Today’s episode is part one of Structure Tech’s home inspection flow process and why we do things this way. The standard process has been developed and enhanced since the start of the company. Tessa shares the process flow which starts from a pre-inspection call.
Tessa continues to share that from a quick walk outside the house, the team will proceed to wake up the house and use infrared cameras to take photos. Reuben highlights their learning experiences from failed and winning inspection steps. He discusses that the best way to inspect a house is through the top-down concept.
More about the inspection process will be discussed in next week’s episode. For your questions, continue to write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Professor Reuben Saltzman: We had asked for some feedback on the podcast a little while ago and few people had written in and said, “You know, it’d be really cool if you did some Q&A sessions where people just wrote in with questions.” I thought, “That’s a great idea.”
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, and anything else that might be rattling around up inside our head. How are you all doing this week? Reuben, Tess, let’s do a round-the-table check-in.
RS: Doing pretty well, can’t complain. Experiencing a little cool down at the time we’re recording this, after some ridiculously hot weather over the 4th of July. It’s dropped off a little, but I think it’s gonna get hot again, but it was a nice little break.
Tessa Murry: Yeah, it feels like it’s a different season today, which, I’ll take that.
0:01:03.5 BO: That’s Minnesota. Just wait a day, it’ll change.
RS: Yep, exactly.
BO: So, good. Well, I’m glad to hear everybody’s excited about the weather. At some point, we all turn into weather people in our old age.
TM: Bill, did you go see fireworks up north at your cabin?
BO: We could not watch fireworks, we tried our best. The mosquitoes, all 58 million of them that were swarming around my head, would have killed any human being. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a deer walking around in the woods this time of the year. But yeah, we tried. It just was too intense sitting on the dock fighting off the beast.
RS: We tried to do the same thing. My daughter, Lucy, who’s 10, she really wanted to watch fireworks and a bunch of people were shooting them off on the lake, but we got cover. I had long pants, a sweatshirt on, I had a blanket around me. I had that sweatshirt pulled down with the hoods and a blanket up, so it was just my eyes basically, and I got all deeded up on top of that. At some point, I stopped focusing my eyes on the sky and I just looked in front of me. There must have been 30 mosquitoes within a two cubic foot area, so practically in front of my face, and I just freaked out and I said, “Lucy, I can’t do this.”
RS: She got eaten alive. She is covered in bandages from mosquito bites that she was itching right there.
TM: Oh, that’s just brutal. Oh my gosh.
BO: Just imagine if we had any amount of normal precipitation or rainfall. I think most of our state is in a drought category at this point. We’ve had very little rainfall this year. It didn’t feel like it could get any worse, but I’m sure it could actually be much worse.
TM: Probably, yeah.
BO: Awesome. Well, I’m sure everybody’s excited to hear about mosquitoes and what it’s like in Minnesota.
TM: [chuckle] It’s one of the reason people are like, “Why do you guys live in Minnesota?”
BO: I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d like to live, honestly. I’m a homer, can’t help it. I’m a homer so.
TM: [chuckle] I swear it’s really nice here, some of the time. [chuckle]
RS: Yeah, as long as you go in before the sunsets, mosquitoes aren’t so bad.
BO: That’s exactly right.
TM: Yep, true.
BO: Alright. Well, let’s get to this week’s episode. We’re gonna talk a little bit about the home inspection process. We had a listener submit a question to Reuben via the email. Reuben, tell everybody what that email address is.
RS: It’s email@example.com, and we had asked for some feedback on the podcast a little while ago, and few people had written in and said, “You know, it’d be really cool if you did some Q&A sessions where people just wrote in with questions.” I thought,”That’s a great idea.” So if you do have questions about your house, about home inspections, about any of the type of stuff that we regularly talk about, feel free to write in, and we will try to cover it during the podcast. I don’t wanna promise too much, ’cause we’ve never done this. [chuckle] So, if we get one or two questions, we’ll surely cover them. If we get a hundred, we’re not gonna cover all of them, but please write in if you got questions. Again, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Shoot us an email, and we’ll try to cover your questions on the show. But this one came from another home inspector, Doug Cook, and I wasn’t exactly sure if there was a question in there or not, but he was just talking about the flow process and how there’s a lot of home inspectors who aren’t quite certain about how the process of a home inspection should really be done from beginning to end.
