New Inspectors: How do you manage your study notes?

I’m a student and still studying, and I feel there is an huge amount of information to learn and retain. I realize this is an industry where life-long learning is requirement. So, how do you manage all of the details and information that you haven’t yet committed to memory?

Do you have a dozen Word documents with notes and info? Do you check this website while on job site? Are you googling during your inspections?

Or, are you all rock stars and have everything memorized?


I’ve downloaded most of the course pdf files. They are searchable so you can go to a specific part of the course if you want to just by typing in the search bar.

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@ssadeghi - It will be a continual learning journey for sure, but as you repeat things, they become habit and you really do hone your skills with more inspections under your belt. I think it is huge to inspect houses for neighbors and friends for free, just so you do get to see different situations and also realize that no matter how many things you think you are catching…When you get home to do the report, initially you will have missed a ton of stuff. Practice makes this process become second nature. Larry Kage and many other seasoned vets have always made a point to try to go through the same process per house and make a routine you stick to. It will fine tune itself over time. But realize, it takes a lot of jobs to get this to be second nature. I have done probably 600 or so inspections roughly at this point, and I will still see stuff that is new all the time. That is the great thing about this job. You always have something uniquely different and that variety works well with me. Hang in there…practice as much as possible.


Brett, thanks. I’ve been collecting the PDFs creating my own notes documents. Thanks for the info!

Thanks for the insight! Repetition will definitely be key in this industry. What is your process when finding something new or unexpected. I realize this forum is a great resource. What other informational tools do you have in your kit?

I bought a few books and used different color highlighters and highlighted what I though was more important, and what was most the most common information and questions on the practice tests with different colors. My best advice, read read read and then read some more. The only way to cheat or retain the information is being repetitive. There’s no quick or easy way to learn this stuff.
I went to ICA school, hand wrote notes from every single course. Graduated from there and bought the NHIE book, read that cover to cover 3x and downloaded multiple apps. Did that for another year. Failed the NHIE test twice by less than 5 questions both times. Read the NHIE book for the 4x, studied more for another 2 months and passed the 3rd try.
Keep at it. Don’t rush.

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If you have the memory storage on your computer, downloading the course PDFs is a good way to start for easy reference. I print a lot also and write in a note book. What ever helps you best to retain things. Like others have said, repetition is key. Good luck.

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@ssadeghi Here are a few tips that have worked well for me:

Try to find another company over an hour away from you that you can shadow or work for. Focus on companies outside of reasonable driving distance from you so they don’t view you as a competitor. Offer value in some way, such as being the taxi service for the inspector and/or doing the grunt work at inspections. In my case, I worked as a subcontractor under another company for about 30 inspections while I was still building the pipeline for my own business. It was a win-win for me, as I was being paid to learn.

We have incredible reporting software available to us now. I spent a ton of time building and rebuilding my report structure and narratives, which act as a huge checklist for me while I am inspecting. Your report software will help you avoid missing things, and if you take the time to build up a decent library of narratives in the report, you don’t have to worry about what to write when you find a defect. Just tap the narrative, take a photo, and keep moving. There are free narrative libraries on the forum and seasoned inspectors such as Kenton Shepard who will sell you their decades of knowledge (click the link) in a pre-formatted template for a bargain.

Even after you pass your licensing and certification exams, continue to utilize the wealth of knowledge available to you for free as an InterNACHI member in the continuing education courses. I have personally completed over 100 hours of them this year and plan to do many more before the year ends. They really help to fill in gaps and help you understand how everything works together.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother with all of the Word documents. Just keep allowing yourself opportunities to learn more through studying and experience.

Also, remember we are generalists. You don’t need to provide specialist knowledge in your narratives. It is great if you can, but better to keep your statements generalized if you don’t know exactly what you’re talking about. The average consumer usually appreciates layman’s terms anyway. For example:

“Deteriorated caulking was observed around window and door trim, which will allow for moisture intrusion. I recommend correction by a qualified contractor.”


The interNACHI textbooks from Inspector Outlet come in handy, If you haven’t already, check them out.

@ssadeghi - This forum is a great place with a ton of stuff discussed previously and searchable. A plain old google search will also get you there and back here a lot too. I also have a few very seasoned inspectors in my area I have befriended, and a quick text and image gets a quick answer, but I try to never abuse that life line…and a for instance, was working a job today on new construction and saw an expansion tank on a tankless water heater like I have never seen before…Looked like a little fist sized bulb, but meets the needs of the local authorities and so I learned something. The more you do, the more you learn and just have to stick it out!

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Develop your Bookmarks
Take advantage of the online Bookmarks feature on your computer and start building it out by home system. Be careful in how you title items you save so that they reflect the contents accurately and it will become a great resource library over time. In addition to information you find researching online, you can save threads from these message boards where a HUGE amount of great information is stored.

PDF Library
Establish a Library of PDFs in folders organized like Bookmarks… by home system. I save them in a single folder titled My Library. In addition to technical articles, you can save manufacturer’s recommendations. Ten years of Bookmarks and saved PDFs and you’ll be amazed at what you have at your fingertips, often while you’re performing the inspection.

Photo/Image Library
I established photo folders using the same system. You may want to save images that clearly illustrate certain things.


Start collecting ICC code books
You can access all the ICC code books for free through my website, and this is an especially good resource because you can copy and paste from this set, but it’s easier to access the information in an actual book. Question about things like TPR discharge pipes get asked all the time on these boards, and with these books (International Plumbing Code (IPC) 504.6) you can answer your own questions in seconds once you get the tabs installed.
You can set books up with tabs for common sections like Stairs and Roof Assemblies. Some ICC code books are available with commentary (explanations), which is a big help, but at increased cost.
Codes are important not because you quote them, but because the reason for their existence is safety, and that’s one of the basic tenets of our inspections.

National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) Roof Anthology
The NRCA Anthology is a collection of four thick books that provide a vast array of information about both steep and low-slope roofing materials. For the most part- like code books- you won’t read them, but refer to them. They’re expensive. I bought the digital versions. They’re cheaper and slightly older, but most of the roofing (and roof decks, flashing, membranes, and other things you won’t see but should know about) you’ll see are covered.

I bought the digital version first but eventually bought the NEC Handbook with commentary. Huge help.


Home Gauge has a CYA section to remind you of things in each section, good reminders>

My HomeGauge template is built out to about 40,000 words of reference material. The CYA is a very good feature.

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I’ve started collecting resources, books and web sites, and had folders set up by the classes I’m currently taking, but I like the scheme of separating by home systems.

Thank you for the suggestions!