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  1. #1
    imported_John Smith's Avatar
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    Default Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Although I have quite a few inspections "under my belt", I still feel a little uneasy walking through attics. Since insulation is now so deep, it makes it hard for me to hunt and peck (not Jerry) my way for a good walk through the space. Short of wearing boards strapped to my feet that are ~36" long, has anyone got any good tips on how to best walk through an attic? I have seen plenty of evidence of people that didnt have a good idea how to walk through an attic (holes in sheetrock, etc.)

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Personally speaking I never walk attics. Like today for instance, the hatch in the closet was restricted by the shelving, the attic space was too small to walk upright, and with R32 blown in insulation and the heat build up it was too oppressive, to do anything but view it from the hatch.


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    John, admittadly I retired several years ago and others can give you up to date advice, but the rule I always followed was if I couldn't see the ceiling joist or where to to put my feet I didn't walk an attic. What is important is that you MUST indicate that detail within your inspection report. The Californ Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) Standards of Practice clearly state that inspector members do not need to go where they exposed themselves to undo physical danger. I also didn't walk roofs with more that a 6 & 12 pitch.

    CREIA SOP, Part 1, A. A real estate inspection is a survey and basic operation of the systems and components of a building which can be reached, entered, or viewed without difficulty, moving obstructions, or requiring any action which may result in damage to the property or personal injury to the Inspector. The purpose of the inspection is to provide the Client with information regarding the general condition of the building(s). Cosmetic and aesthetic conditions shall not be considered.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I concur with Raymond, "Visual inspection of the the attic space was conducted from the attic entry access opening due to insulation covering the ceiling joist which presented a physical hazrd for walking or crawling the attic area to perform a full and thorough inspection, bla, bla, bla...." you get the idea.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  5. #5
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I can absolutely guarantee you that if home inspectors around this part of the country did not walk attics (within reason) the word would get around and the would eventually never inspect again. To much to look at from within the attic to even consider not entering.

    Just my opinion but I be a lot of the Texas boys would agree.


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I'm in attics everyday. Can't imagine not walking the attic or even crawling it if need be. Like Ted said, there could be all kind of issues to pass it up or take it so lightly.

    Sometimes I may be up in an attic for an hour or longer depending on the side of the house. This time of the year, its hot up there too so I consider it my time at the sauna.

    From the attic access, are you going to see the water stains on the sheathing, the termite damage over the bathroom on the other side of the structure, mold, open junctions, those half-a**ed ceiling fan installations, missing insulation, rodent droppings, cracked rafters, the list goes on.

    As far as the question, any good tips.

    Yeah, watch your ass.

    rick


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I always walked them (almost always, there were some which simply did not have enough height for get through without a snorkel, and even then the snorkel would hit the roof sheathing), spent a good deal of time in them too (enjoying the free sauna, actually got paid for the sauna).

    When you walk them, make sure you are on the truss/ceiling joist/rat run. I always felt through the insulation with my foot, feeling the direction the 2x ran (was it in the direction it should be, was it where it should be, etc.).

    Yes, some HIs have fallen through/stuck their foot through, but, by and large, I suspect that most do not, and even those who have do it seldom, meaning that for the number of attics walked, the ratio of holes in the ceiling is quite small, negligible (unless you are the one who just did it and now have to take care of having it repaired).

    Kind of like walking roofs, many HIs walk roofs, very few, however, fall off them. The ratio of roofs walked to falling off is near negligible. Never joined the "ladder surfing club" while an HI, but I was already a 'life member' from my contracting days. Rode one down from a second story overhang, bumpity-bump down the shiplap siding (which I had just painted, and now needed repainting ).

    Never did either myself, although I came close to falling off three roofs, being stopped only by catching my feet in the gutter on two of them. I did 'feel the ceiling' once or twice too, but never caused any damage.

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Here is an court case from Ontario and failure to open attic access hatch which was sealed, that may be of interest.

    Li v. Baker Street Home Inspection Services Inc. 2005
    Ontario Superior Court of Justice
    2005-08-09

    CanLII - 2005 CanLII 32919 (ON S.C.)


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Of key note in that, located at the very bottom:

    [36] For the above reasons, the action is dismissed.
    [37] If the parties are unable to come to terms as to costs, I will be available to make a determination by appointment.

    While "dismissed", that apparently did not prohibit or prevent a negotiation for costs, i.e., the inspector may not have come out as clean as the "dismissed" initially implies.

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    John, I can tell you from experience, painful experience, that I no longer walk on joist with my feet parallel to the joist. I keep my feet across the joist with toes on one side and heel on the other. I was walking during an inspection and my foot slipped off of the joist which had a small amount of insulation on top and I straddled the joist with one foot on each side and my feet dangling in the air in the laundry room below. Painful and expensive! I managed to stop short of the family jewels, but my inner legs were bruised deeply.

