Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)

head_left_image

Home Inspection: Not Walking the Roof -- A Sign of Incompetence?

Is a home inspector incompetent if he or she does not, as a general rule, traverse roofs?

At one time it would have been safe to say "no, failure to go on the roof does not make an inspector incompetent". However, as client expectations change, and many in the industry strive to improve the credibility of home inspectors, I think that the answer to that question is now bobbing in the surf. As the public and the industry demand better home inspections, that is good for the consumer.

Let's look at some of the changes that are emerging. The old standards, used seemingly forever by the better-known home inspector organizations, were written to make it easy for an inspector to opt out of walking on a roof -- even low-sloped and flat roofs.

NAHI says:

"The inspector will, if possible, inspect the roof surface and components from arms-length or with binoculars from the ground."

 NACHI says:

"The inspector is not required to walk on any pitched roof surface."

ASHI says:

"The inspector is not required to walk on the roofing."

So, under those rules, if so inclined, an inspector can pull-up on-site, knowing full well that he or she will not try to walk the roof. Heck, there are no violations of standards, no explanations required, just tell the clients you do not do roofs. Do these professionals, who will not even consider walking a roof, realize that they are home inspectors? If an inspector cannot traverse even a simple single-story roof that is flat, or 3/12 slope with three-tab shingles, should that person with that attitude be a home inspector at all? Sure, some people are afraid of roofs and heights, but we hope that does not include those who are working as home inspectors.

Here is why I think changes are in the wind. First, I saw an article online from CREIA. CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Association) flat-out states that any inspector who does not normally walk the roof may not be doing a "competent" job. There is no state inspector licensing in California but CREIA, a non-profit, voluntary association, provides education, training, and support services to the real estate inspection industry and to the public. They state that their Standards of Practice have been recognized by the State of California, and are considered to be the source for Home Inspector Standard of Care by the real estate and legal communities.

Okay, so they have been around more than 30 years and they have credibility. So let us look at what they tell Californians, consumers, who are looking at hiring a home inspector:

"A detailed roof evaluation is a standard part of every competent home inspection. Home inspectors typically inspect a roof by walking on the surface, as this is the best way to observe and evaluate all pertinent conditions. There are some conditions that could keep an inspector off the roof (barring these circumstances, a competent inspector should include a walk on the roof)". The conditions they list include: The surface is too high for access with a normal length ladder; The roofing is so deteriorated that foot traffic would cause further damage; Surface conditions such as snow, ice, moisture, or moss make the roof too slippery; The roofing consists of tiles that might break under foot pressure; The sellers have told the inspector to stay off the roof

The intent is clear -- the inspector should arrive on-site prepared to walk the roof. Any decision, not to go on the roof, should be based on conditions found at the site, not pre-conceived policies that exclude walking the surface of the roof. Put simply, if one is not walking the roof, that should be the exception and not the rule. I always arrive prepared to traverse the roof, sometimes circumstances are such that I cannot.

This policy, expecting more from home inspectors, does not stop in California. The Washington State Home Inspector Licensing Advisory Board has put even stronger language in the Standards of Practice for this state. These standards become law in September.

Roofs.

The inspector will: 

Traverse the roof to inspect it.

There it is. Again, the intent is clear. The licensed home inspector, by law, must be willing to traverse roofs. There are times when an inspector cannot and should not go on the roof. The board is aware of that and there are "outs" in the law, as there must be.

But, if as a general practice, an inspector does not walk roofs, he or she is violating the law as written. There were some members on the board who wanted even stronger language in this regard. It would have mandated full disclosure to clients, when the inspection was booked, that the inspector does not go on roofs.

The bottom line: No inspector can walk every roof and some roofs are plain unsafe or could be damaged. But inspectors who have a policy of not going on roofs at all, or do not have an open-mind about it, are leaving out an important part of the home inspection. Fact is, it can be hard to detect roof and flashing problems even when you are up on the roof, let alone when you are on the ground or trying to stand on an incline to get a look. You have a better chance of inspecting fine details, appurtenances and flashings if you are actually up on the roof.

My view is that, to intentionally and as standard practice, to avoid roofs is a marginal effort on the part of the inspector -- to say the least. The inspector, later, writing into the report some generic mumbo-jumbo language -- called covering your rear -- suggesting that a roofer ought to get up there and check the roof at a later date is a poor substitute for, in the words of CREIA, a competent home inspection in the first place.

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspections

Steven L. Smith

If you enjoy nostalgia and music of yesteryear, click on Elvis' gold record to visit This Day In History. To explore The Stories Behind The Music blog posts click on the electric guitar. 

 

        

 

 

 

 

Comment balloon 58 commentsSteven L. Smith • February 26 2009 08:34AM

Comments

Steven, There are rules and there are client expectations. There have been very few instances in my experience where a buyer doesn't expect the home inspector to walk the roof. Rich

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 10 years ago

Steven, I do no t get on two story roofs as I no longer bounce that well. If the roof can be traversed, I will. I cannot see being out of business because I fell off a roof...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 10 years ago

I believe that binocular inspection should be enough. . 

If the roof looks bad. . just report "Roof needs replacing but you may need an experienced roofer to inspect it " and don't say Run for the hills!!, the roof is caving in!

If the roof looks so-so . .just report :Roof may need replacing in the near future and leave it at that

If the roof is new. . just report:  Roof appears to be new. . should last a while

 

If you climb up there. . you fall down, I get sue, the seller gets sue, my buyer freaks out and sees it as a sign form God and refuses to buy the house. . the listing will be a little annoyed to say the least. .and the home inspector will be a receptionist for the rest of his/her life.

 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 10 years ago

Michael,

Sounds like you plan to do the roof, but sometimes do not. That is different than inspectors who never go on the roof.

Ferndando,

That sounds well and good, and would apply to some roofs. However, any inspector who cannot get on a single story roof, 3/12 slope, with comp shingles in good shape, should be working as a receptionist. That would have been a better career choice. Your buyer will, also be freaked a few month later if there are roof problems that the inspector did not find.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Steve, good post----somehow this most important aspect of homes has to get inspected very well.  The home inspector is in the best position to be the one to do that whenever possible, and I totally agree that it should be the rule as opposed to the exception to the rule.  I really don't like deferring to roofing contractors due to the inherent conflict of interest.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Chalrie,

There are times to defer to a specialist such as a roofing contractor for sure, but not because you did not do a detailed job.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Steven excellent post and you make some very valid points. I agree with you, if you can't walk a simple 1 story 3/12 slope maybe a career change is in order. I'm a NACHI inspector and I walk the roof on almost every inspection I perform. There are so many things you can miss if you don't.

I'm a bit confused, since we carry E&O, genaral liablity and major medical ... who exactly is it that would be sueing the realtor or seller?

