"Commercial Inspection Prerequisite Course"

This thread is dedicated exclusively for those students currently enrolled in the InterNACHI course titled, “Commercial Inspection Prerequisite Course”](http://www.nachi.org/commercialcourse.htm)

The purpose of this course is to outline the “International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties” and to define best practices and establish a reasonable approach for inspecting commercial properties.

And, in keeping with InterNACHI’s commitment to Continuing Education, this course is open and free to all members, and can be taken again and again, without limit.

Students are free to pose questions and comments here and join in the conversation with other students. The thread will be monitored by the course instructor.

Contact: Director of Education, Ben Gromicko ben@internachi.org

Inspector training courses: www.nachi.org/education.

Thank you.

During a commercial inspection of a small 65 year old building the Superior Inspection Group based out of Cookeville, TN discovered this fire place damper completely rusted out. The rain cap was damaged allow water penetration into the fireplace. The damper was completely inoperable due to the rust.

Read the articles on crawl spaces and it’s your job to break it. On the issue of crawl spaces, I couldn’t agree more about the dangers encountered. I have come across snakes and spiders, as well as black mold. Almost every crawl space inspection I’ve done there have been numerous wires on the ground and some with the dryer exhaust terminating in the crawl space where lint is hanging everywhere. As far as doing damage during an inspection, I have not thought about like it’s our job to break things, but if they break during normal operation during the inspection, I write it up as defective.

I completed reading two articles for the course.

Smoke Alarm Inspection

I learned that 23% percent of time after a fire with fatalities it was found that the smoke detectors had been disabled. Probably due to low batteries not being replaced and producing the intermittent beeping sound.
And that there are 3000 fatalities a year from residential fires.
Most of the fatalities are a result of smoke inhalation.

Adjustable Steel Columns

I learned that no more than 3" of the column screw should be exposed.
The plates should be mechanically fastened at the top and bottom.
Maximum lateral displacement should not exceed 1".

Tom Witt

Upon inspection of the basement in an approximately 100 year old building in Baltimore it was noted that there was no fire wall in place between the properties basement and the adjoining properties basement.
Certainly this can allow fire to spread easily between the properties and can allow carbon monoxide to enter if the adjacent properties furnace or water heater venting system failed.
It was recommended that a licensed contractor correct this situation.


Upon the initial perimeter walk around I noticed a sink hole near the foundation. It appears not to be new. The ground around the hole seems to be fairly solid, although not knowing the depth and extent of the opening below ground it’s probably advisable not to get too close.
I would suggest further investigation by a foundation specialist.

HVAC unit mounted on a flat roof on a commercial location. This is a somewhat typical for a commercial application, a unit with the compressor and air handler together. Noted the system in place was in excellent condition. However, as the interior of the space was only roughed in, the ductwork stopped just inside the ceiling. This allows the new tenant to set up the system as required for their operation and layout. The compressor did show evidence of a previous repair on the refrigerant tubing. I believe a leak had been brazed. Additionally, as the sun in this area is intense, the nomenclature mounted on the exterior of the unit had faded to the point that it was almost unreadable. If the client had requested specifics on the HVAC system a serial number and some research would have been needed to acquire missing details. As the power was off to the space an operational check was not possible.

Read the articles, ‘Commercial Real Estate Terms Inspectors Should Know’
by Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko, and ‘Drones and Inspections’
by Nick Gromicko, Thomas Zachar and Kate Tarasenko.

Found ‘Drones and Inspections’ an interesting article. Had not considered the usefulness of drones for the inspection of structure. Drones would be likely to provide an excellent alternative to walking a roof; thus improving inspector safety and limiting the potential for damage - unless you crash your drone ; )

More information on the FAA rules and a timeline for the small business can be found at http://fortune.com/2015/03/24/faa-commercial-drone-approval/ . According to the author of this article though some new blanket approvals have been granted, but unfortunate only for the limited number of companies already approved for commercial use.

Inspecting the water heating units of a rental townhouse, I found them to be in new and in good working order. The access is sufficient and marked off with caution tape, so as to guide anyone not to step off the walking surface and onto the ceiling drywall board. The water heaters each hold 40 gallons and are plumbed in serial fashion to give the tenets an 80 gallon net capacity.

Summary of two articles from the InterNachi library.

Wood Decay -

Wood decay generally falls into two categories - brown rot and white rot. Brown rot is distinctive by the cube shapes it leaves the wood in. White rot is literally white from the spores of the fungi. Wood decay is active at temperatures of between 77 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, along with a moisture content of around 27 to 30 percent.


Drone technology is here now and ready for commercial use. Unfortunately the FAA, which has been tasked with creating the regulations that control commercial drone use, is far behind in completing their assigned task. Hone inspectors are experimenting with drone technology, but doing so is illegal and carries stiff penalties. The conventional wisdom right now is to not use them in the inspection business.



The above pictures show a receptacle that was arcing. Fortunately the homeowner was home and shut off the power before it could start a fire. Good reason to upgrade to AFCI breakers to prevent this.

The first article I read for this class was C.L.U.E. Reports. "Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange is what ti stands for. I never knew that this existed before and would definitely start recommending the buyer get one before the final purchase. No sense in buying the house if you can’t get it insured for less than a small fortune.

The second article I read was Commercial and Home Inspector Carcinogens on the Job. This one was interesting to me because it actually stated that formaldehyde is a known cancer causing agent. I remember in high school Biology class we had to dissect a bunch of stuff preserved in formaldehyde. Sheesh! Even a popular brand of juice that claims to be “all natural” setteled a $9 million lawsuit for using calcium pantothenate, which is produced from formaldehyde.

