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Visual roof inspections?

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Hello all! I am new to this forum. I am at a point in my career that I want to try something new, and I am considering home inspection as a viable career choice. Please provide your input to help me make my decision.

I have been involved with various large-scale remodeling projects over the years. I've done all my own work, electrical, plumbing, framing, you name it. I am very hands-on.

I feel certain that I can do home inspections and make good decisions. I understand that I will need additional training before I sit for the licensing exam, and plan on doing the 90 hr ITA class.

But my problem is roofs. I can take heights as long as I am supported in some manner, but there are some roofs that I cannot see myself getting on. To make matters worse, the area that I plan to work in typically have 3 story roofs. Is it impractical for me to think that I can do visual inspections of roofs via a zoom lense on a camera (to capture defects in a picture) or binoculars? I assume the roof substrate can be assessed from the attic, which leaves a visual inspection of the shingles from the outside.

Sorry for the dissertation, but I want to know if it is practical for me to think that I can do inspections without getting on certain roofs. Thanks!

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Whole big bunches of folks don't get on roofs; I'd say more inspectors *don't* than do.

Personally, I don't think you can do it that way, but I wouldn't get in a big yank about it. I can think of many, many roofs that, if I hadn't gotten up there, I wouldn't have found the nasty stuff.

How are you on flat roofs?

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I get on every roof I can, and like Kurt, I think you're going to miss stuff if you don't.

Unfortunately, I have a gradually worsening balance problem and I can't get on steep roofs anymore. Social Security is going to send me a check in about a year. When they do I will quit walking roofs and quit inspecting. Roofs are too important to short change in an inspection.

Just my nickels worth.

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I get up on 'em if I can. There have been hundreds of times that roofs looked great from the ground but, when I got up on them, I found significant issues that couldn't possibly be seen from the ground with binos or from a ladder at the eaves.

A few years ago after a fall from a roof and 4 months out of work, I was suffering from a bad case of vertigo caused by stuff that loosened up in my inner ear from the impact of the fall. Even looking up at the sky or bending my head to one side would send me spinning - no matter where I was or what I was doing, driving, walking, sitting, crawling...

I thought about the potential for further financial ruin if I stayed in the business, resumed working without going up onto roofs, and missed something significant that might have been easily found if I'd been going up on roofs.

It finally came down to either leaving a profession I loved or staying and whipping the vertigo. I stayed and fought it and went back to doing roofs. About 6-8 months later the vertigo finally subsided, but not before hundreds of pretty hair-raising roof walks where I'd have to literally sit down on the roof for a few minutes at a time.

I grew up working for my father, a contractor. My first job was building silos. By adulthood I'd whipped all fear of heights and had conditioned myself to ignore the proximity and pay attention to what was important - the placement of my feet and hands and how I was balancing and leveraging my body.

When you go high, you've got to put the height out of your mind. Ask yourself if you'd be afraid to climb from the eaves to the ridge of a roof if it were sitting on the ground and there were no drop-off at the eaves. Probably not, right? So what's the difference?

That's where your mind needs to be - concentrating on getting off the ladder to the eaves to the ridges and back again without losing your balance or your feet slipping. If you can't gain that kind of focus, you aren't going to be able to safely walk roofs and as others have said will probably miss significant issues only walking the roof can reveal.

If you decide to get into the profession without doing roofs because of your height issues, you'll need a pretty good Errors and Ommissions policy and air-tight pre-inspection contract. Otherwise, the first time a roof leaks and causes substantial damage, and the homeowner comes after you, you'll face financial ruin.

Just my two cents. Worth the price charged I suppose.



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Want to polarize a room full of home inspectors. Talk about climbing on to roofs during an inspection. Some will-- some won't. Not very many in between. I will not climb a roof for any reason--not even my own. Leaning a ladder on a gutter to get up close is ok with me. My 2 cents. [:-banghea

Jack Ahern Needham on the Charles

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OK, I read a posting entitled "This'll be a first" over in the Roofing forum. I suppose I should have done some research over there first. Sorry, I did not realize that this was an area of contention amongst HI professionals...I thought that getting up on roofs was pretty much expected.

