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  1. #1
    Lynn Petrie's Avatar
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    Default Attic Inspection

    When you inspect an attic and there is no floor in the attic. How do you inspect it ? Or do you put in your report that you could not inspect the attic becuase there was no flooring? Or do you take the chance and walk through the insulation and hope you walk on the joists ? The reason I am asking is becasue I did an inspection about a month ago and the homeowner called and said if found some wires that should have been written up because they were not in a junction box. But what if you do not see those wires ? The attached picture is the attic and the owner said if found the wires back in the attic where the insulation is.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn Petrie View Post
    When you inspect an attic and there is no floor in the attic. How do you inspect it ? Or do you put in your report that you could not inspect the attic becuase there was no flooring? Or do you take the chance and walk through the insulation and hope you walk on the joists ? The reason I am asking is becasue I did an inspection about a month ago and the homeowner called and said if found some wires that should have been written up because they were not in a junction box. But what if you do not see those wires ? The attached picture is the attic and the owner said if found the wires back in the attic where the insulation is.
    If I can see the ceiling joist and I can maintain a 3-point contact at all times, I will walk an attic with no walk boards. If it is covered with insulation and I do not have a clue as to what I might be stepping on, I will not risk it. Safety first!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Just depends on the inspector. The important thing is to be up front with the client, especially in the report. If you could not, or did not, or would not inspect anything, document what you didn't inspect and why.
    Some inspectors will, as a matter of pride, even, get to every corner of every attic that is physically possible to reach. I know inspectors that will, when they reach those corners, leave a business card.
    Others will take one look from the access and say "no way I'm going in there" and document it. Same thing with some crawl spaces, some roofs, etc.
    By the way, was there a fire? Kinda looks like it.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Lynn,

    No need for flooring in the attic except to any mechanical equipment.

    I do myself attempt to walk across the rafters if I can see them. I might move some insulation around with my foot to find the rafter to step upon to get to something in an attic.

    The main thing to remember is to document not only what you see but also the things you cannot see. For example, I have a statement that says everything below the attic insulation is inaccessible to the inspector and is not covered by the inspection. Possible defects could be present.

    If you don't have such comments as what is hidden, you should consider to help protect you in such incidents.

    JMHO

    Rick


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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    If I could get through without having to borrow though insulation like a mole, I would walk as much as possible, being very careful when I stepped.

    I guess I was one of the 'lucky' ones - never stepped through in 16 years of inspecting, or even during the preceding years of my life contracting.

    Sure does look like a fire was in your photo.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn Petrie View Post
    . . . do you put in your report that you could not inspect the attic becuase there was no flooring? Or do you take the chance and walk through the insulation and hope you walk on the joists ?
    If I can physically get into the attic I will walk the trusses or joists, even when they are covered with insulation. I'm not leaving it to chance, either. I gauge where each truss bottom chord (or joist) is based on where the other truss components (or the rafters) are. When I can't see the bottom chord (or joist) I carefully feel my way along with my feet or sometimes move the insulation over slightly when there is any doubt about what I am about to step on.

    When there are 2X4 trusses they will almost aways be covered with insulation (except above unconditioned areas, e.g., garages). I can't see how one can properly inspect an attic without actually walking through the attic.

    I agree with the others - it looks like there has been an attic fire. Did you also point out the cut rafters at the entrance to the the other attic and the structural repairs (added 2X4 vertical members)?

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Just looking at that picture, I can smell that smoke.

    Rick


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    No question about the fire...

    I walk across ceiling joists everytime I can (must have 3 points of contact).

    Now, the one that is a real ass-whoppin is crawling across the ceiing joists on your knees and hands because of the lack of head height clearances.

    Here is my boiler at the top of the attic section so the client reads it first:

    "The entire attic was not accessible to safely traverse due to the absence of or lack of decking (or foot boards), low head height clearances that prohibited safe access and the presence of mechanical equipment with ducted areas. In addition the the possibility of causing damage to the structure, the possibility exists of causing personal injury to myself if I were to traverse these areas where the ceiling joists were not visible.