    I still walk every attic I can fit into unless it is obvious that there is nothing to see except what I can see from the hatch.


    The three points of contact rule is good but not always possible.
    Although I have quite a few inspections "under my belt", I still feel a little uneasy walking through attics.
    Being uneasy walking attics is a good thing, it keeps you alert. It is when you are too relaxed and let down your guard when bad things happen.

    and the heat build up it was too oppressive, to do anything but view it from the hatch.
    Raymond, Just how hot does it get up there?
    I never measure the attic temperature (too afraid I will scare myself ) but I would guess 130 to 150 is about the average summertime temp here.

    Jim Luttrall
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    Plano, Texas

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Jim, it gets pretty hot, did not take temp in attic, but the outside temp today was 30 celcius or 88 F. plus the humidex makes it feel much warmer. Unfortunately I don't tolerate such warm temps very well.

    But I bet down in Texas you exceed those temps often, and you can keep it down there!



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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    We had a cool front for the past few days which kept the temperature below 90, but the humidity was heavy. Today we got back to a more normal high temp. of about 95 but the humidity was stifling, felt like a sauna just stepping outdoors.


    But I bet down in Texas you exceed those temps often, and you can keep it down there!
    And you can keep your snow!

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Jerry

    [37] If the parties are unable to come to terms as to costs, I will be available to make a determination by appointment.
    I think the onus was on the plaintiff - not prevailing in supporting her case, therefore she would be on the hook for the costs incurred by the respondent (Bakerstreet).


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Walk attics, walk attics, walk attics. If nothing is known about attics by any individual they must at least know that the hat covering the home houses a tremendous amount of goodies that need inspecting.

    Structural framing. ventilation, leaks, insulation, duct work, bath vents, rodents and animals of all kinds etc. etc. etc.

    The value of inspecting an attic is invaluable.

    So what if it is hot, slippery on the joists, dirty, no ventilated etc. etc. etc.

    How do you walk an attic.........carefully, but walk it. No need to crawl it but walk what you can. WAY TO MUCH TO MISS. THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN INSPECT IT FROM THE HATCH. YOU MAY AS WELL NEVER OPEN THE HATCH OR CLIMB THE PULL DOWN STAIRS.

    You are not inspecting way to much of the goods that need inspecting.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Jim

    I always measure attic temp. Trust me the temp in your maybe 8 foot attic at head height when it is almost a 100 degrees outside, with average ventilation, no reflective back sheathing, is about 138 or like you say 135 to 140. I may not camp out up there but I do spend enough time to give the general overview.

    People think it is hot and dry in North Central Texas, HMMMMF. Yeah it is hot and humid up here. Oh yeah. In the other thread about what you wear. Long jeans and a pull over polo shirt, in the 140 degree attic, sweat running off my head, glasses soaked, verge of saying OH MY GOD IS IT EVER HOT UP HERE.

    If any one has every taken a home inspection course (I have taken many) every instructor will tell you of the value of inspecting an attic thoroughly. (As if you needed to be told that).

    Get your backside into the attic and inspect it.

    Have your cell phone on you at all times as you should in a crawl space.

    Last edited by Ted Menelly; 08-22-2008 at 07:44 PM.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    The classes Ive taken , said not to walk the attic, if the Ceiling joist are covered with insulation, that would be unsafe and Home Inspectors are not required to perform unsafe task, Some attics have partial walk ways , those we inspect, but like the above stated make sure to put in the report the reason the entire attic was not inspected and if it goes to court, bring the judge to the scene and see if he wants to guess where the joist are located and possible fall into the tub below, I think he will rule in your favor.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    A judge knows the law.

    We should understand how a house is framed. Exception to the walk: IF I were in a cold climate I might feel differently about disturbing the insulation. From what I see posted about the yanks, they get PO'd about this.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    TIP # 1. Never Never Never stand up all the way you may hit your head on a Roofing nail. Some have 16P Nail sticking out of the ply-wood.

    TIP # 2. All ways hang onto something.

    TIP # 3 Unless your last name is Christ. Never walk on the sheet rock.


    Best

    Ron


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Don't do it this way.

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Mr G. did you do that?


    Ron


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    You becha. About a year and a half ago. Walkin' down the "rat run", missed my footing and ended up straddling the board. Came way too close to falling two stories. Hurt a bit, even though I didn't go all the way down.

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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Well then i shall make a you an award.

    Best

    Ron


  23. #23
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    Smile Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Should have told them it's an opening for a pull down stair........N/C


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Around here attics can be rats' nests of live or abandoned knob & tube , BX, piping for gas lighting systems, etc.

