Construction then and now...


I have been building homes for over 30 years and I concur with much of the article. That fact that so many of the trades have become compartmentalized to the extent that the installers / subcontractors do not understand the dynamic relation that their respective trades have with one another has provided a niche for the last 30 years where there exist a home inspection profession in which the public is looking to us in discovering those problems that the average buyer is not aware of.

Unfortunately, most home inspectors lack much of that knowledge as well and it is evident that many of them would rather post a question with pictures than to actually do the research themselves. (Some of the questions I have seen on here lately I would be embarrassed to ask, especially coming from some who are advertising themselves as Certified Master Inspector’s… it devalues the credentials)

At one time a true carpenter did the following:
dig and pour footers
rough and finished framing
install insulation
install all types of exterior veneers
install roofing
install drywall including finishing and taping
even did some masonry and their own landscaping.

He could also tell you what species of wood is best used for a particular application. You go to a construction site today and you would do well to find a worker that speaks English fluently.

In regard to old growth vs. new grow, it is somewhat deceiving… yes old growth may be seem harder however what is misleading is that older growth was often a different species than that your various pines & spruces which are prevalent today; also thickness is different… a 2x4 use to be 2 inches x 4 inches… versus 1.5 x 3.5…yet given the engineering principles employed today, I will take a finger joint stud, I-joist, LVL’s, Advantech OSB, etc. all day long versus what was used 50 years ago.

It is ashame that craftsmanship and especially the knowledge has disappeared; it is equally ashame that many of those in the construction trade are out of work because they can only perform a few specialized tasks… the ones who are staying busy are those who can do it all… especially since more people are opting to remodel than build new.

over all a good article…



“I would be embarrassed to ask”
I would keep my embarrassment in check, because most inspectors (old school) may not have a construction background, but are master plumbers, master electricians, HVAC, Foundation or Roofing Professionals and some have Engineering backgrounds.
So unless you are a qualified to that extent in all the trades, I would be careful how you comment in your generalization. CMI’s have earned their respect.

Agreed. Most problems occur, to use the old George Pal movie title “When Trades Collide”. Roofers and siding guys not getint the flashing correct. Insulation and drywallers. Plumbers cutting joists. And, worst of all, the GCs, who used to know, understand and work with all the various subs, are now just money and management guys. They, many times, have never swing a hammer or sweated a pipe or bended conduit or (properly) sealed HVAC ducts.

They, in summary, have not worked their way up, learning the various trades.

Lack of supervision.

Just my opinion.

Mr. Decker, you have nailed it on the head!

Good posts…

Perhaps if the plumber had not been embarrassed to ask the carpenter a question (before carving up the joist) a defect could have been averted. :wink:

William and many others truly deserve such designation and daily they validate such designations however if anyone thinks that all CMI’s are truly chief master inspectors, they are naive.

When a person carries a CMI distinction they are advertising (or inferring) that they are more than generalist, yet when a CMI doesn’t know louver vents and ridge vents dont go together; vinyl siding should have enough play for expansion and contraction; what a ledger strip is or how its fastened; that modern 2x2 is only 1.5" x 1.5"; exterior deck screws are not appropriate for fastening joist hangers; concrete will crack; and given another couple months (if not days) I can keep going on and on… that is total BS and a slap in the face to those who truly are CMI’s. (kind of like calling everyone who died in the twin towers as hero’s… they were not, they were victim…the ones who went in to save them were the hero’s)

No one is expected to know everything about the construction industry nor is there anything wrong with asking questions yet at the same time it would behove anyone to actually learn what a google search engine is and be willing to sit down and learn about a certain application…heck, the Nachi website itself has a tremendous amount of valuable info be it roofing, insulation, venting, etc and yet there are some who simply will not take the time to educate themselves.

As far as a plumber not asking a carpenter, you are talking apples to oranges… plumber and carpenters dont get paid to inspect home nor are they required to have a general knowledge of one another trades, WE ARE.

