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Kurt had suggested in my other post that we start a separate thread for specific narrative critiqing. After Marks post and a stain I found in a bathroom ceiling I thought this would be a good exercise to get Katenized on this one.

Quote:Roof: There is a moisture stain in the ceiling of the upstairs bathroom in unit 1285. Viewing the attic from the access we could not see any significant signs of leakage such as stains on framing members however we believe that the leaking is active and probably occurring up at the roof vent flanges from wind blown rain. Recommend having a qualified roofer evaluate and perform repairs. At the time of the inspection there did not appear to any moisture damage as of yet other than the stain but we advise immediate evaluation and repair to prevent any further staining or causation of damage.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Kurt had suggested in my other post that we start a separate thread for specific narrative critiqing. After Marks post and a stain I found in a bathroom ceiling I thought this would be a good exercise to get Katenized on this one.

Roof: There is a moisture stain in the ceiling of the upstairs bathroom in unit 1285. Viewing the attic from the access we could not see any significant signs of leakage such as stains on framing members however we believe that the leaking is active and probably occurring up at the roof vent flanges from wind blown rain. Recommend having a qualified roofer evaluate and perform repairs. At the time of the inspection there did not appear to any moisture damage as of yet other than the stain but we advise immediate evaluation and repair to prevent any further staining or causation of damage.

Chris, Oregon

Here's how I'd suggest improving your words:

Roof: There is a moisture stain in the ceiling of the upstairs bathroom in unit 1285. Viewing the attic from the access we I could not see any significant signs of leakage such as stains on framing members however we I believe that the leaking is active and probably occurring up at the roof vent flanges from wind blown rain. Recommend I recommend having a qualified roofer evaluate and perform repairs evaluate and repair the roof. At the time of the inspection there did not appear to be any moisture damage as of yet other than the stain but we I advise immediate evaluation and repair to prevent any further staining or causation of other damage.id="blue">

Here's how I'd write it myself:

At unit 1285, the roof is leaking above the upstairs bathroom. The only damage so far is a stain on the ceiling. Get this fixed before it causes real damage.

  • 1. Have a roofer locate and repair the leak above the upstairs bath in unit 1285. Tell him that I suspect wind-blown rain is entering through the vents.
id="green">

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Chris,

I have a multi-inspector office yet there ain't no "we" here! If I happen to be there when "Henry" spots the leak, there still ain't no "we". He found it and he can say what he thinks, or he can say Les thinks it is vxvxvxvx.

You will save yourself lots of time writing in first person; both now and in the future when you have to explain who you had in your back pocket!

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Here's how I'd write it myself:

At unit 1285, the roof is leaking above the upstairs bathroom. The only damage so far is a stain on the ceiling. Get this fixed before it causes real damage.

  • 1. Have a roofer locate and repair the leak above the upstairs bath in unit 1285. Tell him that I suspect wind-blown rain is entering through the vents.
id="green">

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Pretty definitive. Would this conclusion be made after metering the ceiling to determine if its actually wet?

If not wet, then would you still draw the same conclusion?

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Originally posted by randynavarro

Originally posted by Jim Katen

Here's how I'd write it myself:

At unit 1285, the roof is leaking above the upstairs bathroom. The only damage so far is a stain on the ceiling. Get this fixed before it causes real damage.

  • 1. Have a roofer locate and repair the leak above the upstairs bath in unit 1285. Tell him that I suspect wind-blown rain is entering through the vents.
id="green">

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Pretty definitive. Would this conclusion be made after metering the ceiling to determine if its actually wet?

If not wet, then would you still draw the same conclusion?

The purpose of this excercise is to demonstrate writing technique, not defect-recognition technique. My writing style would stay the same -- definitive and forceful -- no matter what conclusion I'd come to about the defect.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Randy, I did measure it with my moisture encounter plus but there was no significant elevation in moisture. My conclusion was based mainly on the fact I could see no repair. A girder truss and rafter crossed each other directly above the stain and the rafter ran right up to the ridge vents on this hipped roof and I have run into this problem before and have seen it first hand dripping leaving no mositure stains what so ever on the framing and decking on another house.

If it wasn't for Marks post I would have wimped out and aknowledged the stain with out really pursuing further other then something like inquire with tenant or owner and monitor, or something stupider.