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) over 10 years ago

Suesan, I think some of these worst case scenarios were written by those who prefer the inspector not walk the roof because he may find things wrong.

Steven, The CT SOP on roofs is the same language as ASHIs. I walk the roof when I feel it is safe to do so or place the ladder against the roof if it is not walkable. Sometimes I feel it's not neccesary as was the case the other day. The roof was clearly no good and I recommended replacement.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Steven, you and Charles covered both "ends" of a house today!  Both were good blogs and point out very important things.  I also agree with James when he says it is very clear that some roofs are shot and will need to be replaced soon.  You guys have hard jobs!

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) over 10 years ago

An associate of mine fell off a roof a couple weeks ago breaking ribs and rupturing his spleen. I'm not sure what the circumstances were but either way I think we all know their are risks involved in walking a roof. That alone isn't reason to stay off every roof in my opinion. If it's safe to do so I think walking the roof is the only way to perform a complete evaluation. I suppose you could use the same analogy concerning crawls and attics. Sure you can shine your light in there but can you really see it all without going in?

Posted by Vince Santos, Southeast Michigan Home Inspector (StepByStep Home Services LC) over 10 years ago

James,

It is true that there are times when you know, sitting in your vehicle, that the roof is shot. In such cases, then I try to ascertain as best as I can that the roof has not led to problems in the attic or the interior. I have not had it happen but know an inspector who had an angry client. The inspector called that the roof was shot but missed some moisture on the interior ceiling. As Barbara says, this can be a complicated job.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Vince,

That is true, all of what you say. Anybody getting into the field of home inspection, who does not realize there might be some physical risks, is looking for a sugar coating. At BTC once, we had a student who we noticed seemed to avoid going up the ladder. He did not last long in the field. We had another student who, ends up, was afraid and claustrophobic in the crawl space.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Steven, Excellent points. In the past 18 yrs of being an inspector, there were 2 houses that were impossible to traverse on. In the Real Estate realm it is known that no roof is off limits to me.

I have been told that the main reason they hire me is because they know I will physically walk on it. I carry several size ladders with me and had to use all three of them on roof inspections before.

Hey, thats just me.                              ~ Life is Good

 

Posted by Roy A. Peterson, P.R.E.I. (Domicile Analysis of Texas) over 10 years ago

Hi Steven.  Great information, the back ground and the WA update.

I don't mind walking on roofs, yet I only perform roof walks when I am hired by the owner and not a buyer.   We are all aware of the risks involved.  I require that I am the owner's choice to be walking the roof.

Visual or Non-Invasive Inspection

I do not feel walking on the roof vs. not walking on the roof is the significant issue.  For the case where the roof inspection is limited to a visual or non-invasive inspection, I believe the key issue is a clear line of site to all roof surfaces.   As long as the inspector has a clear line of site, then a visual inspection may be performed.  If an inspector chooses to use a ladder, binoculars, peering out a roof hatch, using an extension camera, or some other method to get a clear line of site, then there is not a requirement to walk on the roof.  

Invasive Inspection

For the case of an invasive inspection.  Lifting up shingles, testing the fastening strength of flashing, roof load testing, and many other types of tests require the inspector to be in contact with the roof.

JIM'S OPINION - A Home Inspector is not required to perform any invasive inspections.  A roof walk is not required.  The method of reporting the roof inspection must include reporting of any roof surface that does not have a clear line of site.  Further evaluation, additional invenstigation, or whatever the local term may be, needs to be written in the report.

If there is a legal requirement for an invasive inspection, then there needs to be regulations for the procedures as well as equipment required to clearly outline safety precautions and liability.   It appears reckless and negligent for a regulation to be limited to a phrase like "traverse the roof".    In a professional environment, and I will limit this definition as to being employed by a company, I have never witnessed where it is acceptable for a ladder to be used by one person.  Anytime a ladder is used there must be a ground person involved.   As day labor or contract work, no one cared about my ladder safety.  I can still remember my early days as the kid on the construction site and hearing ...  what makes you think you're qualified to carry my ladder ...  The man was very serious. 

To me, this regulation says when a ladder is involved in a home inspection, a minimum of two professionals is required, or that the State is assuming responsibility in to ensure safety in single person ladder usage home inspections.

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) over 10 years ago

Jim,

The definition of traverse, defined by WA law is:

The act of physically moving through a crawlspace or attice or over the surface of a roof during an inspections when it is safe to do so.

There probably are OSHA rules, that apply to employees, that make it more difficult to get someone on a roof than is the case with the single inspector, sole proprieter, firm. This law does not mandate any second person. Far as I know, at this point, it has passed legal muster of the regulators.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Because the roof is bad should not exclude you from inspecting the house as normal. Checking the attic and all areas, as you mentioned, for moisture would still be expected. That information would only reinforce the fact that the roof was bad.

With regard to OSHA rules as single operators we are to some degree exempt. There are things inspectors do that would OSHA violations. I would think that could be a potential problem for a multi-inspector firm. Not so much the one man shops.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Good points and overall I agree, but here in the winter months roofs can be very dangerous Ice,snow etc

 

also when you see a wavy roof and you suspect structural integrity problems if you van look in the attic first

Posted by Dennis Goudreau (DRG INSPECTIONS LLC) over 10 years ago

While there are some good multi-inspector firms, I think that a lot of the "softening" of inspector protocols has evolved out of liability concerns related to multi-inspector firms.  Even as a builder there were certain installations that was just more practical to do myself than to have an employee do them because of liability issues.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Dennis,

All true. There are exceptions that allow one out of going on that kind of dangerous roof.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Roy...Wow. That is incredible.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Hi Steve,

I walk 'em all unless the pitch is just to steep for me to get up onto the cover from the eaves or at the valleys. The number of times that roofs looked great from the ground and turned out to have significant issues once I got up onto them is probably better than 50%. That's enough to convince me I need to do it, but that's only me. Walking roofs is a personal decision. Nobody can make it for you and if you gut tells you not to make the climb - don't.

I was about 10 when my father first got myself and my younger brother up onto a roof to learn how to shingle. He was adding a 1-1/2 story garage addition on the house. The roof was about a 6:12 slope. The first thing he did was make us wear soft-soled shoes and warned us never to wear shoes with hard leather soles (That was easy for us; we were just kids and wore sneakers anyway.) and then he taught us how to place our feet on the roof so there'd always be maximum sole surface area gripping the cover when we  were traversing and he taught us where to position our center of gravity. We spent the rest of that weekend helping him shingle that roof.

That was in the days before OSHA. We didn't wear safety harnesses and there weren't any fancy roof jacks, roof ladders or scaffolding - just a couple of cleats nailed to the deck to brace our feet on as we knelt on the surface. The next summer, he put me to work on his construction company building farm silos.

