; examples include turning on the gas or water supply valves to fixtures and appliances, or activating electrical breakers or fuses.
  • actual knowledge:  the knowledge possessed by an individual, as opposed to that discovered through document review.
  • addition:  an extension or increase in the conditioned space of a building.
  • adverse conditions:  conditions that may be dangerous for the inspector and may limit the walk-through survey portion of the inspection.
  • adversely affect:  to constitute, or potentially constitute, a negative or destructive impact.
  • air intake:  an opening in a building’s envelope whose purpose is to allow outside air to be drawn in to replace inside air.
  • aisle:  an exit access component that provides a path of egress travel.
  • alarm signal:  a signal indicating an emergency, such as a fire, requiring immediate action.
  • alarm system:  warning devices, installed or freestanding, including, but not limited to: carbon-monoxide detectors, flue gas and other spillage detectors, security equipment, ejector pumps and smoke alarms.
  • alteration:  any construction or renovation to an existing structure other than a repair or addition; also, a change in a mechanical system.
  • appliance:  utilization equipment, generally other than industrial, that is installed or connected as a unit to perform one or more functions.
  • approved:  acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction; also, accepted by an internationally recognized organization, such as InterNACHI.
  • arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI):  a device intended to provide protection from the effects of arc faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing, and by functioning to de-energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected.
  • authority having jurisdiction (AHJ):  an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.   The AHJ is often the building owner, health department, insurance agent, or fire marshal.
  • automatic:  that which provides a function without the necessity of human intervention.
  • automatic fire-extinguishing system:  a system of devices and equipment that automatically detects a fire and discharges in an attempt to put it out.
  • automatic sprinkler system:  an automated sprinkler system for fire-protection purposes.
  • balcony:  exterior floor projecting from and supported by a structure without additional independent supports.
  • band joist:  dimensional lumber used as a perimeter joist of the building framing.
  • basement:  that portion of a building which is partly or completely below grade.
  • basement wall:  a wall of a building that is mostly below grade.
  • bathroom:  a room containing plumbing fixtures, such as a water closet, urinal, bathtub and/or shower.
  • bedroom:  a room used for sleeping purposes.
  • bidet:  a toilet-like plumbing fixture designed to promote posterior hygiene; not a toilet.
  • bonding:  the permanent joining of metallic parts to form an electrically conductive path that ensures electrical continuity, and the capacity to conduct safely any fault current likely to be imposed.
  • branch circuit:  the circuit conductors between the final over-current device protecting the circuit and the outlet(s).
  • building:  the primary building subject of the commercial inspection.
  • building code:  rules and regulations adopted by the governmental authority having jurisdiction over the construction and/or remodeling of the commercial property.
  • building department:  local authority having jurisdiction over the construction, alteration and use of a property.
  • building envelope:  the enclosure that defines the heated/cooled area of a building, namely, the exterior walls and roof.
  • building systems:  components, assemblies and systems that are a part of the overall building and property such as pavement, flatwork, structural components, roofing, exterior walls, plumbing, HVAC, electrical components, fire prevention, etc.
  • built-in:  permanently installed.
  • chimney:  a structure containing one or more flues for removing gases to the outside atmosphere.
  • cladding:   something that covers or overlays, often used to describe exterior wall coverings or metal that covers windows, doors or fascia for weather protection.
  • cleanout:  an accessible opening in the drainage system used for the removal of possible obstructions and for inspections; an opening in a chimney that provides access to the flue for cleaning purposes.
  • clearance:  the minimum distance through air measured between the surface of something heat-producing and the surface of something combustible.
  • clearly identifiable:  capable of being recognized by a person of normal vision.
  • client:  the party that retains the inspector and pays for the inspection.
  • code official:  the officer or other government-designated authority charged with enforcement of building codes.
  • combustible:  describes any material that will burn.
  • commercial cooking appliances:  appliances used in a commercial food service establishment for heating or cooking food.
