This all begins with an email that Ben Gromicko received from a guy taking the InterNACHI courses.
I just finished the Structural course and had a question regarding the video at the end with the moving house.
The course taught, “Remember, the job of the inspector is to observe and report – not to analyze.” This was in one of the sections.
In the video the narrator who was performing the inspection, pointed out all the structural issues with the home which was not an issue for me. What I was curious about, is that he was going beyond what was being taught and was analyzing/speculating the possible why’s as to what was causing all the issues observed.
My question is, what was he going to actually put on the report if he created one? Will he put in writing all the speculations that he mentioned in the video or was that information he gave us as to the why’s just for our benefit? I would think that we could get ourselves in trouble if we wrote down our opinions as to what was happening and we were wrong. I think we are to stay with the observe, report and not analyze in our reports only. I think it would be appropriate to add strong recommendations to have a structural engineer and/or professional inspect what I had observed and noted in the report that were structural issues.
Ben asked me to respond to the guy probably because I have pontificated in the past on both structural topics and report writing.
I emailed back:
What a great question! The answer goes to the very purpose of why we get paid the medium size bucks.
It is said all the time that our job is to just observe and report what you see. Also, our job is to recommend further evaluation by the appropriate expert, if we see defects. This is the industry guidance and standard particularly when starting out in this business and when we see defective components.
But, there’s more. The very nature of what we do includes analysis. Otherwise, we would just walk through a house; recommending a roofer, a plumber, an electrician, a HVAC tech, a structural engineer, a landscaper, an environmental hygienist, a pest control tech, a window tech, and here is my bill for $650, thank you so very much. Our clients would reasonably be wondering why they hired us. They could have scheduled and paid all those specialists and save the $650 paid to us. We have a job because one phone call gets a knowledgeable generalists (a home inspector) who can inspect all these components and provide informed and educated guidance and recommendations. Guidance and recommendations require some analysis.
So, what does analysis mean? It does not mean we have to be experts in all trades. We just have to know enough to look at a component, understand what we are looking at, recognize whether that component has a defect, and analyze the component sufficiently to make a recommendation.
So, to circle back to your question. Foundations and structural components provide some of the best examples of what I am describing.
*As an example, let’s say that the foundation we are observing has several hairline and small cracks. Some cracks are vertical and not continuous. Others are approximately on 45 degree angles going through windows in the foundation walls. We report, “Concrete foundation has cracks that are hairline to approx. 1/32” gapped. Six cracks are vertical and not continuous. Three cracks are approximately at 45 degree angles and go through openings in the wall."
What is our client to make of this? Our client will ask us, “What does that mean?” If we answer, “Sorry, I can only observe and report,” then our client could reasonably wonder what good are we? And frankly, how have we benefited our client? Heck, our client could probably have said the same thing.
Or we could report,
Foundation appears serviceable (common cracks) No structural concerns were observed"
Concrete shrinks and cracks during curing process. Settling is common and resulting minor cracks are normal and rarely require remedial action unless noted otherwise by inspector. Not all major cracks require remedial action.
I will argue that the later commentary keeps it simple and provides the information that our client needs.
But you are starting out, and you don’t feel that you have the knowledge and experience to make these judgments. That is fair and we are all there when we are starting. When it comes to structural, if in doubt, recommend evaluation by a structural engineer. Actually, that advice applies to all we do. You think you see hail damage on a roof. Report it and recommend evaluation by a roofer. You are looking at a rusty boiler. All older boilers show some rust but is this one bad? Recommend evaluation by a HVAC tech. When I was starting out, I frequently met these specialists when they were looking at the component that I had recommended their evaluation. Occasionally, I was criticized for recommending evaluation, but I always learned something. On those occasions, I sometimes said, “Hey, it didn’t look right, and aren’t we glad that it is ok?” And I learned.
And I learned how to understand what I was looking at and how to better analyze defects and what the specialists typically said when they were looking at the same defects. You will do the same thing.
The very first report form that I used 23 years ago, had the check box Appears Serviceable for every component. Obviously, in order to know if a component is serviceable or not, requires some analysis. And our clients want to know if things are okay or not. So, why does the industry say “observe and report?” Because that is safe advice when beginning, but there is always a need to know if this or that component is performing. Is it performing as it should? Is it put together correctly? Are there defects? Are the defects affecting performance? Are the defects dangerous to health and safety? There are other questions, but you get the idea
The good news is that we don’t have to know it all. We are generalists. We only have to know enough to recognize if something is performing as it should, or if it has defects requiring further evaluation by an appropriate expert or repair by an appropriate expert.
The other good news is that the training at InterNACHI’s website gives you a great baseline of knowledge to be that good generalist.
I am reprinting this here, because there is a lot of experience and opinions here. It’s been a couple of weeks since I had this exchange, but last Friday I had a newbie shadowing me on an inspection and he brought this very topic up. My conversation with him made me wonder what thoughts and opinions some of you might have on the topic.