Specialist or Gereralist?

What if I want to begin doing more “Healthy Home”-type inspections, should I invest in carbon dioxide/gas detection devices (I have mold testing equip. now) or does this increase my liability. I hear a lot about staying a “generalist” and do visual inspections only.
Should I limit use of such special equipment to my Mold inspections and keep the standard home inspection a visual-only one? I see this “Healthy Home” type as a new market (not tied to realestate market) but just how much new testing (and training) equip do I need?

should I invest in carbon dioxide/gas detection devices (I have mold testing equip. now) or does this increase my liability. quote]

Man, not like the old days of just a screw driver and a flashlight:shock:


Depends on how broad you want to spread yourself.

Home Inspection is one thing.

Environmental Inspection another

Termites another

Pools another

Commercial another, etc, etc, etc.

You might want to look at carbon MONOXIDE detectors though. If you wanna do it, you should at least get some training and know what it is you’re trying to detect.

If you decide to expand outside general home inspection, you better be qualified to do the work. Having a piece of hardware does not qualify you as specialist or expert in the field.

Personally, if you call yourself an expert in mold detection, I’d expect that you would have a college advance degree in biology or microbiology with a specialty in the growth of spores, etc. My wife spend 8 years in college studying how spores are used as biological indicators in the medical equipment/supply sterilization industry.

I’ve written about this. Click on: http://www.nachi.org/generalistsorspecialists2005.htm

If you don’t want to read it, I think that it’s fair to say that while inspectors may choose to think of themselves as “generalists,” most of their clients and certainly the courts tend to regard them as “specialists.”
P.S. You can read more about this in my book Inspect and Protect. Go to www.keithswift.com

Thanks Mr. Chew, I do not call myself an “expert” at mold inspection, else no reason for the questions…right. I do have a couple of degrees however, but not in mcrobiology. Keith, I will check out your link and I enjoyed your book and it has driven me to learn more about liability and using specialized tools.
Also thanks to Erby and the rest because I
DO appreciate the advice from more experienced professionals like you guys.

Can I say that I’m “specially a generalist”:wink:

just a thought


Determining whether or not a home is “healthy” involves more than testing for two or three toxic substances, it involves learning building science and something about a number of materials commonly used in homes. Google “healthy homes” and see what you find. It’s not simple. Dwight’s right.
Inspectors who perform true healthy home inspections have certificates in building biology from places like this http://www.bau-biologieusa.com/index.html

If you decide to pursue this anyway, you best be very specific about the limitations of your inspection in your contract because if you wind up in court, a lawyer will dump a whole wheelbarrow full of “healthy inspection” definitions at your feet, all of which will describe a comprehensive inspection for numerous health hazards.

This is why it’s very important to manage the expectations of your Clients.

When I first meet my Clients, one of the first things out of my mouth is this sentence:

“I’m a generalist, not an expert. What that means to you is that I know something about everything and everything about nothing.”

That gets a chuckle, helps me break the ice, and sets their expectations the way I want them to be.

I believe in educating rather than trying to be an expert in anything or everything, which is why I created SOLUTIONS](http://www.abouthomes.info/files/NACHI/Solutions1.pdf). My Clients love the effort that I put into inspections, and they really appreciate my up-front honesty in telling them that I just don’t know it all and don’t try to.

For the very few times when I have to go further, they get the message when I tell them that California doesn’t license home inspectors. However, California does licensed electricians, plumbers, roofing contractors, chimney sweeps, engineers, and even landscapers. Yet I have to know all of that without licensing. So I have to be a generalist, almost by sheer definition.

In Wisconsin I am also a licensed Rental Weatherization Inspector. That means that I’m licensed to perform a basic energy audit to the State standards on insulation, venting, etc. When I do a home inspection and see a potential problem with the attic venting I may run some quick calcs to to a “gut check” on an inadequate venting situation and use that for my client’s benefit.

The problem comes in on the reverse. I’m contracted to do a weatherization inspection and find all sorts of potential call-outs that I would document during a home inspection that I’m not required to report for this type of inspection. I have a write in on my contract that is only for a weatherization inspeciton.

It’s all about expectations. Sometimes it isn’t very easy.

Hey Greg I took a class through Home Energy TuneUp to do energy audits. Is this similar to what you do? Haven’t had any calls on this service, yet I really haven’t marketed this either. How is yor success at this?

If you decide to expand outside general home inspection, you better be qualified to do the work. Having a piece of hardware does not qualify you as specialist or expert in the field.

I let my clients know that I am a specalist on how to take mold related samples,(if I don’t give them this assurance then I best not offer this service) not a specialist on the identification of mold.

