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  1. #1
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    Default Codes and Home Inspections.....

    I know every corner of the world is different, everybody does things the way they were taught and we all try to do our best and uphold the 'standard of care' for our industry. I am, however, constantly intrigued by how closely tied together home inspections and building codes are discussed on the board here.

    My state (Oregon) standards don't hold us responsible for codes and I was taught that it was a dangerous road to go down. The theory being that if you mention a code in one part of the house you'd better know them all. Basically, you escalate the expectation of the buyer. Of course, many things code related still get called out but not as a code. An example would be old 70's interior stair railings that have a spindle spacing of 8". I don't call it out because it's a code but because it's just plain dangerous.

    The code game gets really fuzzy when you get into older houses. I was taught, and still believe, that it is impossible for anyone to know all of the codes in every disipline for all of the years of houses that we inspect. Sure, you could have code books from each year and come home and look things up before you write the report but that's just no realistic.

    So, I'm curious how you guys call things out. Do you cite the code in your reports? Only on newer houses?

    Do any of your state SOP's require you to inspect to code or reference codes?

    I do a fair amount of new construction and have gone down the 'code road' with the builder a couple of times. It seems like everytime I find something I think is wrong, some hvac contractor finds an obscure exception that makes his crappy work acceptable. It usually turns into some pissing match over one or two words in the book that I'm reading one way and he's reading the other. If the county inspector didn't catch it or doesn't care I'm left looking like the 'picky/scared home inspector' - Bascially, I get a sour taste in my mouth about being to 'code picky.' It's not that I can't read and remember the rules I just don't feel that it's my job to go to battle with the builder and the county.

    So, really I'm just curious what it's like for the rest of you out there. I don't lose a lot of sleep over any of it. It's more just a curiousity and a desire to keep up with the latest trends of the industry.

    At the end of the day the only two things that matter are that my phone is ringing for work and that I'm not getting sued for my past work.

    Thanks for all the free education around here....

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Matt,

    I do not quote code in my reports, ever (because of the possibile laibility issues you mentioned). I am an ICC certified combination residential code inspector but I have a disclaimer in my contract and report stating that the inspection is not a code compliace inspection.

    That being said, I report to current building standards that are typically based upon the building code. Instead of quoting the code I will sometimes put "under current building standards blah blah is required or blah blah is not allowed" in my verbiage when commenting on a repair issue in my reports. Even then I am careful to comment generally about requirements.

    Texas does not require us to reference codes but some of the items of repair in our SOP are somewhat code specific and I do not have a problem quoting our SOP.

    I thought it was interesting that when I was studying for the state licensing exam I was told that we are not code inspectors but low and behold, there sure were a lot of code related questions on the exam.

    I do utilize the IRC a lot (for research) when writing my reports because there must be a standard to go by on things not specifically addressed by our SOP.

    I also feel that it is important for a person buying an older home to understand the current building standards (based on the current code) as related to their purchase so that they have a choice in bringing their new home up to the current standards if they wish, as many of the code changes over the years are based upon safety issues or just better buiding practices.

    I will tell a client that something I have called out may not have been required when the house was built, but that things have changed and the current standard is blah blah. The word "grandfathered" (RE agents favorite catch-all) is not in my vocabulary.

    Code knowledge is a must in my opinion and especially on the new construction or newer homes that I inspect. Particularly because the city inspectors do not catch everything as I keep finding out and the builder will many times let it pass if it was not "caught bt the city".

    My two pennies,

    Eric


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    I know every corner of the world is different, everybody does things the way they were taught and we all try to do our best and uphold the 'standard of care' for our industry. I am, however, constantly intrigued by how closely tied together home inspections and building codes are discussed on the board here.

    My state (Oregon) standards don't hold us responsible for codes and I was taught that it was a dangerous road to go down. The theory being that if you mention a code in one part of the house you'd better know them all. Basically, you escalate the expectation of the buyer. Of course, many things code related still get called out but not as a code. An example would be old 70's interior stair railings that have a spindle spacing of 8". I don't call it out because it's a code but because it's just plain dangerous.

    The code game gets really fuzzy when you get into older houses. I was taught, and still believe, that it is impossible for anyone to know all of the codes in every discipline for all of the years of houses that we inspect. Sure, you could have code books from each year and come home and look things up before you write the report but that's just no realistic.

    So, I'm curious how you guys call things out. Do you cite the code in your reports? Only on newer houses?

    Do any of your state SOP's require you to inspect to code or reference codes?

