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PODCAST: Home Inspection Mistakes, part 2

This week, we continue to talk about home inspection mishaps, misadventures, and costly mistakes which we learned valuable lessons from.

Reuben starts by sharing a shocking story about finding valuable items before or during the testing of dishwashers and ovens, changing thermostat settings in appliances, and getting locked out of the house. He and Tessa also talk about testing GFCIs and remember breaking into a garage after testing GFCI outlets on the outside. 

They also talk about ladder safety on roofs, attics, and decks. They share amusing experiences about falling from roofs, walking on wet wood roofs, putting ladders on wet and icy surfaces, and the use and dangers of A-frame and telescoping ladders, and forgetting to tie down the ladder on vehicles. They also talk about horrific truss stories, paying for damaged ceilings, and exploding propane fuel. 

Reuben hilariously remembers inspecting the wrong house and finding out halfway through. They talk about leaving behind tools and belongings and losing them. Tessa shares momentous experiences with cats; from escaping the house during a showing inspection, herding the cat out of the attic, and cats attacking agents and clients. 

To see some of the photos that accompany these stories, check out Reuben’s blog post on this topic: Top 20 Home Inspection Mistakes (I’ve made)

Share your home inspection mistakes. Send your stories to


The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Bill Oelrich: Welcome, everyone. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. As always, your three-legged stool coming to you from the Northland, talking all things houses, home inspections and anything else that’s rattling around in our brain.

BO: Well, welcome to part two of Home Inspection Mishaps, Misadventures and Costly Phone Calls. We just finished up with Neil, Neil gave us about 45 minutes of good stories, but Reuben’s list is quite long, and Tessa’s got, I don’t know, half as many? No, she shakes her head, she made one or two mistakes in her tenure.

Reuben Saltzman: Nobody’s got more than me, Bill. My claim is I’ve made more mistakes than any other home inspector on the planet. Prove me wrong.


BO: That’s true, right? There’s an old saying, at least from… In the surgical world, “If you don’t have complications, you’re not doing enough surgery.” So if you’re out there and you’re practicing your craft, you will end up with issues, it’s just a numbers game. So alright, Reuben, we’re gonna…

Tessa Murry: Mistakes are just a learning opportunity.

BO: Yes.

RS: And I’ve had so many learning opportunities, Tess. Oh my goodness.

TM: Me too. [chuckle]

RS: I’ve learned so many lessons over the years. I shared a handful of mine last week when we were talking to my pops, and I know I’ve shared a lot of these on the podcast over the years, but they’ve all just kind of been in passing. There’s a episode we recorded back in our podcast infancy, back when we used to have commercials on our podcast every seven minutes.


TM: Yeah.

RS: We did a podcast on home inspection mistakes, but I re-listened to it and we really didn’t cover a whole lot of mistakes we had made. We had Jim on at the time. It was a pretty short list, and I just recently published a blog post talking about my top 20 home inspection mistakes, and I just went with 20 ’cause it seemed like a good number, but I surely could have done 30 if I wanted to, ’cause the list is so long.

RS: And I thought, “Instead of having people kinda listen for them in different episodes, let’s just put them all together in one episode, let’s list them out.” So we had my dad come on and share a bunch last week that he’s made. I shared a few of mine, went ahead of time and shared them on that show.

RS: Tess, I know you shared a couple, but you’ve surely got a couple more, and I thought, “Why don’t I just start with my list?” And Tess, I’m surely gonna trigger some of your mistakes, and you just jump in when it’s appropriate, if you resonate with any of these or you’ve made the same ones, we’ll share yours too.

TM: I’m sure I will. Oh yeah, for anybody listening, if you’re a home inspector, sit back, relax and hopefully learn from our mistakes. And if you’re not a home inspector, this should be really entertaining. [chuckle]

RS: Yeah, and I will say this too, it makes us sound really stupid and incompetent when we’re sharing all these things, and I’ll say that we have grown a lot. These are stories that we tell to people who are in training to let them know, “Look, don’t make these same mistakes that we’ve made, we have so many more processes, so many more steps in place.”

RS: And back when I was out in the field doing inspections, I had a different level of confidence. It was like, “If I break something, it’s coming out of my pocket and I’m gonna fix it and I’m gonna take this risk.” But the inspectors on our team now don’t take these stupid risks because they’re thinking, “This is not my money, and if I break it, someone else is paying for it and I’m not gonna want that.” So I think the inspectors on our team are a lot wiser than I ever was. They don’t make the same mistakes.

BO: I think your processes too though, the processes you develop in response to the mistakes, you can probably get to the same end information without doing what you were doing when you ran into trouble, right?

RS: Yeah, yeah.

TM: Yeah, we’ve reduced our risks through…

RS: A lot.

TM: Painful learning. [chuckle]

RS: Yup. So here’s the first one, and this is one I know I’ve shared it on the podcast, you guys are gonna know where I’m going with this as soon as I start telling it, but the lesson here is, always look inside the dishwasher before you turn it on, before you run it. So this was one where the listing agent was there for the home inspection, which is really unusual, but he just…

TM: Very rare.

RS: Hung out in the kitchen… Very rare. But the sellers wanted him there, they were very paranoid about their house, and he just hung out in the kitchen, he wasn’t intrusive or anything. But he was there when I was about to start the dishwasher, and I looked inside real briefly, closed it and he said, “Oh, wait, wait, wait, that’s where the home owners keep their laptops for showings.” So…

TM: What?

RS: He pulls open the top tray and there’s the homeowner’s laptop sitting in the dishwasher. I just… I came this close to destroying their laptops.

TM: Oh my gosh.

RS: So always look inside the dishwasher before you run it.

TM: That’s so ridiculous.

BO: That’s divine intervention.

RS: That was divine intervention, yeah. So glad that guy was sitting there. Number two goes along with that, hand-in-hand, is always look inside the oven before you turn it on too. I’m sure a lot of home inspectors have destroyed a lot of things. For me, I don’t remember exactly what it was that I destroyed.

