I’ve been taking these courses for little over a month now, and I’m progressing well.
Until I ventured into the attic of my new home today. I’m very confused and even a bit discouraged.
How do people walk in attics? I didn’t see any walkable paths in my own attic. One wrong step and you fall through the ceiling creating an embarrassing and costly mess in which you are likely injured. If you can’t walk an attic, you’ll likely miss a lot of important stuff.
In my area, there is seldom any walking paths, and we also have very deep insulation. Travel at your own risk! The NACHI SOP does not require you to traverse when it is unsafe. Not sure if your state has an SOP that supersedes that though.
Tread lightly and be extra cautious is all you can do. Best to practice at your own house before you try it in somebody else’s. Some are actually easy, others not so much. If you don’t think you can safely traverse an area, don’t do it.
For a real estate home inspection, no walkway in the attic or a safe/visible path, I don’t walk the attic. I live in the far north where insulation often is deep, R-40 to R-60. Plowing through deep insulation without the seller’s permission, you are leaving a path that needs to be fluffed up when you retreat. The seller can justifiably become quite irritated by the results of plowing through deep insulation. The primary issues in the attic are structure, insulation/vapor barrier, attic ventilation, and roof leakage. Those issues can be recognized from the hatch.
Having already walked the roof; shingle condition, leakage potential, and roof structure already have had their first review. The attic inspection is confirmation of those roof findings.
Here is an example from the same house yesterday morning that I had the drip edge problem with in the WTF thread. If I had not walked this attic, I would not have found the master bathroom vent fan covered on all four sides in insulation, with no duct to the exterior. I already knew the fan didn’t move much air because we tested that inside, but now I know the reason why there was very little airflow, despite the fan motor sounding like the fan was working.
Here is another bonus found by walking around the same attic. I knew from thermal imaging that I had insulation loose. But by taking a picture in the attic, my client can more easily understand the defect, and the fix needed.
I find improperly vented exhaust fans all the time without walking (crawling) the attic or a thermal camera. In fact your post narrative describes how you already found the poorly functioning fan so you’ve gone beyond the standards to provide a diagnosis and a repair. All that is fine and well, if you charge for it, until it’s not fine and well and you pay the price.
I walk in most attics. I carry a few pieces of 5/8 x 2’ x 3’ and 4ft plywood in my truck if I need to crawl in low attics. I also have a small toy rake in case I disturb any loose insulation.
Don’t forget your vacuum to pick up those loose pieces of insulation that miss your drop cloth below the access hatch.
Good lighting is also key.
The question is “Are you willing to risk it for the biscuit?”
I venture off the beaten path depending on many factors such as safety, potential damage/liability or what I feel may be beneficial information. Example, I make additional effort or take a bit more risk to lay my eyes on the chimney; for in my area that is a hot spot for damage in the attic. But I may not do acrobatics to get to a less critical location. But I always make a legitimate and professional effort to see as much as I can considering all the above.
Have a good flashlight and good camera. Report on your findings and limitations. If I suspect an issue in a area that I would not normally travel I properly would make an attempt. But don’t be too proud to turn back. The one time that I damaged a ceiling was in a large decked attic. There was a opening in the decking covered by cardboard that matched the decking color. Lesson learned. Don’t be too comfortable.
Heh, great minds think alike and here I thought I was the only one that walked the attic using the continuous lateral bracing. In almost every 11 month inspection I’ve done in my service areas, I’ve seen the blown insulation completely messed up by the previous inspector the homeowner hired for their closing inspection. Not only that, but there are a bunch of problems with the trusses still such as broken/cracked members, missing members, missing plates, loose plates, and so on, which I’m surprised they didn’t catch when trudging through the blown insulation everywhere.
With most of these new construction, I like that you can also walk all the way to the gable end of the attic, make a turn and walk on the gable end bracing/stiff back and move onto the other set of CLB, and then do the same thing at the other gable end and make it back to your original starting point.
Interesting discussion. I don’t walk attics unless I have some compelling reason. Walking through the truss webbing is tough and one mistake can be ugly. I genuflect in the general direction of you guys who swing through the truss webbing.
Confession time…two years ago I put my foot (hell the whole leg) through a ceiling. First time in my life of construction and 21 years (at the time) of home inspecting. It was a 1950’s home with added blown in cellulose. Someone had put planking down the middle. Sections of the planking were under an inch or so of insulation so not fully visible. I suspected a ventilation fan issue in the far end of the house from the access point, so I gingerly pick my way down the planking. I confirm my suspicion. Now with the confidence of having made it in, I motor my way back. However, there is a void in the planking under the thin insulation that I stepped over coming in, but successfully found on the way out. Ooops! Actually, I said something else.
I think the real question here is which is more likely to bite you in the ass - missing that roof leak, damaged truss, disconnected fan exhaust, etc because you didn’t really inspect the attic (because you can’t from just the access in most cases) OR taking the chance of stepping through the ceiling (which is pretty low risk IMO)?
Depends on your perspective but I’m young enough to still climb around. Maybe one day I won’t be, but for now I do the best job possible which means going in there and really looking around.
I will tell you now that I also work for a structural engineer doing site evaluations after other people do home inspections and after seeing lots of other reports, we’ve found at least 40% of home inspectors do not go in crawl spaces and probably 30% don’t get in attics. And they also don’t say that they didn’t enter these areas in the report, which means they have potentially huge liability. If you’re not going to enter these areas, you need to disclaim them for some reason.