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  1. 3 likes
    The siding radiates only the heat that has already escaped the conditioned space of the structure.
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    TIJ is very pleased to announce the first in a series of articles by our own Jim Morrison. He's a reporter for the Banker and Tradesman in Boston and a former home inspector. Buckle up, put your ego in check and learn from the very best. On Improving Your Reports Consider this advice from a close friend, though we've likely never met. For about 25 years, I was a home inspector. Five years or so ago, I left the field to write for newspapers and magazines in a time when most outlets are laying people off. I know a bit about both inspecting and about writing. Most of what follows are my own thoughts, but some of it I've learned from others. Where memory serves, I've attributed those thoughts that aren't mine. I've known hundreds of home inspectors and -like many of you- have read HI reports numbering in the hundreds. There are no more than two inspectors I'm aware of that the following does not apply to (and one of them is dead): Your report is much, much worse than you think and it may be your biggest liability. Your report isn't worth much if your client doesn't read and understand it. Newspaper writers are arguably under more pressure than anyone to attract, inform and keep readers' eyes on the page/screen until the very last word (and that's what you ought to be doing, too). Writing Reports Is The Single Most Important Part of Your Job If the greatest inspector ever born finds a serious defect in a property and explains it eloquently on-site, but fails to get her message across in writing, she has failed her duty and put herself at great risk. If something goes wrong and she gets a call from her client's attorney, the report will be the bulk of her defense. It had better be good. A clear, complete, concise report is the best product you can offer. It's also your best defense in a lawsuit. Best of all, it might even discourage lawyers from filing suit against you in the same way that bad reports encourage them. It's not what you meant, but what you wrote that will protect (or sink) you. Words have meanings and those meanings matter. Hell, even commas have meaning, but don't take my word for it. Read this. It's far from the only case of its kind. Look, you want your report to be an easy, informative read and as they say: easy reading is damned hard writing. You don't have to be a gifted novelist to write a decent HI report; it's a skill that can be taught and honed. Your Report Is Awful I wasn't a very good report writer. To get good, you need practice (which most of you have) and good coaching (which most of you don't). A good editor/coach will bring anyone's game up. Way up. Now that I've had a lot of brutal, ego-smashing coaching, I can see just how bad some of my work was. Luckily, I've forgiven myself and managed to avoid the inside of a courtroom. You may not be as lucky, but there's still time to save yourself. It's really important for HIs to understand that -like it or not- you are professional writers. You may be a brilliant inspector who has never missed a defect. You may even charm the socks off every client you've ever had. But if you aren't writing reports that clearly and concisely put what you saw on-site into your clients' heads through your reports, then you are a liability to your firm. Writing Is Like Playing Catch One of the reasons my reports weren't that good is because I thought like a home inspector and not like a professional writer. The first big concept you have to accept is that writing is like playing catch. It's not enough to be a good thrower (writer). For a game of catch to be successful, you need a decent catcher (reader) as well. But you don't control who's catching (reading). You'll have different readers every day, so home inspectors need to be the best writers they can possibly be. The information you're trying to get across has to land gently and squarely in the reader's heads, in a way that is impossible to misunderstand. If you make a reader work for it, many of them won't get your meaning and you will have failed at your job and put yourself at risk. Some Good Role Models Ernest Hemingway is widely considered one of the greatest American writers. He got his training as a journalist. He avoided big words and always used the right words. His prose was stark, short, punchy, easy to understand and packed with meaning. He didn't dumb his writing down; he made it crystal clear. He's a great example to follow. Mark Twain, too. Closer to home, search the TIJ forum for reports that Jim Katen has posted. He is the best report writer in the business. His reports are remarkably clear and free of major flaws. If you find yourself thinking, this is very different from most of the HI reports I've read; Good! Don't write like most home inspectors. Want to dramatically improve your writing and reduce your liability in 15 minutes? Google up Orwell's six rules for writing, print them out and tape them to your computer monitor. Read them often and follow them always. That'll do for now. More later. Email Jimmy questions, comments or send him some of the worst HI writing you've seen at: JamesAndrewMorrison@gmail.com
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    Chad, Probably should stick with the standard abbreviation D.F.U., well, cuz FU.