I can only speak for myself but I subscribe to various trade magazines, take additional courses outside of my state CE requirements, and learn about new products that come onto the market; it is evident that some of you do as well, I know William does as by some of the comments he has made in some of his posts.

In regards to many GC’s being managers… I agree, I call them paper contractors. It is these same paper contractors who have taken a 1 or 2 day seminar on how to pass a GC test as a prerequisite in obtaining their HI license here in North Carolina and that is the very reason that the Realtors Board has raised havoc among in HI industry here in North Carolina… and I cant blame them for it. This is one of the things that has pissed me off with the crap that has been happening here in NC… yet only recently has the board attempted to do anything about it, other than kissing ARSE to the RE board who in like wise bends over for the GC’s who give them homes to sale… its total BS.

As to respect… maybe a simple designation might impress some people but it doesn’t impress me one bit especially when I see a select few asking rudimentary questions that all should know.

I am not calling out all CMI’s… nor have I named any particular CMI’s although privately I have emailed a few where they can go to learn some of the basics instead of constantly asking questions they should already know. It’s almost like they are on their first inspection and found it easier to simply post pictures and ask the Nachi community to write the report for them.

I know I am not the only one that recognizes there is a problem but evidently I am one of the few who is willing to say that their is a huge white elephant in the room while others simply ignore it.

When I first joined, one of the cripes that was going around was the validity of the educational material and training aids here at Nachi; while I have discounted much of that, there are issues that should be addressed lest NACHI becomes no better than a run of the mill HI organization that simply collects its dues and give fictitious diplomas and designations which will be pointed out by competitive organizations. I know if I were a member of a competing organzation and wanted to discredit the CMI designation itself, I could do such in about in about 1 hour by simply copying and pasting some of the questions I have seen in the last 6 months… but that is not my goal; I simply made a generalization which I can easily back up yet I did not feel the need to embarrass anyone in particular (of which I would not do publicly anyway).

I will end with this; those of you who carry such designation, it should be you who brings such issues to the front amongst yourself be it publicly or better yet privately otherwise the CMI designation is nothing more than an advertising gimmick used to deceive the public into thinking one is an expert; that does nothing but discredit Nachi itself. I think Nachi is a great organization and many of its members are very knowledgeable and professional, I would like to see it stay that way along with the high standards of which Nachi boasts.

warm regards


You forget what this board is about. The board is to ask questions. Why ask questions, if you already know the answers? You totally misunderstand what NACHI is and what CMI is. It is easy to point fingers and do nothing but complain.

Another thing is that new notion that concrete cracks is untrue. If concrete is poured correctly (which most is not) it will not crack. I used to be a general contractor and seldom did any of my jobs crack. Building practices are not like what they use to be. Most craftsman are gone or could not make a living because they could not compete with low-ballers who would bid a complete job for less money than what the craftsman would have had in materials. Sad but true.

Just like HIs run into problems with low-ballers, so do GCs and sub-contractors, in all trades.

When a local HI starts low-balling, they bring down the trade. I can understand that in lean times, people get desperate and believe that lowering their fees will get them more business. That has not been my experience, but many of the low-ballers are new and don’t have the benefit of experience.

Same with the trades. I know of many good contractors who have been forced to lower their quality because their competition is low-balling. Some of this is because of an overabundance of tradesmen and some is because of the influx of foreign tradesmen.

I am consulting on a new construction house, doing phased inspections. I recommended spray foam insulation and the clients agreed, knowing that it would be slightly more expensive than fiberglass batts. The GC got some quotes. The buyer took the lowest. Big mistake! The job they did was crap and they took the check and ran. They did fulfil their contract, but the clients never had me look the contract over and amend it.

A better practice is to prepare an RFP and have the different people bid to its standards rather than try to compare apples to oranges among different contractor quotes.

Low-ballers will always bring everyone else down. The guys to try to keep their work on a quality level DO thrive, but only in the long run and if they inform and educate the public about why their prices are higher.

