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Unique Techniques


Bill Kibbel
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In a post on a great topic in the report writing forum, Mike O' wrote:

"I think you'd find that a lot of us on this board inspect in much the same way, and that each of us could learn much from each other".

I immediately thought: "I bet some of the TIJ guys have little tricks, short-cuts, safety procedures or methods that I would never think of."

Does anyone have anything that might be unique and would be willing to share to help the rest of us do what we do? I might think some things others do wouldn't fit in with my standard procedure, but I'm sure there's many things that would be very helpful.

For (a lame) example:

I do whatever I can to look inside chimneys, from the top and the bottom. Most buildings I inspect have oil boilers and chimneys don't have clean-outs.

Quite a few have flue connectors that are very loose at the chimney. For some reason, many accidentally fall out when I'm nearby, allowing me to get a great shot up the flue with my camera. Others have draft control dampers close enough to the chimney that I can reach through it with my camera for a shot up the flue (or at least of the pile of debris at the bottom, that used to be the flue).

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Time saving tips...

1. Check the resistance feature of a garage door opener first, since it's the most likely feature to need adjustment. That way, if it fails, you won't have to return to the button to test the infra-red.

2. On a sunny day, take a mirrow on the roof with you to reflect the sun down the chimney and you won't have to lug your flashlight. Plus, the candlepower can't be beat.

3. A good mirror and flashlight. can also be used to inspect the damper, throat, smoke chamber and flue of a fireplace. It keeps you from having to turn over and stick your head into the firebox. With a little practice you can see everybit as much (if not more) than you would looking up. Working the mirror and flashlight together as a team becomes second nature.

4. Speak your notes into a digital recorder. That way everything is instant. As soon as you see it, you speak it and it's in the hopper. Helps avoid visual overload.

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I use a 5 inch round mirror; got tired of sticking my head under urine covered toilets. It also saves alot of bending and kneeling down.

Great for taking pictures too:

Go to:

http://www.aboutthehouseinspections.com/download.asp

type in: disposal

There in no other way to take that picture.

Darren

www.aboutthehouseinspections.com

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Bill:

Good thinking!

I get dirty inspecting attics, HVAC, plumbing, sumps, etc., so I don't carry a laptop, or even a handheld. I own both, but I don't use them on site. Tried it - didn't like it. The most valuable tool any of us has is tucked conveniently between our ears.

I keep a small paper pad & pen in my pocket (like they used on Dragnet). I used to carry an 8.5 X 11 pad, but it either got in the way or misplaced. The paper pad may give way to a tiny digital voice recorder, but access to information on the recorder is serial, while my notes are accessed randomly, so I'll probably keep the paper pad. Besides, a tiny paper pad doesn't complain when I sit on it, lay on it, or throw it at a mouse. The paper pad is mainly used for recording data-plate info.

My headlamp gets a lot more use than I thought it would when I bought it - keeps both hands free. Not much of a fashion statement, but it was a great buy. (Wish I could say it messes up my hair.)

I take lots of pictures. Picture-taking is an art form. I take full-room pictures for my own use/memory/legal archives, while close-ups usually go into my reports. Of course I take a nice picture of the house to use at the beginning of my report. A picture is worth a 1024 words. This is the only sensitive equipment I carry - it's worth the care.

Reports could be written on site, but I do a much better job at my desk. My desktop has a 17" LCD and I am amazed at the details I can see when zooming in on a picture. I work to balance thoroughness, precision and concision, so my reports take more time to write than I want to admit.

A pocket of my tool bag is reserved for spare flashlight/headlamp/camera/instrumentation batteries. I've never been embarrassed by poor planning.

Personality! Not discussed much on forums, but it's probably our most valuable tool. Each of us knows to leave the client feeling they have a smart new friend. Now, I need to go get some Dr Scholl's and a squirt bottle. Hey Les - no small parts/choke hazzards on those flashlights. A yo-yo for the yo-yo - I like the subtle message.