Les, concerning the we thing its frickin nasty habit that I keep letting myself fall back into. I known I not suppose to write that way.

I am doing a lot better, maybe not in that example, but to start off with location first and have been trying to use I and not We as if I was the Queen or something.

Chris, Oregon

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We've all been "trained" to say simple things in complicated, oblique, and silly ways.

I eventually broke out of it due to my old FM report software; I could only write two lines of narrative; two lines only. I had to fit lots of stuff into relatively tiny space. That's how I broke out; I had to pare out the unessential stuff.

Limitations often beget beautiful design.

"Unit 285 has a water stain @ the bath ceiling; the roof leaked."

Add other stuff as you see fit. Think like an editor that has to fit an article into 2 column inches.

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

The purpose of this excercise is to demonstrate writing technique, not defect-recognition technique. My writing style would stay the same -- definitive and forceful -- no matter what conclusion I'd come to about the defect.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Good point.

I guess the point I was trying to infer was this; if you are not sure of the defect or cause of the defect, then would you still be as "definitive and forceful"?

How would you write that same finding if you weren't sure what caused it?

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Jim, I stated first the first and only physical fact that I observed and made that the priority. In the way you wrote it instead I think you purposefully stated the logical fact that the roof is leaking and the stain secondary to that.

I don't know where I got it in my head but I have always listed the observed facts first and then conjured up a logical conclusion of the facts 2nd.

Do you recommend besides stating the location first also to state the logical conclusion first before the facts?

It seems to make sense as listing the facts followed by the conclusion leaves them hanging like not describing the location first.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by randynavarro

. . . I guess the point I was trying to infer was this; if you are not sure of the defect or cause of the defect, then would you still be as "definitive and forceful"?

How would you write that same finding if you weren't sure what caused it?

I don't know. It's never happened.

(Sorry. I couldn't resist. How often does someone pitch one right over the plate like that?)

If I can't satisfy myself that I've found the source of a particular problem, I take one of two paths.

If I feel that the source of the problem could be found with further, sometimes destructive, investigation then that's what I'll recommend.

Hire a (roofer, electrician, plumber, whatever) to (water-test, cut open, blow-up, whatever) the widget. Once he's found the problem, have it fixed.id="green">

If I feel that there's no way to know the source of the problem then I talk about risk.

There's no way to tell what's caused the problem with the widget. If you buy this house, understand the risk that you might have to spend $$$ to fix the widget sometime in the future. id="green">

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Jim, I stated first the first and only physical fact that I observed and made that the priority. In the way you wrote it instead I think you purposefully stated the logical fact that the roof is leaking and the stain secondary to that.

Even though it was the only physical evidence you found, it was merely a symptom, not a problem in itself. I stated the problem first and then elaborated on the consequence. Sometimes I do it the other way around. It depends on which way makes for better storytelling.

I don't know where I got it in my head but I have always listed the observed facts first and then conjured up a logical conclusion of the facts 2nd.

That's the way to do it if you're presenting an analysis and you want the reader to follow your thought process from one logical progression to another. I sometimes do that. It's really boring for the reader though, especially if the writing contains lots of jargon. It'll put people to sleep fast. They're interested in the conclusion, not the internal process that you use to arrive at the conclusion.

Do you recommend besides stating the location first also to state the logical conclusion first before the facts?

Sometimes it makes the report more interesting and engaging. Other times not so much. I don't have a particular preference.

It seems to make sense as listing the facts followed by the conclusion leaves them hanging like not describing the location first.

I vary the style depending on what I'm trying to achieve. For routine, run of the mill stuff, I state the conclusion and the recommendation as succinctly as I can. Every so often, though, I run into a problem that I'm sure will meet with resistance from realtors, sellers or tradesmen. For these situations, I use the analysis method, laying out each piece of the puzzle in a progression of logical steps that leads to a single, clear conclusion. I try to anticipate all questions and arguments and incorporate them into the progression. These are very boring to read, but very hard to argue with.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

I use the analysis method, laying out each piece of the puzzle in a progression of logical steps that leads to a single, clear conclusion. I try to anticipate all questions and arguments and incorporate them into the progression. These are very boring to read, but very hard to argue with.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Sounds like HOA reports.

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Ok to sum up some of the things I learned from this exercise -

Start with location first and use first person.