  • commercial property:  the building structures and improvements located on a parcel of commercial real estate.  These may include structures such as buildings with residential units operated for profit, mixed-use buildings, strip malls, motels, factories, storage facilities, restaurants and office buildings.
  • component:  a permanently installed or attached fixture, element, or part of a system.
  • concealed:  rendered inaccessible by the structure or finish of the building.  Wires in concealed raceways are considered concealed, even though they may become accessible by withdrawing them.
  • condition:  the plainly visible and conspicuous state of being of a material object or thing.
  • conditioned space:  an area or room within a building being heated or cooled.
  • connector:   the pipe that connects a fuel-burning appliance to a chimney.
  • consultant:  a person with particular expertise in a subject who assists the inspector with portions of the inspection.
  • contamination:  an impairment of the quality of the potable water.
  • crawlspace:  the area within the confines of the foundation and between the ground and the underside of the lowest floor’s structural component.
  • cross-connection:  any connection between two otherwise separate piping systems, one of which contains potable water, and the other that contains something that could contaminate the potable water.
  • crown:  the sloped top of a masonry chimney designed to shed water away from the flue; also called a splay or a wash.
  • damper:  a valve or plate for controlling draft or flow of gases, including air, in a vent or ductwork; a manually-operated plate for controlling draft in a flue.
  • deck:  exterior floor system supported on at least two opposing sides by an adjoining structure and/or post, piers, or other independent supports.
  • decorative:  ornamental; not required for the operation of essential systems and components of a building.
  • defensible space:  an area around a building designed to slow the rate of an advancing wildfire.
  • deferred-maintenance items:  deficient items that cannot be remedied with routine maintenance, generally caused by neglect.
  • describe:  to report, in writing, a system or component by its type or other observed characteristics to distinguish it from other components used for the same purpose.
  • destructive:  an act of demolishing, damaging or probing any system, structure or component, or to dismantle any system or component that would not be taken apart by an ordinary person in the course of normal maintenance.
  • determine:  to arrive at an opinion or conclusion pursuant to examination.
  • disconnected:  shut down.
  • dismantle:  to open, take apart or remove any component, device or piece that would not typically be opened, taken apart, or removed by an ordinary occupant.
  • duct:  a passageway, tube or conduit utilized for the transmission of air and vapors.
  • due diligence:  a level of care in the inspection process that varies, depending upon the scope of work agreed upon by the inspector and his/her client.
  • dwelling unit:  a single unit providing complete, independent living facilities, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
  • easement:  that portion of a land or property reserved for use by a person or agency other than the owner of the property.
  • easily visible:  describes systems, items and components that are both conspicuous and in plain sight, absent of the need for intrusive inspection techniques, probing, disassembly, or the use of special equipment.
  • egress:  a means of exiting.
  • emergency shutoff valve:  a valve designed to shut off the flow of gases or liquids.
  • energy analysis:  a method for estimating the annual energy use of a building.
  • energy-recovery ventilation system:  a system that uses air-to-air heat exchangers to recover energy from exhaust air for the purpose of pre-heating or pre-cooling outdoor air prior to supplying the air to an interior space.
  • engineering service:  any professional service or creative work requiring engineering education, training and experience, and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to such professional service or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design and/or supervision of construction for the purpose of assuring compliance with the specifications and design, in conjunction with structures, buildings, machines, equipment, works or processes.
  • enter:  to access or go into an area to observe visible components.
  • evaluate:  to assess the systems, structures and/or components of a building.
  • evidence:  plainly visible and conspicuous material objects or other things presented to the senses that would tend to produce conviction in the mind of an ordinary person as to the existence or non-existence of a fact.
  • examine:  to visually examine; to look for and identify material physical deficiencies in systems, structures or components of a building through a non-intrusive physical inspection.  See inspect.
  • existing:  buildings, facilities or conditions which are already in existence.  This Standard is designed to be used to inspect existing commercial properties.
  • exit discharge:  the portion of a means of egress between the termination of an exit and a public way.
