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Article: To test or not to test? Examining the garage door pressure test | Part 1

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Hi TIJ Readers!

After we published our Top General Liability Claims infographic in September, we received A LOT of feedback on Claim 4: Garage Doors. Since virtually every garage door-related claim we receive comes from the performance test, there was a lot of debate among inspectors about whether the industry should perform the test. So, we decided to explore the question further.

In Part 1 of our 2-part series (Part 2 comes out on February 1st), we explore what the two major home inspection associations, ASHI and InterNACHI, have to say about the pressure test and how that may impact your decision to test or not to test.



P.S. Shout-out and thanks to @Marc and @Les for contributing to this one and its sequel.

P.P.S. Since I go on maternity leave in February, you're going to start seeing someone new on the forum: my assistant Aubri Devashrayee. Be sure to give her a warm welcome when she posts Part 2 around February 1st!

Part 1: The Standards' Perspective

During a routine home inspection for a home buyer, one of our insured home inspectors performed an auto reverse test to examine the reverse jam function of the property's automatic garage door. The door failed the test due to a pre-existing defect, which the inspector wrote up in his inspection report.

Shortly after the inspection, the property's seller called the inspector. The seller argued that the home inspector had damaged the door and, therefore, should be liable for repairs.

With the help of our free pre-claims assistance, the inspector responded with a Denial of Liability letter. The pre-claims team argued on the insured's behalf that the inspector was not at fault. We explained that the home inspector did not cause the defect. When he tested the garage door, the defect was shown to be pre-existing. Had the inspector not performed the test, there was a good chance the door would've failed shortly after. This could have potentially caused personal injury or property damage.

Our letter didn't satisfy the seller. He then contracted out the repairs himself, and sent our insured the bill demanding he pay it. The issue elevated to a claim.

The auto reverse test.

The auto reverse test evaluates the pressure-activated auto-reverse function of a garage door. You can also call it the contact reversal test, pressure test, and performance test. Home inspectors aim to protect their inspection clients and their clients' families from potential perils by testing this safety feature.

According to the United States' Consumer Product Safety Commission (CDC), there were 23 entrapment incidents involving death or injury of children under 15 years of age reported between December 1, 1996 and June 30, 2003. While the CDC has not published any more recent statistics, news outlets have continued to report on garage door-related incidents, like the death of a child in Maryland in 2013 and the death of a dog in New York in 2018. While reports of incidents appear to be infrequent, these stories of fatalities and injuries concern buyers and, subsequently, their inspectors.

However, choosing to perform the contact reversal test isn't as straight-forward a decision as it may seem.

  1. For one thing, there are two primary ways to perform the test?with a two-by-four and with your hands?and inspectors and subject matter experts vehemently disagree on which technique is superior.
  2. For another, some industry professionals question whether the performance test is, in fact, an accurate predictor of safety or if it, in fact, gives clients a false sense of security.
  3. Lastly, as we shared in our article Top 5 General Liability Claims Against Home Inspectors, inspectors take on increased liability when they perform the performance test, as virtually every garage door-related claim we've seen has resulted from the test.

We looked to the two nationally recognized Standards of Practice (SoPs) to see how they address the contact reversal test.


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