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A client has contacted me with news that lightning has struck the house (still under contract) that I recently inspected for him and that it 'blew the chimney off the roof'. He wants me to represent his interests by uncovering whatever damage I can find as well as confirm proper repairs by the various trades that have been hired.

I plan to tell him that state requirements and liability concerns dictate that I keep my work within the bounds of a home inspection. The bulk of the inspection will focus on discovering lightning-related damage, formulating recommendations for it and confirming proper performance of repairs.

He's a discerning client with a penchant for extreme detail.

I'm wondering if any members have prior experience in this area.

Marc

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I can't offer any advicem but if you get a chance can you post pics of the damage and keep us informed about what you find / learn along the way.

I will. I'll be keeping photos and notes of whatever I see as I attempt to trace the current path. From what I've read online so far, there's no way to plan an inspection like this. Lightning is unpredictable and manifests in different ways every time. The only consensus I can find is that it be done by someone well versed in wiring.

Marc

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I used to do disaster restoration contacting for insurance companies. A lightning strike is a definite "sudden and accidental" (covered) loss. The current home owners should call their insurance company and put in a claim. Often, a direct strike to a chimney will crack the liner or the masonry of the chimney - requiring re-lining. And, typically fifty percent of the GFCI breakers will be fried (will no longer trip). TVs, PCs, fax machines, etc. are often toast as well. He needs to take inventory of these items. Large loss claims (fire, etc.) can stay open for as long as two years, to make certain everything is accounted for.

I never had employees while doing that work. I was the general contractor/construction manager, and sub-contracted most trades out. But since it was my trade, I did not sub out masonry or drywall repairs, since I was pretty handy with all trowels. I maximized my profits by doing such portions myself. I also enjoyed restoring old and installing new cabinetry, so I typically did that myself as well.

At any rate, encourage them to make a claim, so they don't regret it later when they discover expensive damage.

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I would not worry about your state SOP's with this type of specialized forensic inspection as it is not for the sale of the home. Actually, the owner of the home is the one that would be responsible for all of the repairs since it is still under contract to sell. They need to make the claim on their insurance.

Once that ball gets rolling and one the repairs are made then it would be a good time for an independent inspection to take place. The new owners insurance will not cover the home until repairs are made under the current owners coverage, it will show in a CLUE report that the home sustained lighting damage.

I just finished up a very similar type project on a home that was 95% complete and was hit by 100mph straight-line winds, hail, and a lighting strike to a chimney.

After a new roof (with copper accents, copula, gutters, etc...) 40% new wiring, replacement of two electrical panels and all AFCI's, one 4-ton heatpump, drywall damage from leaks and Romex cable access, the replacement of an outside chimney/fireplace and a huge deck that was 40" off the ground everything is fine now! The repairs took a little over 4 months on a home that took 16 months to build!

You need to change per site visit (I made one site visit a week,it took me about 20-30 min. and I issued an update letter with each visit that included photos). I charged them my normal hourly rate($175 hr) for each site visit. On your first visit it will take you considerably longer, you should consider this when you tell them your fee.

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You need to change per site visit (I made one site visit a week,it took me about 20-30 min. and I issued an update letter with each visit that included photos). I charged them my normal hourly rate($175 hr) for each site visit. On your first visit it will take you considerably longer, you should consider this when you tell them your fee.

I haven't quoted him yet. Your suggestion seems a fair and neat way to do it.

Big hair Betty refuses to open the house because she says my client doesn't need my services, so I reported to my client that his agent had promoted herself to 'Chief Technical Advisor' and says I'm not needed. I'm waiting.

Marc

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i did an inspection recently that had a large tree in the front yard take a direct lightning hit. Tree was toast and subsequently removed.

Buyer told me about the tree and to do the best I could to find anything that 'might' have been damaged due to the strike in addition to my normal detailed inspection. This is the 2nd home I've inspected for this client ... she walked (thankfully) from the first one I did for her.

Seller's disclosure (that I never saw) was very upfront about the strike and had documents from various folks (HVAC, Electrical) providing analysis of related items and (according to buyer) all had been deemed OK. Sale of home was an estate situation.

One thing I did note was the black residue where the sprinkler system controller (in the garage) was smoked. It had not yet been replaced, but was in process of being done by sellers.

Just keep your eyes open in all sorts of areas.

