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  1. #1
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    Angry Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    I got a call from a Realtor on Friday she happens to be the broker and owner of a local real estate firm that has been in businees for about 2 years or less. She started out by saying that she would never use me or allow me to inspect any of her listings. She has never used me to inspect homes for her clients, however she has been the listing agent for some of the homes that I have inspected. She said that I had been doing invasive and destructive inspections, and that I have been damaging her clients homes. I told her that this was the first that I had herd of this and that I do not perform any invasive or destructive inspections or evaluations. Within seconds she was shouting and basically screaming in my ear. I politly said that she needed to lower her voice and allow a two way professional converstion so that we can rectify the problem. She then hung up on me. After a few minutes I tried calling her back at her office and the secretary said that she was busy. Then a few minutes later some guy from the office calls me and wants my attorneys name, I did not give him any information. He was not willing to give me the addresses, or any details at all about the supposed properties that I had inspected. He said that there attorney would be calling me. I have already talked to my insurance company about this, and she said to not respond to the crazy woman or anyone else unless I get something in the mail from an attorney.

    After thinking about it and looking at some of the inspections she may be refering to. She most likely is refering to me inserting my awl into rotten wood and taking a photo of it and putting it in the report. Here in Washington State we have to include a WDO inspection with a home inspections. An awl is just a tool of the trade that we use.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Probing at decayed wood will stir up a realtor faster than a hornets nest.

    I personally don't put the pictures on my report of my screwdriver rammed through it.

    You have to let them know it was decayed before you got there and your just making it easier for the repairman to locate and repair.

    Seriously, you should be able to locate the signs of decayed wood without having to probe at it too much. First usual suspect is the fresh paint over it.

    rick


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Keep a detailed record of all conversations, messages, whatever, and prepare for that nut's attorney’s letter. I would seek my own council for a rebuttal letter threatening litigation based on her false allegations with copies going to the local board and state board of Realtors. I have seen this type of situation more than once and your report on her listing probably caused her a late payment on her leased Lexus.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  4. #4
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Trent. don't give another thought. she is out there. I have a 2 foot long green handle screwdriver that i take photos of it all the time. its the most photograph screwdriver in Calif. The only field test for fungus damage wood is a pic and pry. No law firm is going to call you or contact you about this. i have been picking at window trim, siding, roof overhangs, door jams bathroom floors for 30 years and only had 1 wack job agent say something about.

    See the attached photo.

    Best

    Ron

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    It's usually the newer agents/brokers who want to talk crap. She's been in business for only 2 years. Your insp reports could really be killing her monthly close predictions. Who knows what she is hearing back from her agents.
    I don't respond to calls like that. It's just a waste of time, I have more productive ways to use my time. Calls like that are just a pissing match looking to develop.
    Keep a record of the call and info, give your attorney a heads up and move on. I would also recommend keeping your ear open on the street for any dirt about her, her business or her agents. You never know when such intell will come in handy down the road.
    Loose the wood awl, you don't need it.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    (C.) The Home Inspector Shall

    .1. Probe

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    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    I have found that those who say "You will be hearing from my attorney!", do not realize what it is going to cost them for you to "hear" from their attorney! So consequently you never hear from them!

    As for probing wood that you already know is soft from decay, I'm with Rick on this. Why, do it when you already know it has a problem. I have found that I can use my thumb nail or a small thin pocket knife and get the same results as probing with a 4" awl or a screwdriver.

    Even though a home inspector might be required to "Probe", I have never seen the definition of "Probe" or the listing of any required tool for "Probing", so it is up to the individual inspector to decide if they want to use a 8" screwdriver that will tear the heck out of the wood or a small thin pocket knife blade or even a finger nail that will just leave a little impression.

    Last edited by Scott Patterson; 08-03-2008 at 12:00 PM.
    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Finger nail usually works ( not trying to do a demolition ) or finger tip push then a picture.

    A really rotten floor joist an 8 inch screwdriver out of both sides does make a Statement.

    We all know it's only cosmetic Anyway.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  9. #9
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Dang it!!! push just a bit to hard.

    sorry lady. better get that fix. i can put a cost to repair that for you?


    L.O.L.


    Best

    Ron

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Any broker who hangs up on you is an idiot and should be ignored. A real broker wants to solve issues, not create them. She thinks you created an issue by finding what she should have warned her seller to disclose in the first place which would have made it a moot point.
    So next time she calls answer the phone and pretent to be your answering machine. Explain how your are out of the office at the real estate commission reporting unethical brokers and will return the call shortly.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    I personally don't put the pictures on my report of my screwdriver rammed through it.
    I did.

    I would also make sure to take a photo at an angle showing the screw driver handle in one side of the joist/whatever and the blade coming out the other side of it.

