Results 1 to 2 of 2
05-26-2007, 12:49 PM #1
Walt Jowers, a national treasure for home inspectors
Don’t trust new-home builders or government inspectors to look out for your best interests
In the 20 years that I did home inspections, I never found a new or nearly new house that didn’t have some glaring problems. I called those problems the “fish in a barrel” because I saw them every day and they were dead obvious. With precious few exceptions, spec-house builders took the same shortcuts, made the same mistakes and didn’t even attempt to correct them.
I could—and still can—walk up to just about any recently built house and find problems with the roof, the carpentry, the foundation, the waterproofing, the grading, the siding, the deck, the stairs and maybe more. When I explained these problems to my house-buying customers, I inevitably got this question: “Why didn’t the codes inspectors catch that?”
I never had a good answer to that question. But every time I heard it, I harked back to the words of one of my customers, a physician who confronted an excuse-making builder about his many errors. “I don’t care if this was caused by incompetence, ignorance, negligence, honest or dishonest mistakes,” said the doc to the builder. “There’s just too much wrong, and I don’t trust you to fix it. I’m not buying this house.”
The doc was right. It doesn’t really matter how or why a house got screwed up. A person who’s considering buying a new or newish house just needs to know if the house is screwed up, and whether or not it can be unscrewed.
Believe me when I tell you: it’s crazy to rely on government codes inspectors to make sure that your house is built right. A couple weeks back, ABC News aired—and published in print—a story titled, “Incompetent Building Inspectors Hurting Homeowners.” The story detailed the travails of Lisa Daniel, a homeowner in Wayne County, N.C.
The front side of Daniel’s house was seven inches longer than the back. That’s a big structural problem. An engineer recommended that the house be demolished and a new house be built in its place. The engineer also detailed more than 25 code violations, even though the county inspectors had approved the house.
Daniel followed the inspector who had done her inspection and videotaped him while he inspected other homes. One of his inspections lasted just 24 seconds. At another house, the inspector was supposed to inspect framing, electrical and plumbing. Elapsed time for that inspection: 88 seconds.
The inspector explained that the jobs were done quickly because they were “follow-ups.” Daniel produced videotape that showed the same inspector following essentially the same quickie routine over and over.
I’d love to tell you that the Wayne County situation is an aberration, but I’ve seen the same things here dozens if not hundreds of times. For instance, at a new house with a “Final Inspection” tag that had been hung on the electrical panel that very day, I found that one wall switch, in a closet, controlled half the lights in the house. I am not making this up.
In an old house that was being renovated, I found another brand-new “Final Inspection” tag on the electrical panel. I also found that the water pipes were “hot”—in other words, if you touched them, they shocked you. Somebody could’ve gotten electrocuted.
At a new million-dollar house, I found problems with the foundation and the brick veneer. The builder invited the local codes inspector to the house so he could show me the error of my ways. I took the codes guy into the crawl space and showed him the foundation problems. His response, “I guess I overlooked that.”
I showed the builder that the brick veneer didn’t have the code-required weep holes and flashings. His response: he ordered his superintendent to grab a drill and start drilling weep holes. Apparently, neither the builder nor the super knew that you can’t just drill weep holes after the house is built. The holes won’t weep. The builder insisted that the local codes guy straighten me out. After a brief discussion, I handed the codes guy a graphic, showing the proper way to install brick veneer. “Where did you get that?” the codes guy demanded.
“Code book,” I replied. “Don’t y’all have some of those down at the office?”
And then there was the day I watched a local codes inspector drive up to a house under construction, blow his horn until the job foreman came out, then hand a “Final Inspection” tag to the foreman. It was a real-enough drive-by inspection. The tag was for the electrical system, which was nowhere near finished. There were bare-naked hot wires all over the house. I know this because I was the foreman.
You new-house buyers listen to me. Don’t think for a minute that you’re getting any help from government codes inspectors. Hire your own engineer and/or home inspector to do all the crucial inspections. If you’ve got the time, drop over to the house when the government codes inspector’s supposed to be there. Videotape him, and make sure the tape is time-stamped. If the inspector does a drive-by job on your house, maybe you can do what Lisa Daniel did: sue the county, and collect enough money to fix the problems the inspector missed.
Walter Jowers is a home inspector and columnist for the Nashville Scene.
- HWA Launches First National, Licensed Home Inspection Warranty Program - RisMedia.com
- Without any guidelines for inspectors, how do you know your home ... - Nashua Telegra
- Critics say NH lags on regulating home inspectors - Foster's Daily Democrat
- Regulate builders,inspectors of houses - Nashua Telegraph (subscription)
- Saving Money With Home Inspectors
Building Code/ Construction Consultant
05-26-2007, 01:09 PM #2