RS: It was truly something made out of plastic, and it melted and it smelled horrible, and it was black smoke coming out of the oven, and I had to take this melted gooey mess out of there. I ruined something of the homeowners, and I remember I ended up paying for it. But I never made that mistake again. If you’re gonna turn the oven on, whatever you do, look inside, because people like to store stuff in there.

TM: Yeah.

BO: Yup. I do, I mean there’s a pile of stuff in our oven.

RS: Yeah.

BO: Drives my wife crazy. [chuckle]

RS: Yeah, I’ve put stuff inside my oven too, but it’s always stuff that’s oven-safe, like cookware.

TM: Yeah.


BO: I’ve 55 pounds of cast iron in there.

RS: Yeah, yeah, that’s a safe thing to put in there. So last week we were talking to my dad and we talked about losing keys or getting locked out of houses. I have a story about that, and my takeaway here is never leave your keys on the counter. Back in the day, before we had the electronic lock boxes that we have now…

RS: Today, if we wanna get into a house, and it’s got an electronic lock box we’ve just got this app on our phone and we use our phone to get into the house, but back in the day, we had an actual electronic key. It would pop into the lock box, you’d punch in your code and then you’d get in.

RS: Well, I don’t know what I was thinking, somehow I managed to put my car keys and my electronic lock box on the counter, and they were still sitting there when I left and locked up the house.

TM: Oh no.

RS: So I’ve got no car keys to go anywhere and I’m locked out of the house. That was super embarrassing. Thankfully, buyers and everybody had left, we had said our goodbyes, I had done my final walk-through and then locked it up. So they didn’t know what an idiot I was, but I ended up having to call my pops.

RS: I think it was just he and I in the company at the time, and he ended up coming over and unlocking the house for me. Thankfully, this was a house that was two blocks from our office. It was an easy drive for him, but he wasn’t home when I was calling, so I had to sit around at the house, just hanging out in the front yard for about 45 minutes until he got home. That was super stupid.

TM: Hey, well, would you rather sit in the yard for 45 minutes or drive across town, get home and realize you had their key in your pocket still and then have to drive all the way back across town? [chuckle]

RS: Oh Tess, I have definitely done that, definitely done that. And the way it works, it’s so easy to do, it’s where you take the key, you lock the house up, and then the buyers wanna shake your hand and then you put it in your pocket and then you say your goodbyes, and then it turns into a 10 minute conversation.

TM: Yes.

RS: And then you’re like, “Yeah, house is locked.” You check it and then you leave.

TM: Yup.

RS: And then you’ve got the key in your pocket, Oh that’s so frustrating.

TM: Exactly. Yeah, I’ve done that a few times.

RS: Yup.

BO: Going back to ovens, have you ever just tested them and forgot to turn them off? Only to get a call later asking why you left my oven on?

TM: Yes.

RS: Have you?

TM: Oh yes, yup. [chuckle]

RS: And they were enraged weren’t they?

TM: Well, you know, luckily I had… I think I had talked to the seller because they showed up at the end, and so they called me directly to let me know that I had left it on and thank goodness. Yeah, they were not happy. For sure.

RS: Yeah, yeah, I bet.

TM: I only did that once.

RS: I’ve probably done it, I don’t think I’ve ever personally got a complaint call about it. But I do remember one time where I was positive I had left the oven on, and I had someone else on our team who was somewhat close by, drive over to the house to check for me. And I had indeed turned it off, but I was just, I was positive I’d left it on.

RS: We now have a protocol in place where the last thing we do is go around the house with our infrared camera and do a sweep of everything. We’re checking ceilings for leaks, we’re checking for hotspots, and we’re making sure all the lights are off and it’s also sweep over the oven and make sure that it’s cooling down, make sure the oven’s still not hot. It’s a good way to make sure that you’re not leaving the oven on, is that last little sweep of the house.

BO: I remember a call once from a homeowner who’s pretty hot. They had finished an attic space, and of course there’s no ductwork to it, so their only heat source was an electric baseboard heater and it was being tested. You crank ’em up and you get it hot and then you turn ’em off. Well, unfortunately, this was left on high in the summertime [chuckle]

BO: And so when he went into this room for whatever reason, several days later, he’s like, “What the?” Yeah, he was pretty hot about his hot situation.


RS: Yeah, yeah and that will make people really upset. Something I’ve found, it’s a little lesson that I’ve taught to the inspectors on our team, is if you’re gonna change the thermostat settings for heat or cool, 5 degrees is a good number. Because if it’s 70 degrees when you come in and you forget to reset the thermostat and it’s 75, it’ll be a little warmer than people are used to and it’s not the end of the world.

RS: But if it’s 10 degrees more, if they walk in and it’s 80 degrees, people are furious. That 5 degree difference is huge. So I like to move the thermostat by 5 degrees, just in the unlikely case that I forget, I’m not gonna get an angry phone call about it.

TM: And you’ve never had a problem with the furnace like turning off before you get your testing done, that’s enough time?

RS: Yeah, yeah, that is enough time. Yeah. I don’t have it running that long, I’ll turn it up and then I’ll go down to the furnace. I wanna be there when the furnace fires up, and I’ll kind of hang out and do my stuff in the utility room as the furnace is heating up and I’ll be there to make sure that it doesn’t short cycle and shut off.

TM: Yeah, I like that tip, 5 degrees. I think I used to do 10, but you’re right, if you forget or something, it’s quite noticeable. [chuckle]

RS: Yes, yeah, way more noticeable than 5 degrees. Another one I got here, Tess, you’ll appreciate this one. Is never test GFCI outlets on the outside of the house until you have access to the garage.

TM: Yes.


RS: Because, if you’re using your GFCI tester and you use that remote test button and you trip a GFCI inside a garage and the only access to the garage is through the overhead door? Well, you’ve cut power to the garage now, and the garage door opener ain’t gonna get you in and you have no way of resetting it. So good luck explaining that to the homeowners. That is your problem as a home inspector, and you need to figure out how to fix it.