I don't have a fear of heights but I do respect heights. When I was 14, I slipped off of the solo scaffolding on Thanksgiving weekend, fell about 10 feet, landed on the corner of a piece of sheet metal and punched a hole the size of my fist in my back. 21 stainless steel sutures. Dad got me out there working the next weekend.

I didn't fall again for 34 years; then one hot day in 2000 I went off a roof. I think the reason that I fell is that I feinted from the heat but I really don't know because I have no recollection of the incident. While I was on the roof, the realtor and my client were measuring for carpeting inside the house. After a while, a kid walking down the sidewalk saw me lying in the yard, went up to the door, knocked, and then told them about the "bum" sleeping in the yard. By the time they found me, purple foam was coming out of my mouth; five broken ribs, a punctured lung and a pretty good gash in my head that caused a concussion and the memory loss. I spent 11 days in the hospital, was flat on my back for nearly 2 months and then spent another two getting strong enough and steady enough to work again.

I still go up on roofs; however, now my wife Yung, known affectionately as the Korean Konnection, accompanies me on every inspection she can and watches me like a hawk whenever I go up on the roof. It worked out great - she's a phenomenal interior inspector.

There is this tendency in this profession to come up with all sorts of reasons why one doesn't have to do something; don't go on roofs - it's dangerous (Duh, ya think?), don't go into an attic and walk on the lower chords of trusses because you can damage the house (Possible in only the remotest of circumstances, but if you know what you're doing - and you should you're an inspector and supposed to be the expert - it's a pretty poor excuse), don't go into crawlspaces because there might be snakes or spiders that will bite you (Due, ya think?). I've never seen a roofing employee or satellite installer go, "Hey boss, I can't work up there, it's dangerous," or an alarm systems installer refuse to go into an attic or crawlspace because he (or she) is afraid of damaging trusses or getting nibbled on by a spider. There are certain expectations that come with every profession - walking on roofs whenever it is possible is one that comes with this one.

The simple fact that people who are paid a whole lot less than we are go into these places every day of the week and do their jobs just fine without falling, without going through ceilings or otherwise damaging a house, and without getting bitten in crawlspaces is reason enough why home inspectors shouldn't be hiding behind namby-pamby reasons for not doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. These are simply excuses an inspector uses to be a little bit, pardon me if I offend anyone here.......lazy, or to get the job done quicker so they can move onto the next house and rush through it without getting dirty or tearing the knee out of their trousers, etc.

Have I refused to walk on roofs because I felt they were to dangerous to do so without specialized equipment? Yes, I but still do roofs that a lot of guys in the biz won't - only because I'm comfortable with heights and I have a different experience level than some. The objective is to do the best job for the client that one is capable of, no?

We all have a little voice inside us that tells us when we need to stop - I tend to listen to that voice 'cuz it's saved me from doing some very dumb things over the years. If the voice says, "Nah, ain't worth it," I listen. However, I'll never hear that voice when it comes to doing a flat roof or anything less than a 12:12 pitch, under dry conditions. I wouldn't expect every inspector to be able to do that, but I think that if inspectors aren't getting on flat roofs, or roofs that are up to at least 6:12 they should get out of the business because they are not giving the client the service that that the client expects.

For a different perspective from a fellow that used to be strongly opposed to roofs, and the reasons why he's changed his mind, click here.

Mike O'Handley, Editor - The Inspector's Journal (TIJ)

Posted by Mike O'Handley (Your Inspector Inc.) over 10 years ago

Mike----excellent comment.  I seriously doubt it is possible to be in the construction business without some sort of fall happening to you.  I have been dealing with roofs for most of my life plus professionally for over 35 years.  One time I walked up the sunny side of a 4/12 pitch roof with an extension cord in one hand and a power saw in the other hand.  I stepped over the ridge onto the shady side----all black ice.  I skied all the way off the roof and onto the ground 10 feet below.  Landed on my feet and broke the handle off my power saw when the cord and saw hit the ground.  Grabed another saw and started over----but stayed on the sunny side:)  Shit happens on roofs----and it is REAL important to be as vigilant as possible----and live to learn from your mistakes:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Jay,

As was mentioned before, OSHA tends to apply to firms with employees and many home inspection firms, at least around here, are lone wolfs. I can see where additional complications might apply to firms with hired inspectors. On the other hand, I have been perusing the OSHA ladder safety materials at the gov website and did not find anything excluding an employee from using a ladder. I am not arguing here, if you have a link showing other regulations, I would be interested to see it. The whole OSHA ladder safety pdf is here.

The specifics that I saw, basically, had to do with training employees to be safe. I also saw nothing mandating two people to a ladder. Do you see anything mandating more than one person in setting up a ladder? Also, the Comcast cable and Qwest phone installers are often in the neighborhood, sometimes with extension ladders, and they have them extended, fairly high, with one guy working ... nobody else from the firm on-site.

Training Requirements

Employers must train all employees to recognize

 hazards related to ladders and stairways, and

instruct them to minimize these hazards. For

example, employers must ensure that each

employee is trained by a competent person in the

following areas, as applicable:

Nature of fall hazards in the work area;

Correct procedures for erecting, maintaining

and disassembling the fall protection systems

to be used;

Proper construction, use, placement and care

in handling of all stairways and ladders; and

Maximum intended load-carrying capacities of

ladders used.

Note:

Employers must retrain each employee

as necessary to maintain their understanding and

knowledge on the safe use and construction of

ladders and stairs.

Steve

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Mike,

That is quite the story. I am more of a whimp and seldom go above 6/12 -- but sometimes.

Charlie,

That having fallen on your head does explain some things.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Wow, what a thread! I am excited. As a roofing estimator, I find it fascinating how a home inspector can inspect the entire contents of the home and not hop up on a 1 story, 6/12 or under roof. I have no idea what the inspection rules and regulations are here in Virginia, but I have met 2 inspectors who get on a roof, which protects everything that is under it.

Here are some things I would like inspectors to know in my area:

1. Quit telling home owners Slate Roofs are expensive. Most slate repairs are under $1,000.00.(NSCA Member) Slate Roofs last anywhere from 100-250 years here depending on quarry.

2. If the roof is under 4/12 pitch, it should NOT have a 4" exposure on the shingles.If it is under 2/12 it should not have shingles on it at all. (NRCA

3. Quit trying to be the Great Karnac and tell the homeowner much life the roof has in it. You don't know. No one does. When it leaks beyond repair, blows off, or you are tired of looking at the roof, it is time to replace.

All of the inspectors on AR that I have been reading are very competent and knowledgeable. I don't rant very much and I am sorry for doing so.