RS: You go to so many conferences and you go to so much training, and it’s all focused on one specific topic like air conditioners, or electrical, or plumbing, or things like that, but not a lot of detail on how you move from one component to the next and how a home inspection should go. And we’re really… Here at Structure Tech, we are really opinionated on that.
BO: You should say.
RS: Oh my goodness, yes. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it. It’s our way or the highway. No, I’m just kidding.
RS: We don’t believe we’re right, but we have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what works for us. So, I thought it’d be fun to do a podcast where we cover a lot of that. We talk about what our process is, then explain why we do things this way. And Tessa has spent a lot of time training the new people on our team on how all of this works, and she’s surely the most familiar with all of this out of anybody on our team, so I thought, “What a great person to have as one of our co-host.”
TM: Well, thanks Reuben. This process has not really changed much from when you trained me in, like five years ago. It’s still the same basic thing. We’ve added things here and there and shifted some things around, but for the most part, I think, Structure Tech has developed this process over a long period of time, right?
RS: Yeah, yeah, this has been a long time coming. I think we first put this document together, I wanna say, maybe seven or eight years ago, just to start getting a little bit more formal. As our business started growing, we started realizing we need to have this document, that we can’t just have it be, “Well, this is kinda how we do it.” It needs to be detailed out. We spent a lot of time working on this, and it’s a living document. It changes. Well, I think we’re on a regular pattern of updating this quarterly at this point, so everybody knows what to expect.
BO: Yeah, those are fine tweaks, though, you’re looking at doing on a quarterly basis.
TM: Yeah, little tweaks. So this written down process that we have, I think it’s really important because as we hire new people, we have the standard that we train them to, and as we continue to grow, it helps us maintain just consistency across the board with what our inspectors are doing and how they’re doing it and what the expectation is, what the document… And so, in this document, not only does it just kind of say the full process through a house that you should take as you’re inspecting, but what pictures you’re required to take. We use infrared camera, so where you should take pictures of the infrared camera, where you need to take pictures for standard pictures in the report, and so it lays all that out, and I’m not gonna get into that level of detail today, but just kind of I think walking through our process will be a good thing.
TM: So the first thing that we’ve got is we’ve changed some things. We do a pre-inspection phone call with the client before the inspection now to introduce ourselves, and typically we’re working with home buyers, and so we’ll give them a call for the inspection, if we can get a hold of them, and just introduce ourselves and say what the process is, when they’ll get the report, what it’s gonna look like, and tell them when they should show up to the inspection. And we talked about in this podcast before that because of all the challenges of last year with COVID, we changed our whole inspection process. We used to have client show up at the beginning of the inspection, and we encourage them to walk around with us and we would take that opportunity to explain what we’re doing and teach them about the house, but now we’ve changed it so they show up at the last hour, and so we’ve got the first part of that inspection to ourselves alone in the house. And so we kind of explain that to the client, explain to them when we want them to show up, and what we’ll explain to them when they get there and ask if they have any concerns or questions and that’s probably the biggest thing, is understanding what your client concerns are is huge, and we make sure that we talk to them about that when they show up on site.
TM: But getting down in the actual inspection process, first thing we do when we show up is take a quick walk around the outside of the house, and we make sure that we collect photos from every angle, every side, so there’s gonna be one in the front, one in the front left corner, front left side, back left corner, back and so on, all the way around the house. And these are just kind of reference photos for us, and I’ll tell you more than once I’ve had to refer back to those reference photos because I missed something else when I was on-site, and when I get home, I’m reviewing these pictures and I have to look back at them. But the whole reason we’re doing this quick walk around the outside is to just kind of gather some basic data on what condition does the roof look like it’s in? What about the siding? What about the deck? And then think big picture. If anybody has heard Reuben teach at the ASHI Conference Inspection World, Reuben, you’ve taught the moisture intrusion, water intrusion class a few times there, and thinking, where does the water go? Where am I gonna focus my attention when I am up close with this house? Are there roof lines that are indicative of water dumping in a certain location right next to the foundation? That’s where I’m gonna focus my attention. And so that first walk around is really just gathering data.