    I did not want them to bother to ask 'How bad is it?', in which case I would have to explain that if you took a roll of toilet paper out of the wrapper, it would do its job, but, if you first soaked that roll toilet paper in water, it would be worthless, you would not be able to do anything useful with it ... just like that joist is not doing anything useful.

    I guess I used to be kind of a 'stick it in your face' guy, but I have mellowed with age.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    I will use my finger when it is obvious. There are times that a finger nail just doesn't work well. I use a pocket knife, a small needle type probe and a regular screwdriver.

    I may get THAT call once every two years or so. Most of the time I use something I think I heard Jerry Peck or Walter Jowers say, 'Just how did I damage, damaged wood?.

    I also tell them that I am sorry, but the screwdriver just went in so fast, and it was softer than I thought, etc.

    The other side is, I hear from lots of Realtors about other inspectors that have created lots of damage, so I must not be doing as much damaged as some of the pother guys. I have also inspected some houses that someone before me has really tore up some trim. Way past what I would ever do.

    Of course, he may have had the know it all seller following him around telling him there was nothing wrong with his house and after all, he did all the repairs, and his Daddy was a builder, and his inspector isn't so picky, and how come this is taking so long, and you are just going to find stuff to justify your excessive fee, and he was going to be an inspector too, and how hard can it be, and....... NOW WE KNOW WHY HE GOUGED THE CRAP OUT OF THE ROTTEN TRIM


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Stephens View Post
    A really rotten floor joist an 8 inch screwdriver out of both sides does make a Statement.
    I'm with Billy on this. And from what I've seen, some termite damaged wood is not apparent unless you do probe. Termites do not always leave obvious scars and tubes to indicate they snacked on a joist. Sometimes you may see one or two small BB sized holes that look like termite damage with solid wood around them. But when you get down to really poking the joist in a number of areas, you'll often hit an eaten, weakened area in the wood that you never would have know was there as the termites traveled right through the middle of it and didn't come back out.

    I regularly take pics of my screwdriver embedded in joist ends with pocket rot and coming out the other sides of joists that are badly damaged by termites. So far, nobody has ever complained and nobody has to call me to ask where the damage is and how extensive it is. All they need to do is look at the pics as they tell the story and back up my report verbiage.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Heh. Lately, I've been making it rain downstairs a lot.... which DOES seem to elicit some concern or the part of others present.

    Seriously though: in new construction condos I'm now routinely requesting that the builders provide access to the unit below when I will be testing tiled showers,so that I can at least try to catch leaks on IR before the water actually starts coming through the ceilings.

    Friday, I was back at this one to help the GD decide where to dig - no joy, for the devoloper though, it was a pan, not a plumbing, leak...

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  15. #15
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    You may think its just fungus damage but sometmies if you dig into it you will find termites. and if you miss the termites then the want your but for overlooking termites. and that can cost you some big bucks.

    Best

    Ron


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    I was unaware that home inspectors had to inspect for insect infestation? What state is this in? Of course if during a typical home inspection in CA we see insect damage or the little buggers feces, or through visual evidence that a state licensed PCO should be retained, we do so. When both the bug guys and home inspectors are both at the property at the same time they will usually surreptitiously share information about their findings, out of sight and hearing of the buyer/sellers and their respective RE agents of course. I call it reciprocity.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Bibler View Post
    You may think its just fungus damage but sometmies if you dig into it you will find termites. and if you miss the termites then the want your but for overlooking termites. and that can cost you some big bucks.

    Best

    Ron
    One of the best arguments against home inspectors who are not also pest control contractors looking for termites!! I know a few home inspectors who also have a PC company and they are few and far between.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  18. #18
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Yep, when I poke at something with a screw driver and it sinks easily I take a picture with the screw driver in it. The only way to go. No I don't tear the trim apart or rip a sill in half. Just a little hole that needs fixin anyway. Not invasive, just a light poke. If it is that bad, take a picture of it.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    I was unaware that home inspectors had to inspect for insect infestation? What state is this in?
    WC Jerry,

    I was also a Certified Pest Control Operator.

    Besides, any home inspector worth their salt will look for *the damage* done by the WDI / WDO, in order to make comments on 'structural' observations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    One of the best arguments against home inspectors who are not also pest control contractors looking for termites!! I know a few home inspectors who also have a PC company and they are few and far between.
    Most (back then, not sure about know) home inspectors in South Florida had their WDO inspector ID cards if they were not Certified Pest Control Operators. Out of about 30 or so of us older HIs down there, probably 10 were also CPCOs, and probably 15 of the remaining 20 had WDO inspector ID cards.