Originally posted by Les

Dr Scholl's foot powder - small squirt bottle for drafting show and tell

Yo-yo's - for realtors

tiny flashlights - for kids

Advil - for me

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Besides using my still camera I wish I could just strap a video camera on me for the whole inspection.

My greatest time saver has certainly been my camera. I take a ton of pictures and even video. only the half or less makes it into the report but it sure cuts down on the onsite note taking and the thinking that goes with it and its a life saver later if I forgot to consider something and can go back and look at the pictures.

Ive been thinking about sticking my moisture meter on a paint pole so I can easily scan ceilings and floors.

Man and I wish I had one of those sewer cams to look in ducts, drains and vents.

Chris, Oregon

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Chris,

You are going to have to save some money and buy a round trip ticket to Lansing, Mi. Spend a few days with us and you would have to suck on a fifty pound pill!

My best learning moments have come in very subtle ways. Back in the gud ole' daze, it was impossible to find another inspector much less be able to see what he was doing, so I would sit around thinking about how to hire one under a false name and pretend I was the buyer. Never did it. Now I can jump on the forum and talk about what we all do and it is pretty much the same: serve the needs of our respective clients.

Gary, the digestive tract of a kid is quite flexible! Yes, most realtors get the message with their yo-yo.

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Originally posted by ozofprev

I am amazed at the details I can see when zooming in on a picture.

Try opening a pic in a photo editing program which has gamma correction (Usually in a menu somewhere near adjusting brightness/contrast) and use gamma to "open up" the shadows/dark areas. There can be a lot of information in them.

On a couple of occasions I have saved my butt with gamma adjustment of photos taken in crawl spaces.

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Good point. That has helped me make a dark, seemingly empty picture come to life.

Originally posted by rjw

Try opening a pic in a photo editing program which has gamma correction (Usually in a menu somewhere near adjusting brightness/contrast) and use gamma to "open up" the shadows/dark areas. There can be a lot of information in them.

On a couple of occasions I have saved my butt with gamma adjustment of photos taken in crawl spaces.

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I carry a small compass, about the size of a large gumball (I think it cost about $3.oo). It attaches with a safety pin. I pin it onto my shirt.

When I have to identify which way a building faces, or an area, etc. (eg. northwest wall in basement or north wall in master bedroom, etc.) all I do is glance down and I'm IMMEDIATLY sure.

Last week, I had to locate an area below where a machine had to be installed in a large hospital. The floors were not all alike and it was impossible to know where to look. (there was no site plan available) I paced it off and wrote down how many paces in each direction. People watched in amazment as I paced off from the first floor elevator to the machine, and then followed the same path from the lobby elevator (commom landmark). I ended up within a few feet of the spot. At that point I drilled a pilot hole from above and poked a small hole through the ceiling below with a piece of pencil rod.

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I also keep one of those pop open LIGHTED magnifying glasses and a mirror on a telescoping handle in my tool pouch. Even with my reading glasses I somtimes find it impossible to read serial numbers on some mechanical units.

By using a self lit mag glass, it frees my other hand to write down numbers or to hold the mirror when necessary.

This technique has also saved me having to squeeze into difficult spots or lay on the ground.

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Mr Kibble is a man after my own heart. He gave a talk up here in RI this fall and had a photo of his 'gear'. I'm using the same darn set-up!

Cam shots into heating appliance breeches through the barometric damper...Been there, done that, Bill. Chimney-voodoo is hugely appreciated by clients and saves time for them. Using the cam to document mortar loss in unlined flue passages, chimney tops, cracks, collapsed stuff..

My biggest 'tool' is a small circular mirror from CVS beauty dept.. Guys not using mirrors or strong flashlights are simply 'missing stuff' a lot.

Oh yeah, use your knees...(Bend down, look...). Some guys out there can't bend anymore... ! Or use the mirror instead..!