BO: So you’re talking about a detached garage? Or one that doesn’t have a…

RS: It’s surely gonna be a detached garage.

TM: Yeah, the only way in is the actual garage door itself. Yeah.

RS: Yeah, and I know everyone’s thinking, “Well, okay fine, just don’t test the outlets on the garage.” No, no, I had a situation where they had the inside GFCI receptacle protecting the exterior outlets on the house that was not a part of the same structure. I don’t know why you would run all that wire when you could run a $15 outlet, but they did it and that sucked. I’ll put it that way.

TM: Gosh, you set it up perfectly ’cause… Well, I feel stupid saying this, but I did test the GFCI outlet on the outside of the detached garage, and it was one that only had the garage door to get in and sure enough, of course, that tripped it. And then I had no way to get into the garage or to reset it. [chuckle]

TM: I remember calling you, Reuben, I was in a panic. And this was an inspection for an agent who uses us a lot, and he’s a very knowledgeable agent and I think it was one of the first inspections I had done for him and it was a big deal. And I was outside I was like, “Oh no, there’s no way I can get into this garage and the sellers are gonna come home and be pissed, and this looks embarrassing and from their agent and everything.”

TM: And so I called Reuben, I’m like, “Reuben, what do I do?” And immediately you sent me this link, do you remember, to this YouTube video?

RS: Oh, I sure do, because I had used that YouTube video myself to fix my problem.

TM: Yes.


RS: Yes.

TM: Well okay, so this YouTube video is like a five-minute video on how to basically break into a garage with a coat hanger. [chuckle]

RS: And we’ll leave it at that. We don’t wanna give anybody any bad ideas, but it can be done. We’ll leave it at that.

TM: All you need is a wire coat hanger, and let me just say, I happened to have one in my car and I used it.

RS: How lucky. I was like, “Tessa, you don’t by chance, have a wire coat hanger in your car?” You’re like, “Well yes, I have one.”

TM: Yes. [chuckle]

BO: Now, this is dating this particular garage and this particular garage door, because garage doors with that overhead spring, they don’t have locks on them, do they?

RS: I’m not gonna explain how to do it, but I could break into just about any garage with this method, Bill.

BO: Interesting. Okay, alright. Moving along.

RS: Yup, leave it at that.

BO: Nothing to see here.

RS: Nothing to see at all, yup.


TM: I did that without even the agent who was sitting there at the table the entire inspection, had no clue that that happened, so thank you.

RS: You got it done so quickly, and you told me that story, and I was like, “This girl is a rock star. She has got some game, she just busted into that garage.” And you texted me like 10 minutes later and you were in. I was like, “Wow, she’s a player”. On that, on testing GFCIs, another little piece of advice is, our GFCI testers, that little thing, you plug into an outlet, it’s got a little button on there to test it, don’t ever use that on a GFCI receptacle.

RS: They’re handy if you’re gonna remote test a GFCI and you wanna see if the outlet you’re testing is GFCI protected, it’s handy for that, but don’t use it in any other circumstance. There was a house, this is in Bloomington, the homeowner, the “the handy homeowner” had finished off their basement, and they had to put GFCIs in every location, not knowing that you can have one GFCI protect all the rest of the outlets downstream from it, they just installed GFCIs in every location.

RS: So I take my GFCI tester, I hit the button on there and it trips all of the GFCIs in the basement, and I just hear this brrrr, all these outlets click at the same time, and the basement is filled with stuff. They’ve got outlets hidden inside cabinets.

TM: Oh no.

RS: They’ve got sports stuff everywhere. I think it was an illegal basement kitchen that they had put in, and there’s GFIs everywhere. And the only way you can reset them, a GFCI will not reset unless it has power, so you had to reset them in the same order that they’re wired in.

TM: Oh gosh.

RS: You gotta find the first one, reset that, find the second one, otherwise it won’t reset. So I must have spent 45 minutes moving boxes, opening cabinet doors, exposing every GFCI I could find and resetting them in the correct order. Took forever. And from that day forward…

TM: What a nightmare.

RS: Yeah, from that day forward, I never used the button on my tester.

BO: Electrical safety in the illegal kitchen. Gotta love it.

RS: Yeah, yeah.

TM: Oh gosh. I’ve had my fair share of GFCIs too, that have tripped and you don’t know where the reset one is located, and a lot of times it’s in a basement under the stairwell behind all the boxes, or in a garage, behind built-in shelving or just some extremely inconvenient place.

RS: Yes, yes.

BO: Worst case, behind the chest freezer that’s no longer working. [chuckle] That will declare itself at some point in the future.

RS: Yeah.

TM: Yeah.

RS: It got to a point where we encouraged all of our home inspectors to bring extension cords with them, just in case you trip a GFCI and you can’t find it, and it provides power to that deep freezer. Or you trip a GFCI and it goes bad. Sometimes GFIs will go bad. You simply press the test button and that’s the last test it had in it, and it’s done now, and it was powering a freezer. You’re gonna wanna run an extension cord so you’re not wrecking people’s food.

TM: Good recommendation.

BO: That freezer, it’s never good, ’cause the contents are always invaluable.

RS: “That was invaluable.”

BO: “Salmon we fished in Alaska and we sent home.” I remember another story, “That was my father’s elk that he… ” I was like…


RS: Of course, yeah. Here’s another one, not related to electrical, we’re talking ladder safety and roofs. Never walk on a wet wood roof. Now, everybody surely knows this, but there was a wood roof where it was a morning inspection, it was a cold day, there was a little bit of frost on the roof. But the sun was out, the sun had burned all the frost off, and it was grippy, it was fine, I walked all around.

RS: It wasn’t a steep slope either. It was like a 4-12, so I felt perfectly safe walking around on it, until I stepped in a shaded section of the roof where the sun hadn’t burned that frost off yet, and I went down so fast and I just slid. And I think my toe caught the gutter, which is what stopped me, but it would have been so easy for me to go right off that roof. So…

TM: Was that a two-story house?

RS: No, it was a one-story, thankfully.