RS: Yeah, like you said, it’s really helpful to have those to refer back to, and something we tell everybody is when you’re taking those photos, make sure you’re standing far back enough so you have the whole slope of the roof in every picture. If you stand too close to the house, you’re not gonna get that. I can’t tell you how many times I go back, and I say, “Oh wait, did this house have roof vents? Did I forget to look for vents,” or something like that, or something off.
BO: Not you.
RS: I’ve been scared before, and it’s nice to have those photos showing the entire slope of every section of the roof, so stand far back enough. And like you said, Tess, it helps you to think about where all the water’s going, taking that macro approach, looking at it from a distance, and that’s also a good time to figure out how you’re going to attack the roof, how are you gonna get up there? I’ve made the mistake early on in my career many times, where I just maybe take a tour of the inside of the house, look at everything, and then I’d head right back out to the front door, and I get right up on the roof, and I might not take the best place. I might get up on a fairly steep slope or do something that was kind of difficult, and then by the time I get to the backyard, I see, “Oh, there’s a deck, and I could have leaned my ladder on a very easy area of the roof to get on, it would have been a piece of cake if I had just taken the time to take a quick walk around the house at the very beginning.” So lots of reasons for doing this.
BO: Reuben, how much time has that saved you in your process of up and down stairs and in and out and looking for… As you’re connecting the dots, ’cause I know you always have this thing where you’re like, “Look for the worst place first and focus on that.” So when you’re walking around the outside of the house, let’s just say it’s a three-story house, right at the back, it’s a double, two-story house, but then there’s a walkout basement or something like that, what are you trying to see 30 yards from the back of the house as you’re trying to get that entire structure in one camera shot?
RS: In short, it’s what you just said, it’s focusing on the areas that are gonna fail first. I’m thinking about the worst areas, I’m thinking about the areas where water is concentrated the most, and I kind of develop my plan of attack that way and figure out where I’m gonna focus my efforts the most. And if those areas where all the water is concentrated are perfectly fine, and there’s no problems, I’m not gonna be as picky about all the rest of the house.
BO: Gotcha. Is there something that you’ll key in? Say the roof has… It’s got a good overhang, it’s got good gutters, it doesn’t have any weird drainage planes, is there anything that might stick out to you on this just quick reveal?
RS: Besides all the stuff that you just said, doesn’t exist?
RS: Well, groundwater management too, looking at where all the ground water goes and making sure that it all has a good path to get away from the house. That’s huge.
BO: Sure. Do you worry about windows? I mean…
RS: Absolutely. Probably the worst window on any house is when you have a bay window, where it sticks out, it’s usually the window right at the front of the house, and it sticks way out, and it doesn’t have any overhang protection, those are always the ones that rot first. And I swear I drive by houses and when I see those bay windows, I just kinda stare at them for a minute as I’m driving by looking for rot. I just did that the other day and saw one that was literally falling apart at the bottom, and I just went, “Check, yep, okay, that fits the narrative. It’s exactly what we expect to see with these style of windows.” So yeah, those are the worst.
BO: Okay, alright. So you get down on the outside, now, where are you going to next?
TM: Well, so that outside is just a quick walk-around really, because we’re just gathering our basic photos and taking in just this kind of macro-level view of everything quickly. And so then we go inside the house, and we do kind of the same thing on the inside. We wake up the house by turning on all the lights, turning all the fans, all the appliances that vent to the outside, bath fans, kitchen fans, washers, dryers, get everything going, we wake up the house. The reason we do this is we wanna put the max load on the electrical system, and just to make sure everything is actually working the way that it should.
BO: Is that a Reubenism? Wake up the house.
TM: Wake up the house, I think that is a Reuben.
RS: No, that’s yours, Tessa. I didn’t come up with that one.