    I do a fair amount of new construction and have gone down the 'code road' with the builder a couple of times. It seems like every time I find something I think is wrong, some hvac contractor finds an obscure exception that makes his crappy work acceptable. It usually turns into some pissing match over one or two words in the book that I'm reading one way and he's reading the other. If the county inspector didn't catch it or doesn't care I'm left looking like the 'picky/scared home inspector' - Basically, I get a sour taste in my mouth about being to 'code picky.' It's not that I can't read and remember the rules I just don't feel that it's my job to go to battle with the builder and the county.

    So, really I'm just curious what it's like for the rest of you out there. I don't lose a lot of sleep over any of it. It's more just a curiosity and a desire to keep up with the latest trends of the industry.

    At the end of the day the only two things that matter are that my phone is ringing for work and that I'm not getting sued for my past work.

    Thanks for all the free education around here....
    Well, in my early years as an inspector, I was taught to stay away from codes. To just report on what is broken. About 10 years ago, I started to read up on things and learn about things on my own and at seminars.

    As a result, I determined that the codes were the "backbone" of what we were looking at. Combined with the manufactures installation instructions, it makes a formidable weapon when you need to defend yourself from others.

    I now include code references in e mails to clients with their reports. Also, manufacturers specifications. Since I started doing this and adding pictures with my reports, I haven't gotten one question from any of my clients. Just "Thank you" e mails.

    Here is an item that I run into frequently: Paint/debris in the service panel.
    Do you call it out? Do you recommend replacement of the service panel? Yes to both and the reason is that it is a violation of the NEC as well as the manufacturers specifications. At least according to the manufacturers.

    Some "electricians" from North Carolina may disagree!

    I got into am argument with a builder about plywood decking spacing. He said it passed the code inspection and was OK. I sent him a picture of a piece of the decking, with blue ink stating that the decking must be spaced 1/4 of an inch on all sides. Directly next to that piece of wood, was another piece of decking that was tight against the first piece of wood and the second piece had split.

    I asked him "What do you want me to do? It is stamped on the wood".
    I found out that he had his crew go in and replace any decking that was tight. He then called me and asked "how do we prevent this in the future".
    I referred him to the APAs guidelines for roof decking installation. I told him he should have his crew do it the way the APA says and it will probably go faster. It did and he thanked me later.

    Eric Van De Ven Magnum Inspections Inc. (772) 214-9929
    www.magnuminspections.com
    I still get paid to be suspicious when I got nothing to be suspicious about!

  4. #4
    Rob Pakula's Avatar
    Rob Pakula Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    These standards and practices for Home inspection are laughable and too defensive.They hide behind disclaimers and look for petty items .What can you find in new construction?There are city inspectors for every area of work ,slicing and dicing the job site, before you got there.
    There is different stories with old houses or rehab work.
    .
    According to standard ,i can not even open a water valve under a sink to see if sink is leaking.If i was a buyer and you tell me you can not open the valve because it is a standard i would chase you home immediately.

    In Chicago is very common to see illegal convertions for example.
    Some house flippers (they dissapeared already) buy a 3 unit old rental ,converts it to condo ,rearrange 3rd room in 2 bed appt orriginally with no window and call it bedroom (i sow personnally or picture window that doesnt open) and list it as 3 bed condo.
    Buyer purchases as 3 bed condo .If he wants to resell it later ,he is actually stuck with 2 bedroom condo.If i follow the standard ,i would probably find only reverse polarity in outlet.How i would look like if i tell him that according to standards we dont report any code violation.
    The same story with illegal bsmt and attic apartments.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Rob, what standards are you talking about?
    Lots of different HI standards out there.
    Remember, most standards are a MINIMUM and a HI is free to raise the standard.
    I, too, use the building codes as a reference point in everything I do, but I am not a code inspector, I have no authority to enforce anything and I am not there at the proper stages of construction to see that things are actually built to code.
    Also, I operate in an area that has no less than 15 municipalities in a five mile radius, which all have different codes or versions that they enforce.
    It would take a GPS and a crystal ball to know exactly which code to quote if I were to try to be a code inspector.
    I still get flack from the builders on new construction when I inspect and call out the stuff that the AHJ lets slide, but I still call it out, even though most stuff is not mentioned that I know of in national standards.
    I think the standards (both state law here and national HI SOP) do a pretty good job of setting expectations for both the HI and the consumer.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    I don't know of any home inspection standard that says a home inspector can not open a valve. Most if not all say that the home inspector is not required to open or turn on anything that is not already on.

    You are free to turn every single valve, flip-on every turned off breaker and light every pilot light in a home, but I would caution you against doing it.