TM: But still.

RS: But still.

TM: Yeah.

RS: Super scary.

TM: Wow.

RS: So just be very careful about never walking on wet wood roofs, they are downright scary.

BO: Yeah, there’s a handyman who’s done work for us, and he fell off a one-story roof. He fractured his… He had a compound fracture of his tip-fib and poking through the skin kind of thing. It was ugly, it was ugly, and it was only 8 feet.

RS: Yeah, yeah, 8-foot-fall is no joke. Alright, more on ladder safety and roofs. You and my pops talked about this last week, Tess, talking about bringing, I think it was bringing a ladder up onto a roof maybe? Or maybe it was just walking a roof where you had bad granules, right?

TM: Yeah, it was a 28 foot ladder with a 3-tab roof with that, yeah, loose granules on it.

RS: Okay, alright. Well, mine’s a little different. Every once in a while, we will leap frog a roof, where you’ve got your little giant ladder, I would always carry a little tiny little giant style ladder, like a little 13-foot ladder that you can just throw all over your shoulder so…

TM: Or telescoping ladder.

RS: Or telescoping, yeah, good point. Yeah, those would work for this too. And so you bring that ladder up to the roof and you set it on a peak to get to a higher section of roof. Now, I don’t have a problem doing that, that’s fine, but don’t ever set that ladder on a sloped section of roof.


RS: I did that…


TM: I see where you are going with this and my hands are getting sweaty. [chuckle]

RS: Yeah. I did that on a couple of roofs when I was fairly new in this profession and didn’t have any problems, but then I did one where it was just, it didn’t have enough grip, and I was walking up onto that upper roof and the ladder slipped out on me, and I went down hard. And I didn’t fall down to the lower roof, but I did fall.

TM: Oh man.

RS: That was so scary and that’s the last time I ever did that.

TM: Ooh, yeah. Very scary. I’ve been tempted to set up a telescoping ladder on a slight slope before to get to an upper part of a roof, but hearing that story, it’s like I’m glad I never did that. It always made me a little bit nervous. Only if you’re able to set that ladder on a gable roof or peak or something like that so it’s not going anywhere.

BO: Or it straddles the peak.

TM: Yeah, so it straddles the peak. You have one foot on each side of the peak. That’s the only time I’ll do that. Yeah.

BO: I have zero confidence in telescopic ladders. I think they’re either gonna smash your finger or they’re going to just fold in the middle when I’m halfway up them.


BO: I just, I wouldn’t get on one ever, under any circumstance, even to sit… They’re great to go up into the attic, but those things just…

TM: You know, there’s different quality telescoping ladders and they range from the 100 bucks to $200 or $300, and I invested in a good one, and I’m glad that I did. I never had any problems with the pinching my fingers or collapsing on me. I mean, there’s locks that indicate whether or not it’s locked in place and stuff. So I had good luck with mine, but I do… There are lots of… [chuckle] I’ve seen them collapse on people when they’re climbing on them if they don’t ensure they’re locked in place. They can be dangerous.

RS: Which one is that, Tess? Throw out a brand.

TM: I have the Xtend+Climb and it’s…

RS: Okay.

TM: I forget how to spell it, but I think it’s like X and then T-E-N-D.

RS: It does. It starts with an X. You’re right.

TM: Yup.

RS: Yup.

BO: I don’t like modular.

TM: You’re shaking your head, Bill. “No.” [chuckle]

BO: No.

RS: Bill doesn’t care.

BO: Again, this is back to other life experience and there’s nothing as solid as something that’s solid. And no need to go into medical device, but the more pieces you try to construct into one solid body, the weaker the whole construct is gonna be, and that’s just what I see in telescopic ladders. And you see some of the bowing and it’s just, no thank you.

RS: Yeah.

TM: Well I mean, if you’re a 300-pound person, you wanna make sure your ladder is rated for you, whatever ladder you use.

BO: Yeah, that’s also important, right? Get the appropriate ladder for the body habitus that you are.

TM: Yup.

BO: That goes without saying. But I think some people don’t even pay attention to those sorts of details.

RS: Yup.

BO: There are some big people. I’m not ripping on anybody. I’m just saying that sometimes convenience trumps safety and you’re just like, “Oh, I’m just gonna run up there and get that one thing and I’ll be down, and it won’t be a problem.” Right? And you get there and maybe it is. I don’t know.

RS: Yeah.

BO: I like being on the ground, for anybody who can’t figure it out.

RS: Always when you’re in a hurry. Here’s another one on ladders. Now, this one is just such a “no duh” thing, but never put your ladder on any kind of icy surface, on a slippery surface. I remember there was an inspection I was doing with Milind and Dwayne. This was way back in the day and we were…

TM: Shoutout to Dwayne.

RS: Shoutout to Dwayne. We’re getting onto a flat roof, I think Milind went up first and I put my foot there to keep the ladder thing where… The ladder feet where it was. And then I think the idea was it was just gonna be Milind. And then he’s like, “Hey, you know, this is interesting.” Blah, blah, blah.

RS: And I was just so curious, I had to get up there. So I went up there without anybody putting their foot on my ladder feet and sure enough, that ladder slipped. I was right at the top, and I was able to kind of fall and roll onto the roof and grab the ladder before it went down, but…

TM: Wow.

RS: Oh my goodness, was that a close call and…

TM: Woah.

RS: I’ve never made that mistake again.

TM: Wow.

RS: Icy surface, don’t have anything to do with it.

BO: It hurts thinking about it. And the only…

RS: Yeah.

TM: Yeah.

BO: We were… My wife and I were sitting in our kitchen one day looking out the window. ‘Cause of work, we have a computer near our window in our kitchen and then we were looking at something. And our neighbors had some issues with squirrels and the pest control guy was over trying to deal with a squirrel that was in the cage and making noise and he put up a ladder, leaned it up against the house. Exact situation that you’re saying, Reuben.