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Take many many digital shots. Customized field note template on the "other side" of mapquest instructions. Run a slide show for me prior to report generation. Identify photos that will be included in the report. Skillers multi pocket vest for HI toys. Modified a 6 foot wood closet pole with a spike driven into one end-snipped off the head and presto!! we have a long termite probe. 5 gallon bucket with pockets for my HI toys. Assortment of gauges, mirrors and flashlights. Red food coloring for toilet tank testing. Laser pointers.28 foot ladder I might rest on gutters. 6 foot utility ladder for scuttle(attic) openings.[:-banghea

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Originally posted by StevenT

I carry a small compass, about the size of a large gumball (I think it cost about $3.oo). It attaches with a safety pin. I pin it onto my shirt.

Hi Steve,

A word of caution about that. When you use that little compass, you should make sure that you aren't inside a building surrounded by wiring and electronic devices that are producing magnetic fields, and aren't standing under the service drop to the house. Lastly, make sure you are well clear of any automobiles. Using a compass too close to magnetic fields or large chunks of iron or steel, such as an automobile, is a common mistake. You could end up writing a report with the directions skewed.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I agree with your warning regarding mag fields and/or metal throwing off the compass, One time when leaving an inspection, I drove my helper crazy. He wasn't aware what was going on and no matter what direction he turned the car, the compass still pointed northeast.

I was going to include the warning in my post, but didn't. Thanks.

Good story.

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If you use a subcontractor for your WDI inspections, don't go into the crawlspace til he's been in there. If he's a big guy, you may not have any cobwebs to go through.

I made a rig to hold my ladder on a sloped roof. I don't use it much, maybe once or twice a month, but when I can't leapfrog, it's priceless.

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Pictures, pictures and more pictures! I take lots of overall shots of basements and attics with the gain turned up on the camera. They are a bit grainy, but my puny little flash can light up a 50' long basement on the 400 ISO setting.

When shooting down an old chimney, use a short telephoto such as 2X. That way instead of getting the newer rebuilt part, you can get down into the original section below the roofline.

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You can get a cool shot of cracked oil burner refractory by shooting through the inspection port, right into the firebox with burner firing.

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Any wet stains get a picture of the pegged moisture meter included in the report. Garage door beam height and railing spacing and height issues get a picture with a tape measure held against them.

If I find yellow tagged HVAC equipment, I take a picture of the tag. If something isn't installed right, the installation manual is there and I can find the applicable section, a picture of that page goes in the report.

And then every once in a while the seller leaves you a gift without them even realizing it .....

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Always set the emergency brake before placing the bottom of your 32-foot ladder on your car bumper to gain that extra 18".

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Jim, that's frightening...even more scary is the fact that I'll probably find myself thinking about it one day.

My contribution. If your not bungying your ladder to the gutters before you step off to the roof, your missing a world of comfort. I use one of those heavy, solid rubber jobs just long enough that with enough stretch to get good tension I clip it to the gutter, go around and under the protruting rung that I purposely place even with the gutter and clip to the gutter on the other side. It is like clamping the ladder to the house. Leaving it sticking up 1.5 -2 feet above the gutter I have something solid to hold onto while I transit from the roof to the ladder.

Before I started using the electronics, I would set out a decoy radon can in an obvious place and the real one in a more concealed location.

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Originally posted by Kyle Kubs

My contribution. If your not bungying your ladder to the gutters before you step off to the roof, your missing a world of comfort. I use one of those heavy, solid rubber jobs just long enough that with enough stretch to get good tension I clip it to the gutter, go around and under the protruting rung that I purposely place even with the gutter and clip to the gutter on the other side. It is like clamping the ladder to the house. Leaving it sticking up 1.5 -2 feet above the gutter I have something solid to hold onto while I transit from the roof to the ladder.

I actually use a vise-grip welding clamp to clamp the ladder to the gutter. It's very secure.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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