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    When Someone Asks What Time It Is, Don’t Tell Them How to Build a Watch Even useful information gets lost in a sea of words. Your task is to tell the reader everything they need to know -and no more- clearly and concisely. If you want to include your personal treatise on how to maintain perfectly even heat in a Queen Anne Victorian with no storm windows using an oil-fired steam boiler, then include that as a separate handout; people who are interested can read it. Don’t make the other 99 percent of your clients suffer through it unnecessarily. It makes sense to think of a home inspection as the rough equivalent of a prospective homebuyer asking you the questions, “What do I need to know about this house before I buy it? And, “What significant risks should I anticipate?” New to a rural community, I was talking to a great old neighbor and a WWII vet. I asked him what the best route to the interstate was. He told me, “Go down to the main road and turn left, when you get to the end of the stone wall there’s a road on your left that’ll take you past Wilson’s farm, there’ll be a Gulf (used to be a Shell) gas station on the right, then some condos and in 2 miles you’ll see the general store. Don’t take that left. Instead, keep going down the main road and you’ll see another left just before the drug store. That’ll bring you past the library, the middle school and after you pass South Meadow Pond you can take the right that’ll bring you to Town Hall. You don’t want that left either. “ He went on this way for a while like so many HI reports do, too. If your report isn’t straightforward and easy to understand, there’s a good chance people won’t read it and miss something important. Let’s remember the goal: Your goal isn’t to win lawsuits, that’s what attorneys do. You’re in business to help clients and avoid lawsuits. Do yourself a favor and make it easy for your clients to recognize and retain the important information in your report. Learn To Recognize Inspector-Speak. Resolve to stop using It. Marc Cramer used to teach a report writing class. If he still does, I recommend you take it. He wrote the best example of truly heinous HI report-writing I’ve seen to date. He asked attendees what an inspector should report, if anything, if they encountered a tiger in the master bedroom. The multiple choices included something along the lines of (I’m sure I’m not doing it justice): “A large, carnivorous feline -possibly resembling Panthera tigris- in the southwest corner of the master bedroom. Adult tigers lead largely solitary lives. They establish and maintain territories but have much wider home ranges within which they roam. Resident adults of either sex generally confine their movements to their home ranges, within which they satisfy their needs and those of their growing cubs. Individuals sharing the same area are aware of each other's movements and activities. The size of the home range mainly depends on prey abundance, and, in the case of males, on access to females. It was not determined how the animal entered the bedroom, but it poses a likely hazard for persons wishing to enter. For this reason, the master bedroom was excluded from the scope of the inspection. Further investigation by a licensed professional is suggested.” (The italicized sentences above were excerpted from Wikipedia.) Using the fewest and best possible words, you need to put the relevant information neatly and gently in your client’s hands in a way that is impossible for them to misunderstand. Don’t try to sound smart. It inevitably has the opposite effect. Clear, concise writing makes the writer sound smart. If you inspect a home with a worn-out asphalt roof, write: The asphalt shingle roof on this house is worn past the standard for replacement. It should be stripped and replaced now by a qualified professional. The process will be expensive. You can quibble about a particular word or phrase, but that pretty much nails it. You don’t have to explain how important a roof is, how shingles are made, what the cost range could be, or anything else. Somewhere on this site or one of its predecessors, Jim Katen (the best HI report writer I know of) recommended people buy and read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Most HI’s probably won’t, but I guarantee if you do, it’ll point out at least one bad habit you can correct. Probably more than one. Observation, Analysis, Recommendation Every comment in your report should include your observation (what you found), your analysis (what it means) and your recommendation (what your client should do about it). I learned this from recently-retired Mass. home inspector Bob Mulloy and it stands the test of time. I am a slow typist. After organizing my thoughts and writing around this principal, I only rarely spent more than 45 minutes writing a report. Example: At least 12' of the structural sill along the east wall has been damaged by termites. This significant structural damage must be replaced by a licensed builder now which will be expensive. A few of you have sent me sample reports, but unfortunately for me, there was no truly cringe-worthy writing in any of them. My next installment in this series will address some specifics.
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    Hmm. Someone is trying to send a message.
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    The ladder in the link is different than the ladder that was in the link 3 years ago when I reviewed it. They used to be almost identical to LGs. That said, does anyone have a grandmother who lives near Jerry who may be able to help carry his ladders?
