James Lagergren is the President of Rainshadow Home Inspection and Rainshadow Inspection Services Inc. Services include pre-sale home inspections, new construction walk-throughs, Energy Audits, Blower Door Testing, Infared Thermography, Moisture Evaluations and Inspections on behalf of Insurance Companies or for the purpose of insurance claims. James is an active member of many civic and non-profit groups in Port Townsend, WA and the greater Pacific Northwest.
This blog post is meant to highlight how building science should factor into a decision to buy your next home or if you’re selling a home, how to interpret the issues and problems that may affect the value of your home at the time of sale.
The first thing to consider when choosing a home inspector is how much they know about building science and how it effects your home. Sometimes I chuckle a bit when I hear an Agent say, “Just get a contractor to look at it…” because if contractors did everything right then there would be no need for home inspectors. In fact, in my experience, I look at the mistakes that I made in construction as assets when inspecting homes today. Experience is the best teacher. So a good home inspector isn’t a good contractor, instead I want to propose that they combine experience with the ability to synthesize the information in your home and verify that information.
One of the most interesting experiences that I ran into while inspecting was a 1990s track home built right next to a large hill. The home had some dated appliances but was otherwise in generally acceptable condition. I showed up to the inspection And I found this:
The prospective client was bummed. He had taken a day off from his job as a lineman in Seattle and wasn’t expecting to see this, neither was I. He asked me what can I do about this? I paused, looked towards him and thought. Then I said the most powerful words an inspector can say “I don’t know, but I will find out”.
So I did what a good home inspector does and went to the manufacturer’s website and found this:
Trus Joist® TJI®Joists are alternative construction materials to those prescribed in the International Residential Code (IRC). The ICC Evaluation Service report number ESR-1153 qualifies TJI®Joists as acceptable framing members per code. Because of this, replacing a damaged TJI®Joist with a new joist is judged similarly to dimension lumber and allows for product literature to be used in verifying adequacy of the replacement product.
When replacing a damaged joist, it is recommended to leave the damaged joist. A new joist should be installed within 3 inches of the damaged joist (either side). For joists spaced at 24″ on-center (or greater), a new joist may be required on each side of the damaged joist due to sheathing span ratings. In reviewing adequacy, the damaged joist should be ignored and the new joist verified by using product literature (TJ-4000)
I suggested the following repair protocol from the manufacturer and then read the product data. It turns out that a Structural Engineer needs to determine the repair and not a general contractor. These things are significant in that they directly effect the structure of the home and occupant safety. I apparently burned some good will with the listing agent by following this process. Looking back at the situation I feel content. I would do the same thing the same way if I had to do it over again.
There is a role for an independent, knowledgeable and professional third party to make an evaluation on a home, whether you already own it or are looking to purchase. A group of home inspectors recently, myself included, are having conversations about raising the bar within the profession by using report software that is useful, easy to read and comprehensive. We also are putting together Continuing Education that is effective, in-person and frequent. Choosing a home inspector means choosing someone who is going to work hard for you.
Here is what a contractor did when the house was built, not caught in a code inspection or QA walk through, which led to the problem that now requires a structural engineers blessing to fix: The flashing should be 2 inches below the bottom board, not covered by 2 inches. Contractor had a bad day and code inspector wasn’t looking for it. Hire a home inspector that works hard for you!