    I do not walk anywhere in these attics where I cannot see what I'm stepping on - too easy (for example) to break the sheathing of BX cable leaving a sharp edge, or pull it loose from a connector at a box - and not even know it.

    IMO sometimes we just have to report the unpleasant truth - for example that the only way to fully inspect such wiring is to remove the insulation from around it throughout the entire attic, or that the hatch is caulked in place, and that even after getting permission to cut the caulk bead it appeared what we would likely damage the hatch's cover or frame getting it open.

    I have a specific item code for such limitations, and they appear both in the body of the report and a separate summary section.

    I explain the reason I could not fully inspect the item or area (documented with pictures where ever possible), I list the reasons why inspection is important, I explain what would have to be done to allow inspection, I offer to return to do it (and charge appropriately), I recommend the client consult with their attorney to determine when this must be done to fully protect them AND I send a follow up e-mail or make and document a follow-up up call asking if the item or area was inspected - this often impress the client with my thoroughness, and it ALSO documents the fact that the client chose to follow up (or not) on my recommendation when specifically reminded of it.

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    One more thing I do when inspecting attics.
    If I am alone, I will call a friend or family member and tell them I am going up in an attic at xyz address and if I don't call you back in abc minutes, call me and then 911.
    I have never had to utilize the call for help, but it makes sure that someone knows where I am if I pass out, touch a live wire, etc.
    If I have clients, PC guy, I tell them if I am not out in xyz minutes, send help.
    I am not afraid of attics, roofs, electricity, etc. but if you respect the dangers you will live longer.
    Also, when the client sees me come out of a attic drenched in sweat, they tend to appreciate the efforts on their behalf and a lot more likely to refer you and a lot less likely to sue.

    Jim Luttrall
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I guess it's a personal/business decision as to whether or not to walk an attic interior but I'll do it whenever I can unless the insulatuion levels are waist high or something. There's just too much to see and find up there. If you inspect older houses or houses with low pitched roofs, you can bet you're going to find deflecting or cracked rafters in many of them, something that just won't show up from the access hatch. Not to mention plastic tubs under leak points, water depressed insulation beneath plumbing vent penetrations, voids in insulation, bath vent fans exhausting into the attic, moisture stains in the soffits.........well, you get the idea.


  27. #27
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Well from what some say I must have the middle name of C H R I S T.

    Let me see. The first time I walked on a construction site would have been about 44 years ago. Never stepped through a ceiling *yet*. Never got electrocuted in an attic (close but no cigar)

    If you are not inspecting attics (trying to come up with a number here) you are not inspecting 25 to 35% of the home you are inspecting. Man I could cut my time by a third. Shoot, I could do 3 inspections a day.....Not!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Every one has to do what they feel comfortable, in ripping the client, oops, I mean, in what they inspect

    Don't get mad folks. Just my opinion.

    Last edited by Ted Menelly; 08-23-2008 at 05:02 PM.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Im gonna do whatever I can to get up in any attic that I can. That is not the case when it comes to getting on roofs. I know my limitations and Im not the best when it comes to being that high up on a very steep roof. (me thinks a roof debate will soon ensue)


  29. #29
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I walk in every attic I can, crawl in some I can't walk, but do not belly crawl. If it's too hot, sorry I don't go.

    3 point rule is the best advice you can follow. With trusses it's lots easier that stick frame where they may change direction anywhere.

    Sometimes I will walk in the junction of the chords of the trusses, but that's pretty hard on the feet.

    I was wondering how many of you guys suffer from plantar fasciitis?
    I started having trouble with my feet a year or so ago, and found that this is very common for people that spend a lot of time on ladders, or stressing the feet by doing things like walking on trusses.


  30. #30
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Rod buster have it. walking in rebar all the time.

    Thats just part of getting old. Rick is 52 today. ask him i bet he has some good story.

    After your feet go out then its the knees, back, and last the head.

    all in a days work

    Best

    Ron


  31. #31
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    What about inspectors who are too large to fit through attic hatches? I know some pretty big inspectors and there is no way they could even stick their upper torso through a hatch.
    What liability are they incurring? How do they disclaim that the attic was not entered due to their body size?


  32. #32
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Pic's of 1996 house inspected on the 19th. You don't see the master bedroom ceiling until you wade through blown insulation in the attic area above it. This house has been wasting heating and cooling energy for 12 years. Doubt this was the first time sold either!

    I'd rather take a little time now as opposed to hunking several rolls of insulation over the edge latter.

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  33. #33
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    What about inspectors who are too large to fit through attic hatches? I know some pretty big inspectors and there is no way they could even stick their upper torso through a hatch.
    What liability are they incurring? How do they disclaim that the attic was not entered due to their body size?
    Why aren't all homes, attics and crawl accessible to wheelchairs for handicapped Inspectors.