    (optional added comment) Also, the attic is being used to store personal items by the seller that prohibit full access or visibility."

    Last edited by Richard Rushing; 09-20-2007 at 08:42 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    I am with Sott P. on this one. Safety first, always. If I cannot see where my foot will rest I don't walk joists. An inspector friend of mine in the Dallas area spoke with a man at Home Depot in passing one day and the guy's son-in-law had been a home inspector. He was electrocuted to death when he was in an attic and walking across joists covered in insulation. He never saw the bare splice he put his ankle against that was lying on top of the joists he could not see because of the insulation. It gave me a new perspective on attic inspections.

    Each inspector is different and has their own methods. Unlike J.P. I have stepped through a ceiling on an inspection and when I was contracting prior to becoming an inspector. It can be dangerous and can be expensive to repair. (Not to mention the injury to your pride.)

    If I can see the joists and feel that I can safely walk them (three point as stated before) then I will sometimes do it. Every house is different.

    Disclaim with explanation anything you cannot inspect thoroughly. I do not take chances with my safety. You cannot inspect thouroughly at all if you are in a wheelchair or worse!

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Safety first is #1 !!

    I've been very fortunate in my almost 20 years of construction and inspection to have not fallen through an attic space - yet! I am focused on keeping that trend.

    I also walk all areas that I can as safely as I can. With limited head-room the hand/knee crawl is tough. Trying to view before stepping to avoid "errant electrical" connections is always a priority, but can be difficult.

    Agreed with others on the image about a fire at some time in the past. Almost looks like the scene of a "Halloween" spook house.


  11. #11
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    Talking Re: Attic Inspection

    My favorite attics are the 60's-70's Fox and Jacobs, Centennial, et al. You don't have to worry about a service floor because the furnace and A/C are on the floor in the garage. The trusses are enough fun in most houses. In these you enter through a hole in the garage ceiling and then crawl on your hands and knees for the first 15-20 ft. through the tiny hole they left in the roof decking. Of course all of the wiring in the house is in the exact same area so that your knees are on the cables as you dodge the roofing nails overhead. Add to this the cobwebs, asbestos insulation and 40 years of insecticide treatments an it makes for a real treat!

    Aaron


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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Aaron,

    I know them all to well. Every call that I get to The Colony, I just know what I'm in for.

    Don't forget getting hung up in all the cable / satellite tv wiring strung up everywhere in the attic. Makes it fun.

    Rick


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Aaron, Rick--

    Those first 15-20 feet in the attic is pretty much a belly crawl.

    RR


  14. #14
    Aaron Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Aaron, Rick--

    Those first 15-20 feet in the attic is pretty much a belly crawl.

    RR
    Richard:

    It's hell on the belly and even tougher on the knees of the expanding-waist dockers . . .

    Aaron


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    I'm with others... do what you can but be sure to document, document and document what you did and didn't do.

    If/when I do go through I agree with the poster about the kicking the insulation before stepping. I'm always looking for that bare wood rafter/truss-cord top. It's amazing how often you clear some insulation and are right on top of a mechanical line of some type.

    Particularly with all the new flexible lines (gas, plumbing, etc) it's easy to squish or break something.


  16. #16
    Nolan Kienitz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron Miller View Post
    It's hell on the belly and even tougher on the knees of the expanding-waist dockers . . . Aaron

    Aaron, RR & Rick,

    I hate/have to admit I've been caught wearing some of those 'expanding-waist dockers'.
    Dang 'maturity' thing it seems.

    And I've had a 'hand-full' of those F-J homes to do recently. Get that deja-vu feeling quite often.


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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    I walk down the "rat-run" whenever possible and am almost always careful.

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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    I walk down the "rat-run"
    I don't. I've had a few almost fail when stepped on, I've felt them crack or flex w-a-y-t-o-o much and quickly stepped off.

    I'm a 'bottom truss chord' or 'ceiling joist' man myself.

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  19. #19
    David Banks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    "I'm a 'bottom truss chord' or 'ceiling joist' man myself. "

    Is that the same as an ass or breast man?


