When Things Go Wrong, It’s Not Always the Inspector’s Fault: Part III

Submitted by Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Inspector + Cabinet2Read Part I and Part II.

Inspectors Can’t Find Every Problem
Contractors often say, “You had the home inspected, and your inspector should have caught it.” There are many circumstances that can prevent an inspector from finding problems. The following are just a few examples:

What was the weather like when the inspection took place? Was the home occupied and full of the previous homeowner’s personal possessions? Was it too cold to test and run the air conditioning system? More importantly does the contractor fully understand and know the standards of practice by which the inspection was conducted?

No one can predict the future of a problem. Some indications may point to a potential problem, though. A classic example and not so far-fetched: A roof was inspected, and at the time of inspection appeared to be dry, with no indications of a leak. It turns that out the homeowner removed the roasting pans from the attic before the inspector got there. Evidence removed makes leaks hard to detect. Anyone can report a wet problem. Predicting a potential problem like a leak is different.

Depending on the size of the house, inspectors spend an average of three hours or more conducting an inspection, which in actuality is only a brief moment in time. Based on the standards of practice the inspector is following, they are conducting a “visual noninvasive” inspection that is not to be technically exhaustive. Inspectors could certainly spend more time disassembling components and digging in deeper, but the cost of the inspection would be substantially higher.

Inspectors are trained to be generalists in nature and not specialists in any of the respective fields for a property inspection. Specialists such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors and in some cases structural engineers are just exactly that — specialists.

Inspectors also do not have x-ray vision. They cannot see behind walls or under carpets or even begin to know the history of a home without living in it. Most standards of practice for the home inspection industry state that the inspector is conducting a “visual noninvasive inspection of readily available components.” They are not doing any excavation, demolition or anything other than removing furnace covers and electrical panel covers when they are readily accessible. You cannot expect, nor should a home inspector do, anything beyond their standards of practice.

In conclusion, a home inspection is designed to provide you an unbiased opinion of the condition of the property at the time of the inspection. It is not a guarantee. It is not designed to eliminate all risks when buying a home or property. It is not an insurance policy.

We hope you find this information useful and informative and that you take it under consideration if you think you may have a problem with an inspector or the inspection report you received before you purchased your home.

Tagged: ,

When Things Go Wrong, It’s Not Always the Inspector’s Fault: Part II

Submitted by Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Inspector + ACRead Part I of the series here.

Bringing in a Contractor
Do little things matter in a home inspection? Minor problems can sometimes be discovered while inspecting the bigger things, and little things need to be reported, too. It’s been said that some inspectors are inconsistent with their findings and reporting. Big problems and major concerns in most cases are what will make or break a deal.

Contractors can offer advice, and their opinions sometimes differ from the inspector’s. A contractor may say a roof needs to be replaced when the inspector said, “With some repairs, you may be able to get a few more years of serviceable life out of the roof.” Keep this in mind, too: The inspector’s recommendations may be correct, and the contractor may be trying to sell something that may not be necessary.

Our advice is to get several bids, a minimum of three, from qualified contractors. More importantly, solicit the bids prior to purchasing and/or closing on the property. On the other hand, some contractors may be hesitant to take on the repairs because they could be blamed for a problem for which they followed the advice of the inspector and it did not solve the problem — and in some cases made it worse. The contractor then holds responsibility. It is called the “last-man-in theory.” Some contractors feel that if they are the last person to work on a roof, for example, they will get blamed if the roof leaks, whether or not it is their fault. The contractor is more inclined to re-roof the entire house — for more money, of course — and reduce his liability and possible callback.

Property inspectors are usually the first people to find a problem and report it in the inspection. Home owners may have a tendency to believe the advice of several contractors, which in some cases needs to be followed because, after all, they are the experts. Sometimes, though, the inspector’s advice is forgotten about. One must look at the whole situation before passing judgment and making a decision.

Check back tomorrow for Part III.

Tagged: ,

When Things Go Wrong, It’s Not Always the Inspector’s Fault: Part I

Submitted by Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Make sure to review your inspection report with your inspector.

Make sure to review your inspection report with your inspector.

