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  1. #1
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
    Andy Jarchow Guest

    Default Old home without attic space

    What do you indicate on your report when you inspect a home with no attic or space?

    This place didn't have any attic venting either. Is that normal for old houses?

    I just inspected a story and a half. This was an older home. From looking at how high the windows are compaired to the roof line it looked like there was only about 4 inches of insulation possible in the middle portion of the roof and maybe less on the downward slope. There is no way to practically add more.

    What do you say in an instance like this?

    Thank you

    Mike

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Old home without attic space

    My opinion:

    You are going to want to have a canned response for this, because you're going to see it lot - actually, several canned responses for the major variations on the types of construction / access issues where you have limited or no ability to inspect the underside of the roof structure.

    The comment should explain why you couldn't inspect these areas, and then list the various components and systems you could not observe (including the fact that you were not able to observe any electrical, plumbing, or HVAC components that may be located in areas you can't access), that you could not determine the presence or absence of insulation, and the limitations of your ability to assess ventilation, note any objective evidence that leads you to suspect there may be problems in these areas (for example staining or elevated moisture levels areas at interior finish surfaces below the roof, or visually observable excessive deflection at the finish materials at the underside of the roof surface), and then outline what steps would be necessary to investigate what you are unable to observe. Often, of course, it won't be practical to undertake such investigations, but in my opinion you should still explain the possibility, and note the difficulty.

    In my reports this is listed separately as item in a "limitations to the inspection" section, and if I find defects or evidence that leads me to suspect the more intrusive investigation is required, this is briefly noted in the limitations section, and then appears again in as much detail as is required in the "action items" section.

    Personally, since in my report layout "limitations" don't get in the way of reading the "meat" of the report, and since I already have comments written to describe all the common situations where you encounter these kinds of limitations, I tend to be pretty detailed about what and why I could not inspect on the assumption that these precautions gives me both a moral advantage and at least some legal cover if someone later complains about my failure to discover something that I could not observe because of access limitations. So far this has worked in every case where a client has later had a complaint about a major problem I could not discovered or predicted ; I'm sure if I'm in this business long enough my day in court will come, but to date it's been a source of considerable comfort to be able to politely point to such language in the reports when I got an angry call, and combined with quick response and genuine concern while still (rightfully) pointing out that there is nothing I could or should have done differently, it's eventually defused such confrontations.

    IMO, this is a wise approach to take with any kind of significant limitation, for example I think is a good idea to have very strong language describing the implications of limitations of inspection in such situations as a dormer wall where the cladding extends all the way to the roof surface and you can't inspect the flashings, retrofitted siding which prevents inspection of the detailing at window and door openings below the siding, and that this is especially important in situations where water intrusion or significant structural problems could be the result of a defect you can't observe.

    I make a point of explicitly noting such limitations both verbally and in writing - and while I don't want to reopen THAT discussion again, one of the reasons my strong personal preference is to have clients present at the inspection is that I want to make these points to them as forcefully as possible while we are both looking at the property.

    YMMV.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 03-03-2010 at 08:30 AM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Old home without attic space

    It happens all the time here, probably every week for me. If it's a flat roof, I don't mention anything about an attic, because there isn't one present. If it's a pitched roof that doesn't have access, I just write that I had no access to the attic space.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Old home without attic space

    I always referred to the space between a flat roof (pitched too) and a finished ceiling as an attic. I did a little Google search and found that Wikipedia does not. They refer to the space beneath a pitched roof and finished ceiling as an attic, but Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com does not specify the pitched roof....just roof. For now I will keep referring to all spaces between roof and finished areas as attics.

    As a former commercial roofing professional I have seen many attic areas below flat roofs that were not ventilated at all. They were all like greenhouses. Condensation, mold, rot the whole shebang. These spaces absolutely need to be ventilated. When I come across one without an access panel during an inspection, I always recommend installing one. If I don't find any ventilation sources then I let my clients know it is probable they will need to add that too. But that's just me.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Old home without attic space

    I reference "structure at the underside of the roof": (ex: the "structure at the underside of the roof visible from the attic" or "the structure at the underside of the roof above the second floor ceiling, which was not inspected as there is no access to this area").

    IMO, it's important to make the point that when you can't access or fully observe such an area you not only cannot observe structural components, but you also can't observe (or fully observe) any other systems or components (such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, chimneys and vents, etc.) located within or passing through the under-roof area - otherwise you may have very unhappy client when the electrician discoveries as they trace the further course of the the knob and tube wiring you observed (and properly reported) in the basement and discover is that is entering an under-roof area with no access.

    (This is also why IMO whenever possible it is wise to "report such limitations from both directions", ex: when you find knob and tube, your comment documenting your observation should include a disclaimer that the circuits could extend into areas not accessible during your inspection, and they should be a pre-written comment so that you have time to carefully consider exactly how you want to make this point).

    ______________________

    Cary's post brings up another significant issue when thinking about how to report limitations: many of us have an or areas of specialized knowledge and deeper understanding, and that experience and understanding leads us to suspect the presence of hidden problems in particular situations.

    Cary has torn open a lot of flat roofs, he knows based on experience that absent ventilation there is a possibility and perhaps even a likelihood of deterioration due to water damage, "in his experience and opinion" (my words, not his) it is a worthwhile precaution to obtain access to inspect such areas, and I assume from his post that he reports it that way when he sees it that way,.... though another inspector who had not had the opportunity to open many such roofs might not recommend creating access to inspect this area, or even mention the potential implications of inadequate ventilation.

    For many of us, the longer we are in the business, and the more we learn, the more extensive the additional investigation we are likely to suggest - and how to appropriately report both what we can objectively demonstrate to be true and what we suspect to be likely is one of the real conundrums in this business.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 03-03-2010 at 11:11 AM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Old home without attic space

    Quote Originally Posted by Cary Seidner View Post
    The name is actually Cary.
    Fixed.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  7. #7
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
    Andy Jarchow Guest

    Default Re: Old home without attic space

    Thank you very much for taking the time to answer. This was helpful!
    mk



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