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    "I'm a 'bottom truss chord' or 'ceiling joist' man myself. "

    Is that the same as an ass or breast man


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    "Not all areas of the attic crawl space were available to inspection due to insulation, lack of walkways, and attic installed appliances. This visual attic inspection was limited to line of sight only."

    I walk / crawl where I can, but even so I can't get to every nook and cranny. CYA and don't fall through the cracks.

    Austin Structural Inspections
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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    If the attic has insulation, I figure the most I can see is 50% (the top half is the insulation is on the attic floor and the bottom half if the insulation is on the truss top chords.

    Then it goes down from there.

    In my reports, I would always state where the attic access was, if it was insulated (should be), if it was weather stripped (should be), and the percentage of the attic viewed from that access.

    Many times, the percentage of the attic viewed was <25%, and sometimes <10%.

    I might have 7 attic access openings, each with their own percentage attic viewed.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Talking Re: Attic Inspection

    Jerry,

    OK, let me get this straight. You would spend 2+ hours (previous posts) inspecting maybe 10% to 25% of attics? Seems to me that in 2 hours you should have been digging through the fiberglass to find stuff.

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  24. #24
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Gunnar,

    I have had 4x attic access areas take me over an hour to do. With some of the S. Florida 10K-20K square ft. + homes... I can see where it might have 7 or more and take 1 1/2-2 hours or more to do the attics.

    The attic inspections by themselves in some of those monster homes can absolutely ruin your whole day and make you feel ass-whooped before you really get and momentum going.

    But the money is reeeel guud


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    As Homer Simpson would say, "D'oh!!"

    I knew it was a matter of time before I would earn the award of drywall (gypsum board) punisher.

    I would like to thank the Academy and all my fans who had faith in me.

    rick

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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    I don't walk any area of an attic were there is evidence of wiring in (other than in conduit) if it is covered with insulation. In addition to the hazard to myself, there is the possibility that I will damage wiring, splices and (especially) connections to hidden boxes in such a way that this fire hazard. There are very few things HIs are tempted to do which put current and subsequent occupants at increased risk, but IMO this is one of them.


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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Well Rick, I'll bet there is not a one of us that is laughing at you! Almost everyone has done that, or is in fear of doing that.
    I got two windows from a garage door this week and a second floor shower drain that overflowed (totally plugged) a couple of weeks ago.
    I hope you are OK.
    The time I did it, both feet slipped off a joist and I wound up straddling the joist... lots of bruising, but I did manage to stop short of the important parts .

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    I did that about 10 years ago when I was framing. It hurt like hell, too. I think I still have a small scar on my shin. We started a new company policy on that job. Anyone who falls through the roof has to buy a 12 pack for the afternoon break.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    I did that about 10 years ago when I was framing. It hurt like hell, too. I think I still have a small scar on my shin. We started a new company policy on that job. Anyone who falls through the roof has to buy a 12 pack for the afternoon break.
    We had a company policy that anyone who fell off or through anything was fired before they hit the ground.


  30. #30
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    I once had a off-center, snow-covered 18" cast iron cesspool cover pivot under me and send a leg down on each side. THAT hurt worse than anything else so far in this life.


  31. #31
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    20 years ago I was PM on a commercial construction project (hospital renovation and new construction). One day, while walking across the site, I stepped on a manhole cover that was the wrong cover for the manhole (too small). The cover pivoted, my foot went straight down and I skinned the hell out of my shin on the steel ring.

    I no longer step on manhole covers.

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  32. #32
    David Banks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    We have had a few injuries on MA highways lately due to Manhole covers flying up in the air after being run over by cars. I think it was 3 in 1-2 weeks.


  33. #33
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    As Homer Simpson would say, "D'oh!!"

    I knew it was a matter of time before I would earn the award of drywall (gypsum board) punisher.

