Using Authoritative Sources

Inspectors and their clients often get pushback from contractors and builders who should know better, especially in new construction. Newer inspectors often experience great pushback, especially when they refer defects for further review by the very people who are responsible for the defect.

One way to counter this is through the use of authoritative source references. I regularly use manufacturer’s installation instructions, international standards like ASTM, Industry associations (e.g., Air Diffusion Council, Brick Industry Association, etc.) and model building codes (I know most are averse to directly mentioning even model codes as a reference) as authoritative sources to back my findings.

Authoritative sources are an excellent tool for squelching those “That’s just your inspector’s opinion.” style comments.

Here is a recent dialog following a pre cover inspection that I performed on a Meritage home recently. My client is an engineer. The attachment is a one page excerpt from the report noting two of several deficiencies involving a ridge vent installation.

A few points about how I deal with inspections:

  • I don’t try to make decisions on behalf of my client, but rather try to provide them the information that they need to make their own decisions;
  • I only recommend further review if I cannot make an adequate assessment on my own during the course of a visual inspection. I never ask for further review of things that I identify as defects except for scoping purposes;
  • I don’t negotiate on behalf of my clients, but provide them the backup as necessary to do their own negotiations to the extent that they choose.

So following delivery of the report, here’s what transpires:

The client forwards the report to the builder and asks him to address issues. The builder passes them onto his contractors. The contractor doesn’t want to make the repair because it’s an expensive mistake so he writes a letter to make it go away instead. This gets passed by the builder back to my client who asks me to review and comment (Notice how the builder takes no responsibility for owning the quality of the product, but simply passes notes back and forth). Here is content of the letter.

My response to the client is

I didn’t push my agenda or assume ownership of a debate, but gave the client information he needed to decide if he wanted to press the issue and the what he needed should he want to press it. The client’s response to the builder is

The client is informed enough to make his own decisions, empowered to conduct his own negotiations. I maintain credibility with the client. I don’t have to debate with the builder or his contractor. If they want to debate the merits, they can do so with the manufacturer.

Effective use of authoritative sources can be a great way to substantiate your findings to your client and enable them to look out for their own interests.

Good post.

Nice Chuck, straight forward and clear.

Great post Chuck!

Yes very good post! This is the only way to effectively write and handle these situations. Just finished a pre-pour report with references for every issue from IRC, IBC, PTI, ACI, manufacturer installation instructions, etc. The builder’s Engineer passed the foundation already and the City will probably pass it tomorrow. If the client is unable or unwilling to push the builder at least it is well documented!

Yes, great post! Thanks for sharing your insight.

Wow!!! :cool:
I had a dispute 2 months ago where the main 175A disconnect was oversized for the 2/0 al cable.
The freak out guns came out to shoot the messenger.
Paul Abnernathy sent me a letter with NEC credentials that I was correct, didn’t matter the entire 1974 neighborhood was like this.
They shut up & fixed it.

I know this is an older post but relevant and it shows how an inspector can be more than just someone who delivers a report. Chuck gives good advice in the form of a message and the homeowner can act as they see fit. All this while Chuck stays out of getting caught in the “inspector told me” trap, he avoids the are you a professional roofer question should lawyers ever be rought into the situation.

Chuck put out a great post. I’m always amazed how really little overall I see of this. I seldom ever get really challenged by a contractor. Its usually Realtors or Sellers. However …

About 1 yr ago I was doing a phase inspection and reported on the footings being inadequate. The builder got an engineer to write a letter stating he’d known the builder for years … the builder was a great gut AND he put more rebar in the concrete than really needed. The builder kept building.

Buyer asked me what I thought of the letter. I told her it was a joke, and had her call 2 other people … the head of the city code dept and someone with HUD in Denver (was an FHA house). Both people were engineers also.

They looked at my Pics and report and construction was stopped. At that point the house was framed, roofed, dryed in. Builder had to redo footings on the rear wall. It was 3-4 weeks later before regular construction started again.

That must have cost the builder and concrete guy plenty.

Paul helped me with an angry electrician awhile back.

I remember this post, glad to see it come around again.

In addition to the sources Chuck listed I will also use industry publications such as the Journal of Light construction which has all past articles available to subscribers. Another good source is insurance companies, many have publications regarding home issue’s and loss prevention.

I think it’s important to reiterate what Chuck is saying and as inspectors we need to be able to research problems and back up our opinions in a professional manner.

Great read from a couple years ago.