There are a lot of weekend warrior and day off fire fighters that are home inspectors around the Hampton Roads Area of Virginia. I have seen and read a lot of bone head reports when it comes to roofing. I also have a dedicated few who will call me and ask me questions on the right scope and detail for repairs.

Getting on roofs is dangerous and you must be comfortable on the roof you are inspecting. I get on about 600 a year. If I have upset anyone you can call me and blast me a new one. It will give my wife a chance to take a break :)

 

Posted by David Phelps (The Roofing Company, Inc.) over 10 years ago

David, I for one appreciate an opinion from someone who would be considered an expert. Meaning you actually do the job. I never try and estimate how long a roof will last other than to say it's done and needs replacing.

Maybe you should give your wife a break and stop pi**ing her off and she won't blast you. ;)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Great thread, I make every attempt possible to walk a roof. Poor site lines prevent you from seeing a damaged vent or chimney. Of course I am typing this with 6 inches of fresh white stuff on my roof just today and now 30 mph winds....kinda glad I have tomorrow off....not.

Posted by Tad Petersen / Home Inspector, Mpls (Safeguard Home Inspections, Inc.) over 10 years ago

I have a 23' ladder, of which I don't use 3', so I get on anything less than 20'. 

My legs won't let me walk on anything greater than 4/12, unless it is that for only 4' or so.

If there is snow or ice on the roof I wont go, unless it is small patches.  Oh, I don't walk a roof WHILE it is raining, I'll schedule a no charge trip back to catch it when it stops.

I also don't walk old slate or tile and by old I mean 20+ years. Around here I normally don't have to worry about that.  I have a friend that thinks he can fly, so I schedule him to do it for me.

Roofs are part of our job. They are of integral importance to the structure and longevity of a house.  If at all possible a HI should walk the roof, not the other way around (if at all possible avoid the roof).  There have been only 2 attics that I have not been in since I started (would have to have cut my own access) and a small handfull of crawl spaces (usually due to flooding).  These are my opinions and to do my job correctly this is what I feel I have to do.  But that's just me.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 10 years ago

Dave,

Like James I appreciate your input.

 

Jack,

What you say makes lots of sense.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

I believe that part of the inspection process is checking the roof, in Washington state most of the time you need a roof certification from a licensed roofing contractor but some of the time they just give it to get to the money and leave the insurance company holding the bag. So if the inspectors were well versed in the roofing aspect of there job it would save a lot of hassle by the potential home owner down the road.

Posted by Aaron Carter Construction LLC over 10 years ago

Steve

This subject reminds me of a couple homes where the sellers tried to pull a fast one.

In each case the roof, from the street, looked new giving everyone a false impression that everything was all new. The rear side of the roof could not be seen from the ground at all. But after setting up the ladder and walking the roof, it was clear that only the front half had been replaced. In each case the shingles on the back half were toast.

But there are many other inspections where if you did not get up on the roof, you would not see the less obvious defects, of which can cause major problems from roof leaks.

Many folks are surprised at the problems many roofs have, and that includes new construction. But the reality is that no one is looking over the shoulder of the roofing installers to make sure the materials are being installed right.

Good post. Our clients deserve to have a complete home inspection and doing our best to access the roof, when it is safe to do, is so important. Safety needs to come first however.

Posted by Harold Miller, Certified Professional Home Inspector (Miller Home Inspection) over 10 years ago

Steve - I had an inspector refuse to walk a one story with very minimal pitch. Now, that might have been fine if he at least climed a ladder to the roof to get a better look.   

Posted by Carol Culkin, Overland Park (Reece & Nichols) over 10 years ago

Hi Aaron,

I agree, if more inspectors were better trained it would indeed save homeowners a lot of future stress. However, at the danger of causing topic drift,  there is no requirement for home inspectors to recommend getting a roof certification by a licensed roofing contractor in Washington State. in fact, just the term "licensed roofing contractor" in Washington State is misleading because it conveys a sense to those who are looking for roofers that the contractor has somehow been properly vetted and is competent when, more often than one would expect, the roofer's work looks like a 5th grader's first attempt at covering a roof after seeing one episode of This Old House.

Maybe I just got soured on roof certs too early when I first got into this gig and it's colored my perception, because it's been my experience that most of the time the folks who want the roof cert are the agents or the seller - not the buyer or the lender. I understand the motivation behind it; after all, if an inspector reports that the roof is shot, or it's serviceable but very near the end of its useful service life, it's a whole lot easier to get someone out to write a cert to convince the buyer and/or lender that the cover is fine than it is to bite the bullet and figure out how to pay for a new cover. And, you know what? I wouldn't have a problem with certs if they were written as an actual guaranty of cover longevity but most of the time they are not - most of the ones that I've seen don't provide any recourse for a buyer when/if the cover fails before the number of years the cert guy estimated.

The very first cert I saw in 1996 is why I don't recommend clients get them. I'd inspected a house where the homeowner had pressure-washed a 19-year old 3-tab comp roof cover to make it look all clean and nice. In the process, he'd stripped a whole lot of the protective granules from the cover,  which wasn't too smart since that cover was a relatively lightweight economy grade fiberglass shingle. One would only expect to get about 20 years out of that cover anyway, but the fiberglass matting was all exposed at the keys and the pressure washer had literally cut grooves through the cover all the way to the underlayment in many places. It was summertime, it hadn't rained in a week and wasn't liable to rain for at least another week, but I knew that cover was going to leak badly the first heavy rain it was exposed to.

The wear on the cover was bad enough, but on the back slope of the roof a raccoon, or some kind of varmint, had literally gnawed/clawed his way through the roof cover and the underlying roof deck, leaving a hole about 6 inches in diameter. I wrote it up the way I saw it, an original cover intended to last about 20 years on a 19-year old house with extensive wear caused by wrong-headed pressure washing and with a 6-inch diameter hole through the roof that'd been caused by an animal of some sort. I stated that in my opinion the roof was shot and needed to be replaced and I recommended they get the roof deck repaired and get a few roofers out to give them bids on a new cover and then replace the cover.

Instead of getting bids, the selling agent, called me later in the day and asked me, kind of matter-of-fact as if it was normal to do so after an inspector had just recommended that a cover be replaced, if I'd certify that the cover would last another five years. I told her that I wouldn't do that because I didn't expect it to last beyond the first rainstorm. She said that the homeowner had insisted that the roof cover was only 10 years old and had at least another ten years left in it. I told her simply that she must have been talking to the wrong homeowner, because I'd seen a very well-worn cover that's expected to last about 20 years from installation on a 19-year old house that had been damaged by pressure washing and needed to be replaced along with a large hole through the cover and the deck that needed to be replaced. I told her that I hadn't found any evidence that the cover had ever been replaced, so I was sure she was being lied to. She hung up after expressing some displeasure at how "uncooperative" I was being.