These are state mandated inspections for any non owner-occupied rental properties. If a rental property is purchased the owner has a 1 year stipulation to bring the property into compliance. The deed cannot be recorded until the state stamp has been issued. I’ve had two of them so far. The state has a maximum rate of $200 per property and then and additional $50 per unit for the initial inspection. Believe it or not, there are some inspectors that undercut that published amount, but that’s a totally different issue. Go Figure:(

Help on where to find information if PA mandates this. Who would I call?

WI’s program is regulated by the Department of Commerce. Maybe you can try there. Wisconsin’s site is here: http://www.commerce.state.wi.us/SB/SB-RentalWeatherizationProgram.html

Thanks guys, this information has been very “eye-opening”. More training is a priority for me now.

Quite right. As a microbiologist, I have reviewed many reports from inspectors who do not have a background in the biological sciences at any level. Additionally I have a mycology research lab where I routinely perform investigations into the growth of fungi inside and outside the IAQ arena. The view of mold is quite different with mycologists than the general public for many reasons. Many microbiologists, CIH’s, and others with specialized education often get requests to perform expert reviews of existing mold reports. These reports are frequently forwarded by lawyers for clients who have hired mold inspectors who misrepresent their qualifications, experience, and claim that certifications are types of licenses.

There is a need for home inspectors to inspect for mold. I think that this is completely valid provided the inspector does not exaggerate their expertise level. As visual generalists, home inspectors (correct me if I am wrong), are not supposed to provide expert opinions where they do not have expertise, but recommend that an expert be consulted for further review. Many of the reports I have reviewed say exactly this.

The mold and indoor air quality industry cannot be fully covered by any one field of expertise. There is a need for engineers, microbiologists, structural experts, HVAC professionals and others. Equally flawed are scientists who try to make structural determinations without commensurate expertise. I have seen CIH reports with structural determinations that I believe are are really bad. Also, very few CIH’s appear to have advanced education specifically in microbiology and mycology. Many are brilliant chemists or engineers.

Bringing opinions of people of diverse expertise is part of our philosophy at the Indoor Air Quality Forum (www.iaqforum.net). My belief is that if you are not comfortable making a claim of expertise in court, you should not be making it to the general public. Education is the key, and anyone involved in the IAQ arena should try to gain some knowledge in each of the areas of knowledge which are involved in IAQ investigations. Anyone here is welcome to chime in over at our forum to contribute their thoughts and expertise for the betterment of all. Additionaly, we are always glad to answer questions related to microbiology and mycology in our “ask the microbiologist” section.


Jeff Deuitch
Administrator, The Indoor Air Quality Forum

The problem is further complicated by the offer to purchase in Wisconsin. I had an inspection within the last couple of weeks that has “something” growing on the attic sheathing. Even if I was qualified at the time to take a sample, I could not unless one of two things happed.

  1. The buyer drafted the offer to purchase using Addendum A to include a testing contingency as part of the home purchase including what SPECIFIC test(s) the buyer would want as part of the offer… or…
    *]An ammendment would have to be signed by both the buyer and seller to allow a SPECIFIC test to take place.
    IMO, if the seller does not agree to any testing and the buyer did not specify a specific test the buyer has no recourse.

If I read you right, the buyer is establishing sampling protocols. Maybe I do not quite have the handle on this. If I were involved in the process I would certainly not do a test for the buyer where the buyer is establishing DQO’s for the purposes of evaluating risks. In the establishment of DQO’s it should be the investigator’s decision and not the buyer’s or the seller’s in my opinion. Otherwise you may be going to court to explain why you were not to blame when the deal goes bad and the house becomes stigmatized (perhaps unfairly). Sometimes best to turn work down. Just my opinion.

Thanks for the reply.

Jeff Deuitch
Administrator, The Indoor Air Quality Forum
Palmetto, FL

In Wisconsin, the buyer must include a right to test as part of the original offer. That means if they wish a radon test, they need to specify a radon test as part of the original offer. If they wish a mold spore test, then they need to specify that test as part of the original offer and so on.

In the case mentioned earlier, there was no evidence from the open houses, walk-throughs with their Realtor of any potential IAQ issues and there may be none at this time. During the inspection, the buyer followed me into the attic where there was some “black stuff” noticed on the underside of the sheathing in about 3 locations each approximately 12 square feet. They asked me my opinion and I couldn’t give them one because I’m not qualified to do so. Is it a defect? Maybe if it’s a health issue. Structurally the sheathing was in good shape on the day of inspection.

They wrote an ammendment to their original offer to purchase to include sampling of this “black stuff” by a qualified specialist and the seller refused. They have no recourse because they did not specify any testing in the original offer.

In other words, because they did not specify a testing contingency for mold, even if I was qualified to have the suspect material tested I would not have been able to take a sample.

I don’t know if that makes it any more clear. If not, let me know.

OK, now I understand.

Jeff Deuitch
Administrator, The Indoor Air Quality Form
Palmetto, FL