  • exposed:  capable of being inadvertently touched by a person because it is not suitably guarded, isolated or insulated.
  • exterior property:  the open space on the property.
  • exterior wall:  an outside wall of a building, either above or below grade.
  • extermination:  the control or elimination of insects, rats, vermin or other pests.
  • fenestration:  products with glass and non-glass glazing materials, including skylights, roof windows, vertical windows, opaque doors, glazed doors and glazed block.
  • fire apparatus access road:  a road, fire lane, public street, private street, or parking lot lane that provides access from a fire station to a facility.
  • fire code official:  the fire chief or other authority charged with the enforcement of a code.
  • fire department master key:  a special key carried by fire department officials which will open key boxes on commercial properties.
  • fire-resistance rating:  the time that materials or assemblies can withstand fire exposure.
  • fireplace lintel:  a horizontal, non-combustible member that spans the top of the fireplace opening.
  • firewall:  a wall separating buildings or subdividing a building to prevent the spread of fire.
  • fixture:  component.
  • flood-level rim:  the edge of a fixture from which water overflows.
  • floor area, gross:  the floor area within the inside perimeter of the exterior walls.
  • floor area, net:  the actual occupied area not including accessory areas, such as corridors, stairways, restrooms, mechanical rooms and closets.
  • flue:  a passage through which gases move from the fire chamber to the outer air.
  • foundation:  the base upon which the structure or wall rests (usually masonry, concrete or stone), and generally partially underground.
  • function:  the action for which an item, component or system is specially fitted or used, or for which an item, component or system exists; to be in action or perform a task.
  • functional:  performing, or able to perform, a function.
  • functional drainage:  the emptying of a plumbing fixture in a reasonable amount of time without overflow when another fixture is drained simultaneously.
  • functional flow:  a reasonable flow of water supply at the highest and farthest fixture from the building main when another fixture is operated simultaneously.
  • further evaluation:  a degree of examination beyond that of a typical and customary, non-intrusive physical examination.
  • fusible link:  a form of fixed-temperature heat-detecting device sometimes used to restrain the operation of an electrical or mechanical control until a certain temperature is reached, usually signifying a fire.
  • garbage:  the animal or vegetable waste resulting from preparation or consumption of food.
  • grease:  animal fat, vegetable shortening or oil used in preparing food or resulting from cooking.
  • grounded:  connected to the earth or to some conducting body that serves in place of the earth.
  • grounded, effectively:  intentionally connected to the earth through a ground connection or connections of sufficiently low impedance, and having sufficient current-carrying capacity to prevent the buildup of voltages that might otherwise result in undue hazards to connected equipment or to persons.
  • ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI):  a device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit.
  • grounding electrode:  a device that establishes an electrical connection to the earth.
  • habitable space:  space in a structure for living, sleeping, eating and/or cooking.  Bathrooms, closets, halls, storage areas and utility spaces are not considered habitable spaces.
  • hearth:  the floor within a fireplace.
  • hearth extension:  non-combustible material in front of and at the sides of a fireplace opening.
  • heated slab:  slab-on-grade construction in which the heating elements are placed within or under the slab.
  • hood:  a device that directs and captures grease-laden vapors and gases from a cooking appliance.
  • humidistat:  a device used to automatically control relative humidity.
  • identify:  to notice and report.
  • immediate cost:  estimated cost of remedying an existing safety hazard, or repairing a system or component that will likely fail within a year.
  • imminent danger:  a condition which could cause serious or life-threatening injury or death.
  • infestation:  the presence of insects, rats, vermin or other pests.
  • infill:  area of the railing system bounded by the railing posts, cap, rail and the deck.
  • infiltration:  the uncontrolled inward air leakage into a building.
  • inspect:  to examine readily accessible systems and components safely, using normal operating controls, and accessing readily accessible areas, in accordance with these Standards of Practice.
  • inspected property:  the readily accessible areas of the buildings, site, items, components and systems included in the inspection.
