To probe or not to probe wood

I am a home inspector in California and have been told by my attorney that in California it is not legal for home inspectors to probe wood for dry rot etc. and the InterNACHI sop’s state the inspection is a “non-invasive visual inspection”.
Yet in a number of the training lessons, log cabin inspections as an example, it discusses probing wood for damage.
Can anyone tell me in California is it legal for me to probe wood or not?
Thank you

Seems to me you already have your answer!!

Who is going to represent you in court… your attorney or Inspector Joe Somebody from Sheboygan??


California has no inspection codes so how is that possible. Lots of bad lawyers like everything else.

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It’s California! They don’t need no stinkin’ codes to sue your ass!
Cause damage to a private homeowners property that you do not own, you-will-pay!!

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That’s true! Laws don’t matter if you make them up as you go along.

“So, what are you in for?”

“Ten years for stickin’ wood with an ice pick”

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There are laws that cover this scenario. See my post above.

So your a lawyer now! Hard to damage rotted wood with an ice pick.

The criminals in California are all in govt.

I bet you if you stick a person you’ll be out in 24 hrs.

Mirror Man 1

I just knock on it with my knuckle a couple times. you can usually hear the rot.


The mirror doesn’t flatter you at all!

Be smart and be inconspicuous and it will never be a problem. It is called a “pick-test” and it is a handy method to confirm moisture damage. It is a silly law if it exists, but if you go poking holes and jabbing into finished surfaces, you get what you deserve.


I guess I didn’t phrase the question correctly. Thank you anyway.


I thought the question was fine. But I doubt there will be a specific statute that says “home inspector shall not probe wood”

However, there probably are laws about damaging peoples property.

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I have been in construction for 5o years, managed construction and remodeling for universities, Disneyland and other large entities so started inspecting to get away from hiring and firing and fighting with cities, counties and state authorities so rest assured I know not to damage property or finishes. My concern is not just the pick test but the seeming contradiction between InterNACHI’s sop’s stating non intrusive visual only yet in a number of the lessons, not just log cabin pick test, but others were probing the wood is discussed. Yes. I do it when alone but would just like to know which is it, visual only or? Supposedly in California
By law termite inspectors are permitted to probe but home inspectors are not. My attorney says one thing and Nachi says it both ways. I just wanted to get a definitive answer. Tony


Correct, they teach us how to safely or properly exceed the standards of practice in a number of areas such as how to remove a panelboard cover safely, walk a roof. etc. none of which are “required”.

It is probably hard to do a decent inspection with your hands in your pockets but it is possible I suppose.

As far as the legality. I will defer to your lawyer and encourage you to seek a second opinion. Maybe a CA lawyer will pop-up and give you this information. You seem to resent my response so I wish you best of luck and watch the thread from afar.


… and if you exceed the sop’s in any area and miss something in another area by not exceeding the sop’s that is a sure loser in a lawsuit. I have written in my contracts to counter that


Florida days I can “dig deeper” to determine exactly what it is

The Department has adopted a rule (Chapter 5E-14.142 (2)(c), Florida Administrative Code)

The rule also states the general standards that must be met when
conducting an inspection. These include:
that the inspection be visual but that it may include probing and sounding of
structural members as deemed necessary by the inspector, based upon a
preliminary finding of visual evidence of infestation or damage

Definitions Pertaining to WDO Inspections
For purposes of performing a wood-destroying organism’s inspection for a real
estate transaction, the following definitions shall apply:
“Defacement to property” – when the inspection process causes damage or creates unsightliness to the structure being inspected
whether it be intentional or accidental.

12. “Probing” – the act of penetrating through the surface of a suspected area to
determine the type of WDO present/ Probing will cause some degree of “defacement to the property”.
Defacing property shall be strictly limited to that which is required
to determine the type of WDO damage/evidence present

Inspecting the Exterior of the Structure

The inspection will be visual but may include probing and sounding of structural
members as deemed necessary by the inspector, based upon a preliminary finding of visual evidence of infestation or damage (5E-14.142(2)(c)2).


My favorite thing to do is take a picture of the screwdriver penetrating a joist completely…


Very informative and helpful. I hope such a rule can be adopted here. I am going to discuss further with my attorney. I truly appreciate your reply. The first that appeared to intend to be helpful, not just critical.
Thank you again!

Tony Lees
FriendLees Home Inspections
(909) 844-4706
P.O. Box 812, Crestline, CA 92325

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There’s a big difference between finished surfaces and things like framing. You can and will get in trouble (and even be held liable) for damaging finish surfaces and usually just a light thumb push will tell you all you need to know. Framing? If it’s damaged I’m with Ray and will take a picture with my screwdriver hanging out of it.

As for the SOPs, attorneys, etc., it’s one of the many gray areas in this biz. Just be smart and if you must jab at something finished do it when no one is looking and where they are unlikely to find it… and don’t rip an entire piece of siding open. Just a little probing or pushing will tell you what you need to know.