Try and write in no more then 2 sentences.

Is the condition a symptom or is it a problem? If I am looking at basically symptoms then be sure to state what I think is the problem.

The sequence of problem vs. consequence depends on what tells a better story.

Whether to lay out ones internal thought process depends on whether resistance is likely to ones conclusion. If not then consider foregoing the written analysis to keep things pithy.

If source of the problem can be found in your judgement then order qualifed person to find source and repair problem.

If determining the source of the problem is a problem then educate client on the potential risks.

Further comment?

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Ok to sum up some of the things I learned from this exercise -

Start with location first and use first person.

Try and write in no more then 2 sentences.

Is the condition a symptom or is it a problem? If I am looking at basically symptoms then be sure to state what I think is the problem.

The sequence of problem vs. consequence depends on what tells a better story.

Whether to lay out ones internal thought process depends on whether resistance is likely to ones conclusion. If not then consider foregoing the written analysis to keep things pithy.

If source of the problem can be found in your judgement then order qualifed person to find source and repair problem.

If determining the source of the problem is a problem then educate client on the potential risks.

Further comment?

Chris, Oregon

Don't forget to use apostrophes when writing "one's."

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim, I was studying your sample reinspection report under my reinspection post in the home inspector qualifications & professionallism forum and I noticed that you never use the word recommend. Instead I see that you use the words: have, install, provide, patch, and remove to start your recommendation sentences.

I have been saying - Recommend having a qualifed contractor repair condition. Something like that with every recommendation sentence starting off with - Recommend or now I recommend -

You appear to be dropping the - I recommend language and just cut to the chase and say - have the thing repaired.

In fact I didn't see that you even used the words - qualifed contractor in your recommendations for repair.

Was this a style thing for the reinspection report only or do you say it any different on the orginal report?

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Jim, I was studying your sample reinspection report under my reinspection post in the home inspector qualifications & professionallism forum and I noticed that you never use the word recommend. Instead I see that you use the words: have, install, provide, patch, and remove to start your recommendation sentences.

I have been saying - Recommend having a qualifed contractor repair condition. Something like that with every recommendation sentence starting off with - Recommend or now I recommend -

You appear to be dropping the - I recommend language and just cut to the chase and say - have the thing repaired.

In fact I didn't see that you even used the words - qualifed contractor in your recommendations for repair.

Was this a style thing for the reinspection report only or do you say it any different on the orginal report?

Chris, Oregon

It's a style choice and it's called the imperative form. I only rarely use the words "I recommend." Not that there's anything wrong with it, I just don't see the need to add four unnecessary words to every recommendation.

As for the "qualified contractor" bit, somewhere in the original report there's a general statement that says I "recommend" that all repairs be done by licensed contractors. Beyond that I see no reason to belabor the point. It doesn't do anyone any good to repeat phrases hypnotically throughout the report unless your goal is to put people to sleep.

Inspectors bitch all the time about customers who don't bother to read the report. That's because they're stupefyingly boring. A little attention to style goes a long way toward making them more readable.

My own reports are not exempt, by the way. It's an area that I'm trying to improve on.

- Jim Katen in a pissy mood tonight.

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Hi Chris,

Many HI's use extra words because they don't have enough substantive information (i.e., knowledge) to fill a report.

There are also those who cannot create a complete sentence without help. This is why software that 'automagically fills in' a report is used as a tool by many excellent home inspectors, but as a crutch by the bottom feeders. An example...

"I whole-heartedly recommend to my client, Mr. Smith, that the grade of his prospective home be modified (by a professional, licensed, landscape architect) such that it will gently guide water away from the home. This simple modification will help prevent water from coming into the basement of the home."

Now, the above paragraph, concisely written:

"Find another inspector."

BTW Chris, it is really nice to have your participation in this forum!

Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Jim, I was studying your sample reinspection report under my reinspection post in the home inspector qualifications & professionallism forum and I noticed that you never use the word recommend. Instead I see that you use the words: have, install, provide, patch, and remove to start your recommendation sentences.

I have been saying - Recommend having a qualifed contractor repair condition. Something like that with every recommendation sentence starting off with - Recommend or now I recommend -

You appear to be dropping the - I recommend language and just cut to the chase and say - have the thing repaired.

In fact I didn't see that you even used the words - qualifed contractor in your recommendations for repair.