So, you’ve made one of the biggest major purchases of your life by purchasing a home. A couple of months or maybe even a year passes by, and you discover there is a problem that may have been uncovered by normal use, or you may have decided to do those upgrades or remodeling projects you could see in your mind at the time of purchase. You hired a home inspector to inspect the home prior to purchase thinking he/she should have discovered the problems and told you everything, or thought he/she should have been able to predict the problem or the future. But problems arise. Who do you blame or hold responsible? The home inspector who inspected your home, right? Yet it may not be the inspector’s fault.

The Home Buyer’s Responsibility
First, and most importantly, did you thoroughly read the entire report and ask the inspector questions after reviewing and receiving your inspection report? Many times, because things can move rapidly during the home-buying process, home buyers and real estate agents may only read the summary page and not the entire report, which in some cases can hold very important details about the condition of the property. The details may not necessarily come up as marginal, defective or in need of repair on the summary page.

Did you obtain firm bids by qualified contractors for items marked as “marginal” or “defective” on the summary page prior to purchasing and or closing on the property? In some cases a specialized contractor in his/her respective field may provide a more in-depth look into a reported problem.

Sporadic or hidden problems may only show up when the home is occupied on a full-time basis. Remember, an inspection is conducted during a specific time window compared to actually living in a home. For example, a shower enclosure may only leak when standing in it taking a shower. Inspectors run the water for flow, check for hot and cold water and adequate drainage, but they can’t actually take a shower in the home.

If the overall weather conditions were reported dry at time of inspection, then there may be no evidence of leaks present at the time of inspection. Or, maybe a fresh coat of paint is covering the stains of a leaking roof, which only appear after a heavy downpour. The inspector can only report what he/she can see. Or, maybe the home was fully occupied by the previous homeowner with all of their personal effects and possession in place, limiting the inspector’s observation. These are just a few examples as to why an inspector may have missed something.

Sellers are supposed to be honest when they fill out a disclosure statement, if one is required. Inspections are based on current visible conditions that exist at the time of inspection. If no problems exist, then the inspector cannot create problems. They conduct the inspection and operate systems and components that would used by the everyday home owner, with some exceptions: They do remove electrical panel covers. They do remove furnace air handler covers, but nothing more than would require use of a screwdriver.

Check back tomorrow for Part II.

Tagged: , ,

How Should You Read an Inspection Report?

Submitted by Kenn Garder, Technical Support, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Inspection Report_shutterstock_79995865When you start a book or an article, do you start at the end and read the last few paragraphs to see how it all turns out? Do you just skim the headlines or the headings?

When purchasing a house, having a home inspection is usually recommended. A home inspection consists of a visual inspection of the house and a written report documenting the findings of the inspection.

When hiring an inspector, ask them to explain the report format they use. In today’s digital world, most reports are computer-generated and will include photos of the property. Some will be narrative, some a checklist or a combination of the two.

One of the items the inspector will discuss is the preinspection agreement — the contract for the inspection that discusses the inspection process, the limitations and exclusions, and the standards of practice to which the inspector is inspecting. You should read and sign the preinspection agreement prior to the inspection, and it may be included in the report.

When the inspection is complete the inspector may offer a walkthrough or complete a brief overview of what they found in the house. When you receive the report, those items should be included in the report.

So, where is the best place to start when reading an inspection report? The summary probably lists all of the issues that the inspector found, right? Well, it should, but there are times when good tidbits of information or potential issues are included in the body of the report and may not make it to the summary page. Be sure to read the entire report. According to multiple sources, including Angie’s list, you should focus on the most costly problems and potential health hazards first.

Any mention of water leaking, potential leaks, intrusion from the exterior — no matter how minor they may seem — need to be addressed, as water intrusion can cause health and structural issues in a building. Issues in the plumbing water supply or drain system can also lead to costly repairs.

Electrical systems may have issues that may not meet current safety standards. While most home inspectors are not code officials they should address safety items. Roofs and exterior wall coverings are designed to keep water out of the house, and minor issues can grow into large issues under the right conditions.

Recommendations for repairs or further evaluations by qualified contractors should be acted on prior to closing, if possible, especially on major components of a house.

When reading the report, seek clarification from the inspector if you have questions or concerns, and a good report may include additional explanations of a system in the house. Your inspection report can be used as a resource for ongoing maintenance items of your new home.

Tagged: , ,

NPI and GPI Welcome New Business Owners

We’re growing our family at NPI and GPI, and we’re excited about it. Please help us welcome these new business owners as they bring NPI and GPI to new areas of North America.