Hope this helps;

I have know some very good builders in my area over the years, most of them are gone but the same lowballers still remain. Sad but true.

James, you are a CMI (of which I find very knowledgeable and informative like William) and as such by the mere designation you are advertising or inferring to others that your knowledge is* above the standard*… otherwise what purpose does the CMI designation serve other than a marketing ploy which I don’t think we ever its intent… if you agree with my statement then why are you castigating me for pointing out the obvious? I guarantee that if I were to carry such designation (of which I am qualified) yet ask if its okay to put three branch circuits on one breaker you would question why I am advertising myself as a Chief Master Inspector…even if nothing else privately.

As to your concrete not cracking statement, that simply is not true. Concrete will always crack given its span of which in residential and commercial application, such as veneers and driveways, accounts by such cracks by employing control joints depending in strategic locations of many installers fail to address which is one of the many reasons we are hired to point out to the uneducated masses. That brings us really to what my reference and this thread is about… educating oneself so that you don’t look like a dumbarse by a respective client who is paying you to be informative so as to protect their potential investment.

As to lowballers… I am no fan of them either but yet the market and marketing itself dictates as to the value of ones services… we as inspectors don’t need to justify low ball prices by be uneducated and ignorant, I think you would agree with me on that.

To me, there is a standard for which one becomes a member of Nachi, and then there is that which exceeds the entry standard which I understand is that of a CMI… if you disagree with me on that statement then say so… otherwise it seems that you have either misunderstood my point or worse, you are admitting that the CMI is simply an advertising ploy based upon the number of open book courses one takes and passes. If that is truly what CMI is all about then let me be the first to call it BS regardless of who it rubs the wrong way.



The problem that exist in both fields is this:

  1. educating the client so that they can make an informed decision and
  2. having the knowledge and tools to provide a professional service for a professional price.

In both of my endeavors I have had clients that ask if I can meet a lower price of which I tell them no… I then explain why. If they want to go with a lower price then so be it, no hard feelings yet at the same time don’t expect me to fix it or inspect it once it screwed up.

Finally a good contractor will not lower his price or his quality, he does however have to do a better job at marketing himself and dealing with suppliers or at times ensure that a subcontractor is not taking an on going business relationship for granted of which I have had to get rid of a few subcontractors because of that… I dont expect the low ball price but then again Im not going to pay $20,000 for a paint job that consist of $700.00 worth of paint and $5000.00 worth of labor (had that happen two years from a painting contractor who did my work for 10 years).

In the present day economy, its not going to get any better. I just saw a television commercial where they are advertising on taking a course to be a home inspector; you can make 3 - 5,000 per week only working 3 - 4 days… and one wonders why you get calls from people looking at getting into the business. jeezzzz

William, why is it that the GC and client do not have everything hammered down before construction? When I do a new project, I know everyone one of my subs, their prices, the clients allotments and have allocated a 10% slush fund for my clients of which I keep them informed to their costs at all times… your situation sounds just like your typical GC who is flying by the seat of his pants. Ask your client if the GC has provided him a flow schedule…I bet the GC will ask the plumber where he can find one.


I agree with most of what you’re saying, Jeff. Except this:

That’s a perfect time to “educate” the client about why they should have gone with you and why it’s important to pay a little more. This is where you get to really shine and create a very satisfied client with your company that will certainly refer you.

Your singling out CMI and NACHI is wrong because all destinations are just like you described, even in other professions. They all have their problems. CMI is like any other designation, it just tells the home buyer that I have meet these qualifications.

Also I still do not agree that all concrete cracks. I can take you to some of my jobs almost 20 years old and they did not crack. It is the practice that is being used nowadays, that is causing the concrete to crack. I do not write insufficient cracks in my reports, there is a lot more which contractors are doing wrong in my state that are too common to report.

And I am sorry if I made you mad but that just how I am. I have a way of pissing people off. You ought to see me around Realtors. Got to have fun some how.:mrgreen:

Great Article starting this thread!!!

Actually I do use it as a time to educate them however you always have those that play the heart sob story for which I do not buy into.