The next morning I got a call from the client; he was upset and wanted his money back 'cuz he said I'd almost caused him to needlessly walk away from the deal. I asked for an explanation and that's when he told me that he'd paid a "licensed roofing contractor" to look at the roof and that contractor had given him a written certification that said that the cover would last at least another five years. "What about the hole; did he say anything about the hole?" I asked. "No, answered the client, "If he had, do you think I would have called you to demand a refund?" I asked the buyer to meet me at the house with both agents and the roof cert guy that afternoon.

I showed up at the appointed time, greeted everyone and asked to see the roof cert. The roof cert document was basically a one-paragraph memo on the roofer's letterhead stationary that said that the cover had "stood the test of time," was wearing normally and would last at least another five years. That was it, no guaranty of performance, no mention of the gouged cover and nothing about the hole in the roof. I off-loaded my ladder, set it against the house in the side yard near where the hole was, climbed up onto the roof and then asked the client, each of the agents and lastly the roofer to climb to the top of the ladder one at a time and look at the roof. As each came to the top of the ladder I didn't have to show them the 6-inch wide hole but I did wordlessly show them the grooves cut clean through the cover to the underlayment and the fiberglass matting exposed in the keyways and the age cracking in the shingles.

Nobody said a thing. I climbed down, folded my ladder, turned around and said, "Someone here owes me $____ (naming my hourly rate) and owes him (pointing to the client) a refund. The selling agent opened her purse and wrote me out a check. Nobody spoke. I said to the client, "As I told you before and in the report, get the roof deck repaired, and get a new cover installed on this roof. Good luck with the rest of your transaction." I then turned and walked to my truck, loaded the ladder and left. Before I'd gotten in my truck, I could hear raised voices coming from the side yard.

Yeah, there have been a few times when I know that lenders actually did want to see certification of a specific number of years on roof covers that I'd said were serviceable or borderline, but most of the time when I've recommended replacement of a cover and one of the agents, or the client (because he'd been told to do so by the agents), called me to ask about getting a cert, and I've checked with the lender involved, it turned out that the lender hadn't requested a cert at all. It's kind of hard not to be skeptical of the entire roof "certification" process after experiencing that.

I certainly appreciate the comments made by the roof estimator in this thread above, but I could just as easily have used the same broad brush to paint all roof estimators/certification folks. Come to think of it, I guess I just did; my bad.  I've often shared his frustration after being called out to do second inspections on houses looked at by others in my profession. However, I'd argue that a competent home inspector knows when a roof cover is serviceable, needs repairs or is completely shot; and I believe that a competent inspector can usually, not always, do a pretty good job of estimating how much remaining service life one can expect on a cover in his or her region of the country under normal wear conditions - storms and natural disasters excepted  Not all home inspectors come from a burger-flipping background; there are more than a few in this business who actually had excellent teachers, know what they're doing and are easily as competent as he is.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike O'Handley - Editor - The Inspector's Journal (TIJ).

Posted by Mike O'Handley (Your Inspector Inc.) over 10 years ago

Harold,

When I read your comments I am always impressed by the level of care you provide.

Mike,

That is a great story. I bet it is more fun to tell now than it was back then.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Steven,
this is a really hot topic in North Carolina.  Our standards in practice do not require us to walk on the roof.  I guess has the home inspector safety in mind.  I don't totally agree with the standards of practice.  I train all my inspectors to get on the roof if they can.  I'll always see something from the roof that I couldn't have seen from the ground binoculars are not.  I do train my inspectors, however not to go on roof if they feel it is unsafe or has to hire the pitch.  Falling off of the roof is not worth a couple hundred dollars.  I tell them though if they say it is unsafe it better be unsafe.  I don't want this to just be an outlet to be lazy.

Thanks for all your great posts

Preston Sandlin

http://homeinspectioncarolina.com

http://askthecharlotteinspector.com

 

Posted by Preston Sandlin (Home Inspection Carolina) over 10 years ago

Hey Steve, great post!!

I wonder, with the market being what it is and inspectors having less work, do they do things they normally wouldn't just to get the work?...we know how scarce work has been for everyone (at least here).

Posted by Tony Orefice, Realtor/Harrisburg NC,Concord NC (Wilkinson ERA/www.TonyORealtor.com) over 10 years ago

Hi Steve,

Yeah, it wasn't much fun. I'd just retired out of the military and moved to the Seattle area 3 months before. It was one of the very first instances I'd encountered where an agent in a beating around the bush kind of way tried to solicit my cooperation to do damage control for her transaction.

I stood my ground and never heard from any of her clients again. Can't say that I ever suffered for it or felt I'd done the wrong thing, though.

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of the real estate folks that I've met have never tried that nonsense; still, when it does occasionally happen, it's kind of like having someone accost you loudly on the street or in a crowded room; it's uncomfortable and it's difficult to respond to in a diplomatic fashion without losing my temper.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike O'Handley, Editor - The Inspector's Journal (TIJ).

Posted by Mike O'Handley (Your Inspector Inc.) over 10 years ago

Tony,

You are probably right, some people are expanding what they do to get the jobs.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Mike,

Well, even though it probably got the blood pressure up, I bet it sure beat the story before that where you told of being confused for a bum laying in the yard....now that is bad when you are hurtin'.

Steve

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Some of the previous comments refer to having roofing contractors be called to inspect the roof.  To me this is a little like sending the fox into the hen house to collect the eggs.  The home inspector is in the best position to provide an unbiased assessment of the condition of the roof.  I have had roofs that I couldn't assess in the context of a standard home inspection but I still wouldn't defer it to a roofing contractor.  I would either defer it to someone else that I knew could do it safely or have me back with my ropes and climbing gear or cherry picker to asses it.  There are crazy home inspectors out there that are willing to do these assessments----not just roofing contractors.  Can you say "niche market?":)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Hi Steve.  Great topic and many great comments on this posting.

Let me add one more perspective.   The presence of the client, seller or seller's agent along with the home inspector and their safety.   No doubt that there are many home inspectors qualified to safely perform a roof walk.  Writing the regulations such that the "normal" home inspection includes a roof walk and the "exception" is explain why the inspector could not perform the roof walk, sets new expectations.

Many of the earlier comments (mine included) discuss the safety of the inspector.  I feel it is also important to note that during a "normal" inspection, the inspector expects to be accompanied by the client and the seller or seller's agent.   Do you expect the client, seller or seller's agent to be included on the roof walk?

It sounds like the WA regulations are taking home inspections that meet minimum State requirements into a new area.