Brad White, Bulverde, Texas, NPI Franchise Owner

Brad White, Bulverde, Texas, NPI Franchise Owner

 

Frank White, Bulverde, Texas, NPI Franchise Owner

Frank White, Bulverde, Texas, NPI Franchise Owner

Mark Whaylen, Frisco, Texas, NPI Franchise Owner

Chris Holland, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, GPI Franchise Owner

Chris Holland, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, GPI Franchise Owner

Tagged: , , , ,

How Should You Decide to Hire a Home Inspector?

Submitted by Doug Kendall, Global Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Kanata, Ontario, Canada

StockShoot0390As a consumer, you should have a team of professionals you trust, call on and feel good about in the process of buying a home or property.

Start building your team before you start looking at homes or commercial properties: financial, inspector, contractors, Realtor, lawyer, moving company, etc.

You can ask your Realtor for some recommendations for an inspector, but you must follow through and interview the inspectors yourself. You also need to look on your own and check out other inspectors. An inspector should be happy to know you are checking him or her out and that they could become part of your buying team.

For your property inspector, you should consider some of the following:

  • Take time to meet some of the inspectors and get to know them like you would your Realtor.
  • Know the way each inspector delivers the report and what the report will look like.
  • Every inspector is different: Some are very analytical, some team players, etc., and you need to know which one best fits your needs.
  • Does the inspector carry E&O insurance and general liability insurance?
  • Do they have a current background review?
  • Are they part of a franchise? This does add value to you, as franchises normally have a high standard of professional ism and they want the public to be confident in their services. It is a perceived value in the world. Call the franchise and associations they belong to. Do your due diligence. A home is a big purchase and a lot of money.
  • Review the inspector’s standards of practice so you know what a home inspection is and can ask questions about the inspection process. There is also a preinspection agreement that you will be asked to sign that lays out what the inspector will be doing and his or her limitations.
  • Know how the inspector will perform the inspection. We all have a system of doing things, so knowing the inspector’s system is good. It keeps everything on track, and you may have specific areas you want them to focus on — areas like potential room expansions, where load-bearing walls are, what is really in the basement.
  • What other services does the inspector offer — radon, air quality, termite, infrared, energy inspections? These are all added value to you to have as a one-stop shop and a professional resource.
  • Building the rapport with the inspector gives you a source of help when you need information or a question answered at an open house or showing. A quick photo and email can save you a lot of time and energy — and maybe money.
  • Know what tools the inspector uses to ensure that you are getting a thorough inspection.
  • Does the inspector have a referral list of contractors if you need tradespeople to quote repairs?
  • Take time to build your property-buying team and review inspectors’ websites and referral notes posted.
Tagged: , , ,

Telling the Story with Photographs

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

2Inspectors + Tablet +Camera3Photographs can make an inspector’s job much easier and the inspection report a lot easier to understand. Most homeowners aren’t likely to climb the roof or crawl into the attic. Thus, showing them photographs of the damaged step-flashing and perhaps a quick word explaining what it is, makes it better for the inspector and buyer. Likewise showing them a photo of the damaged roof sheathing located in a tucked-away corner of the attic.

And photos have always made report writing easier: “The issue is … please see photo No. 14.” A photo is worth a thousand words. That sounds original; I wonder if I can claim it as my own.

Before digital cameras, an inspection report might include 10 to 12 photos stapled or taped to a separate photo page and attached to the report. Because of the cost and difficulty of physically attaching the photos, an inspection report might have included a picture of the front of the house and just the defective items.

With digital cameras, it is much easier for inspectors to include a lot of photos with their reports to better explain the condition of the property. In some ways, the photos included are just as important as what the inspector says in the report.

With a digital camera, an inspector might take 100 to 200 photos during an inspection and only include 40 or 50 with the report. The others are saved for everyone’s protection.

For example, one of the NPI/GPI franchisees inspected an old brick building. It was on a very narrow street, with the sidewalk and street virtually next to the building. Approximately 18 months after the inspection, the city jack-hammered up the old sidewalk and used a dump truck to haul away the concrete.

Sure enough, the inspector received a call from the owner, “My wall is cracked and you missed it.” There were no photos of this particular spot, on this particular wall, included in the report. Fortunately, the inspector had saved other photos that clearly showed the wall in question was not cracked at the time of the inspection. That was proof enough to satisfy the owner and remove any responsibility from the inspector.