TM: Okay, well, that can be a Tessa-ism for today, but…
TM: Wake up the house, so we do that from the top down generally. And another thing, too, I think is helpful, is just getting a quick walk-through is seeing, okay, how many bedrooms do I have? How many bathrooms do I have? Where the bath fans located? Okay, there’s two bathrooms upstairs, so when I’m outside, and I’m on the roof, I’m gonna look for two bath fan dampers, right? Or maybe going out the gable and just kind of getting a feel for where rooms are located, where you should be expecting to see vents and all of that. So we work our way away from the top to the bottom and usually end up… We’ve got basements here in Minnesota, for those of you that don’t, you’re lucky. But basements usually have the most stuff to look at in them. All the mechanicals are located down there…
BO: Although Tess, I’d say for people who have crawl spaces, they’d say
TM: Oh, I agree with that, thank you. I was leaving out the whole slot in the country that has crawl spaces, yeah, I wouldn’t trade my place with you guys. But…
TM: Anyways, we take an inventory of the basement, take a look at all the mechanicals, see what we’re dealing with, take pictures of serial numbers, data plates, get that entered in. A lot of times we’ll locate the main water supply shut off, the gas shut off.
RS: Now, Tess, you said take pictures of serial numbers and get it entered in, just for clarification.
TM: Entered into our software.
RS: Yeah, we don’t actually record serial numbers and all of that. We just take pictures of all of it, so we have records, so we can refer back to it later on if we need to. But it’s not like that. I don’t like that’s important information that we need to include in our inspection reports, we just have it if we need to go back to it.
TM: Yeah, thanks for clarifying that. We do look up the age of appliances though, so we take down the data plates and then put the age of these appliances in the report, so…
RS: Why do we do that?
TM: Well, it’s required. We follow the ASHI Standard of Practice, and it does require that we report on, an appliance is approaching the end of its expected serviceable life, to report on that. So we wanna make sure that we’re documenting that, especially when you live in Minnesota, and you need a furnace nine months out of the year, you wanna know if you’re buying one that’s 20 years old, 15 years old.
BO: That’s the old Minnesota. Now in this new cycle, it’s only four months out of the year.
TM: There we go. Yeah, that’s what we’re moving towards. So this is, again, this is just kind of our initial walkthrough. We’re not doing a super, super detailed inspection of everything at this point. We’re just getting things going, making sure everything’s working, collecting data, putting it into a report writing software, and taking lots of pictures of things. We also do some infrared pictures this time too. And some inspectors also, I should add at this point in time, they will test the mechanical systems. Now, this is… We’ve kind of got some flexibility in our flow process where you can wait and do that at the end of this inspection when you get down to the basement at the very end, or you can do it here while you’re kind of doing your initial walk-through. So some inspectors will kick up the heat and get the furnace going when they walk in the house, and so that by the time they get down in the basement, it’s been running for 10-15 minutes, and they can test a furnace. We do a carbon monoxide test flue gas, and we also do a temperature rise test, so we’ll do that, and if we’re testing the AC, they can test the AC at that time, too, so.
RS: There’s a bunch of stuff you just covered that I wanna dig into a little bit more.
RS: As I realize, we are gonna cover flow process today, but we’re gonna have to rename this part one of flow process. This is gonna be a multi-part podcast ’cause there’s so much here to dig into, and I wanna dig into it ’cause this is the fun stuff. One of the items you talked about waking up the house, I think you mentioned turning the lights on. But a big part of the reason we do that, it makes the house more inviting for anybody else coming along. We can see things better, just having more light, and that’s our time to make sure that every light in the house is working. You’re consciously going around, turning on every light, every under-counter light in the kitchen, everything, and that’s your checks and balances right there. If anything’s not working, we take a picture of it right at that time, and we put it right in our report immediately. We’re not officially inspecting stuff just yet, but that’s where we catch lights that aren’t working. I wanted to hit on that. And then also, you talked about the two tests we do for furnaces, we do the carbon monoxide test. I know people are gonna ask, so let’s just throw out there what we use.
TM: We use a Testo for our flue gas analysis.
RS: Yeah, the Testo 310. We’ve used a lot of different carbon monoxide… What is the term?
BO: Gas analyzers.
TM: Flue gas analyzers.