    I would like to thank the Academy and all my fans who had faith in me.

    rick
    Rick:

    About ten years ago I preceded you on the red carpet, literally. I was inspecting a grand 6,000 s.f. thing in Las Colinas that was vacant. I was standing in front of an attic furnace on what Texas builders call service flooring - 7/16" sheathing. Some forward-thinking contractor had scored it in a couple of places on the underside in anticipation of my arrival.

    Just as the agent and the client were entering the front door, I gracefully mounted the red carpet at the top of the massive and ornate winding stairs. Too bad I was the only one with a camera and was too winded and covered with drywall and insulation to use it.

    But, once has been enough - so far . . .

    Aaron


  34. #34
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Jerry,

    OK, let me get this straight. You would spend 2+ hours (previous posts) inspecting maybe 10% to 25% of attics? Seems to me that in 2 hours you should have been digging through the fiberglass to find stuff.
    Gunnar,

    Go back and read my post.

    I'm not "inspecting" 10% to 15%, I am "inspecting" as much as I can.

    However, after going all over even only a 5,000 sf attic (they typical 2 hours for me), I 'have not been able to see 100% of the 100% I looked at (assuming for this discussion that I actually looked at 100%). There is insulation covering the floor (or the truss top chords) - the *most* I can "see" is 50% right there. That is, unless I am to report on what I cannot see, under the insulation.

    I stated: "Many times, the percentage of the attic viewed was <25%, and sometimes <10%."

    It's not what or how much you can "access", it's how much you can "view".

    If you can get to 50% of an attic and feel you've been able to "view" 100% of the attic, more power to you. If you even feel you've been able to "view" 50% of the attic (100% of that 50% you could get to), more power to you. You must have X-ray vision, I do not.

    *I* have to climb over and around things, go into places no other person has been, and that takes time. I was always willing to invest that time in my inspections and in the attics, sometimes even spending most of the day in the larger ones, and my clients could hear me climbing all over, good for them, *they* had no problem paying me for *my* time, *their* time, I charged by the hour, I would do as much as they wanted or expected of me (if I could do it).

    My longest inspections were 6,7, 8 DAYS. I had many where I was there most of a week. Most, though, were 2-3 days. In that 2-3 days, spending 2-4 hours in the attic was not uncommon.

    It was also not uncommon for the builder to have to send their framers, HVAC, insulation, electrical, etc., contractors back up to correct what I found and documented with photos. Which is why I averaged 200 photos per inspection (150-300 photos would be typical on most houses I did, I think I may have taken more than 500 once or twice, but not often). EVERY photo was is my report, if the builder does not understand what I'm saying is in the attic ... there was a photo of it.

    I know, some HIs can inspect an attic in 5 minutes ('Yep, there's an attic up there.'), I didn't.

    I know, you can't understand you I could spend 2 hours or more in an attic, or spend even a full day, much less more than 1 day, doing a home inspection, *and still not call it technically exhaustive* (my inspections were not technically exhaustive - they were 'visual'). Likewise, I don't see how one can inspect a 3,000 sf house in 3 hours or so and call it a "comprehensive" inspection.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  35. #35
    Jake Guerrero's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    Aaron,

    I know them all to well. Every call that I get to The Colony, I just know what I'm in for.

    Rick
    Rick, RR, and Nolan,

    Have any of you ever seen what ducting material in the in supply 'chase' that runs down the hallways of the F-J's houses? Looks like galvanized when I peek through the vent cover, but I cant tell.


  36. #36
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Jake,

    Most of them I've seen have what is known as fiberglass board duct material which is then enclosed in the ceiling in a chase type configuration.

    Is this what your talking of?

    rick

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  37. #37
    Jake Guerrero's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Inspection

    Rick,

    That's probably it. I've never been able to see inside that chase to know what was in it...now I know

    Thanks,
    Jake

    P.S. - did another one of these today. New HVAC unit installed in the attic with flex duct (minus a few web members of the trusses - which appered to cause the sill plate to lift on the exterior wall below). I asked the buyer if they new why new sheet rock was installed in all the hallways and ceilings. Whoever was in the process of rehabbing before had raised the ceiling back up.


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