BO: It was in snow. He put it, got up there, got the squirrel cage and then all of a sudden, the ladder started going. And we watched it. We watched it in like slow motion. And he’s got the cage in one hand, he’s now falling, the ladder’s going, there’s nothing he can do. He can’t get on the roof. He has to ride this out. This thing comes crashing down.

BO: He’s… He hits, bounces on his belly. The cage with the squirrel goes flying. He got up and he had no idea that there were two people watching this whole thing happen and he’s just like, “Woah.” So we ran over and we’re like, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” and… ‘Cause any time you fall, it’s a big deal, right? And so he declined all of that, but it was just, it was painful to watch it happen in slow motion.

TM: Do you know I’ve…

BO: Be careful on ladders.

TM: Yeah, I was gonna say ice is no good. If you’ve got a little bit of snow, I found that that actually helps hold the ladder in place.

RS: Yes.

TM: So I don’t mind that. But I’ll never set my ladder on a wet or mossy wood deck either.

RS: Oh yeah, super scary.

TM: Yeah.

RS: Never do that.

TM: I mean, if it’s like a Little Giant and you’re setting up like an A-frame, okay. That will work.

RS: Totally different.

TM: Yeah.

RS: Yeah. Now, you talk about setting up the Little Giant and the A-frame, I got one about that too. So sometimes if you’ve got an attic access in the middle of a hallway, we’ll do the A-frame approach to get up there. And I would get in the habit of I would put the attic access panel back into place and as I’m climbing down the ladder, I would hit the two unlock tabs at the top of my ladder as I’m coming down. ‘Cause it’s not gonna slide anywhere on carpet, so you can hit those unlock buttons and it kind of saves you a step of collapsing your ladder.

RS: Well, we usually put plastic down underneath our ladders to make sure that if insulation doesn’t come down… If insulation comes down, you don’t have a mess. Well, I had done that on hardwood flooring, [chuckle] which is just super slick.

TM: Yeah. [chuckle]

RS: So I get down, I put the ladder, I put the attic panel back in place, and then I hit the two unlock buttons and my ladder instantly does the splits.


RS: Both then just shot right out while I’m on the ladder. And this is another one of those deals where I had an angel looking out for me, ’cause somehow I was able to jump off and catch my ladder before it wrecked the floor.

TM: No way.

RS: Yeah, I jumped off on the side. Milind was there, he can attest to it, he saw this happen.

TM: Oh gosh. You’re so acrobatic, Reuben. How did you not fly through the wall and punch a hole in their drywall?

RS: Guardian angels. Period. Someone’s looking out. What do they say? God looks out for the drunks and the stupid, or something like that. I don’t know.

BO: I think the saying is, “There by the grace of God I go.”

RS: Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s it. Instant lookout.

TM: Same thing.

RS: Yeah. So, the lesson learned is don’t unlock your A-frame ladder until you’re off of it.

TM: Smart. Good advice.

BO: Okay, last thing I’ll say about ladders and then I’ll stop with my rant. Be careful, count steps down. Make sure you’re on the ground when you think you’re on the ground, right? Don’t skip or miss the last step and jam your foot into the ground, ’cause that can cause serious problems too.

RS: Okay, alright. You ever done that?

BO: No, but again, hearkening… Going back 20 years of my life, sitting in a meeting with some orthopedic surgeons who had that happen. It’s a long story, but Hanover County used to have a trauma conference every Monday where all the ortho reps would go down and see what happened over the weekend and hear the docs talk about.

BO: Some guy, he had a… He was on call and he had this person come in and they stepped off the ladder, they missed the bottom step, jammed their heel into the ground and completely collapsed, blew up their ankle into multiple pieces, and the attending doc was like, “Yeah, well, we’re gonna fuse that,” on a 28-year-old. So just because he missed a foot the last step of his ladder.

RS: I’m calling BS. He fell off the ladder and he didn’t wanna admit it.


BO: Well, I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m just going by the story, so. But you can jam, you can jam body parts. But anyway, I digress. Let’s go back to broken home inspections. That’s more interesting.

RS: Broken home?

BO: Yeah, no, broken home inspections. Those mistakes that you regret making. [chuckle]

RS: Sure.

TM: I didn’t know what you were talking about either. [chuckle]

RS: Alright. Here’s one, if I were in charge, you wouldn’t be allowed to get those locks, those locking handle sets on front doors and garage doors that you can lock on the inside and then pull the door shut behind you and it’s locked. In every house I’ve owned, I have removed those.

RS: On my front door, my garage door, whatever, it is a passage handle set that does not lock, and I rely on the dead bolt to keep my house secure. You don’t need that extra lock, that is a recipe for getting locked out of your house. I hate those things. As a home inspector it is just, it is completely…

TM: Unless you have the key with you in your pocket.

RS: Yeah.

TM: Will the key let you back in?

RS: Well, and the key that you have in your pocket may not be for that particular one. Ask me how I know, Tess.


RS: There was a house where I had gone out on the second floor balcony to access the roof, I brought my ladder inside with me and got up on the roof, did my inspection, went to go back in, and the door was locked behind me. Of course, the key I’ve got in my pocket doesn’t work because they’re not all keyed alike.

TM: Right.

RS: Clients are inside the house, along with the agent, and here I am locked on the balcony like a doofus.

TM: “Let me in, let me in!” [chuckle]

RS: I didn’t do that. You know what I did, right?

BO: You called them.

TM: Did you jump down?

RS: No, I had my ladder with me. I threw my ladder over the balcony and I climbed down, and I went back in the other way. I’m sure they were kind of scratching their head, like, “What are you doing?” They probably figured it out, but they were tactful enough not to ask me, “Did you just lock yourself out of the house?”

TM: Very smooth. [chuckle]

RS: Another one, here’s kind of ladder safety in attics, is if you’re walking around in an attic, and we walk around in attics, if you’re walking on that cross bracing on the trusses and you’re way up in the air, always put your foot on the truss and the cross bracing, the two at the same time. Don’t walk in the middle of the cross bracing.