I had an agent tell me she would like to use me and wondered if I ever offer free inspections for those who are hard up for money because she does have one that does that. I told her if they cant afford an inspection the certainly have no business purchasing a home and I am sure she doesn’t do free listings so I hope you understand why I don’t do free inspections. I don’t expect to get any of her business but then again, I do not want those type of agents… they are cut throats.

First off, I am not mad (laugh)… while we may all disagree on issues from time to time, as long as there is mutual respect for one another than that is fine.

Secondly, I am not singling out Nachi or the CMI program… however there are those (less than a handful) that I have seen with the designation that I would not want to inspect my dog house. It is evident that they fraudulently filled out the paper work in order to obtain such designation or are relying on some bogus online open book course to obtain their 1000 CE credits in order to qualify for such designation. Put it this way, if they had to do a closed book test they would fail miserably. Again, I love Nachi and enjoy hearing from the many members from across the US… it just gets a little old when you see a select few too stupid or lazy to research things they should already know… its easier for them to ask if a fingerjoint stud is acceptable versus checking with the local code authority themselves or God forbid to do a google on finger joint stud strength and actually read some data sheets. (I am using that as an example, if anyone asked that question and is not a CMI, don’t take it personally ~ laugh)

When you are talking about concrete not cracking I suspect you are actually talking about comprehensive strength which has much to do with the materials and ratios used… I am talking about cracks that appear in any masonry product as a result of spans… doesn’t matter if we are talking concrete, brick, tile, slate, etc…there was a Roman General who devised a ratio formula to account for expansion and contraction… I can not remember his name to save my life but its been 30 plus years since I had to learn all that mess. (its going to bug me the rest of the evening… I will see if I can pull out my old construction books to see what his name is)

Anyway, it is a shame to see how we have lost so much information and knowledge as a result of throwing up homes as fast as you can. I remember working with an old master builder in the late 70’s who told me when he broke into the business as a young man they would pour basements and not touch them for 6 months in order to make sure the concrete was fully cured…yet by the early 80’s I remember framing homes on green concrete in which the developer put straw down so that we wouldn’t leave our foot prints in the concrete…and they wonder why basements were leaking.

warm regards


One contributing factor, at least in my area, are the unions.

Look, I am not slamming unions. Most of them in this area are actually guilds (guilds, traqditionally, train and apprentice and make sure that their members are well qualified.) Around here, the Carpenters, Electicians and Plumbers are good examples.

But, when unions are involved in construction, they usually charge more and the GC has increased labor costs. Then the unions get the local governments to make government projects exclusively union. Then, because the government (who use other people’s money and don’t care) tell the GCs to pay the “prevailing wage” and this wage keeps going up and up. Then the union members, through long time “contract negotiations” work to keep that wage rising. Pretty soon, a union job is way more expensive than others (many of whom are just as qualified).

So, someone wants a house built and the unions seek that same, prevailing government wage for private jobs, even just a single house. As to big developments and large buildings, it is even worse.

And the Building Dept, in Chicago, is merely a revolving door for the somewhat smarter and better qualified union guys (or the union elected officials friends and relatives :mrgreen: ) and one hand washes another. Then there are the “hay, it ain’t strictly up to code, but dat’s how we always do it, my friend.” kinda stuff. Then, the unions end up writing the local codes. Chicago’s code includes things like:

  • All electric (even low voltage in large, skyscrapers) in EMT.
  • All supply piping is copper.
  • All DWV piping is copper if the building is more than 3 stories.

And we still get porch collapses. Go figure.

So, builders hire “undocumented immigrants”. Or they hire legal immigrants who were masons or electricians or carpenters “in the old country”. Less expensive and lower labor costs. I very rarely see regular, english speaking workers on any job site.

So, the unions have priced themselves out of the market and the local political machine (in exchange for union votes and contributions) have supported this process.

This is NOT to say that I don’t see some very good work from foreign tradesmen. Just wanted to make that clear.