RS: Gas analyzers, thank you. We’ve used a lot of flue gas analyzers and the Testos have definitely been the most reliable for us, we have liked those. And then for the temperature rise, I wanna dig into that for a quick second. Even if you’re not doing any technical testing on a furnace, I would encourage any home inspector out there to do a temp rise check. I think it’s one of the quickest, easiest and most telling checks that you can do on a furnace. Get a good idea of the health of it just to make sure that it’s not severely oversized. Because all of the furnaces, if you look inside, they’ve got a data plate, and it’ll tell you what the temp rise should be. Let’s say the air coming in, is 70 degrees, it might say a max temp rise of 60 degrees. It means, if it’s 70 coming in, it needs to be no higher than 130 coming out. Just a super quick and dirty test is, put your hand on the upper plenum, typically at the backside of the furnace, and if it’s too hot for you to hold your hand there, if it starts to get uncomfortable, there’s probably a problem with that furnace. And that the kind of the pain threshold where it starts to be uncomfortable is right around a 140 degrees. Obviously, it’s gonna differ from person to person, but if you put your hand on there, and it hurts, you probably have a problem. And it can be a lot of different things causing that.
RS: You might have a really dirty furnace filter, it might be as simple as that. Your duct size might be restricted, somebody may have gone around and blocked a bunch of the return vents, they may have closed a bunch of the supply vents, you may have a furnace that’s oversized, maybe severely oversized. We’ve seen that many times. And the problem there is that, your furnace is gonna run for a very short period of time, it’s gonna heat up the house really quickly, and then the furnace is gonna shut off. And all of the surfaces in your home don’t have time to really heat up. So your house warms up quickly and then your furnace shuts off, your house cools down quickly, and your furnace is constantly cycling. Or even worse situation, is where your furnace kicks on, it gets way too hot, hotter than it’s even designed to be, and then it shuts off because it has a high limit switch or safety switch that actually just shuts it off for safety. And that’s a problem, too. So doing a temp rise check can alert you to a lot of different potential problems. And this is one of those black and white things where it says right on the data plate, “The max temperature rise.”
RS: So it’s black and white. It’s not like you can say, “I’m being a nitpicky home inspector”. No. It’s 160 degrees coming out of this register at the top. This is way too hot.
BO: Mr. Saltzman.
RS: Now and I don’t know what I’m saying but you guys are both laughing at me.
BO: Do you do that all at this moment? Do you start digging in, or you’re just like doing do a quick swab of… And moving on? Are you data-collecting at this point, or are you getting in the full on furnace testing mode?
RS: Alright, we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe we’ll have to repeat all this again later. But I love talking about it.
TM: Well, like you said, Reuben, I think the temperature rise is one of the most telling tests you can do on a furnace to know if it’s working properly or not. And it doesn’t take long. It’s like you stick your thermometer in, and you’re done in like a minute.
BO: So it’s a smart thing to do. And obviously we’re passionate about it here at Structure Tech.
RS: Yes, we are.
TM: We all do it.
RS: Alright, I totally hijacked this.
TM: No, it’s good. Good information you’re sharing. We might have lost some homeowners, but I bet all of the inspectors are listening to this and probably feel passionately one way or the other on this subject too.
RS: Well, and you know what? Just to touch on that, Tess, we kind of did that check with our audience asking, “What if we did make this more home inspector focused?” And a lot of people said, “I got no problem with that. Just let me know what the show is at the beginning.” And if we talk about, “Hey, this is home inspector focus flow process,” the people, the homeowners who aren’t interested, they’ll tune out, that’s okay, come back…
BO: They’re still going to touch the back of their furnace ductwork.
BO: I’m telling you. [laughter]
TM: Look up their temp rise on their data tag on the inside of their furnace.
BO: I wanted to ask this question earlier, but now is as good a time as any. How much of this process is directly related to pain from a pocketbook? And how much was just like good thoughtful planning on the part of somebody like yourself, Reuben, who is really organized and sees life through organization?
RS: I’d say probably about 50/50.