RS: I mean, even though a 2×4 should easily hold me, there was one attic where I had stepped on that 2×4 and I stepped in the middle of it, and it was almost all knot. Yes. And I busted it and I went down probably 8 feet. And the truss… I had my arm over to the truss, so I kinda slid at an angle, I think it slowed my fall a little. I got these nasty bruises in my armpit, in my side, but the worst was I broke the fall with my shin on the bottom chord of the truss.

RS: And my knee went through the ceiling, my dad kinda hinted at this last week about putting your foot through a ceiling, and I didn’t put my foot through, but my knee punched a hole in the kitchen ceiling. You couldn’t actually see my knee, it didn’t go that far through but the drywall busted, so that was an expensive mistake, super painful.

TM: Yeah, that sounds really painful.

BO: Just from a knot?

TM: Yeah. Stepping on a knot and the wood breaks. I had a similar story as you were describing that, I remembered falling, this was a huge attic, it was almost like two stories tall, and I was climbing up through the trusses and I stepped on some cross bracing and here’s my tip. Always make sure you’re stepping on cross bracing that’s nailed to the truss.

TM: There’s one where it was like… I don’t know, it wasn’t securely nailed and the nail was kind of coming out, and I stepped on it without realizing it in it, and it detached from the truss and I start falling, and luckily I did the same thing you did, Reuben, I… My arms, stuck my arms out and caught myself, but I was all bruised up and, oh my God, I thought I was going through the ceiling ’cause it just happened like that, but luckily, I was able to stop myself in the trusses, it just… Oh, it hurt so bad.


RS: Yes. Painful lesson.

TM: And then like all tools flew out too, ’cause I was wearing my tool belt and I was going through the trusses, and so then I spent the next 30 minutes trying to pick up all my tools.

BO: That’s a dangerous situation, ’cause if you hit a gusset plate, those things are sharp.

RS: Yeah.

TM: Yeah, yeah.

BO: You take out an artery on your leg and be in an attic somewhere. “Help!”

RS: Yeah. Alright, so…

TM: This is getting morbid.

RS: I know. For attics, Bill you shared last week about how you had stepped on a recess light while walking around in an attic. I’ve got my famous story, where I was walking around in an attic, stepping on the bottom chords of trusses. There was barely any insulation, so it’s not like I was smooshing insulation down. And for the record, we don’t walk in insulation and trample it. But there was barely any insulation, it was just enough where I could see the…

TM: That’s why we have these horror truss stories, because we’re not stepping on the insulation, we’re trying to walk above it.

RS: Exactly, exactly.

TM: Sorry to interrupt. [chuckle]

RS: No, you’re right, you’re right. But in this case, I was stepping on the bottom chords of trusses and I accidentally stepped on a plumbing vent. And of course, the vent goes all the way down and then it connects to the drain for the bath tub, and it had a slip joint connection which was just barely connected, and it was enough to knock that slip joint connection loose.

RS: So then later when we filled the bathtub and we drain it, instead of it all draining, the water all drained on the ceiling below and through the ceiling of the garage. And it was just water pouring into the garage. We wrecked that ceiling, had to pay for that to get fixed. That’s tough.

BO: At least it was in the garage.

RS: At least it was in the garage.

TM: Yeah. Yeah.

RS: Yes, yes. Could have been a lot worse. Yup. And all that water ended up on the concrete floor. It wasn’t the end of the world. We paid for a new ceiling, it was probably about a thousand bucks or something.

TM: Yeah, it really sucks when it comes through all the lights in the ceiling in the kitchen. [chuckle]

RS: Tess…

TM: We’ve talked about this.

RS: I’ve shared my story on this podcast, I know I have.

TM: Well, I’m thinking of my story, and I know we’ve talked about it too.

RS: Well share it again. Let’s hear it, Tess.

TM: Oh gosh. Well, this was when we had an inspector in training, and we were both kind of bouncing around inspecting different things, and we had the tub running and of course it got away from us. And next thing you know, I’m standing in the kitchen and I’m talking to the clients and [chuckle] water drips down from the recessed can light and falls right between me and the client as we’re having a conversation and lands on the counter. And it hit me, I was like, “Oh my God.” Immediately I knew that tub is running and it has flooded the bathroom.

TM: So I calmly say, “Will you excuse me for a second?” And I run upstairs [chuckle], and it’s overflowing, the floor is flooded, and I shut off the water right away and start mopping it up with the towels and let the tub drain. But the damage has been done, there’s a ton of water in the ceiling that continues to drip through, and the clients are there watching it unfold and it was horrendous.

TM: And I remember, I think I called you too, Reuben, and I was just horrified at what had happened. And you’re like, “Well, you know, I can’t fault you for anything that I’ve done. I’ve been there.” And I was like, “What? That’s… You’re not gonna yell at me? I’m not gonna owe thousands of dollars?” It’s like, “Well, I’ve done it too.”

RS: Yup, yup. I did the same thing training George in, forgot all about a bathtub, and we didn’t find out ’til we were in the basement and the clients were like, “Why is there water coming out of the ceiling in our basement?” It had gone through two levels. That was awful. And still to this day, that’s certainly the worst home inspection mistake I’ve ever made. That really made me question what business I had being a home inspector. I lost a lot of sleep over that.

TM: I’m glad you stuck with it. Yeah.

RS: I’m glad too. I’m glad too. But boy, I questioned myself for a long time after that.

TM: That’s painful. Yeah.

RS: So painful.

BO: Tessa, that story of your tub, which there’s always another layer to it. As it turns out, I was just shadowing with Reuben on that call, ’cause I was about to take over the complaints. And we walk in there and I had a pontoon boat that I sold to somebody, and I walk in and then I look at the person, I’m like, “Mary?” And she’s like, “Bill?” I’m like, “What are you doing here?” “This is my house.” I’m like, “Oh. Yeah, wow, we’re here to… ” And so anyway, but that lady turns out to be my neighbor’s best friend growing up, so it’s even more weird.

TM: Oh my gosh.

BO: So anyway…

TM: Small world.

BO: Yeah. Very small world.

