What does "SOP" mean.

I just realized something.

Some people on this board seem to believe that the abbriviation “SOP” means one thing, and some people believe it means another.

standard operating procedure
n. **1. **Established procedure to be followed in carrying out a given operation or in a given situation.
**2. **A specific procedure or set of procedures so established.


Standards of practice — written guidelines established by an organization or authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality expected in a particular industry.

The latter define what is meant in the various states that have licensing or registration of home inspectors, and the various national home inspector associations.

PLEASE NOTE: Standards of Practice are a legal and professional bare minimum requirement for fulfilling legal or ethical requirements and can be exceeded (and usually are) by professional practitioners of a profession.

Standard Operating Proceedures are a proceedural (and NOT legal) standard that has been set for the proper execution of a specific task. They are ste up so that each and every person doing the particular task does in the same way so that standardization can be assured (i.e., the standards for taking mold samples).

A Physician has a standards of practice (in medicine) that requires them to do everything that is legally possible to cure the patient. (not just the bare minimum).

An aircraft mechanic (or plumber or electrician or carpenter) has a checklist (a standard operating proceedure) that must be followed, to the letter, to make sure that all the bolts are checked or that every pipe joint doesn’t leak or that every wire nut is tight or that every joist is withing 45 degrees of its supporting stud.


PLEASE. Read and research and check on this. I believe that the disconnect between these two different understandings is very important.

As you’ve stated before the SOP can be the minimum you do or it can be the set standard that you do. You can go above the ‘minimum’ SOP to set a new standard, but then keep doing it that way so it becomes your current SOP. This way there should be nothing to fear legally, if you perform the same inspection with everyone.

You don’t understand.


Think about it.

If a Doctor or Lawyer does the bare minimum required, they will get sued and lose and discraced. Do you expect your Doctor to only do the bare minimum? No, because you expect them to be professionals and to do everything they can to make you well.

But, if an airplane mechanic, in any way, deviates from the standard operating proceedures of the regular airplane maintenance proceedures (written by engineers way above his pay and expertise grade) he will get fired and get people killed.

Standards of Practice are the bare minimum a professional does.

Standard Operating Proceedures are the rigid requirements and must not be deviated from.

It’s all about the mind set.

Think about it.

This deserves more thought, for your E&O carrier may deny a claim for failing to follow an SOP. This can also include EXCEEDING it.

The word “standard” does not allow for a “minimum” or “maximum”.

The standard is the measure.

The standard for one pound is 16 ounces. 17 ounces “exceeds” 16 ounces, but is not a pound. It would fail the standard test if you were trying to pour 17 ounces of sand into a 16 ounce container.

What the insurance companies recognize as the standard…for HI practices…cannot be exceeded. Your agent will tell you that if you perform differently (sometimes referred to as “exceed”) the “standard” of practice, and that act results in a claim, they are not obligated to cover you.

Again, whether you refer to a “standard” of practice or a “standard” operating procedure, the “standard” is the defined measurement of what is being called upon to be provided.

A 12" ruler is a standard. If a manufacturer of 12" rulers decided to “exceed” that standard, and make his rulers 12.5" long, everyone using them would have errant results.


I was pickin’ up what you were throwin’ down. I just never once believed that the SOP was meant as a Standard Operating Proced in our line of work.


YES. Joe. Think about this concept. Two totally different standards. Two totally different mind sets (both in the public’s (and their lawyer’s!)) minds and, much more importantly, in the mind sets of our membership!

Are we professionals, willing to be held to professional standards of practice, or mere tradesmen, doing rote tasks according to a checklist that must not (and cannot!) be deviated from?

Interesting question.

Call me (tomorrow, office number, below) if you want to talk.

Jim. With respect, I don’t think you grasp what I am saying:

Dictionary: standard



[li]A flag, banner, or ensign, especially:[LIST=1][/li][li]The ensign of a chief of state, nation, or city.[/li][li]A long, tapering flag bearing heraldic devices distinctive of a person or corporation.[/li][li]An emblem or flag of an army, raised on a pole to indicate the rallying point in battle.[/li][li]The colors of a mounted or motorized military unit.[/ol][/li][ol]
[li]An acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value; a criterion.[/li][li]An object that under specified conditions defines, represents, or records the magnitude of a unit.[/ol][/li][li]The set proportion by weight of gold or silver to alloy metal prescribed for use in coinage.[/li][li]The commodity or commodities used to back a monetary system.[/li][li]Something, such as a practice or a product, that is widely recognized or employed, especially because of its excellence.[/li][ol]
[li]A degree or level of requirement, excellence, or attainment.[/li][li]A requirement of moral conduct. Often used in the plural.[/ol][/li][li]Chiefly British. A grade level in elementary schools.[/li][li]A pedestal, stand, or base.[/li][li]Botany.[/li][ol]
[li]The large upper petal of the flower of a pea or related plant.[/li][li]One of the narrow upright petals of an iris. Also called banner, vexillum.[/ol][/li][li]A shrub or small tree that through grafting or training has a single stem of limited height with a crown of leaves and flowers at its apex.[/li][li]Music. A composition that is continually used in repertoires.[/LIST]adj.[/li][ol]
[li]Serving as or conforming to a standard of measurement or value.[/li][li]Widely recognized or employed as a model of authority or excellence: a standard reference work.[/li][li]Acceptable but of less than top quality: a standard grade of beef.[/li][li]Normal, familiar, or usual: the standard excuse.[/li][li]Commonly used or supplied: standard car equipment.[/li][li]Linguistics. Conforming to established educated usage in speech or writing.[/ol][Middle English, from Old French estandard, rallying place, probably from Frankish *standhard : *standan, to stand + *hard, fast, hard.][/li]standardly standard·ly adv. SYNONYMS *standard, benchmark, criterion, gauge, measure, touchstone, yardstick. *These nouns denote a point of reference against which individuals are compared and evaluated: a book that is a standard of literary excellence; a painting that is a benchmark of quality; criteria for hiring an excellent teacher; behavior that is a gauge of self-control; donations from the public, a measure of the importance of the arts; the program’s success, a touchstone of cooperation in the community; farm failures, a yardstick of federal banking policy. See also (http://site.answers.com/main/images/ads/infocomsearch300.gif)