Photos are needed of defective items, but just as importantly, they are also needed for what is not defective. Thus, most inspectors take lots of photos.

Tagged: ,

Inspectors Must Take Care When Working Around Electricity

Submitted by Garry Pigeon, GPI Franchise Owner, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Electrical BoxNPI and GPI inspectors recently read comments from Roland Bates, president of NPI/GPI, regarding an electrical shock incident relating to one of our inspection colleagues. With this in mind, I’d like to focus on electrical safety as applies to a typical NPI/GPI inspector performing a residential or commercial inspection.

First things first: electric shock refers to electrical incidents relating to human contact with energized electrical equipment that result in injury. Electrocution is an electric shock fatality. I have investigated and reported on several of the former (including my own) and thankfully, never had direct involvement with the latter.

There are several hundred sources of information if you Google electric shock or electrocution, so this blog will not go into scientific or medical detail. Suffice it to say that, scientifically speaking, electricity in the body can be interesting, oddly curious and often devastating.

As inspectors, here are a couple of things we can do to mitigate our chances of experiencing an interesting or devastating incident.

  1. Have and know how to operate good-quality electrical test equipment. I use a Fluke voltage detector and a Fluke digital multimeter. Flir and Amprobe also make excellent equipment.
  2. I test all metal components and assemblies that have the potential to provide a current path if not effectively grounded or bonded to ground. This includes all metal enclosures and covers of switchgear and distribution panels, electrical masts and meter bases, gas lines, metal water lines and any ground connections that are accessible. This may seem excessive, but many electric shock incidents are related to ground faults.
  3. Needless to say, testing also includes a representative number of receptacles and all GFCIs to determine proper wiring and presence of acceptable grounding.

As a certified electrician, I do not like to see anyone other than other fully qualified electricians access electrical equipment beyond the point of digital testing. That being said, as inspectors we are expected to provide our clients with information on the condition of electrical equipment. The ASHI and CAHPI standards of practice say that we shall inspect “interior components of service panels and subpanels.”

  • Do you know the procedure for doing this as safely as a qualified electrician does?
  • Will you be wearing the proper PPE?
  • If you are performing commercial inspections, are you comfortable with opening 600-volt three-phase fused disconnect switches and/or 347/600 V panel dead-front covers? Don’t even think of going near 5 kV gear.

Obviously this is a big topic that I believe requires further discussion, education and training at all levels within our industry.

I hope never to read a notice from Mr. Bates that refers to electrocution rather than electric shock.

Tagged: , , , ,

Making Your Thermostat Work for You

Submitted by Mike Hunger, NPI Franchise Owner, Winston-Salem, N.C.

My dad was a Marine. Until I reached age 15Thermostat 55 Degrees Heat and he retired, we moved around a lot. We always stayed in base housing or rented a house somewhere near the base.

One of my memories of those times was the fact that Dad was in control of this magical thing called the “thermostat.” I thought it was an interesting device, and I understood that it controlled how warm it was inside during the winter — we didn’t have AC. He would set it at a particular temperature, and it would click, and then there would be heat.

Later, when I was usually the one responsible for the temperature settings in our abode, I began to take an interest in how this thermostat thing worked. Dad was an aircraft mechanic in the Marines, and usually repaired everything we had, so he was forever tearing things apart and figuring out how they worked. Curiosity — and saving money — drove him.

Thermostats were pretty simple devices back then. You would slide the little tab along a temperature line to keep the interior temperature at the setting you (or your spouse) preferred. Simple.

Then came the digital age. Most of the houses I inspect today have digital thermostats. They are more complex, but they offer many more options, and they are more accurate.

Programmable thermostats are relatively new, and have become more popular as a way to save money on heating and cooling costs. At first, they may seem a little intimidating, but once you understand the basics of how they save money, you’re hooked.

Most simple programmable thermostats are fairly inexpensive — $60 to $90 at most home improvement stores. If used properly, they can pay for themselves in the first year in energy savings. That’s not bad. Not many things have a return on investment that quickly. Programmable thermostats save on costs by allowing you to set the temperature to several different settings over the course of 24 hours. But it’s important to understand a few simple rules to achieve those savings.