RS: Yeah, there’s a lot of pain. That’s what I’m saying, is [chuckle] a lot of these things have developed out of hits to our pocketbook, things where we have paid out on stuff because we missed something that we could have easily caught had we just spent another 30 seconds to a minute doing one extra step.
BO: Can you take a minute and just touch on this top down concept too? Because I know that’s near and dear to your heart. You believe a house should be inspected from the top down at both the exterior and the interior. Now why is that?
RS: That’s the way gravity works. That’s where stuff flows we’re testing a lot of… Mostly it’s plumbing-based. We would run a lot of water during our home inspections, every tub, sink, shower, all that stuff. And when that stuff leaks, if you’re starting at the bottom, how are you gonna find it, unless you inspect everything twice? [laughter] It just makes a lot more sense to start at the top, work your way down and carefully inspect all the ceilings when you’re below all those plumbing fixtures you just got done testing, and use your infrared camera, too. We’re not just looking for stains, we’re looking for temperature differences in the ceiling, below the plumbing fixtures. It’s a huge reason that we use infrared cameras during every home inspection.
BO: Do you do it before and after?
RS: I don’t know what’s in our PNP today. I don’t think I ever did it before and after. I think we started getting into that, at the time when we were doing flood testing on showers where we would use a dam, and we would fill tiled showers up with about one to two inches of water. And a lot of those would leak. So we started trying to be a little bit more proactive about protecting ourselves to document pre-existing leaks. So if a ceiling was leaking, you couldn’t say, “Well, it’s our fault that that happened.” So we started scanning below all tiled showers before we ever tested them but we’ve changed our process. We don’t do that flood test anymore because so many showers fail, and we started getting into trouble probably about five years ago, where we had people saying, “We don’t even want you coming into our listings. Structure Tech is not allowed to inspect our listings ’cause you’re damaging houses.” And we had to quit doing it. It just… [chuckle] We were the only ones doing it. If there was licensing, and there was some type of process or a procedure in place that mandated it, that’d be one thing, but that’s not the case here in Minnesota.
BO: What do you use your shower dam for now?
RS: I don’t even know where it is, Bill. [chuckle]
BO: I figured you… Maybe you repurposed it for something. How long is this initial turning everything on, waking up the house session gonna take?
TM: Well, it depends. That’s a great question. It depends on obviously, the size of the house, the condition of the house. I think a lot of inspectors, now that we’re writing a report on-site during the inspection, are spending about an hour on the initial quick walk around the outside and going back inside, turning everything on, entering in some of the basic data on types of mechanical systems, ages, starting the appliances. They’re spending about, I’d say 45 minutes to an hour on that, typically. I’ll tell you though, before we switched to Spectora, when we were using a software where we’d go back home and write, this initial process was a little bit faster, ’cause we would just go through, snap some pictures, keep walking. So, it has…
RS: I’m glad you answered that Tess ’cause I was gonna say 15 minutes.
TM: Yeah, yeah, and it would Reuben. You would just… You’d speed right through this. But now, it takes a little bit longer, especially if you’re gonna be doing the mechanical testing kind of at this initial walk through phase, so yeah. And actually, one thing I forgot to add, too, on this quick walk-through is it’s a good time, too, to notice where any attic accesses are located, and if you’ve got crawl spaces, how you can get into those too. Just taking an inventory of all that, and that ties into just on your initial walk-through on the outside, too. Does it look like this house is gonna have two separate attics? Does it looks like there could be a crawl space? When I get in the basement, I’m gonna look for that. When I get upstairs, I’m gonna look for that. And just getting prepared so that when you do come back and when you are inspecting those areas, you know where to go, how to get there, and what ladder you need. [chuckle]
BO: That feels a bit like a forensics experiment or exercise, not experiment. So what clues are you looking for that tell you, “Oh, there’s probably two attic accesses or there’s probably a crawl space”? ‘Cause sometimes if you’re moving at a good pace, you might overlook something. So what’s tipping you off to that?
TM: I would say, just on your initial walk around the house, looking at the structure, do you have roof lines at different heights? Do you have sloped areas where you’re gonna have side attics and upper attics? Do you have, it looks like maybe additions that were put on where there could be a crawl space under an addition? So that’s something that kind of comes with just the initial extra walk around and experience. I don’t know. Reuben, do you have anything to add to that?