I would posit, that if Home Inspectors want to be seen and understood by the general public as professionals, that definitionds # 5 and 6 and adjetive # 2 be used.

See the synonym, “ideal”.

Many seem to believe (wrongly, in my opinion) that definition # 2 is what is meant.

Remember, we follow a standard of PRACTICE. We are professional PRACTITIONERS of a profession, like Doctors or Lawyers involved in the PRACTICE of Medicine or Law, or like engineers or architects.

Totally different head.


Good post Will.
(you nailed it big buddy)

If what Will states is true then the SOP is simply a guidance and should in no way be held against someone in court or through the eyes of a insurance companies UNLESS your not meeting the bare min requirements set by your SOP.

Home inspecting should be done one way and a set of rules should be followed by all. The Chiefs aka experienced inspectors should set these rules. To me the guidelines needs to be black and white. To many people have to many different opinions on what to and what not to do. This really needs addressed. It can confuse one in a hurry especially when you have two highly experienced home inspectors in the industry looking at the SOP in two very different ways.


I “grasp” it. I just don’t agree with it. Neither do some insurance carriers.

Will your speaking clear as a crystal ball. Jim IMO grasp it just fine. He sees the SOP as a reg. You see it as minimum basic starting point guidance. Like I said this needs to be cleared up. The SOP should not be what one thinks in his own opinion.


I have to follow the standards of practice for the states I work in.

In these standards, it is clearly written that I can exceed them if I want to as long as I do not offer services that require a license that I do not have.

I do not see anything in the nachi SOP that allows for exceeding them as is present in the NC and SC SOP’s.

Does this make the nachi SOP a problem for inspectors that advertise that they follow it with their insurance company?

I know it does not present a problem for maintaining a nachi membership because we only have to “substantially” follow the nachi SOP. Exceeding it still substantially follows it.

I can tell this is going to be good. Going to get a cold beer.BRB. I really love it in here when we all try to pick the fly sh*t out of the pepper.

If that ever happens we would all be commoditized and unable to charge anymore than the guy down the street.

Exactly what I was thinking :smiley:

Let me add this:

Some claim that exceeding the SOP can result in the insurer’s refusal to cover a claim against an inspector.

Here is my confusion, since going beyond the SOP may allow the inspector to discover defects that would not be otherwise found, it seems to me that the insurer has less exposure to a potential claim, not more.

So on what basis would the insurer refuse to cover the insured?

I offer termite inspections and am licensed to do so.

This is NOT a part of my SOP, but an additional service I offer for an additional fee. With it, I carry an additional degree of liability than I would if I did not offer it, since the “standard” disclaims it.

Others are qualified to do radon, mold, etc. Some can offer certifications on roofs. Different skills, different services…and not a part of a “standard” inspection.

That’s the key, Bill.

Guidelines (or Standard Operating Proceedures) are things researched and written by those in a position to know (and be held legally resonsible if they mess up) and to be used by those who need clear, written and bare minimum proceedures to do their jobs. Engineers write the Standard Operation Proceedures and mechanics just do what they are told (i.e., follow the proceedures)

Standards of Practice are the ideal set of bare minumum guidelines that professionals must legally follow, but they provide no protection if the practioner (i.e., professional) messes up. If a Doctor recieves a patient in an Emergency Room, hge does not just look up the proceedures and follow the directions and treat the patient according to a checklist. He is expected to be a professional, well educated in his professiona and is expected to use his (or her) brain to best serve the patient.

An HVAC technician, by way of comparision, just follows the rote instructions (Standard Operating Proceedures), written by the engineers, and installs or services the furnace or A/C compressor.

See the difference?

Nope, no way, human error is too great, take a 30 yr. crawlspace house with the typical 55 issues. Have it inspected by 10 different inspectors, you will probably see reports varying from 12 to 55 problems reported.

The guy who can not only find all the problems but also get them into a report in a readable format can eventually charge more or just get many more client referrals from the good job.