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    Better Writing Is Worth Some Effort When I was in the inspection business and the topic of report-writing would come up, I noticed a certain percentage of inspectors would react as if they were above improving their writing skills. They didn't consider it important. They'd been writing they way they'd been writing for their entire adult life and they thought they wrote just fine. Maybe they were right, maybe not. What those inspectors don't know is how many people are turned off by the way they write. How many people stop reading when they run head-first into some of their bad habits? How many of your clients never get your meaning because your writing obscures it? What are your bad writing habits costing you? Which busy real estate attorneys don't refer clients to you because your reports are difficult to read? The newspaper business is in a lot of trouble. It's fighting for survival and no outlet can afford to lose a single reader. Newspapers study what draws people in and what turns people off the way I study a restaurant's beer list on a menu before I agree to eat there. There are lots of ways a reporter or an inspector can shoot themself in the foot when writing something they want people to read. Whoever is teaching these methods in home inspector schools is doing a great job because as near as I can tell they've got near-total market penetration. Newspapers have discovered what you might have guessed: Humans are lazy readers. We scan newspapers and websites for headlines that might interest us. In doing so, we probably pass by important stories that might well inform or entertain us, but we don?t care. We're busy people. When we start reading a story, we often stop after just a few lines. If the story isn't what we're looking for, or the writing is hard to understand, we move on. The people reading your reports are no different, so every comment in your report should be interesting or at the very least, relevant. We also have limits to how long we want a story to be. Get to the point in a reasonable period of time or we're gone. We're also sensitive. If you offend or bore us, we're gone. A well-written report complements a great inspection and a poorly-written one muddles it. In addition to your clients, their attorneys are going to read your work. It's worth putting a little effort into writing the most impressive reports you can. (Editor's note: complement and compliment are different words) You bust your ass to find the defects, you should put some effort into presenting them clearly and professionally. It will bring you more and better referrals than dropping doughnuts off at a real estate agent's office. Here are a few easy, general tips you can use to improve your writing: Spelling counts The last thing an inspector should do before printing or sending a report off to a client is spellcheck it. It's a fast, easy, free way to improve your work. Everyone should be doing this every time. Misspellings make you look bad and avoiding them is easy. Your and you're (and yore), its and it's These words mean very different things. Learn to use them correctly. Your friends may not care if you mix them up in emails, but people are paying you good money and you owe them a good report. Misusing common words gives readers the impression you are too lazy/sloppy/dumb to know the difference. You can do better. It's not difficult. I vs. We This hardly deserves discussion, but it's a pet peeve of mine. One inspector, one author, singular pronoun (I): no debate. I've yet to hear a reasonable argument against this. Using "we" doesn't make you sound smarter or more professional. Active vs. Passive This one has been talked about for as long as I can remember, but it's always worth revisiting briefly for those who forgot or are new to the profession. Always avoid the passive voice (e.g. Corrosion was observed on the bottom of the water heater). It makes you sound unsure and vague and is considered a weak construction. Active, declarative sentences are always better in an HI report (e.g. The bottom of the water heater is corroding). Photos I only used them a few times and I realize that puts me in the minority. By and large, I think photos are way overdone in reports. My opinion is that they should be used somewhat sparingly. Focus on quality over quantity. When they are essential or helpful to get your point across, use them. If you include 60 photos in a report, the important ones are likely to get lost among the less important ones. Use complete sentences If it's worth telling your client about, it's worth a whole sentence. That's how professionals communicate. Don't Write Like You Speak There are loads of phrases I might use in conversation with a client that I wouldn't use in a report. Things like: The deck looks like it was built by Uncle Meanswell and Cousin Thirtypack (credit: Gary Blum). Write better (more clearly and precisely) than you speak. That'll do for now. More to come. Email Jimmy questions, comments or send him some of the worst HI writing you've seen at: JamesAndrewMorrison@gmail.com
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    Thanks for the comment, Chad. Dorey will be released -unharmed- at the agreed upon time and place.
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    Thanks, Jim. I've committed to following your advice. It's not easy to let go of bad habits. The reward will be clients who are better served through easier to read reports.
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    Thanks for posting this Chad. Pretty easy to count at least 9 specific violations in this one installation. Maybe more depending on the pipe material and size. Of course that is counting the same issue stated multiple different ways in the code.