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) over 10 years ago

Jim,

You have a very different expectation there based on what I am used to. Around here, many inspectors and maybe most buyer's agents, demand that the seller be gone from premises during the inspection. That is close to standard, given usual circumstances. As for a seller's agent on-site, very seldom have I seen one during an inspection. Often the buyer's agent is there. In fact, it is pretty standard in agreements that the inspector will not share inspection information with the seller. That is, also, a part of the Washington law that will go into effect but, standard in most transactions even now.

So, while most inspectors I know will welcome a client, encourage them to be on-site, it is not standard for them to do all the things the inspector does. They do not got into the attic. I have seldom, a handful of times, had one go into a crawl space. I do not want them too close when I have the electric panel open. And, I do not want them up on the roof with me.

Unless things are different where you are, I think that it is assuming too much to infer that when the state asks more from an inspector, that such a law also increases the workload for the client. This does not make it mandatory, or even likely in my book, that the clients will be rolling up their shirtsleeves and getting full bore into the inspection process. That is what the inspector is hired to do. De-briefing on site is one thing, too much participation on the part of the client is, at the least, a distraction and can be dangerous. That applies even now.

Remember, WA law will not mandate a roof walk if it is unsafe, but it does raise the bar. I suspect that you will see more of that aas people want better inspections. To the best of my knowledge, at the public hearing for the law, there was not one inspector in the state who had a negative word about that roof language. Thanks for the comments, this is a hot topic as is evidenced by all the comments at the post.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

I made this clarification over at Charlie Buell's re-blog of this topic. I thought I ought to make it here.

There are those who are mis-reading the language of the proposed Washington law. Some seem to think that this language is trying to turn home inspectors into the Flying Wallenda's an old high wire act. That is NOT the case at all.

It is about an inspector's attitude. There are tons of roofs that nobody should be up on. The problem I have is with inspectors who will just flat not even think about going on the roof ever. That, in my book, is a lousy attitude for an inspector. Some such inspectors will tell you how they can see everything standing on the ground. Yeah right, like multi-layer roofs (sometimes) condition of felts (if there are any). Sometimes you can tell those things from the eaves on a ladder. But even if a roof is a tear-off, knowing that info is valuable in letting the client better understand what replacement costs might be. What gets me is the group of inspectors, and there are several in that group, who read this and have a tantrum. They act like I am saying they need to get on all roofs. NOT. They need to read it again, an inspector will access a roof if it is safe and does not damage the roof. I even had a photo in a recent blog, showing a roof covered with snow. I am not going up there. But if I never went on the roof, would not even consider it ever, I would feel that I was merely walking through the motions of doing an inspection.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Stephen,

Are you leaving some pieces of the law that have been left out? "Traverse the roof to inspect it."

If your not I have a major issue with the decision by the board and will be contacting them shortly. I was part of  WHILAG and remember debating the SOPs. Our version was more consistent with ASHI's and NAHI's.

Personally my preference is to walk the roof however their are many roofs that are beyong my 19" Little Giant or are not safe to walk  or could be damaged. The law needs to cover those situations or we will be libeling ourselves by not traversing a roof.

 

Please elaborate on how the law covers roof inspections...


Rick Bunzel, CRI
Pacific Crest Inspections

NAHI Member of the Year 2008

NPSAR Affiliate of the Year 2006-2007
WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
360-588-6956
Fax 360-588-6965

Toll Free 866-618-7764

Posted by Rick Bunzel (Pacific Crest Inspections) over 10 years ago

Hi Rick,

No, Steve didn't leave anything out but you apparently missed this:

(2) The inspector is not required to:

Traverse a roof where, in the opinion of the inspector, doing so can damage roofing materials or be unsafe. If the roof is not traversed, the method used to inspect the roof must be reported.

I should point out that under Exclusions and Limitations the SOP also says:

An inspector may exclude those systems or components that a client specifically requests not to be included in the scope of the inspection or those areas that, in the opinion of the inspector, are inaccessible due to obstructions or conditions dangerous to the inspector. When systems or components designated for inspection under this SOP are excluded, the reason the item was excluded will be reported.

Steve has stated it perfectly; the intent of the board was that whenever possible, and in the judgment of the inspector conditions make it safe to do so, the roof should be traversed. When conditions preclude an inspector from traversing the roof, the inspector must document in the report how he or she inspected the roof, ie. from the top of a ladder at many points around the perimeter, from the ground with binoculars, or simply write in the report that the roof was not inspected and why.

There are occupations where one is expected to do certain things that appear dangerous to those who aren't in those professions but for those in the profession it's just another day on the job.

Electricity is deadly and some folks are terrified of it but an electrician works around it all day every day and relies on his or her training to keep safe. 

A carpenter working for a framing contractor is expected to climb tall ladders and go onto roofs.

A satellite dish installer would be expected to go up tall ladders and onto roofs.

A chimney sweep would be expected to go up onto ladders and walk on roofs to a certain extent/

A roofer would be expected to go up ladders and walk on roofs/

A home inspector is expected to climb ladders and walk on roofs.

Nobody would expect a framing contractor who works in residential construction on one and two story homes to think that doing steel work 500ft. off the ground is safe, but if you were a steel man it's just part of the job; you know there is danger there if you screw up, but if you know your job it's no more dangerous than climbing a 6ft. high ladder to change a light bulb - a fall under either circumstance can kill you just as dead.

It's kind of like that Monster.com commercial I saw recently where the guy was hugging a horizontal beam, crying, and inching his way along until he became paralyzed with fear and found himself stranded out there in the middle of the beam; then the camera panned out to show that he was 5ft. off the ground. He was obviously in the wrong job,..for him.

If in one's judgment it's just too dangerous to go up onto a cover because of conditions, one shouldn't do it; however, the smart inspector should give the client options like offering to come back on another day when the roof has dried out, when the cover is free of snow or ice, or when the client has arranged for a cherry picker, etc..

Someone with a fear of heights, a fear of insects or rats, or claustrophobia should never get into our business because they'll be expected to go up onto ladders and roofs and into attics and crawlspaces where there are insects and other creepy crawlies. If they do get into this business, they're expected to overcome their fears and do the job right regardless.

I'm a perfect example, I'm comfortable at heights, I'm not afraid of tight places, insects or creepy crawlies, but you know very well that I'm more afraid of a single rat than I am of death. Nonetheless, I knew what the expectations of the gig were when I got into it and I had to suck it up - I go into crawlspaces and attics all the time and go everywhere that I can possibly fit, knowing that there are going to be rodents there someplace. I take precautions; that's what a pro does and I know that it's what you do. - I'm thinking of your excellent ladder safety article on TIJ from a few years ago.

