Handling Painted Shut Scuttles

Just curious how everyone handles attic scuttles that are painted shut?

All attic accesses I’ve ever encountered in my two plus years in the biz have been accessable. However, I’m inspecting a fairly new home this week and I might encounter this. With 2+ feet of snow on many roofs it can be difficult to identify plumbing vents, attic ventilation ect… from the outside. So it’s pretty important to able to take a look up there.

I’m thinking that I either have the current owner crack that thing open before I get there. Or have him/her sign something stating that it is ok for me to do this, and I’m not responsible for any damage associated with that. Does anyone use an agreement like this?

Same as a painted shut electrical panel… utility knife.

What Mark said, and a small drop cloth on the floor.

Hyde makes a nice 4’’ drywall knife with a tapered end that is perfect for anything painted shut.

What about if they are cover with trim?

It will work on that too

Robert, I just did one last month with the panel trimmed over and I did not remove the trim as I see that as invasive and reported what I saw. Maybe I am not aggressive enough but I already received a referral from that client.

I do try to open them. I have come across several along the way and they usually open with a little effort. Work around the perimiter with a stiff blade. I use the one on my leatherman, that works well. Sometimes you can give it a quick tap with your fist that sometimes can break the seal. Before you do any of this you should get permission from the seller. They are usually ok and understand that I need accress to the attic space.

New Jersey home inspections

New Jersey Home inspectors

exactly… Write up as inaccessible due to finishing.

You break / You buy / We don’t break.

If painted shut … Its NOT accessible by US.

Somebody else opens it, we’ll look at the area BUT we will NOT be the wrecking crew.

What force is used? So NO tools can be used to attempt to open it?

Like others I disagree and would use a utility knife or other tool made of the purpose to attempt access. I find it very embarrassing if I told a buyer the attic was not accessible and he takes 30 seconds to get it open.

Thats just me…do as you see fit.

I know, I know, its beyond the SOP and once again I view the SOP as CODE for contractors. THE MINIMUM STANDARD.

No my job , If I can not get it open with No damage then I do not open .

This is where letting the listing agent or seller what to expect and tell them to have all hatches to crawls and attic spaces cleared and open for inspection. and any other access panels that may be hiding from view, I also ask (around here in new condos) to remover the expensive paintings that are covering the electric panels. Takes 5- min and saves a lot of hassle most of the time.

Just had one today that was caulked closed. I left it the way I found it no access to the attic.

I have run into the situation a few times. If I cannot open the hatch without damage(I do use the utility knife on painted shut hatches), then I disclaim the attic.

I have to say that I constantly go above and beyond to give my clients the best possible inspection. However, destroying someones property is beyond what I will do. If the owner is accessible and gives permission, I will typically remove the ceiling hatch covers. A question about the SOP was mentioned above. The SOP’s are there to protect us as much as guide us. Better if we ALL stick to them.

More and more often I am finding scuttles taped/mudded/textured/painted. Easy call… no access.

Well said, and I agree with this.:cool:

I’m an old fashioned guy. I quoted my BUYER or REALTOR a FIXED price to inspect (not an hourly rate) based on the size house and amenities they’ve told me are present.

AND I make it clear we don’t turn on utilities, light pilots; fill water lines that are on into the house BUT turned off at the water heater; take screwed in covers off attic fans in the hall ceiling; move furniture or disassemble cabinets to get to the electric panel; OR cut apart screwed in place, duct taped or caulked attic hatches; NOR do I empty closets filled with storage or take apart closet shelfing so I can get to the attic access, etc. I’m NOT in the furniture moving business - I inspect houses.

About 21 years ago I was helping a St. Louis inspector on a BIG house (10,000-12,000 sf). The NICE and obliging inspector had moved 5-6 boxes out of the closet to get to the attic hatch RATHER than having the buyer or agent do so. It was DUMB and I told him so BUT he was wanting to suck up to the RE Agent and carefully did it himself.

The house had problem after problem and the buyer walked on the deal. Two weeks later the NICE and obliging home inspector got a registered letter from an attorney explaining that the SELLER had their GREAT grandma’s china dolls from the civil war stored in those boxes AND after the deal flipped the SELLER checked inside the boxes and found 3 dolls with heads or arms broken or damaged AND the home inspector MUST have damaged them BECAUSE the last time the SELLER remembered seeing them (2 yrs ago) they were OK. The SELLER needed about $8,000 for doll fixing and pain and suffering, etc. THE seller was holding the BUYERS earnest money until they were paid.

The buyer & agent turned on the home inspector in a heartbeat. I can’t tell you how many times in 34 years I’ve seen some dumb-butt inspector think hes being a nice guy AND do something that COSTS him $$$$$$$.

Moral: I learned a valuable lesson from my friend. I’m NOT in the moving business. I inspect / Someone else moves, cuts, disassembles, etc.

Simple Rule … Simple to Follow

From a Canadian Court case … Roy

**Home inspectors are specifically instructed not to undertake “destructive” or “invasive” inspections, as there is a risk that the inspection itself could cause property damage for which the inspector would be liable. In *****Li v. Baker Street Home Inspection Services Inc. *****[2005] O.J. No. 3846, the court held that a home inspector was not required to open an attic hatch that was painted shut; to do so would cause damage to the vendor’s premises. He was therefore not liable for failing to uncover cracking and splintering roof joists that were readily observable had the attic been accessed. In *****Martin *****and *****Brownjohn ***this meant that the home inspector was not required to move furniture, roof panels, cabinets or baseboards as part of an inspection.