  • inspection:  the process of an inspector collecting information through visual observation during a walk-through survey of the subject property, conducting research about the property, and then generating a meaningful report about the condition of the property based on the observations made and research conducted by the inspector.  A commercial inspection requires the inspector to make observations, conduct research, and report findings.
  • inspector:  one who performs the commercial property inspection.
  • installed:  attached or connected such that the installed item requires a tool for removal.
  • interview:  to discuss with those who have knowledge about the subject property.
  • intrusive:  destructive.
  • key box:  a lockable device which permits the fire department to access the building in an emergency.
  • labeled:  devices, equipment or materials to which have been affixed a label, seal, symbol or other identifying mark of product evaluation.
  • ledger:  dimensional lumber attached to the building framing and used for supporting the section of a deck adjacent to the building.
  • life expectancy:  average function time, in years, assuming regular maintenance.
  • listed:  equipment, materials or services included in a list published by an organization that is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), and concerned with evaluation of products or services, that maintains periodic inspection of production of listed equipment or materials, or periodic evaluation of services, and whose listing states that the equipment, material or service meets appropriate designated standards, or has been tested and found suitable for a specified purpose.
  • mantel:  a shelf or horizontal ornament above a fireplace opening.
  • manual:  capable of being operated by a person.
  • material:  having significant importance, as in “material defect.”  This term is reserved for describing things of significant importance.
  • material defect:  a condition of a commercial property, or any portion of it, that would have a significantly adverse impact on the value of the real property, or that involves unreasonable risk to people on the property.  The fact that a structural element, system or sub-system is near, at or beyond the end of the normal useful life of such a structural element, system or sub-system is not, by itself, a material defect.
  • means of egress:  a continuous and unobstructed path out of a building to a public way.
  • mezzanine:  a semi-permanent, freestanding stair-and-deck system, typically constructed of fiberglass grating, heavy-duty steel and/or aluminum, and installed between two permanent/original floors within an industrial or commercial building in order to provide an open space on and under which can be created informal office areas, storage for inventory, tools and industrial equipment, etc.
  • mold:  a form of fungus. Some molds can cause disease in humans.
  • non-combustible:  a substance that will not burn when subjected to fire.
  • normal operating controls:  devices, such as thermostats, that would be operated by ordinary occupants which require no specialized skill or knowledge.
  • observations:  those potential items of interest noted by the inspector during the walk-through survey portion of the inspection.
  • observe:  to visually notice.
  • obvious:  a condition or fact not likely to be ignored or overlooked.
  • occupancy load:  the number of people permitted in a building based on the means of egress.
  • occupant:  any individual living in, sleeping in, or having possession of a space within a building.
  • operate:  to cause systems to function or turn on with normal operating controls.
  • operational:  systems or components capable of being safely operated.
  • oral consultation:  a limited visual inspection of specific systems, structures or components of a building where no written report is prepared by the inspector, and the inspector’s findings, opinions, conclusions and recommendations are orally communicated by the inspector to the client.
  • owner:  any person, agent, operator, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in a property.
  • panelboard:  a panel, including buses and automatic over-current devices, designed to be placed in a cabinet accessible only from the front.
  • permanently installed:  fixed in place (i.e., screwed, bolted or nailed), as distinct from components, systems or appliances considered portable or freestanding.
  • Phase I:  a type of fireplace and chimney inspection that exceeds the standards required by a traditional home inspection.
  • physical deficiency:  a major defect, a significant deferred-maintenance item, or a component or system that has exhausted most or all of its remaining useful life (regardless of its actual life expectancy), or a safety concern, or anything that could potentially cause the need for an expensive repair.
  • pitch:  angle or inclination, usually of a roof.
  • plenum:  an air compartment or chamber that connects one or more ducts and forms part of an air-distribution system.
  • premises:  a lot, plot, parcel of land, property or building.
  • pressure drop:  the loss in pressure due to friction or obstruction in pipes, valves, fittings, regulators and burners, and the length of pipes and the number of elbows.