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I spent 1:45 checking around the house, basically trying to trace the path of the strike. I let the lady seller talk as much as she wanted which helped my inspection a lot. A fireman responding to the call of a lightening strike found a pinhole leak on a copper flexible water connector for an upstairs water heater. The fresh water distribution system is copper. A plumber has since replaced the connector and restored water service to the house. The flue for that water heater terminates near the masonry chimney that blew apart. Most of the damage was secondary damage that occurred when the bricks hit shingles, copper gutter and a very large skylight. I traced the EGC from the ground rod to the gutter serving two main panels and to the cold water inlet on another water heater whose flue is also near the chimney that blew. No arcing was found.

My report to the client was this: 99% of the primary damage was from the bolt reaching the earth via the masonry chimney, damaging it. The bolt also hit up to three gas flues that were nearby but was conducted safely to the earth via the metal flues, steel water-heater tank and finally, the copper water distribution system in parallel with the electrical grounding system. In short, the grounding system did it's job and likely prevented a fire that could have destroyed the house.

I'll post a few photos once they're up-linked but the chimney has already been fixed.

Thanks for everything fellas. The inspection worked out great!

Report will recommend a level 2 fireplace inspection to check the liner and an electrician to check all GFCI's as well as install wire jumpers between hot and cold connections on both water heaters.

Marc

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Nice job, Marc. I would have suggested checking ground rods, but somehow knew you would do that.

Rather than saying the lightning did this and that, I would say it "appears to have" done this and that, but that's just me. Some might not agree with the wishy washy language, but I would imply that it's a judgement based on appearances.

On a side note, are you sure lightning strikes the earth? Some say the charge flows from earth to the clouds. We don't get enough lightning here for it to matter much either way.

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Nice job, Marc. I would have suggested checking ground rods, but somehow knew you would do that.

Rather than saying the lightning did this and that, I would say it "appears to have" done this and that, but that's just me. Some might not agree with the wishy washy language, but I would imply that it's a judgement based on appearances.

On a side note, are you sure lightning strikes the earth? Some say the charge flows from earth to the clouds. We don't get enough lightning here for it to matter much either way.

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That was just my verbal report. Written report comes later, though I don't use 'appears' much anymore. I prefer language that's more concrete. Client didn't hire you to give him a load of maybe's.

Yeah, the science isn't settled yet on exactly how lightning works. One of the great mysteries.

Marc

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Unlike auto insurance, home owner's insurance is a great deal, and the adjusters are, for the most part, extremely fair and reasonable. If they sense you are out for profit, they will turn on you, but as long as you only wish to have what is genuinely repaired or replaced they are good at making certain that you get all you are due. My experiences with claims departments were pretty good and encouraging. As Scott said, DOL (Date of Loss) is key. No DOL - no claim. So, again, they need to make that claim before the property transfers, or they will have no way to recover future related damage, yet to be discovered.

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A problem that came up during the verbal was that the seller's insurance is paying for the repairs but will have no responsibility for it once ownership changes hands to my client. According to the Betty Big Hair, the claim cannot be transferred. I regularly advised home buyers to seek compensation for needed repairs rather than let the seller do it himself because only the buyer ends up with a vested interest in properly completed repairs.

I didn't know what to tell my client. He has no way to inject his inspector into the picture until the repairs are done. At least he can walk away if I find problems.

Marc

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On a side note, are you sure lightning strikes the earth? Some say the charge flows from earth to the clouds.

About two weeks ago, I got video of an intense lightning storm over Lake Ontario from the bluff behind my house.

While doing a frame by frame review, I discovered that part of the source of the strikes that looked like they could've been five to ten miles out in the lake, were thin purple feeders from right under my feet.

More than one not only started there, but also came back and finished in the same place.

If someone here can direct me to a program I can load it to and pull stills from, I would love to share them with you guys.

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Pause it and use the Windows Snipping tool.

No luck with that.

Here's one of them, the low tech way. When it got where it was going, the bolt to the lake was huge.

I never saw this while standing there.

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iMovie is made for this. Give it to someone with a Mac.

The phenomenon of the lightening creeping up to your feet is why they say one shouldn't stand outside looking at lightening that one thinks is "miles away". It's actually all around you; the charges are going in all directions for dozens or hundreds of miles.

At least, that's what the TV told me.

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iMovie is made for this. Give it to someone with a Mac.

The phenomenon of the lightening creeping up to your feet is why they say one shouldn't stand outside looking at lightening that one thinks is "miles away". It's actually all around you; the charges are going in all directions for dozens or hundreds of miles.

At least, that's what the TV told me.

You're a Mac guy, Right? I'll be happy to let you play with it.

The one I posted is nothing compared to some of the other stuff you see.

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