First, be careful if you have a heat pump for your HVAC system. Most heat pumps have an auxillary heat, and that will eat up any savings you might gain by adjusting the temperature higher or lower when no one is home. If you program the heat too low when you’re away during the day, and the house has to heat up significantly, the auxillary heat will kick in to rise the temperature quickly. Auxillary heat is commonly known as “strip heat” or “resistive heat” and consumes a lot of energy when used. The trick is to make sure your temperature setting does not vary more than three or four degrees. That may not seem like much of a difference, but it definitely will save energy if not exceeded.

Second, it is important to understand that it takes a lot of energy to change the temperature inside a structure by just a few degrees. If you have ever walked into a house that had the HVAC system off, and you turned it on to heat or cool the house, you’ve probably noticed how long it takes to move the temperature up or down. That’s because you are attempting to change the temperature of the whole structure, not just the inside air. It’s physics.

Finally, remember that you can change the temperature with a programmable thermostat in steps. I like to “step down” the temperature for sleeping during the cold months by changing it one to two degrees an hour or two before sleep, then again during the night. Then I “step up” in the morning before we rise. That makes it easy on the system and saves energy.

There’s a whole new type of thermostat out there now, and it’s pretty cool. You can program your house temperature via your smart phone. I like that, but remember, the same basic rules of physics still apply. Don’t get too crazy with that dial!

Tagged: , , ,

What Is a Sediment Trap and Why Is It necessary?

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

A sediment trap is a configuration of gas pipe designed to capture possible debris in gas flow. The properly designed sediment trap consists of male-by-male threaded pipes or nipples, a tee fitting and an end cap, all of which should be black iron pipe materials and not galvanized.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The proper design of a sediment trap is very important, and they often are designed improperly. The design in Figure 1 is sometimes used as a drip leg in some northern areas where fuel is wet with condensate. However, this improper trap design is often found to be installed in areas where a sediment trap is required.

Why is this an issue? Well, first because the code committee specifically states where and how the traps are to be installed.

The wrong trap design in Figure 1 allows debris to pass over the sediment trap to the gas control valve. What is this sediment and where does it come from? Black iron gas piping has to be cut to size and a pipe threading tool has to be used to cut new threads at the end of the pipe so they can be fitted together with a sealing compound. During this process, dirt may find its way into the pipe, or the pipe may have been contaminated at the pipe supplier’s facilities. While fitting the pipe together, some sealing compound may find its way to the interior of the pipe and/or some metal shavings from cutting the treads may have blown into the pipe during outdoor installations. Most of the gas itself is fairly clean from the supplier and not problematic. Despite the fact that the utilities supply clean gas, foreign matter can enter the piping prior to and during installation, both on the utility side of the system and on the customer side.

It is the level of care during installation or the lack thereof that requires the need for sediment traps. This type of debris could become lodged in the appliance gas control valve, causing it to stick open, not fully close or improperly regulate gas flow.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Now we know what a sediment trap is, why it is necessary and the problems often seen with the improper design above. So, what does a proper sediment trap look like? Where are they to be located? And when are they required to be installed? The Correct sediment trap design in Figure 2 forces gas flow to change directions through a 90-degree elbow, causing heavier debris to continue by force of gravity to the sediment trap.

The current code reads “Where a sediment trap is not incorporated as part of the appliance, a sediment trap shall be installed downstream of the appliance shutoff valve as close to the inlet of the appliance as practical. The sediment trap shall be either a tee fitting having a capped nipple of any length installed vertically in the bottommost opening of the tee as illustrated or other device approved as an effective sediment trap. Illuminating appliances, ranges, clothes dryers, decorative vented appliances for installation inside vented fireplaces, gas fireplaces, and outdoor grills need not be so equipped.”

Although the code does not specify a required length of the trap, 3 to 6 inches is the customary length. The sediment trap must be located as close to the appliance as is practical to be able to capture sediment from all gas piping upstream of the appliance. The sediment trap must be located downstream of the gas shut-off valve to allow for servicing of trap as necessary. Though it would be wise to install a sediment trap at all gas appliances, they are not currently mandated by code to be installed at gas lights, ranges, clothes dryers and outdoor grills. However, the user of these items should check manufacture requirements that may supersede code and require a sediment trap.

Tagged: , , , ,