  • pressure regulator:  a device placed in a gas line for reducing, controlling and maintaining the pressure downstream of the device.
  • primary building:  a building that an inspector has agreed to inspect, excluding all accessory buildings, with the exception of the primary parking structure.
  • primary parking structure and surfaces:  a building and appurtenant surfaces for the purpose of vehicle storage associated with the primary building.
  • public way:  a street, alley or yard open to the outside and leading to a public area.
  • publicly available information:  information that is accessible or available to anyone upon request.
  • raceway:  an enclosed channel or conduit designed expressly for holding wires or cables.
  • ramp:  a sloped walking surface.
  • readily accessible:  describes the area of the subject property that has been made available to the inspector at the time of the walk-through survey portion of the inspection, and/or a system or component that, in the judgment of the inspector, is capable of being safely observed without the need of portable ladders, the removal of obstacles, the detachment or disengagement of connecting or securing devices, or other unsafe or difficult procedures to gain access, and/or a document that has been made available to the inspector for use in the research portion of the inspection.
  • readily ascertainable:  describes information that is available to the inspector within reasonable time at a nominal cost so that it can be practically reviewed during the research portion of the inspection.
  • readily available:  describes the information, personnel and documents that are made available quickly to the inspector.
  • receptacle:   a contact device installed at the outlet for the connection of an attachment plug.
  • recreational facilities:  spas, saunas, steam baths, swimming pools, tennis courts, playground equipment, and other exercise, entertainment or athletic facilities.
  • remaining useful life:  a subjective estimate or guess made by the inspector based upon his observations and experience as to the number of remaining years that a component will be functional before needing replacement.
  • removable:  capable of being transferred to another location easily.
  • repair:  the reconstruction or renewal of any part of an existing building.
  • replacement air:  air deliberately brought into a structure to compensate for the air being consumed or expelled.
  • report:  the written communication describing the issues discovered from observations made and research conducted by the inspector and which, in the inspector’s opinion, are likely to be of interest to his/her client.  A report may contain photos or digital images of observations made during the walk-through survey portion of the inspection, and/or copies of documents reviewed during the research portion of the inspection.
  • representative number:  a sufficient number to serve as a typical or characteristic example of the item(s) inspected.
  • representative sampling:  a small quantity of components of any system or structure, enough like others in its class or kind, to serve as an example of its class or kind.
  • research:  the process of gathering information through the review of documents and interviews to augment the observations made during the walk-through survey portion of the inspection.  This research may include reviewing readily available documents, such as previous inspection reports, building permits, code violation notices, and environmental studies.  This research may also include interviews with readily available personnel, such as building managers, tenants and owners.
  • roof assembly:  a system designed to provide weather protection and including the roof covering, underlayment, roof deck, insulation, vapor retarder and interior finish.
  • rubbish:  waste materials other than garbage.
  • scope of work:  work that deviates from this Standard, depending on budget, time constraints, purpose of the inspection, age of the subject property, and risk-tolerance of the client, which the inspector and client have agreed to.
  • screw-lamp holder:  a lamp base that requires a screw-in-type lamp, such as a compact fluorescent, incandescent, or tungsten-halogen bulb.
  • short-term cost:  estimated cost of repairs which may not require immediate attention, but which should not be delayed for more than two years.
  • shut down:  turned off, unplugged, inactive, not in service, or not operational.
  • single-wall metal chimney:  a field-constructed chimney not permitted in one- and two-family dwellings.
  • sleeping unit:  a room or space in which people sleep.
  • smoke alarm:  a single or multiple alarm responsive to smoke and not connected to a sprinkler system.
  • smoke detector:  a device that senses particles of combustion.
  • solid fuel:  wood, coal, pellets, and other materials that can be burned for heat.
  • special consultant:  a person with particular expertise in a subject who assists the inspector with portions of the inspection.