    Sorry, I know someone is about to get pi**ed off but If someone is to large to get thru a hatch in an attic or crawl then he should not be in an attic or crawl and in some cases, on some roofs.

    He should not be an inspector. Man am I about to get it.

    Just my opinion but I think that is the way it should be just as in many jobs that certain folk, big, small, handicapped etc.

    Should a blind man be a chemist or a fireman or a high steel man?

    There are opening requirements and height requirements for attics and crawls. If they are at the requirements, well??????


  34. #34
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I agree that it is not always always a good idea to walk in attics. In addition to the safety issues, there are also risk management considerations. We add a disclaimer that if a walkway is not provided, we don't traverse attics.


  35. #35
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Anyone really falling through??

    Reading this thread I was surprised by how many inspectors do not walk (or even go into attics).

    I try to understand the reasoning, and figure that's it's really an individual decision, so I don't have to agree.

    But, it got me to thinking of just how many inspectors step through a ceiling. On a given day, there has to be tens of thousands of inspections done. How many ceilings are damaged each day?

    I think the numbers just don't justify the fear/caution/alarm??
    I've been doing inspections for close to 20 years and have ONE episode, and this was last year (my first ever). That's 1/9,000 +/-. Pretty good odds anywhere.

    How about the rest of you? I would have to guess that most of us here have a pretty low accident rate. If I had to guess, most here maybe have one or two episodes in their career, not each month, or even each year.

    So, if we as a group have a low occurrence rate, then why are so many concerned about this big risk, that is probably not all that big of a risk?

    Same thing about nails in the head. it seemed like I was getting stuck all the time, but haven't had a bad one in a long time. Still get scratched and dented a lot though.

    Brings up another topic, how many have their tetanus shots up to date?


  36. #36
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Not going to debate the pro's and con's of inspecting the attic ( I do, just to add my vote ).
    I just want to remind everyone, particularly in the warmer climates, Aug / Sept are the hottest months. Please keep in mind:

    Hot with profuse sweating - need to cool off and get plenty of liquids ( non alcoholic, sorry )

    Cramps - massage cramped area, plenty of fluids, cool off

    Extreme exhaustion-cool off , rest, drink water - this quickly turns into heat stroke

    Extremely hot / exhausted / no sweating = heat stroke.
    THIS IS A LIFE THREATENING CONDITION
    which will cause rapid shutdown of body functions if not dealt with immediately. remove all clothing ( providing for modesty ) continuous flushing of body with cool, not cold, water, administer oxygen if possible, seek medical treatment immediately for definitive care


  37. #37
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Aside from the reasons that have been voiced here, are there any structural issues that might arise from walking on the bottom chords of engineered trusses?
    ie: causing deflection that would lead to nail pops.

    Can anyone think of a reason why a builder would not want you to walk the trusses?

    Had it happen to me. The client was in the room at the time, and naturally I entered the proper disclaimer in my report.

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  38. #38
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Jack said "I try to understand the reasoning, and figure that's it's really an individual decision, so I don't have to agree."

    I'll bet some of it's:

    laziness,
    because they gotta get to the next job and walking the attic takes time,
    fear of the unknown,
    passed down HI lore bullshit (might "disturb" the insulation"),
    physical condition of the inspector,
    it's hot and dirty,
    insulation make 'em itch.

    Lot's of "reasoning".

    NONE of those reason's 'll save em when there is a problem and someone else CAN get to it.

    But hey, life's a choice.

    Here's a choice you CAN make.

    BUY some. Protect your head.

    The Original Bump Hat Insert headgear head protection

    And keep that tet anus show up to date.


    -

    Erby Crofutt, Georgetown, KY - Read my Blog here: Erby the Central Kentucky Home Inspector B4 U Close Home Inspections www.b4uclose.com www.kentuckyradon.com
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  39. #39
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Erby,
    Thanks for posting the bump cap thing. I'm going to order some this afternoon.
    Jack


  40. #40
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    A- I think it's proper to have a policy of 'always' walking the attic. I always walk attics regardless of temp or insulation, unless:
    - there appear to be structural problems already
    - or if I hear/see critters. I am not getting rabies for an HI fee.
    B- I would generally not begrudge someone for not walking a 'particular' attic. Even as I've been in some attics, I've thought to myself. 'This is crazy', for various reasons we can probably all imagine. Nonetheless I still check it out. An HI who doesn't walk attics probably also does checkbox and worked outside the trades previously. (I know, bad HI)
    I've built houses with trusses and managed projects where others were using trusses. I cannot imagine an HI doing damage to a truss by walking on it. Have you seen what tradesmen do on jobsites? I did actually ask the manufacturer once about walking the trusses. They stated basically, if walked on with normal stepping and force that there shouldn't be a problem. Kicking or leaping from one to another could cause problems.