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    504.6 Requirements for discharge piping. The discharge piping serving a pressure relief valve, temperature relief valve or combination thereof shall: 1.Not be directly connected to the drainage system. 2.Discharge through an air gap located in the same room as the water heater. 3.Not be smaller than the diameter of the outlet of the valve served and shall discharge full size to the air gap. 4 Serve a single relief device and shall not connect to piping serving any other relief device or equipment. 5.Discharge to the floor, to the pan serving the water heater or storage tank, to a waste receptor or to the outdoors. 6.Discharge in a manner that does not cause personal injury or structural damage. 7.Discharge to a termination point that is readily observable by the building occupants. 8.Not be trapped. 9.Be installed so as to flow by gravity. 10.Terminate not more than 6 inches (152 mm) above and not less than two times the discharge pipe diameter above the floor or flood level rim of the waste receptor. 11.Not have a threaded connection at the end of such piping. 12.Not have valves or tee fittings. 13.Be constructed of those materials listed in Section 605.4 or materials tested, rated and approved for such use in accordance with ASME A112.4.1. 504.7 Required pan. Where a storage tank-type water heater or a hot water storage tank is installed in a location where water leakage from the tank will cause damage, the tank shall be installed in a galvanized steel pan having a material thickness of not less than 0.0236 inch (0.6010 mm) (No. 24 gage), or other pans approved for such use. 504.7.1 Pan size and drain. The pan shall be not less than 11/2 inches (38 mm) in depth and shall be of sufficient size and shape to receive all dripping or condensate from the tank or water heater. The pan shall be drained by an indirect waste pipe having a diameter of not less than 3/4 inch (19 mm). Piping for safety pan drains shall be of those materials listed in Table 605.4. 504.7.2 Pan drain termination. The pan drain shall extend full size and terminate over a suitably located indirect waste receptor or floor drain or extend to the exterior of the building and terminate not less than 6 inches (152 mm) and not more than 24 inches (610 mm) above the adjacent ground surface. Where a pan drain was not previously installed, a pan drain shall not be required for a replacement water heater installation.
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    Ryan still can't build a decent house with conventional framing. They have no business experimenting with unconventional components.
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    I have mixed feelings about requiring that the seller has access to the report. I don't provide it to the seller but I suspect that many see my report. The one issue that will be addressed is when a deal falls through because of home inspection issues, the seller cannot just put the house back on the market without disclosing the issues and hope the next buyer does not discover the problem or even worse, the seller conceals the problem. In NJ there are disclosure requirements and the previous home inspection report will document the seller's knowledge. On the other hand it would concern me that it could be construed that the seller has a relationship with the home inspector, via the regulations, and it may reduce the legal separation between them (and aid in the ability for the seller to sue a home inspector).
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    New Pennsylvania Home Inspection Law is poised to come out of committee. By the Pennsylvania Home Inspectors Coalition HOUSE BILL 1001 - New Pennsylvania Home Inspection Law is currently in the hands of the Licensure Committee and is poised to come to the full House of Representatives for a vote. What is it?: An Act regulating home inspectors; establishing the Home Inspection Licensing Board; providing for licensure and practice, for disciplinary action, for remedies and for penalties; making an appropriation; and repealing provisions relating to home inspections. Due to efforts by the Pennsylvania Home Inspector Coalition (PHIC) the two-year limit of liability in the original version of the bill has been reduced to one year. (Same as the existing home inspection law). Your input to your representative can help to prevent other negative aspects of the bill from moving forward! View latest copy: HB #100 THE ISSUE: Home Inspector stakeholders agree that HB 1001 will harm the home inspection industry, home buyers, real estate licensees and brokers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. HB 1001 will increase home inspectors liability and require home inspectors to raise their fees. HB 1001 will require home inspectors to report on "mold, fungi and related biologicals", HB 1001 will, in effect, require home inspectors to give the SELLER a copy of the inspection report at the end of the inspection, HB 1001 will require special certification to inspect modular homes and manufactured homes. **** PLEASE email or call your State Representative. WHAT YOU SHOULD SAY WHEN YOU CALL OR WRITE: Please tell your representative you are opposed to HB 1001 for the following reasons: HB 1001 is flawed and will negatively affect Consumers (Home buyers), Home Inspectors, Real Estate Licensees and Brokers, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and I cannot support this bill as written. HB 1001 will require home inspectors to report on "mold, fungi and related biologicals". Mold, fungi and other undefined biologicals are outside the scope of a home inspection and are specifically excluded by home inspector professional liability insurance companies and home inspector Standards of Practice. HB 1001 will require home inspectors to raise their fees (to cover license fees and additional insurance) causing many first time home buyer to opt out of getting a home inspection, leaving homebuyers unprotected from safety defects and other deficiencies that could cause them to lose their home. HB 1001 will, in effect, require home inspectors to give the SELLER a copy of the inspection report at the end of the inspection. Home inspectors work for the buyer/client and have no contract with the seller. This provision will increase home inspector and agent and broker liability and result in increased fees. HB 1001 will require a special certification to inspect modular homes and manufactured homes. This provision, added by the manufactured home lobby, has the appearance to prevent independent inspections of manufactured and modular homes. Elsewhere in in HB 1001 the home inspector board is tasked with approving and regulating that home inspectors receive initial training and receive 16 hours per year of continuing education as approved by the board. The home inspector board is best suited to determine what education requirements are needed, not special interest groups. The above noted provisions are a bureaucratic overreach and do not belong in a home inspector licensing bill. However, I will strongly support any Home Inspector Licensing or Home Inspector Registration legislation based on the existing Pennsylvania Home Inspection Law and existing Home Inspection Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. Your voice counts and can make a difference! Many of the sponsors of this bill don't know how it will negatively affect your business and home buying consumers in Pennsylvania. Contact your house and senate representatives and real estate agents and brokers in your area and express your concerns.