  • special equipment:  any tools or devices other than those normally used by an inspector to perform a typical and customary, non-invasive, physical examination of the systems, structures and components of a building, including, but not limited to: levels, probes, meters, video or audio devices, and measuring devices.
  • Standard:  often used to mean InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties.
  • storefront:  a non-residential system of doors and windows typically at ground-floor level of a commercial building.
  • structural component:  a component that supports the building’s dead and live loads.
  • structure:  an assemblage of various systems and components that function as a whole.
  • subject property:  the commercial property that is the subject of the inspection.
  • suggested remedy:  an opinion offered as to a course of action to repair a deficiency.  Suggested remedies are outside the scope of a commercial inspection.
  • sump:  a tank or pit that receives sewage or wastewater that is typically located below the drain system, and so must be emptied by mechanical means.
  • sump pump:  an automatic water pump powered by a motor and typically controlled by a float for the removal of wastewater from a sump pit.
  • system:  an assembly of various components which function as a whole.
  • technically exhaustive:  a comprehensive and detailed examination beyond the scope of a commercial property inspection that might involve, but would not be limited to: specialized knowledge or training, special equipment, measurements, calculations, testing, research, analysis, meters, scaffolding, dismantling, probing or troubleshooting; also, where the cost of obtaining information or the time required to conduct a portion of the inspection and prepare that portion of the inspection report could outweigh the likely usefulness of the information obtained, or could be detrimental to the orderly and timely completion of the client’s transaction.
  • thermostat:  an automatic control device used to maintain temperature at a set point.
  • thimble:  the tube or lining through a wall that a connector passes through to enter a flue or that a flue passes through to exit a roof.
  • timely access:  access to the subject property and documentation required by the inspector to perform the inspection.
  • toilet room:  a room containing a water closet or urinal, but not a bathtub or shower.
  • trap:  a fitting that provides a liquid seal to prevent the emission of sewer gases and odors.
  • tree crown:  the branches growing out from a tree, including twigs and foliage.
  • unsafe:  in the inspector’s opinion, a condition of an area, system, component or procedure that is judged to be a significant risk of injury during normal, day-to-day use. The risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation, or a change in accepted commercial construction standards.
  • valve:  a device used in piping to control the gas or liquid supply downstream of the device.
  • vapor retarder:  a vapor-resistant material, membrane or covering, such as foil, plastic sheeting or insulation facing, that limits the amount of moisture vapor that passes through a material or wall assembly.
  • ventilation:  the natural or mechanical process of supplying and removing air from any space.
  • verify:  to confirm or substantiate.
  • visible:  that which may be easily observed during the walk-through survey portion of the inspection.
  • walk-through survey:  that portion of the inspection where the inspector makes non-intrusive, visual observations of readily accessible areas of the subject property.
  • wall protector:  non-combustible shield between a wall and anything heat-producing for the purpose of reducing required clearance.
  • workmanlike:  executed in a skilled manner.
  • yard:  an open space on the same lot with a building.
  • zone:  a conditioned space within a building controlled by a single device.

Common Abbreviations and Acronyms Used in Commercial Property Inspection Reports:

  • ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act (U.S.)
  • AHJ:  authority having jurisdiction
  • BUR: built-up roofing
  • CCI: Certified Commercial Inspector
  • CMI: Certified Master Inspector
  • CPI: Certified Professional Inspector
  • CO: Certificate of Occupancy
  • ComSOP: International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties
  • CCPIA: Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association
  • CSA: Canadian Standards Association
  • EIFS: exterior insulation and finish system
  • EPA: Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.)
  • HVAC: heating, ventilation and air conditioning
  • IAC2: International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants
  • IAQ: indoor air quality
  • InterNACHI: International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
  • ICC: International Code Council
  • IR: infrared
  • MICB: Master Inspector Certification Board
  • NEC: National Electrical Code (U.S.)
  • NFPA: National Fire Protection Association
  • PE: Professional Engineer
  • RICS: Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (U.K.)
  • RUL: remaining useful life