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

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    My 2 cents:
    I’ve heard this “code” argument from the very first time I went onto a home inspector BB and I believed then as I believe now that the building codes are our road map and without adequate code knowledge one will soon get lost and there’s bear traps (legal) all over the place for those folks to fall into. Matter of fact I believe without being familiar with the building codes one can’t actually perform a professional inspection.

    Yah - right, we claim we are not doing a code inspection, but the truth is that’s exactly what we do. Case in point: every time we take a dead-front cover off an electric panel what are we looking for? Right, is it wired to code? But shush, don’t tell anybody we are doing a code conforming inspection… no – no, we employ weasel words like “generally accepted standards of the construction industry,” but that's what the lawyers and our E&O insurance carriers tell us to do.

    There’s no argument that the single most vital reason for the writing, publication and adoption of building codes is for the safety of occupants and isn’t that truly what we are about besides reporting the current condition of all accessible systems and components of a residential dwelling in order to help folks know what they’re buying?
    OK, I’m off my box now.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    I have found a way to report everything on the older houses.

    Use "Safety Upgrade:" before the writeup.

    If the safety item is present and just broke, use "Repair:"


    Every item reported has a preface like these:

    Repair:
    Investigate:
    Investigate and Repair:
    Safety Upgrade:


    Here is one I use a lot:

    Safety upgrade recommended: The furnace unit installation in the attic has a silver metal flex gas line made by Dormont. This is called an appliance connector and the manufacturer does not allow these to be run inside the furnace cabinet. The flex line is rubbing on the sharp edge of the cabinet and will eventually leak. A protective bushing would help but will not make it a correct installation due to the rating of the part. Note: I find this incorrect installation on 70 percent of the homes I inspect in York county.


  9. #9
    Nolan Kienitz's Avatar
    Nolan Kienitz Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Bruce,

    You should not be giving them an 'option' when it comes to flex gas line passing through the sidewall of the furnace.

    Definitive in my reports to change to black pipe from the manifold "through" the sidewall and then they can connect the flex.

    Big safety hazard in my reports. No options.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Thanks for the advice, but actually no option was given.

    I stated a possible "band-aid solution" and went on to say that it would not make it correct.

    The reason for this is the belief that the bushing is a fix by some builders around here.
    I get real tired of doing re-inspections where only half the stuff is fixed so I include some things that are not considered correct to save the client and repairperson a lot of grief.

    I do include the black pipe advice in my report, just didn't post it...


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce King View Post
    Thanks for the advice, but actually no option was given.

    I stated a possible "band-aid solution" and went on to say that it would not make it correct.

    Bruce,

    That *is* an option you proposed.

    As Nolan said, better to not give an option.

    You may not want to think of it as an "option", but that is exactly what it is.

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

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    I have to agree with JM on this. Officially we don't do Code inspections but of course that is exactly what we use as a reference for our inspections.
    I reference the Code as necessary in reports but usually do not provide code section numbers (that is an additional charge above and beyond the regular HI, usually in battles/litigation).
    In Illinois we are not required to speak to the Code. Many HI avoid it like the plague, mostly due to legal horror stories from what I've been told.
    I think we provide a better service by referring to the Code. Yes, no one knows it all (sorry JP) but you should at least know some of the important/basic stuff (not that all of it isn't).
    My solution: a good contract that essentially states that it's not a code insp. but code may be referenced but that doesn't infer blah blah ... you get the idea.
    No problem with that sofar. If you do a good inspection the client is happy they don't want to sue you. The crazies will sue no matter what.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    Yes, no one knows it all (sorry JP)
    No need to say "sorry", *I* *know* I don't know it all.

    I know that I learn from you guys every day.

    I also know that I learn many more things by looking up answers to questions on things I've never run across.

    Me 'know it all'? Not anywhere near close. I know that the more I know, the more I know there is to know, so, technically speaking, everyday *I know less and less*. But I'm okay with that.

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

  14. #14
    Richard Stanley's Avatar
    Richard Stanley Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Ditto Jerry.
    I shamelessly admit that I have learned so much from, and as a result of, his participation in this board

    Post by Eric - "the city inspectors do not catch everything as I keep finding out and the builder will many times let it pass if it was not "caught bt the city"
    That is so true and more so every day.
    As the muni budgets get tighter, the quality of the employees diminishes and the time constraints and manpower get pinched. A lot gets 'over looked'.
    The day is probably coming when the private sector will be doing most of the inspections. I'm already hearing of it.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    "The day is probably coming when the private sector will be doing most of the inspections. I'm already hearing of it." - Richard

    Yeah Richard, I read an article in the Houston Chronicle a couple of years back that said they were going to begin contracting municipal inspections out to private companies/individuals because the city did not have the manpower to handle all of the residential building growth. I'm curious how that works - i.e., liability, pay, standards, etc.