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    Talking Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    "I always walk attics regardless of temp or insulation, unless....."
    Marcus, does your "always" mean: occasionally, from time to time, most of the time, once in a while, off and on, at times, etc...?

    Just messin with you, I do know what you mean.


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    Cool Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    For those that believe that inspectors who choose not to put themselves in harms way or create potential damage to ceiling covering, piping, wiring, venting, duct work, can-lighting, etc. by placing one's feet on ceiling joist they can not see due to deep insulation please do not assume they are idiots, fools, lazy, or inexperienced. This is a choice one must make and if that choice meets the SOPs of the association they belong to its ok in my book. So gentlemen, how about ceasing the chest thumping and give, “I always inspect attics regardless of the heat, amount of insulation or whatever” a rest.

    I’ve been performing legal support in home inspector litigation for a long time and I have never had a case, or heard of one in which the inspector was held liable for any conditions constituting a material defect that was concealed by insulation either in attic or foundation crawl spaces. I have absolutely no argument with those that wish to do so, but I’m growing tired of the drum beat about the incompetence of those that don't for the reasons I mentioned.

    FWIW from the CA B&P Code: Section 7196 California Business & Professions Code
    Section 1: It is the intent of the legislature in enacting this act to assure that consumers of home inspection services can rely upon the competence of home inspectors. It is the intent of the legislature that, in ascertaining the degree of care that would be exorcised by a reasonably prudent home inspector pursuant to Section 7195 of the Business and Professions Code, the court may consider the standards of practice and code of ethics of the California Real Estate Inspection Association, the American Society of Home Inspectors, or other nationally recognized professional home inspection associations.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  43. #43
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    For those that believe that inspectors who choose not to put themselves in harms way or create potential damage to ceiling covering, piping, wiring, venting, duct work, can-lighting, etc. by placing one's feet on ceiling joist they can not see due to deep insulation please do not assume they are idiots, fools, lazy, or inexperienced. This is a choice one must make and if that choice meets the SOPs of the association they belong to its ok in my book. So gentlemen, how about ceasing the chest thumping and give, “I always inspect attics regardless of the heat, amount of insulation or whatever” a rest.

    I’ve been performing legal support in home inspector litigation for a long time and I have never had a case, or heard of one in which the inspector was held liable for any conditions constituting a material defect that was concealed by insulation either in attic or foundation crawl spaces. I have absolutely no argument with those that wish to do so, but I’m growing tired of the drum beat about the incompetence of those that don't for the reasons I mentioned.

    FWIW from the CA B&P Code: Section 7196 California Business & Professions Code
    Section 1: It is the intent of the legislature in enacting this act to assure that consumers of home inspection services can rely upon the competence of home inspectors. It is the intent of the legislature that, in ascertaining the degree of care that would be exorcised by a reasonably prudent home inspector pursuant to Section 7195 of the Business and Professions Code, the court may consider the standards of practice and code of ethics of the California Real Estate Inspection Association, the American Society of Home Inspectors, or other nationally recognized professional home inspection associations.
    Man, it happened again. A nice long winded thorough post and it just disappeared.

    I am not entering it again.

    I, and I do not believe, anyone is beating their chest. I think it is just a bunch of inspectors that have great passion in their belief that they are not doing their clients justice unless they do a thorough (as possible) inspection of the attic.

    I don't want to count the numbers of items or give a list, but it is huge, on what does not get inspected if not inspecting an attic.

    How about a percentage. Ohhhh, 25% minimum that is not getting inspected of the particular home as a whole.

    I know it has been mentioned a thousand times but I will again.

    If the vast majority of inspectors in your area or for your HI assoc is inspecting attics, hmmm, how does it go, oh yes, then all inspectors should be doing so.

    See. No chest beating. Just one inspectors belief and opinion.


  44. #44
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Jack, to answer your question:

    0 for 2800 + Tetnus updated and I treat attics as you do, walk junctions when I can.

    Living is a good life!

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    To me the belief that an inspector is doing their client a favor by blundering about in attics with 60 year old fabric insulated BX running across joists in unpredictable directions and submerged below insulation is highly questionable - there are very few things we do as inspectors that can actually increase the risk of injury or death for current and future occupants of a house, but IMO that's one of them.

    And don't kid yourself - "blundering around" is exactly what you are doing in such attics when you cannot observe where you are stepping, and what damage you may have caused.

    Oh... you have "been doing this for years, and never caused damage."

    Given that you can't see what you have stepped on, you know this how?