TM: Well, thanks for saving my butt on that one.

BO: Well, I mean, what can you do? It’s time to fix things. You can only cry over spilt milk for a short period of time.

RS: Yup. You gotta make an omelette, you gotta crack a few eggs. No, that’s not our company policy. I’m just kidding.


RS: Alright, this one, we’ve surely shared this on the podcast. Always make sure that you’re at the right house. I’ve done that more than once. A number of people on our team have done that, actually. It’s so much easier than you might think. I mean, on paper it seems impossible to do, but in the moment.

RS: I mean, there was one instance where I was supposed to show up at 4932 Chicago, and I wasn’t totally paying attention where I was going, and I turned on to Columbus. Or something like that. It was two Cs right in a row, and I turned a block early, just thinking, “I’m looking for C.”

RS: And there’s 4932, and it was… The people living there didn’t speak English, they spoke Spanish, and the agent, all of her clients always spoke Spanish, so I just kind of figured I’m at the right house, this all fits. And I said I’m there to do the inspection, and they were very confused. They were like, “No, what do you… ”

RS: And then there was a language barrier, they’re kind of shaking their head. And I was doing a Truth in Housing evaluation for Minneapolis, so I’ve got my city badge, it says “Minneapolis”, and I’m insisting, “Yes, yes, I’m supposed to be here.” And I show them, and I got my clipboard.

RS: So I went through and I did the better part of a Truth in Housing evaluation, and the whole time they’re just kinda looking at me sideways like, “Why is he here?” And then finally, a half hour later, the agent calls and she’s going, “Reuben, where are you?” And I said, “I’m at the house.” And she’s like, “No you are not. I’m at the house.”


TM: Oh God.

RS: And so I high-tailed out of there pretty quickly. “Thank you, thank you.” And they’re like, “Yeah, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” They were glad to see me leave and I showed up at the right house, but I just… I bullied my way in, acted like I had business being there. So yeah, always make sure you are at the right house.

TM: Gosh, that’s… That’s… It’s so embarrassing. And you know what…

RS: So embarrassing.

TM: If that would have happened today, there could be lawsuits involved with something like that, don’t you think, maybe?

RS: Possibly so, possibly so, yeah.

TM: Ooh, I bet you really scared them. “Why is this guy with a badge from the city forcing his way into my house? What’s gonna happen to me?”

RS: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly.

TM: Yikes.

RS: What else? You know what, we were talking about ladders. I forgot one on ladders, is never put your extension ladder on your vehicle without tying it down immediately. I remember when I was fairly new, I didn’t really have the tie-down method very good on my vehicle, I didn’t know exactly how to tie it down, I kinda stumbled through it.

RS: So one of the first times I had used my extension ladder, I’m all done, I go to put it back on my truck and the clients are outside with me, and I don’t want ’em to stare at me fumbling around tying this down for five minutes, so I just put it on top of the truck. I figured I’ll do this later after they leave, they don’t need to see me bumbling around.

RS: Well, let’s fast forward to I’m driving down the road without my ladder attached, [chuckle] and I see the ladder starts to slide over to the side, and I’m able to slowly pull over and I got it all re-attached. But that could have been really bad. Somebody could have been killed. I could have been in a nasty car accident.

TM: I agree. That thing…

BO: Yeah, you see that ladder, yeah, the ladder debris on the shoulder and you’re like, that’s a 28 footer in 48 pieces.

TM: I feel less stupid now. I did the exact same thing, Reuben, for the exact same reason. But luckily I didn’t get on the freeway, it was like a… It was an older neighborhood, and so I was on my way through the neighborhood, and then I… Then it hit me, I’m like, “Oh my God, I forgot to tie down my ladder.”


RS: Yes, so scary. So my lesson there, if you put… From that day forward, if I put my ladder on top of my truck, it gets tied down immediately.

TM: Immediately. Yeah.

RS: I will not remember to come back. Another one is never put your tools down out of sight. I remember the first time I left a tool at a house, it was my Little Giant ladder. How do you leave a ladder at a house? Well, I was using it in the backyard for something, set it down in the backyard. Should have set it down, taken the time to put it down in the front yard.

RS: I left my Little Giant there, one of the first inspections I ever did. Never made that mistake again. But that applies to everything. I’ve left sunglasses at houses, I’ve left inside shoes, my laptop, flashlight, infrared camera.

TM: My impact drill.

RS: Impact drill for you.

TM: That was sad.

RS: Did you get it back?

TM: No.

RS: Yeah. Yeah.

TM: I tried.

RS: And then people are like, “Nope. There’s no drill here.”

TM: Exactly. Yup, that was a nice one. Milwaukee.

RS: Yup. So when you’re done with your tool, put it in your walking path, don’t put it on a shelf in the utility room, ’cause the second you set it down, it’s gone, you ain’t coming back to it.

TM: Yup. [chuckle]

RS: It takes just a little bit more time, but never put stuff down where it’s not gonna be blocking your path.

BO: Is that wrapping up your list? I mean…

RS: Alright, I got one more, Bill, one more. I know I’ve told this story on the podcast.

BO: Okay, one more. It’s your podcast, you can go as long as you want now.

RS: Yeah okay, well, I feel like this episode is getting long. There are so many stories here. But last one, is if you’ve got a natural gas appliance and someone hooked it up to a propane source, don’t operate it. There.


RS: There’s your lesson. There was a house that had a propane source for fuel, and they had an oven that they didn’t convert from natural gas to propane. And I knew what was going on when I turned on the burners because there was this big aggressive yellow flame like…


RS: Coming out of each one of the burners. I took pictures of it, there’s flames like 3 inches in the air because propane has so much energy. But I had also turned on the oven, and so I go to check on the oven, I open the door, and what happened was the whole time you’ve got this propane coming in about half the propane is burning, the other half is just filling inside the oven, and it doesn’t have the right fuel to air ratio for any of that to combust, but as soon as I opened the door, I totally changed that ratio.