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    I was thinking pygmy goats. Mowed and fertilized at the same time. My wife vetoes all my good ideas.
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    Page 5, lines 16 thru 24: This line may impose significant accountability upon the Board where in other states accountability is ignored. What’s important here is whether the Secretary of Labor/Industry himself is held accountable for his performance. Page 6: This model of HI regulation brings 3 public members, an engineer and a real estate agent into the Board member list along with 6 HIs. Excellent planning, in my view. Page 8, lines 16 thru 23: Good to see someone exceeding the usual 90 hr pre-licensing requirement. An issue comes up on the 75 mentored home inspections: Licensure might effectively be limited to those applicants who are able to gain the cooperation of an existing licensee. With this model and with my deafness, I would never have succeeded in getting a license. Page 20, lines 12 thru 20: There are about ten other exemptions that should be in there including FHA Fee inspectors, insurance inspectors, certain contractors in the performance of their duties as contractors, etc Page 21, lines 21 thru 27: This language should clarify that the word ‘violation’ means any number of violations of a single type considered by the board at a given adjudicatory hearing. The reason is, for example, if an HI unknowingly commits a violation ten times before discovery. The hearing that follows might consider this as ten violations instead of one, where the intent of the statute was to consider it as one violation with a limit of $1,000 fine. The Louisiana HI Board makes this mistake on a regular basis, resulting in single fines well in excess of the statutory limit of $1,000. Page 23, line 6 thru page 24, line 7: These are the measures against COIs. They are seriously flawed and omit several COIs common in the real estate industry, including one of the most damaging of all. Consumers and inspectors of the highest competence and ethics will be harmed the most by the omissions in this section. I stopped at page 20 and this was just a quick overview. The response of the PHIC might as well have been that of an emotional and hysterical child.
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    I go a step further and recommend the ducts be sealed shut, especially when they are asbestos. Cool pic.
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    Good recommendation. It also appears in your third photo that the ductwork is Transite, and same in very poor condition as well.
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    I recommended the ductwork be abandoned and an alternate heating system be provided. My first thought was baseboard electric because it would be pretty easy by running conduit around the exterior and poking through the exterior walls at the base, but I think a ductless mini split heat pump system is the way to go. The house needs heating and cooling because of all the glass and low insulation levels.
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    As others have stated, windows are not self-flashing. A gap (typically 1/4"), backer rod and caulk are needed, along with head flashing. Windows with integral flanges intended for use with vinyl siding are not suitable for stucco. They are WRONG. I believe some manufacturers supply filler strips for these, but I have not seen any documentation about that recently.
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    Thanks, Chad. That was nice of you to say.
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    I received a response to this question from the state of OR Building Codes Division. Please understand that this answer is relative to this exact problem, and that input should be gathered from the local AHJ. "While this isn’t a duct, it is a penetration between the garage and the occupied space that should meet R305.2. Also, the pertinent sections of Chapter 24 of the ORSC that aren’t being met are: G2407.2 and G2407.4 for combustion air. Obvious that there isn’t adequate combustion air; the occupied space is at a negative pressure to the garage, especially with the fireplace not operating (the pilot light might reduce some backdraft by drawing heat/vent air flow up the fireplace vent) G2427.3: Positive flow required for any vent. The “home” is obviously at a different pressure than the garage, and the system is back-flowing into the home. The maximum “negative pressure” (draw) of the water heater and furnace will be about -0.05”. The interior of the home can have bath fans, kitchen fans, temperature difference between the warm home and the outdoors (creating stack effect pressure similar to that created by the vented flue), wind effect, etc. that can easily overpower the draft up the water heater to the roof vent outlet, especially when just the pilot light of the water heater is the only heat source in the vent system. The system is not meeting code. Are you still in contact with the customer? They should be made aware of the possible hazards; we hope they have working carbon monoxide detectors. I’m unaware of a method to equalize the pressure between the garage and the living space, since a duct/opening can’t be made between the living space and garage (per ORSC R305.2)."
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    All images have been uploaded and topic attribution has been fixed.
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    Yep.. when threatened they curl up into an almost perfect little ball. Not true. Yesterday I saw one and told it, "out or I'll kick yer ass". It didn't even break stride.