    When I hear that I always think of the gaff we all hear from roofers, plumbers, carpenters, tile contractors, etc., day in and day out:

    "I've been doing it that way for years, and it's never broken/failed/leaked/cracked..."

    Interesting that IMO some of us can't seem to hear it when we say it ourselves - how do you suppose damage to the broken-jacketed, pulled-loose-from the the box, now hanging-from-the-wire-nut BX wiring we find in these attics was created? Do you suppose it could be because someone stepped on it?

    Sure, I will find more defects if I wade through insulation to the far corners of the attic than if I stay on floored areas and/or limit my travels across unfloored areas and only visit highly suspect areas such as chimneys and other roof penetrations.

    But in these attics I will also avoid damage to deteriorated, often poorly installed and overloaded wiring. Damage that I cannot prevent, cannot detect, and which unlike a cracked rafter tail or an obstructed roof vent is a possible cause of injury and death to current and future occupants of the building.

    I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinion on this.

    But I do wonder, when people suggest that someone is "ripping off the client" by choosing not to subject them to such risks, if they have really thought through the implications of their own judgment in terms of their responsibilities to their clients.

    -------------

    (For those who like to play liability "what if": To avoid damage to such cables, exposed BX in an attic is required by code to be protected at scuttle holes or attic entrances were it's likely to be stepped on. Given that an inspector is expected to be aware of this, is it reasonable to suppose an inspector should be aware of the potential damage to unprotected BX and act accordingly - for example by not doing things likely to cause unprotected BX it to be stepped on? Is an inspector negligent if they fail to observe such precautions, for example by walking where such cable can reasonably be supposed to be present, but is covered by insulation?).

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 08-25-2008 at 07:01 AM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    (For those who like to play liability "what if": To avoid damage to such cables, exposed BX in an attic is required by code to be protected in places were it's likely to be stepped on.)
    It is?

    Where?

    What code?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Jerry, my wording was imprecise - someone who wished to be difficult could claim that it could be read as implying that such projection is always required.

    The post has been edited to remove the ambiguity, unfortunately this site does not appear to support strike-through, or I would have left the original in place to indicate the edit.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 08-25-2008 at 07:07 AM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Walk like an Indian in the forest.

    FEEL before you step.

    Erby Crofutt, Georgetown, KY - Read my Blog here: Erby the Central Kentucky Home Inspector B4 U Close Home Inspections www.b4uclose.com www.kentuckyradon.com
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    someone who wished to be difficult could claim that it could be read as implying that such projection is always required.
    They could? If they did, they would be shot down, unless there was something meeting that requirement (such as a permanent ladder ... )

    unfortunately this site does not appear to support strike-through
    I agree there, strike-through text would be helpful in many cases. I'll contact Brian again and ask him if he can include strike-through text, how about you do the same?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Erby,

    I too used to believe this was a sufficient precaution, and one not difficult to take.

    Experience back in my rehabbing days - both in the form of contact with live knob and tube wiring and as a result of damaging existing BX - taught me otherwise.

    YMMV.

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

  51. #51
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Why is everyone taking it so personal.

    Folks are expressing themselves.

    Trying to get their opinion across.

    Did you really think I was saying that Michael Thomas was ripping off his clients.

    Its called over exaggeration, passionate, suggestive, trying to make a point in the strong belief that so many have about the inspection of attics. The ones that inspect attics for their clients are passionate about their beliefs to do so. The ones that don't inspect attics appear to have just as many excuses to not inspect attics as those that do.

    Yes Michael, I can say that I have not damaged any wires. I guess you missed the part about being careful?

    "blundering around"? Your kidding right? What part of being careful do you not understand. What do you think we are doing? Just kicking at the insulation to get it out of the way, jumping on gas lines, ripping and stepping on wires? That is why we are in the attics. We are there to see what concerns ly up there, not to create them.

    You say to go to highly suspect areas such as the chimney. Hmmm, kinda sounds like you are blundering around in the attic. After all so much damage can be done by blundering your way to the chimney that I do not understand why you would do that. After all, what are you going to find over there to take such a liability risk????? A water leak? Insect damage? Dry rot? That does not sound like something to take such a big risk for! After all that is causing way to much damage on the way there! Oh wait, you were being careful. Making sure you watched your footing and did not step on hidden junction boxes, light cans, wires, gas and or plumbing pipes.

    Yes Michael, slight sarcasm. Just enough to try to make a point but not enough to intentionally hurt or lash out. Do you really think the inspectors that do inspect attics to the best of their ability are just blundering around mindlessly and aimlessly without any form of conscious awareness. Nah, I certainly do not believe you think that

    You seem to be going after those that do inspect attics but if there is a highly suspect area, you inspect it.

    Hate to tell you this but the entire attic is a highly suspect area

    I am sorry for over expressing myself and I will apologize for anyone else that did so to try to make *their* point and express *their* opinion.