Was this a style thing for the reinspection report only or do you say it any different on the orginal report?

Chris, Oregon

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Chris,

I think it was Kurt M that mentioned a "comic book" format. I got to thinking about it and tried it on a commercial inspection. Really didn't have any idea how I would do it, but thought it might be kinda fun.

First I came up with a nice cover sheet with an appropriate picture and started sorting thru approx 100 site photos to find a simple direct representation of what I wanted to say; ie: photo of front of boiler. "This boiler is 47years old and beyond life expectancy given it's maintenance and present condition. You can see the rust and various components that don't make sense." Not a living soul asked me any questions about the various components that did not make sense. Well, you can't write like that, but the idea of simple direct statements and a good photo is still developing and everyone seems to like the simple approach. I have not used this protocol on residential inspections because of liability and various sops.

My market, thankfully, requires the absolute minimum information. I have seen dozens of one and two page complete inspection reports. One that always tickles me is a report that starts with "This report and my inspection covers the entire ASHI SOP and COE. While I didn't write everything down, I did check everything."

Gary R, before too long you will qualify as a certified gadfly!

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Les,

How so?

Originally posted by Les

Chris,

I think it was Kurt M that mentioned a "comic book" format. I got to thinking about it and tried it on a commercial inspection. Really didn't have any idea how I would do it, but thought it might be kinda fun.

First I came up with a nice cover sheet with an appropriate picture and started sorting thru approx 100 site photos to find a simple direct representation of what I wanted to say; ie: photo of front of boiler. "This boiler is 47years old and beyond life expectancy given it's maintenance and present condition. You can see the rust and various components that don't make sense." Not a living soul asked me any questions about the various components that did not make sense. Well, you can't write like that, but the idea of simple direct statements and a good photo is still developing and everyone seems to like the simple approach. I have not used this protocol on residential inspections because of liability and various sops.

My market, thankfully, requires the absolute minimum information. I have seen dozens of one and two page complete inspection reports. One that always tickles me is a report that starts with "This report and my inspection covers the entire ASHI SOP and COE. While I didn't write everything down, I did check everything."

Gary R, before too long you will qualify as a certified gadfly!

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Whew!

That's a word that can go either way. (... bites or annoys livestock & other animals.) I have developed great respect for you over the past many months, Les.

I was afraid you might have thought I was being sarcastic when I told Chris it is nice to have him on this forum, or that I was implying he writes reports poorly. He is one great inspector boy in my book, as are you.

My heart skipped a beat, but now feels warm and happy.

Thanks Les!

Originally posted by Les

Gary, that is meant as a compliment!

gadfly:

1. one that acts as a constructively provocative stimulus

2. one habitually engaged in provocative criticism of existing institutions.

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  • 2 months later...

Help!

Roof: 2 layers of 3 tab asphalt composition shingles were present not in satisfactory condition. The overlaying shingles were not fastened in accordance with the manufacturers installation instructions. Staples were fastened above the tar strip and were typically not flush and parallel but elevated and angled which reduces its wind resistance to damage. There are several areas where the shingles are wind damaged now and may possible leak. There is moss on the north face of the roof and most of the plumbing vent flashings are rusting. The shingles show generalized deterioration at their edges with some areas of the roof having granule loss. The roofing appears to me to be at the end of its service life and its time to consider replacement. Have a licensed professional roofer evaluate the roof subject to a roof certification, perform repairs needed for a certification and certify the roof for a period of time satisfactory to you. By this I am not assuming that the roofing is certifiable as it may not be by any one roofer for a period of time that you need. In that case the roof will need replacement either now or at least by the end of any certification period. See photos 5, 6, 7 & 8 on page 5. See photos 1 & 2 on page 6.

I wasn't happy about how I wrote this up and I know its messed up but would like to see some Katenized versions so I can learn from them.

Got any suggestions?

Hey Les notice the absence of "we" language. At least maybe I got that right.

Chris, Oregon

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That's (more or less) the model I use.

"The roof is installed wrong/poorly. You should replace the roof, the sooner the better."

If some folks can relay the fact that a roof is shot w/a checklist, we should be able to do it in 25 words or less. Include a few photos of specific defects to back up your narrative.

If you use photos, you should be able to get out w/about 15 words or less; let the pic's do your talking.

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