So, there are expectations of the profession but you are not expected to place yourself in danger and are supposed to rely on your training, experience and judgment to keep you safe. When you think it's just not safe to do so, you aren't expected to do the task. 

Here are a few situations where we might justifiably balk at going up onto roofs:

  • when a roof is taller than our ladder and trying to get from our ladder onto that too-tall roof is very risky because there isn't anything to grip, no footholds, etc.
  • when a roof is covered with ice, snow, wet moss or algae and is simply just to slick to walk on without slipping and falling.
  • when a roof has a pitch that's so steep that it's impossible to traverse without slipping and falling.
  • when the roof surface looks unstable.
  • when the cover is made out of a material that's just to slippery to safely gain traction on(Wood Ruf, Metal).
  • when, due to our weight, we risk damaging the cover (concrete or clay tile, spray foam).

Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to think that the exclusions and limitation section says that an inspector can simply blow off going onto a roof because the inspector doesn't like heights. The inspector is still required to inspect the roof, even if it's from the top of a ladder or from the ground with binoculars, and the inspector must document the reason for why the roof wasn't traversed. 

There's also nothing that says that the inspector can't state in the report, "Roof not traversed because I'm afraid of heights," however, that inspector is also required to warn the client before the inspection that he or she is afraid of heights and won't be going onto the roof because the Contracts portion of the standards states:

Contracts.

A preinspection agreement is mandatory and as a minimum must contain or state:  

(3) General description of what the home inspector will and will not inspect.

Therefore, if the inspector is one of the 5% of inspectors that won't go onto roofs for any reason because he'd afraid of heights and feels that going onto a roof is too dangerous for him or her, the inspector has a duty to state that restriction in the preinspection agreement, so that the client, who might fully expect that the roof will be walked on, will understand before the inspection that particular inspector doesn't go onto roofs under any condition. That gives the client the option of canceling the inspection and finding an inspector who will inspect a cover that the other 95% of inspectors will go on under dry/safe conditions.

Bottom line - for the typical inspector who is well trained, experienced and conscientious, this isn't requiring the inspector to do anything that he or she isn't already doing; however, for those inspectors who routinely don't do something that's considered the standard of care by the majority in their profession, it requires them to fully inform their client beforehand and to accurately document why the standard wasn't met.

Mike O'Handley - Editor - The Inspector's Journal (TIJ) -- Your Inspector Inc., Kenmore, WA PH; 425-298-8413

Posted by Mike O'Handley (Your Inspector Inc.) over 10 years ago

Mike,

Here's what Steve wrote:

Roofs.

The inspector will: 

Traverse the roof to inspect it.

There it is. Again, the intent is clear. The licensed home inspector, by law, must be willing to traverse roofs. There are times when an inspector cannot and should not go on the roof. The board is aware of that and there are "outs" in the law, as there must be.

I couldn't find the SOP online so I reread Steve's comments. He wasn't clear. Thanks for the clarification. your explanation was as I thought the SOP language should be. Can I find the draft of the SOP online somewhere?

 

//Rick

 

 

 

Posted by Rick Bunzel (Pacific Crest Inspections) over 10 years ago

Rick,

Please do not take a single sentence out of context. I know the post is long, but the new rules are complicated and a person really has to look at every word. Some of them surprise some of us on the board. If you will read all the article, you will see that I stated several times that there were situations where the inspector would not walk the roof. It was very clear.

For example:

Quote:

 The intent is clear -- the inspector should arrive on-site prepared to walk the roof. Any decision, not to go on the roof, should be based on conditions found at the site, not pre-conceived policies that exclude walking the surface of the roof. Put simply, if one is not walking the roof, that should be the exception and not the rule. I always arrive prepared to traverse the roof, sometimes circumstances are such that I cannot.

Quote two, include the line right below what you put in above, leave it as written: 

The inspector will:

Traverse the roof to inspect it.

There it is. Again, the intent is clear. The licensed home inspector, by law, must be willing to traverse roofs. There are times when an inspector cannot and should not go on the roof. The board is aware of that and there are "outs" in the law, as there must be.

This whole process is complicated enough as it is, so we need to be careful that we do not take things out of context. I just think that what I said is clear, if it is read in context, not just pulling out a couple lines.

I will post a link for you to the SOP. You can get there from here. There is a link in this blog.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Steve, you are right.  If one reads your article carefully it is pretty clear whether we like it or not.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Hi Rick,

Yeah, they are here. Click on "Rules Under Review."

Mike O'Handley - Editor - The Inspector's Journal (TIJ) -- Your Inspector Inc., Kenmore, WA PH; 425-298-8413

Posted by Mike O'Handley (Your Inspector Inc.) over 10 years ago

To be perfectly frank... I go on roofs that I have absolutely no business being on... and I should probably be a little more reserved.  You should see the back to the roof, belly to the air, two hands and two feet techniques to get up steep inclines that I could never walk on if I was using golf shoes.  My wife would be horrified.  With the recent news about the home inspector in the Tacoma area that fell off and died, it has me thinking that I might be a little over the top when it comes to "traversing" the roof.

jn

Posted by Justin Nickelsen, CMI - (p 360.907.9648), Vancouver/Portland/WA/OR Home Inspector (NICKELSEN HOME INSPECTIONS - Vancouver WA Home Inspector) about 9 years ago
This is extalcy what I was looking for. Thanks for writing!
Posted by Cornelia about 8 years ago
Geez, that's ubnleeiavble. Kudos and such.
Posted by Maggie about 8 years ago

Greetings Steve, I own a home inspection in Florida and I'm beginning to see a trend of real estate agents recommending the four-point inspection instead of a full and they want every single item under those four categories to be 100% inspected and have the same expectation of finding/results as a full buyers inspection does. Do you have four point inspections in your state and do you ever come across this? 

Sincerely Ken Miller  www.manateehomeinspection.com

Posted by Ken Miller, We do all types of home inspections. (Manatee Home Inspection Services LLC) over 3 years ago

Ken,
Yes, that is a term I know. Some firms around here advertise four point inspections. I have never done one and would be reluctant to do so. The biggest deal killers I have found involve wood destroying insects and massive damage in substructure crawl spaces and basements. In this state, following laws and protocols by DOL or WA Dept of Agriculture, not inspecting substructure or attics puts an inspector on shakey ground at best and in many cases it would be illegal. Not reporting on the exterior components and condition is bad form as well. If I were doing these lesser four point jobs I would have it in a special contract that it was not a full inspection and that many serious problems that would be reported in the course of a full inspection will be ignored. Any agent who thinks the four point is the same as a real inspection is poorly informed, naive or trying to close deals by reducing the odds of serious problems being found by limiting the scope of the job. I can see clients not getting it all, the differences in inspections, but agents need to see the big picture and make wise recommendations that best serve clients vs. hedging their bets with lesser inspections that exclude the most critical structural parts of the house.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 3 years ago

It's a Visual Inspection. Inspectors can easily inspect a roof from using binoculars and gaining access to the attic. it's in competent to put oneself in a liability situation where one can either fall off of a roof or perhaps fall through a roof. Most States require inspectors to carry liability and products insurance. Consider this, if you fall through a roof, you not only damaged the property, but you also can be injured. Your insurance is not likely to cover that since you were at fault. Be safe, get a good set of binoculars and always bring a 6ft ladder in case attic access is through a ceiling. You can see more about the roof structure from the attic by inspecting the rafters and sheathing. You'll also be able to point out moisture or water damage. You can't see that from above. Feel free to contact me. Joseph of J.R. quality Home Inspections, Scranton PA. (ISHI Certified Member) Certified in UPCS by U.S. Inspection Group.