    Have a nice day Mikey Careful out there!


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I'll contact Brian again and ask him if he can include strike-through text, how about you do the same?
    Mail sent.

    _____________


    As for the rest, I just assumed that readers here would understand that a reference to required protection of BX in an attic referred to the 1.8 m (6 ft) requirement from a scuttle hole or attic entrance with non-permanent access. (In fact, at many of the older properties I inspect there are permanent stairs, and the more stringent requirements apply.) IMO, the requirement for such protection ought to alert inspectors to the possibility of damage to unprotected BX by foot traffic - even if they are Indian feet.

    I'm done now.

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

  53. #53
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Tsk, Tsk, chest thumping? I don't know where the hell you get that notion. Sounds more like personal insecurity to me.
    Damaging BX? You must be walking like an elephant or not knowing where your forward foot is going before you put weight on it. You are going to damage a piece of BX laying on a joist by stepping on it? Possible sure.
    If there's knob/tube I'll probably know it before I go in the attic, not always though.
    There's probably 1-2 attics a year I don't walk because of conditions. To not walk attics, because you might damage something is a cop out. The potential information gained about the home can be highly valuable.
    As I mentioned before, I wouldn't begrudge someone for not walking a particular attic. I know what some are like. To generally not walk attics as a policy is crap. Saying so isn't chest thumping.

    www.aic-chicago.com
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  54. #54
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Just to be clear what my policy is:

    I end up walking (and sometimes crawling) most attics.

    When I can see where I'm stepping, I'll go just about anywhere that looks like it will support me.

    I'm comfortable moving around in most newer construction, even though many of the McMansions in my area have complicated roof designs that can make it difficult to predict where it's safe to step if the trusses are partially buried in insulation.

    However, in older (pre-50s construction), when I encounter attics with old wiring snaking under insulation - especially, thick, blown-in retro-fit insulation - how far I go is a case by case question, weighing the benefits against the risks.

    And in the majority of such cases, I restrict my travels in such attics to 1) close examination of major roof penetration such as stacks and chimneys and 2) getting (if reasonably possible) to locations were I can observe all major sections of the attic.

    In these cases I report where I've been, and where I have not, and what I could see, and where I have not been able to see.

    And the only known occasion that I have failed to observe and report a defect of significant to a client as a result was a case where I had identified a cracked rafter, but not cracks in two others (hairline cracks in dark wood) - the cracks were found when a contractor got up there with no time limit, an AC powered halogen work light, and if I remember correctly a half-sheet of plywood or something similar to crawl around on. When I found out this had happened (from the carpenter) I contacted the client, who told me that they did not see how I could have have been expected to have discovered the cracks without the same sort of effort made by the contractor, and they are probably right.

    So am I missing things I might not find otherwise?

    Likely, I am.

    Am I missing defects of real significance to the client?

    On the evidence, no.

    OTOH, am I avoiding possible damage to fragile and deteriorated wiring, damage I may not be aware of causing, and which may increase the likelihood of future electrical fires?

    IMO, I am. And that opinion is based on 1) the actually condition of such wiring in such attics, as actually observed when I used to do gut-out rehabs of such buildings 2) that in my opinion if you make your way through such insulation not only can you not observe what you are doing, you cannot observe what you have done, 3) the fact that my parents 1920s built summer home burned down a few years back, likely because of damaged knob and tube wiring, and it was just a matter of luck the no one was in it at the time.

    That's my approach, and it appears to be resulting in satisfactory inspections and satisfied clients. And it leaves me sleeping better: I can live easier with repairing a blocked low-profile vent or the like (if it comes to that) then the slight but IMO real possibility that I have damaged wiring without knowing it.

    Just my opinion, but I've thought it through, and that's my reasoning.

    YMMV.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 08-25-2008 at 10:37 AM.
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  55. #55
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Hi Guys,

    This is a long thread, and I read most of it, so here is my $0.02.

    Protection: I found an item on line called a BUMP CAP. It's not as bulky as a REAL hard hat, it's like a baseball hat with hard plastic in the top. It has saved my dome many a time. It is awkward to come out of an attic with blood going down your face because you "found" an air nail in the sheathing.
    I also wear a air mask - cheapo one that I can throw away after a few inspections. Gloves - splinters suck, and the angle iron holding the air handler is sharp.

    Headlamps: OK very geeky, but totally awesome to have light where ever you look. Always have a second light backup.

    I do go in every attic that I can. I may only stay on the HVAC service platform, but at least you can see most of the attic. MOVE SLOWLY, don't guess that you are stepping on a sturdy joist - there may be some pieces of wood partially covered that may not be nailed down, or strong enough. Always hold on with your hands.