    Eric


  16. #16
    Brandon Chew's Avatar
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Shuman View Post
    "The day is probably coming when the private sector will be doing most of the inspections. I'm already hearing of it." - Richard

    Yeah Richard, I read an article in the Houston Chronicle a couple of years back that said they were going to begin contracting municipal inspections out to private companies/individuals because the city did not have the manpower to handle all of the residential building growth. I'm curious how that works - i.e., liability, pay, standards, etc.

    Eric
    I wonder how that works, especially on the liability side.

    Most people are quick to jump on the protections that the municipal code inspectors usually are granted from lawsuits, and erroneously believe that it protects them from being fired for doing a poor job. Those two do not go hand in hand. Any employee can be fired for cause. The reason that protection from suits is there is to protect the impartiality of the inspector. This way builders with deep pockets cannot use the threat of a personal law suit against an inspector in order to influence the findings of the inspection.

    When giving a private sector inspector the authority to cause stop work orders and correction notices to be issued, I wonder if the government will indemnify those private inspectors or if they will need to use their own financial resources to guard against arm-twisting by the builders?


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Knowing all the codes in Pennsylvania is close to impossible as codes vary from one municipality to the next around here. There is no uniform set of codes for our state.


  18. #18
    Aaron Miller's Avatar
    Aaron Miller Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Many of the municipalities around The Dallas area have been farming their inspections out for several years, including Fort Worth. Why? Because it's cheaper. Why is it cheaper? Because the companies they hire know even less than the municipal employees. In know, this does not seem possible, and yet, it is.

    And did I mention that they come to the table already bought and paid for by the builders? Most of them, if not already builder cronies or on the builder payroll are certainly readily purchasable.

    But hey, look at it this way, if you were a big ethics-free Republican production builder in a large metro area you'd want all of the "selective code enforcement" you could get from the entity providing the inspection service. Right?

    Aaron


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    Knowing all the codes in Pennsylvania is close to impossible as codes vary from one municipality to the next around here. There is no uniform set of codes for our state.
    Nick,

    I thougth PA adopted the Uniform Construction Code.

    In NJ, UCC means just that, uniform across the state.


    Darren


  20. #20
    Richard Stanley's Avatar
    Richard Stanley Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Hey Aaron, speaking of ethics.....Spitzer.....Democrat!!!!


  21. #21
    Aaron Miller's Avatar
    Aaron Miller Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Actually that would be Spitzer New Yorker. As we all know New Yorkers are omni-sexual and omni-political . . .like Billary.

    Aaron


  22. #22
    David Banks's Avatar
    David Banks Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Yea but Spitzer did the right thing and resigned unlike David Vitter from Louisiana.


  23. #23
    Aaron Miller's Avatar
    Aaron Miller Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Bush would have resigned already too, if he only understood the concept and his daddy told him it was OK . . .

    Aaron


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    Dear God... please no more politics....

    Now, back on topic.... I find the AHJ in my area(s) do great with fire/life/safety issues on new construction but piss-poor on a lot of other stuff.

    The main problems I see are with respect to grading and drainage. It's as if there are no rules about slope away from a house or protecting foundation vents.

    The code is a good reference point to base your recommendation on. I think I once read a post from Jerry M about all HI's should have the first certification in the series of becoming a building official. I think that's great advice. I've taken several classes regarding this over the last few years and they help me greatly. It basically covers everything in a house except for the technical aspects of plumbing, electrical and hvac.


  25. #25
    William Brady's Avatar
    William Brady Guest

    Default Re: Codes and Home Inspections.....

    I think the poster in this case asked about all the code talk we read here. I for one do not address code in my reports and admit I did not know a lot of code before getting on this site. The code talk is good for me and I think lots of others that read this site. I have learned many things so thanks to all of you who are ready and willing to teach. I still do not address code but if I see something that is a violation I call it just as I see it without referencing code sections.
    I like to think that Hi's is about an intuitive knowledge of the home and so we can speak about the home in an understandable way to our clients. Code taking can be confusing to a buyer and may if not handled properly cause a sale to crumble. Don't get all worked up about what I just said. I don't care if some Realtor gets upset with me but I do wonder if we can be the cause of confusion and panic due to our code talk.
    IE: a recent HI with a garage under the front of the home was all open studs. I called out fire separation and the Realtor went crazy saying, I have never heard of that so it must not be important. In this case I had to tell my client what the code says about fire separation and I checked with the local city building inspector about it since I just move here from NYC. What a surprise no difference in the requirements. If I have to I will go the extra mile to clear up problems but I still stay away from quoting code.

    Bill Brady


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