Posted by Joseph over 2 years ago

Steven,Thanks for your post. I’m curious to know a bit more about this as this seems to be a bit of a grey area — What is your opinion on an inspector who 1) does not get on the roof, 2) doesn’t walk the roof surface at all, and 3) doesn’t tell his or her client that s/he never walked the roof as part of the inspection? And on top of that, 4) gives the roof a clean bill of health in terms of functionality and safety. What is your opinion on something like this?

Posted by Anonymous 9 months ago

The answers depend on a few factors. These are my opinions.1. If there are factors that make it unsafe to do so....slick, mossy, too steep, it might damage a surface like a tile roof...then it makes sense for an inspector to do as good a job as is possible without traversing. That might mean moving a ladder around and climbing it to look. It could be looking down on it from a hill, if one is right there, or using binoculars. If the roof can safely be accessed and walking it is not unsafe or destructive, at least in WA state, an inspector should walk it.2. Is part of the above answer.3. Any inspector who knows what he or she is doing will describe very specifically how the roof was inspected....walked, ladder from the eaves, fully excluded. And I have always described why I could not walk a roof...when that was the case...and how that limited the inspection. Any inspector should do that, if for no other reason to control liability.4. I always called out what I saw as defects. But I never gave any roof warranty or swooned over how great it was or even used the word adequate. I have seen 3 that I thought looked good, but I knew they leaked in certain wind and rain conditions. And I have seen brand new roofs where the location of the house and high winds led to chronic problems with shingles blowing off. Only a novice inspector...or a goof...would start issuing proclamations such as a clean bill of health for a roof surface: Cite the problems, describe what you see, but don't try to predict the future.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) 9 months ago

So, all of a sudden after ten years up pops an alert to check out this post.

Anonymous asked Steve, "What is your opinion on an inspector who 1) does not get on the roof, 2) doesn’t walk the roof surface at all, and 3) doesn’t tell his or her client that s/he never walked the roof as part of the inspection? And on top of that, 4) gives the roof a clean bill of health in terms of functionality and safety. What is your opinion on something like this?"

I'm not Steve, but I'm still happy to answer - anyone in this profession who does those four things isn't an inspector - he/she is a dishonest hack, a fraud, a thief, a liar and a crook all rolled into one.

The SOP is the law. It says that if you don't do 1 or 2 above you must do 3 - inform the client and state the reason why by documenting it in the report. If one hasn't done 1 or 2, how can that hack/fraud/thief/liar/crook state that the roof is in good shape? Answer - he/she can't, but if he or she has done that without even inspecting the cover than he or she is - to put it plainly - not just a hack, fraud, thief, liar and a crook all rolled into one - he/she is a scumbag. I'm sure nobody here wants me describing exactly what a scumbag is - lets just say that if you are considered to be one you are the lowest of the lowest of the lowest.

As I mentioned previously in this thread, there is nothing wrong with saying that you didn't inspect the roof because you are afraid of heights and absolutely will not go on a ladder, let alone get up on a roof to walk it and inspect it, because you are afraid of falling, in fact, the SOP states that, if that is your policy you MUST state that in the contract. The specific section I'm speaking of is this:

AC 308-408C-050 - Contracts.
A preinspection agreement is MANDATORY and as a MINIMUM MUST contain or state:

(1) Address of property.
(2) Home inspector compensation.
(3) General description of WHAT THE HOME INSPECTOR WILL OR WILL NOT inspect. That description will include ALL items that the Washington state SOP requires to be inspected.

That means that the customer will have read that in the contract and will have agreed to that and signed the contract before the inspection begins, so there is no need to not mention it to the client.


Will most clients disagree with that? Most assuredly, but if you've explained it to them, they've accepted the terms and have shown that they've agreed to those terms with their signature on the contract there is no reason to be underhanded and to omit mention of it in the process or the report, and that client still has the option of hiring a real home inspector to come out and do the roof and provide him or her a roof report.

Since my last previous comment above, lots of inspectors have begun using drones to look at roof covers and they believe that's sufficient examination of a roof cover. Well, if one is not going to actually go up onto the cover and touch it, how does one determine whether the shingles have properly adhered to one another? How does one determine when roof overlaps or edges have been properly adhered with mastic where necessary? How does one confirm that the roofing nails are set straight and to the proper depth or that the right number of nails have been used per shingle? These are just a few of the things that a drone can't determine. Are those drone operators mentioning in their preinspection contracts that those parts of the roof inspection won't be done because they are using a drone? Are they mentioning that it wasn't done in the report, so that the client can, if he or she has a mind to, call up another inspector whose willling to do those areas and hire that inspector to get those areas done properly?

Lots of inspectors sit on their high horses and declare that it is a visual inspection only, and that there is no reason an inspector ever needs to go onto a roof's surface. That's because those high-and-mighty folks don't belong in this gig. Should a guy/gal that gets whoozy at the sight of blood be a surgeon? Should a guy/gal that's afraid of confrontation, or is terrified at the sight of a gun and can't hit the side of a barn from ten feet away, ever be a police officer? Should an avowed racist be allowed to work as an equal opportunity officer? Hell no!

Than why do we continue to accept folks in this gig who don't think that it's necessary to get up onto roofs and walk them, except in the most extreme circumstances, or who will not go up into attics and inspect them from end-to-end, except in the most extreme circumstances, or who won't go into a crawlspace and crawl it from end to end on every house regardless of how dirty and messy it is, except under the most extreme circumstances?


The standard for what it is we do was first set years before it was ever first put down in writing forty years ago. Why do folks coming into this gig who are too lazy or too greedy to give folks what they expect and have paid for get to decide what's the standard? They shouldn't be allowed to decide that. They should either tow the line and do the friggin job or get the hell out and go flip burgers or whatever else they're qualified to do except inspect homes.

Posted by Mike O'Handley 9 months ago

Participate