Scope Home & Commercial Inspections Inc.
Colorado Springs , CO
Inspector; Cordell L. Atkins

Note, on this buildings roof had a electrical conduit penetrating the roof without a boot on it. This will be a future water leak for sure.
PS.This was a four story building with no guard railing around it ( fun ).

Regards, Cordell

cobalt-tungsten carbide, including powders and hard metals;
Who would have ever thought all my drill bits are bad for me?

Regards, Cordell

From the course Commercial Inspection Prerequisite Course:

6.5.3 Wood Decks and Balconies

I. The inspector should inspect:

A. with the unaided eye, for deck and balcony members that are noticeably out of level or out of

B. for visible decay;

C. for paint failure and buckling;

D. for nail pullout (nail pop);

E. for fastener rust, iron stain and corrosion;

F. and verify that flashing was installed on the deck-side of the ledger board;

G. for vertical members (posts) that have exposed end grains;

H. for obvious trip hazards;

I. for non-graspable handrails;

J. railings for height less than the 36-inch minimum*;

K. guardrails and infill for openings that exceed the 4-inch maximum*;

L. open tread stairs for openings that exceed the 4⅜–inch maximum*;

M. triangular areas between guardrails and stairways for openings that exceed the 6-inch

N. built-up and multi-ply beam spans for butt joints;

O. for notches in the middle third of solid-sawn wood spans;

P. for large splits longer than the depth of their solid-sawn wood members;

Q. for building egresses blocked, covered or hindered by deck construction; and

R. for the possibility of wetting from gutters, downspouts or sprinklers.

From the same:

6.5.4 Basement, Foundation and Crawlspace

I. The inspector should inspect:

A. the basement;
B. the foundation;
C. the crawlspace;
D. the visible structural components;

E. and report on the location of under-floor access openings;
F. and report any present conditions or clear indications of active water penetration
observed by the inspector;

G. for wood in contact with or near soil;

H. and report any general indications of foundation movement that are observed by
the inspector, such as, but not limited to: sheetrock cracks, brick cracks, out-of-
square door frames, or floor slopes;

I. and report on any cutting, notching or boring of framing members that may
present a structural or safety concern.

Inspected a 6-unit apartment building with a bank of electric 35 gallon hot-water tanks. No securing straps, no drip pans, TPR-valve discharge tubes were PVC with no air-space termination.

Recommended seismic securing straps, drip pans, and copper TPR-valve discharge tubes to terminate no more than 6" above the concrete floor.

From course:

What is an expansion tank?

An expansion tank is a metal tank connected to a building’s water heating appliance designed to accommodate fluctuations in the volume of a building’s hot water supply system. These fluctuations occur because water expands in volume as it gets hot and loses volume as it cools.

Expanding water volume in a closed system can create dangerously high water pressure. As water is forced into the tank by expansion, it compresses air contained inside of a rubber bladder. Air is used as a cushion because it exerts less force on its container than water, which cannot be compressed.

The function of this bladder is to prevent air from becoming absorbed into the water, a process that could cause the expansion tank to lose its ability to act as a sort of shock absorber. If, over time, the bladder begins to leak some air, a Schrader valve, identical to the fill valve found on bicycle and car tires, can be used to add more air.


Observed this electric water heater with rust in the drain pan and on the bottom of the unit itself. I notated it in my report, included this photo, and let the buyer know that the unit was most likely near the end of useful life. In addition, I recommended this unit or replacement unit be placed on stable secure flooring.

Anti-Scald Valves

With scalds accounting for 20% of all burns and more than 2000 American children scalded each year, anti-scald valves help to minimize this danger by balancing hot- and cold- water pressures to maintain water temperatures. These valves can be installed at individual plumbing fixtures or at water heaters to protect all of the plumbing fixtures in the home. Anti-scald valves are an inexpensive safety measure to reduce the chances of scalding from hot water.

Pool Alarms

Pools alarms are safety devices designed to alert responsible parties when a child or children enter a pool. There are three basic types; surface wave sensors, sub-surface wave sensors, and wristbands. While no single device or combination of devices should be relied upon as a substitute for vigilant supervision of children in pool areas, these alarms along with barrier requirements and perimeter alarms are highly recommended for increased safety.

While I was inspecting the back of this commercial building, I noticed that one of these bank of service panels front was rusting. To keep moisture intrusion from happening, I recommended that the lid be painted. Some inspectors may see this as a cosmetic issue only, but I believe that anything this small can become big if its not prevented now. Rusting metal will eventually become pitted, which will let moisture migrate inside the panel.

The two articles that I chose to talk about are Galvanic Corrosion and Electrical Service Panels. For eighteen years of working for a major gas and electric utility company, I have came across many dangerous situations. I have learned when dealing with electric panels, it is very important to know before you go. It is very important to be sure that you have an escape path in case of sparks or bees when you open a panel cover. Also, it is important to have the proper tools and gloves before touching the panel.
Working with gas or plumbing you should look very close at the piping for rusting. Dissimilar pipes such as steel and brace doesn’t work well together. It causes galvanic corrosion when introduced to rain and moisture. It is very important to let your clients know about this and that it could become a gas leak it is not addressed properly.

82 year old pier and beam. Corrosion noted in the cast iron piping. Previous water damage noted on the wooden beam structures. A protrusion was noted through the flooring system. Recommend repair/replacement of the deteriorated metal components and sealing of the floor penetration.