    Hot? Hell yes, this is the desert. Don't stay in there long, stay low, heat rises (I know you know that). If you start feeling funny, it's time to get out, quick!

    Don't forget to turn off any lights up there.

    Stay cool.

    Dave Hill
    Buyers & Sellers Property Inspections LLC
    WWW.BuyersSellersPi.Com

  56. #56
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I have determined there is a need for the invention I have been working on. Shoes with stud sensors built into them. Perfect for walking in attics. Kind of like the shoe lights Al developed on Married with Children many many years ago.


  57. #57
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    John,

    Maybe you just need some shoes like Bozo.

    rick

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    My snowshoes have mini crampons on the bottom. Not too good for attics


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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Jack,

    Not good for an attic, but would be great to wear when mowing the yard.

    They would help areate the soil to allow water and fertilizers more to the root system.

    rick


  60. #60
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    I'll always get up into the little womb-sized scuttle holes and pull my head thru the other side acting like i'm wiping the afterbirth off (from the cobwebs).

    These older homes I do a lot of in S Dallas county, Ellis County and Kaufman counties are a real arse-whippin. Old, hot, dusty and usually being occupied by vermin or rodents.

    The best advise anyone can give another about the attic inspections is not only tell what you see, but MOST OF ALL--give good detail of what was not visible or accessible (ceiling drywall, condensate drain line when covered, bathroom/ utility vents when covered with insulation, the condition of wiring, the lack of accessibility of gas plumbing lines, those recessed lighting fixtures that you cannot see-- usually not rated for insulation to be piled up against-em, roof leaks, broken/ cracked rafters, just to name a few). Don't be afraid to write a narative of the condition of the attic-- sure goes along way with telling the story vs a canned report.

    I will make every attempt to walk the perimeter of the attic, along the purlins in a hip roof or usually crawl down the middle of the rat-run of a gabled roof. I can't/won't do it without my trusty knee pads-- life safers I tell ya.

    Speaking of falling off of roofs, I had a recent bout with cranial flatulance while attempting to come down off of an 8/12. The pitch wasn't the culprit... it was my own dowing as I put the ladders feet on soil that was harder than concrete. Problem was, the feet slid down right under me as I had one leg thrown over the ladder to get down and the other one was still on the roof... Well, ladder kept sliding, I kept sliding and my kitty-kat instincts took over-- I litterly dug my fingers into the single as my extremeties and single digit were dangling like a bad flag.

    I ended up removing the skin off of 4 knuckles on my right hand down to the bone-- never friggin fell though. I had to clean up a few blood stains on the siding, but it was much better than someone else cleaning up by heads bloodspot fromt he ground. This happened at the beginning of the inspection so I had to finish by putting a glove on and taping the blood soaked glove up. The thumb swole up so big it wouldn't go into the glove.

    Good times...

    Oh, yeah... 1 week later, almost the exact same thing happened. Only this time, when the ladder started sliding down, I caught it while still on the roof (almost pulled me over).

    The problem has been that some of these vacant homes havent had the soil moisture content maintained and the top soil is like concrete. Therefore, a laddres foot pads can slide right down if there is any incline.

    Yep... good times. Hot attics, bad soils, roofs that want to buck you off!

    Oh Yeah, I almost forgot, that Saturday (same week), I was crawling under this old home built in the 40's, and ole Jake the snake came within about 2-ft and (HIIIISSSSSSSSSSED) at me. Kinda rude, I thought since I was wedged under there pretty tight. I none the less did my best immitation of a crawlfish and back-my-azz out of there.

    Gotta love inspecting in Tx. summers.


  61. #61
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Hey Richard, Good to see you post again.

    Me and Nolan was talking the other day and you came up and we wondered where you had been.

    Hope all is well.

    rick


  62. #62
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Where I been?

    Where youz guyz been?


    Actually, I've been out trying to make a dollar or two every day while tryng to stay safe-- not alot luck going on with the latter part of that on.

    When we going to go back downtown for a brewsky?

    We ought to take some time and let off some steam. Lord knows, I need to.

    rich


  63. #63
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hill View Post
    Hot? Hell yes, this is the desert. Don't stay in there long, stay low, heat rises (I know you know that).
    Actually, cold air sinks and pushes the hot up. But, I maybe I'm splitting 'airs.

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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Actually, cold air sinks and pushes the hot up. But, I maybe I'm splitting 'airs.
    Being as everything is cold until heat is added , all air is at the bottom (gasping for breath while standing), only when heat is added does the air gain buoyancy and rise (ah, I can now breathe).

    Thus ... heated air rises ... or is that splitting already split 'airs?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  65. #65
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    Default Re: Walking in attics - Any good tips?

    Today's attic delight:

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