RS: And it all exploded at once right in my face. I singed my eyebrows and I yelled. It was an explosion. I’ve never done that again. Now, if it’s the wrong fuel type, well as soon as you know it’s the wrong fuel type, turn off the appliance and be done with it. That’s it.

TM: You’re lucky it wasn’t worse than that.

RS: I’m very lucky it wasn’t worse than that, you’re right, Tess. It could have been.

TM: Oh my gosh. Crazy, crazy stuff.

RS: Alright. I’ve surely got way more, but you know, that’s enough for the…

BO: Do you really have more on your list?

RS: Well, just last week when we had my dad on, I brought up all these other ones that I hadn’t thought of and put… Or put in my blog beforehand, and as I’m telling these, I keep thinking of more that I didn’t come up with earlier. I’m not… We gotta end this list at some point, but Tess, you’ve got some more don’t you?

BO: Yeah, Tess, do share. Do share.

TM: Oh my gosh, well, no, I agree with you, it’s like as you talk, then these memories come back up, but I just… There’s one that was absolutely ridiculous, the sellers had cats and they left a note behind, they said “The cats will try to escape, so make sure you are… You keep the door closed.”

RS: And I’m like, this is completely unfair, because we had buyers that were showing up, there were at least two people there with the buyers and maybe they had another person show up too and their agent, and we’re all coming and going, and sure enough, at some point during the inspection, one of the cats made a run for it, saw the door open and left, and spent probably the next hour trying to chase a cat through the neighborhood to get it back to… [chuckle]

BO: The neighborhood?

TM: Yes. [chuckle] Yes, it was running into neighbors’ bushes and I mean it was just, it was a nightmare. I was so mad. I was like, “Who, who leaves a cat behind when they know their cat tries to escape? It’s like they’ve set me up to fail.” [chuckle]

RS: Yeah.

BO: Yeah, there’s no way. Like if got out, there’s no way you’re corralling that guy, ’cause he’d be like, “Oh, this is a game of keep away, and we’re gonna… ”

RS: But you got the cat?

TM: We cornered it and yeah, and grabbed it out of a bush and then got back, but it was… It was ridiculous. And yeah, I’ll never forget that. I had a cat get into an attic one time while I was crawling on in an attic, and I’m shining my flashlight and I’m scanning around, all of a sudden I see the cat up there, I’m like, “Oh, shoot.” So then I had to herd that thing out of the attic, and that took me a while. So yeah, just in general.

TM: I’ve had cats bite people during an inspection, and there was a cat sitting on a stairway to a basement one time, and I remember I tried to walk past it and it hissed and lunged at me and I thought, “Oh my gosh, okay, well the basement can wait.” And next thing I know, the client and the agent scream because they tried to go in the basement and the cat attacked them. I was just like, “What?” [chuckle]

RS: Oh boy.

TM: So I don’t know if this is just me, it seems like I’ve had a lot of cat stories. Yeah, I’m not a fan. I’m a dog person.


TM: Yeah, no, I could keep going too. The only one that stands out to me too, I know we’ve talked about this on another podcast, but leave everything exactly the way you found it. There was a house, I remember I was testing the water heater to make sure it wasn’t back drafting and I got impatient, and instead of just turning on the hot water and waiting for it to get going, I adjusted the temperature on it, turned it up and forgot to turn it back down. I think that complaint made it all the way to you, Reuben, didn’t it?

RS: I don’t even remember that one.

TM: That was the house where the buyer was following me every step of the way, and on the exterior of the house I was kind of talking her through what we were seeing and I pointed out the dryer duct that had a screen over it and was clogged with lint, and next thing I know, she’s climbing up my ladder to clean it.

RS: I remember that.

TM: Same house. So the seller was so mad about the water heater, and then about the screen being removed on their dryer duct.

RS: What was their issue with the water heater? Was it the fact that it was too hot, or what?

TM: Too hot, yeah. Water was too hot. Yeah.

RS: I just don’t even know what to say. [chuckle]

TM: Well, I think we saved their dryer duct from starting on fire, they weren’t happy about that, they were pissed that we removed the screen.

RS: And it wasn’t even you that removed the screen.

TM: No. [chuckle]

RS: It was the buyer.

TM: The buyer, yes.

RS: I remember it was the fire who did that.

TM: Yes, the buyer. I couldn’t stop her. She was everywhere, so.

RS: But that’s solid advice.

BO: Sounds like that cat that got into the attic.

RS: Right?

TM: Yes. [chuckle]

RS: Yeah, always leave the house exactly the way you found it. That is very good advice.

TM: Yeah, yeah.

BO: Alright. Alright, any more war stories?

RS: We gotta bring the show to a close. I mean, yes, we got more, but we can’t go all day here, Bill.

BO: People are gonna begin to feel sorry for you.

RS: Probably so.


RS: I’m pretty sure I’ve made more mistakes than other home inspector on the planet. Prove me wrong. Like I said at the beginning.


BO: Yeah, record your podcast and mistakes and send it to Ruben.

RS: Yeah.

TM: Yeah, I was just gonna say, send us your mistakes. It’d be fun to kind of read it from the audience. If people have good stories to share, we’d love to hear ’em.

RS: That would be fun. Yeah, I’d love to hear some bigger ones. You can make ’em anonymous.

TM: Yes.

RS: Yeah. You can just, you can make up a name, I don’t care. Send your stories to, we’d love to share ’em. The world needs to hear.


TM: We can all learn from your mistake, from our mistakes.

BO: And with that, we will bring this episode to a close. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. Thanks for listening. Thanks for sharing your horror stories when you do, and we’ll catch you next time.


BO: Hi everybody, Bill here again with Structure Talk. We really wanna thank you for listening to this podcast. It’s been a ton of fun for us to put this presentation together. And if you could, we would love it if you would go to any of the podcast platforms where you find Structure Talk and leave us a rating and subscribe to the show.

BO: You can also subscribe to our blog at, and of course, you can listen to the show on the internet at Thanks again for listening. We appreciate the support. And if you have any suggestions for show topics, please email them to Thanks for listening.