RS: It’s what you said, Tess. It’s looking at different areas where you have a roof at this height and then a roof at a much lower height, and they don’t appear to be connected, you’re gonna have two attics. And so huge on the crawl spaces. That is a big area where I’ve read a lot of cases about home inspectors being sued for missing crawl spaces. In fact, I saw an episode of, if you guys remember, it was Holmes on Homes. Mike Holmes had a TV show for a while where they were doing home inspections, and there was one episode, I remember watching, where they came in and just, boy, they had a lot to say about how incompetent this home inspector was because he’d missed a crawl space. And it was like, there was no access to it. There was no access panel, there was nothing in the floor, there was no way to get at it, it was just a little addition they had put on the side of the house.
RS: And unless you’re consciously thinking about this, you’re not gonna realize that, “Hey, there’s an area of this house here that I’m not inspecting”. And it’s so important to be aware of those spaces and to document it in your report and say, “Hey, there’s a crawl space here, there’s no access provided, and I could not inspect it”. That needs to go in every inspection report if it exists.
BO: Well, there’d never been anything wrong in that situation. [chuckle]
TM: So I think one of the things that I think is a real challenge for people that are training to become home inspectors is, we bring them in, show them this flow process, we teach them all the technical information about, “Okay, how to identify proper, different siding types and how to test a furnace and what to document inside an attic”, and it’s really easy to get caught up in the details of things and just look for defects and look for maintenance items and safety issues, and it’s almost like, kind of this checklist in your head with all this information you need to sift through and document, but it’s really easy to forget to just take a step back and look at the house through a wider lens and to look at the big picture. So, that’s what this whole initial part of our flow process is doing, is you’re taking a walk around the outside, you’re looking at the big picture, you’re thinking, where does the water go?
TM: What type of siding do I have? Do I have good grading? Do I have gutters? What does the deck look like? All these big picture things, and then going through the inside, and you’re thinking, “Oh wow, I’ve got a crawl space over here, and I’ve got additions over here, maybe there’s potential comfort issues, maybe there’s ductwork in an attic space.” You’re noticing all these big picture things so that when you go through later with a fine tooth comb, you can kind of put the little pieces together. But you don’t want to miss the forest through the trees.
BO: Reuben, do you think a majority of home inspectors really slow down at the beginning to take in this information and try to understand the story that they’re going to be hearing from this house?
RS: I don’t wanna speculate, Bill. My gut tells me there’s a lot of home inspectors who don’t do any of this, especially if you haven’t had the benefit of training under someone who has done this for a long time and made a ridiculous amount of mistakes. How would you know to do any of this stuff? But I don’t know.
BO: Right. Well, clearly, we just began scratching the surface on the process, and we burned through, I don’t know what, 30-35 minutes of just set up for a home inspection and that’s ’cause Reuben had to go deep on a furnace here.
RS: Sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know.
BO: Hey Reuben, over here! But we’re gonna chop this up. So we’re gonna do a couple of episodes for sure, maybe up to three on this whole process. And I don’t mean to predict a very boring future, but for those people who are interested in this, this is really important because that top-down approach is, I’ve seen first-hand a couple of times where you walk in a house and everything looks good, and then you go to the basement to do your mechanical work, and there is a massive puddle of water near a chimney stack or something, and you’re like, “Wow, I’m glad I was here to see that happen ’cause we could have got in trouble had we not been so lucky.” Those kinds of things, you’d sometimes better to be lucky than good, but a good process is gonna keep you out of trouble probably 99% of the time.
TM: Stick to the process.
BO: Okay, so this is Episode One of… Well, Reuben, probably five or six episodes if we let you start talking about all the technical…
RS: Yeah. We’re gonna have to have you run these mediums, Bill, and I’m gonna give you a mute button, and you give me a few minutes time, and we’ll continue on.
BO: Alright, well, you’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, that is Tessa Murry and Professor Reuben Saltzman on the other side. And we will catch you next time. Thanks for listening. Have a great week.