However, now that I see that there are many who will not walk roofs, that makes me feel a little better about moving forward with this idea.

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You only have to get on roofs if you want to do a good inspection. In Mich we can't always get on: ice, frost, snow etc.. But, if you error regarding the roof, you "bought the farm". I have gone thru periods where I was very uncomfortable on roofs. At my age, vertigo comes and goes. Be sure your client knows and understands how you inspected the roof.

Mike, my first construction job was slip forming concrete silos for my dad and building wood tops! Grease and oil mixed with sawdust made my life real good!

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Well golly, I guess I'll have to throw my hat into the "Don't always walk roofs" crowd. I'd say I walk about 10 to 15% of the homes I do. I'm not real keen on heights and but I'll try and find a way to walk it if I see something that concerns me.

2 stories..maybe...3 stories...forget about it. It is important for you to describe how the roof was inspected in your report and to your client. I do inspect all 1 stories from the edge. 2 stories if I can get out on the roof from a window.

Now I do have an inspector who is a freakin' cat. There isn't much he doesn't climb. To date, I only know of one defect he caught that I didn't see from the ground, an unpainted storm collar.

I don't knock any inspector for climbing roofs. I actually have respect for the ones who do it on a regular basis unless they're just climbing to be climbing to put on a show.

I use either a pair of 10 x 50 Nikon binoculars or a spotting scope to look at the roof from the ground. Don't even try looking at one with those mini binoculars, they're worthless at best. Besides, if use the high quality glass to hunt, camp or fish, you can write those toys off your taxes. In fact, you can write off a lot of toys that way...I just wish I could figure out how to write off my guns and fishing equipment.

I've only had one roof complaint and it was in my first year of business. Roof had those metal shingles over a cedar shingled roof. Told the lady it was junk, told her to get a roofer to repair the over 1 dozen loose and raised metal shingles I saw, told her that there was no flashing between the sidewall and garage...and a few other things. Calls me up 6 months later and says her roof is leaking. Asked her if she had followed both my verbal advice and written advise in the report..."No, my agent said inspectors blow these things out of proportion to cover ya'lls a$$es." "Then either you or your Realtor are gonna have to pay for this roof because I told you it was junk. You paid me for my advice and I gave it to you, I can't make you act on it." I never heard back from her.

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  • 1 month later...

The bottom line is: You should get as close to the roof as you can, safely. If you're on the roof, but scared to death (or worse, putting yourself in harm's way), you're doing something wrong.

I'm a ladder monkey who'll climb anything, but I sure as hell don't want to leave my kids without a Daddy just to get a peek down the top of someone's chimney. If I thought there was a good chance I'd get hurt or do some damage by climbing onto a roof, I wouldn't do it and I wouldn't feel bad about it.

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If Jimmy's a ladder Monkey, I guess I'm a ladder Gorilla! I walk 99% of all roofs I inspect. I market against guys that don't.

I had more than a few falls over the years, and I'm not getting any younger, but IMO you can't do a thorough inspection if you don't get to see valleys, roof boots, etc, up close an personal.

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If your not able to get up there and do the Job, hire a Roofer for $25 to show up with you and get it done. Those guys are nuts and most will go anywhere for a six pack. I get on every roof I can but I hate High things too so as much as possible work through the fear and there you go. I feel guilty every time I find one my knees wont climb but better knees on the roof than on your knees in court. It's not a Job it's an adventure!

.02 No charge.

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I definately climb all roofs if at all possible. I would have missed both of these if i hadn't gone ahead and made the climb.

The first is a large occupied custom home built in 2003. The roof was leaking and had stained the ceiling in a garage, but, there was shelving that was partially hiding the stains. I found the damage and then went looking for where it might have leaked. I not certain I would have seen the stains. The shelves were loaded with stuff and hid the stains quite well.

The second the picture was an older house with a second story. I was able to get up on top and found all kinds of damage on there. This is a back side that was not visible from the ground. The rest of the roof was in good condition and because of that I almost got off the roof without making the effort to get "up and over". The picture shows one spot but there numerous areas in similar shape. Large trees did this damage and they had been trimmed way back off the roof.

I could not find any stains or evidence of leaks in this one.

I will always try to climb the roof.


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