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

  20. #20

    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Our SOP says to probe, unless it will cause damage to finished materials. I will dig/ probe the crap out of rotted wood under a home, but don't typically find it necessary to probe exterior components of the home. At times, it is still necessary, but I won't take a picture of it. When searching for rot/ damage, I will push with my fingers, sound the material with the butt end of a screwdriver, or probe very lighly without actually ramming a hole in the material. I had enough complaints that I just developed another method that is just as effective.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Main Entry: 1probe Pronunciation: \ˈprōb\ Function: noun Etymology: Medieval Latin proba examination, from Latin probare Date: 1580 1: a slender medical instrument used especially for exploration (as of a wound or body cavity)2 a: any of various testing devices or substances: as (1): a pointed metal tip for making electrical contact with a circuit element being checked (2): a usually small object that is inserted into something so as to test conditions at a given point (3): a device used to penetrate or send back information especially from outer space or a celestial body (4): a device (as an ultrasound generator) or a substance (as radioactively labeled DNA) used to obtain specific information for diagnostic or experimental purposes b: a pipe on the receiving airplane thrust into the drogue of the delivering airplane in air refueling3 a: the action of probing b: a penetrating or critical investigation c: a tentative exploratory advance or survey


    We are required to probe suspect areas. Example: Threshold and jamb water damage. If you don't probe through the rotted jamb or threshold trim how do you know if the studs or sub floor is not water damaged. I stick a screw driver in all suspect areas. Just a puncture wound not destroy but even if I did it was needing replacing anyway.

    Only had one complaint. Saw some rotted gable trim board, return and fascia on the corner of a apartment complex 2 stories high. The seller was there opening the units for me to inspect and he said the wood was not rotted and just need paint and caulk. I took out my 28' ladder and extended all the way up to the side wall. I had to reach up to stick the gable at the eave. When I did it broke the rotted gable board off and pulled down the rotted fascia with it. In all 3' of gable and 2' of fascia and partial soffit fell to the ground. He was steaming mad and said I was not suppose to destroy property. I told him he watched me do it and the rotted stuff fell off. After 15 minutes or so he calmed down and said he will have it fixed.
    Reason for this little story is If I did not probe it, it looked just like some water damage to the trim and the buyer may not of know about it until it fell off on its own. The look out barge rafter and pork chop was rotted and would not of been know without probing.

    Mike Schulz License 393
    Affordable Home Inspections
    www.houseinspections.com

  22. #22
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Bottom line if you are not probing all wood members like trim, siding, bathroom floors, walls, doors and jams then you are overlooking a lot of damage both termites and fungus damage. I have no problem pulling things apart. i may even do more damage then the fungus or termites. but i got the info and a photo for my report.

    Only one agent ever said something about it. but everytime that agent buys a home he calls me to inspect.

    If your going to inspect something then you need to probe it.

    Best

    Ron
    California Structural Pest Control.
    Excellence Exterminating and Thermal Imaging


  23. #23

    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    I always write something in the report along the lines of " I found rot--- have the entire area evaluated, and have all damage repaired/ replaced as needed."

    Theres no way to know how far the rot has spread. Say you find rot in a window sill. You can't really determine whether just the sill is rotted, or whether the sheathing, framing, etc. is rotted along with the sill. I make my clients aware of the issue, and tell them there is no way to determine the extent of the damage without a destructive evaluation. The evaluation pretty much needs to be done during the repair process.


  24. #24

    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    If your going to inspect something then you need to probe it.
    I definitely don't need to probe finish materials such as trim, siding, etc. to know whether it is rotted. I have inspected both ways and am confident in my abilities to find rot/ decay without sticking holes in materials.

    Deciding whether you want to poke holes in finish materials is just a business decision each of us makes. I have nothing against other inspector's poking holes in damaged finish materials. I just don't often do it anymore, unless I run out of alternatives.


  25. #25
    Chris Bernhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    I stopped a couple of years ago taking pictures of my probe hanging out the siding. Never recalled hearing a complaint, but I have heard stories from realtors complaining of other inspectors really going to town on the siding.

    The other thing that happens and it's happened to me is that the client comes back maybe with his compradre and does all the damage. As a result I don't generally probe siding in front of the client.

    These days I do pretty much what Scott Paterson does.

    Chris, Oregon


  26. #26
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    Thumbs up Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    Thanks for all the replies, you guys are great. I was looking at the Washington State SOP for Structural Pest Inspectors, here is what is states: (1) The inspector shall make a thorough inspection of accessible areas of the subject structure which are not excluded. The inspection shall be conducted by making a careful visual examination, and/or probing with inspection instruments.

    I feel much better about this now, however I probably wont be taking pictures of my awl sticking into damaged exterior wood members. I will just pull it out and point to it with my finger and take a picture.


  27. #27
    Richard Stanley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Invasive, destructive inspection methods?

    I have a screwdriver with a bright orange handle - it shows up great in the pics.


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