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New inspector, what tools?


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Hey everyone,

I've been reading on this site for a little while now, and have found it to be a great resource!

I'm new to the game, I'm just going through my initial schooling now. What I would like to know is what kind of tools should I go out and get as a new inspector. Besides the obvious, flashlights, awl, etc... does anyone recommend going out and spending hundreds of dollars on specialty tools right at the start?

I will be doing this part time until I can build a good business, and will also be working towards becoming a national certificate holder and dual member (ASHI, CAHPI/OAHI) when I have done enough inspections.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

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Welcome aboard Alex.

... does anyone recommend going out and spending hundreds of dollars on specialty tools right at the start?

I recommend it. Before I did my first solo inspection, I had all the toys tools and some practical experience in their use. That was back when most folks had no idea what to expect from a home inspection.

Now that inspections are pretty well known, I think clients would get nervous if you showed up with a torch and a poker.

In addition to the items being discussed at the link posted above, the specialty tools I think are necessary:

  • A moisture meter that can scan & probe
  • A combustible gas detector (to illustrate the gas leak that you could smell anyway)
  • Outlet tester
  • Multi-meter
  • CO meter (w/Bacarach training)
  • Water pressure gauge
  • infrared thermometer w/at least an 30:1 spot ratio
  • Dual K type thermometer
  • Assorted inspection mirrors
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I also carry... and use quite often;

A lighted magnifying glass, my favorite being one that is a small flashlight (cost about $10)

A strap on headlight, it looks wherever I do and frees up my hands to write notes or a tool.

A $5 compass (looks like a gumball) that I pin on my shirt, anytime I want to know a direction I just look down.

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  • 2 years later...

Hi All,

Another new inspector here - greater Nashville, Tennessee area. I really appreciate your replies to these topics. It seems there's no one answer. I've done about 20 inspections now and realizing that when there's a stain on the ceiling I'd better be able to show whether there's moisture present or not! Getting a moisture meter this week.

One question I have for you all - do you use this in attics to show whether or not the attic is ventilating properly? I saw or heard this mentioned a while back but wasn't sure if this was normal. Apparently some inspectors will take their moisture meter into attics and if the moisture level in the wood is elevated that's how they decide to recommend more ventilation.

Thoughts or advice here?

Thanks,

Grant Jones

Newbie

All Seasons Inspections

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Hi All,

Another new inspector here - greater Nashville, Tennessee area. I really appreciate your replies to these topics. It seems there's no one answer. I've done about 20 inspections now and realizing that when there's a stain on the ceiling I'd better be able to show whether there's moisture present or not! Getting a moisture meter this week.

One question I have for you all - do you use this in attics to show whether or not the attic is ventilating properly? I saw or heard this mentioned a while back but wasn't sure if this was normal. Apparently some inspectors will take their moisture meter into attics and if the moisture level in the wood is elevated that's how they decide to recommend more ventilation.

Thoughts or advice here?

No, I would not use a moisture meter like that. I find moisture meters useful only for comparative moisture readings.

If another inspector used a meter on a rafter and said something like, "Gosh whiz, this rafter has 22% mc. That must mean that the attic doesn't have enough ventilation," I'd feel compelled to smack him on the ears with his flashlight.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I'll probably get spanked for saying so, but here goes...an HI doesn't need a moisture meter to do his job.

Every house will "tell" you where you are likely to find moisture problems and the tools you already carry (like a flashlight, IR thermometer, camera, probes, your eyes and hands) will confirm if there is one or not. A moisture meter will tell you the specific miosture content of an object, which isn't required by any SOP I've seen. There is enough stuff for a new inspector to worry about without adding gadgets that take irrelevant measurements to their routine.

My advice to a new guy; get the things you need to do your job and learn how to use them in the context of what you do, when that earns you a living you can afford to expand your tool belt and your skill set. Especially in this market.

Tom

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A tool is a tool, a fool is a fool. Anyone who thinks thay can start up in this business without kissing a little realtor a$$ is sadly mistaken.

5 years in business, never been in to a real estate brokerage office, never solicited a referral from an agent. I take the odd referral, but have never gone so far as to even ask for one.

I'm not going to lie and say it was easy, but after a few years I make a pretty good living - even without puckerin' up. Maybe my case is unique.

-Brad

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6 years in business, never visited a real estate agent's office, never offered an agent a business card, never asked an agent for a referral, never bought an agent candy or donuts.

Agents have referred me a few times to their family but never to a real client.

Anyone who thinks thay can start up in this business without kissing a little realtor a$$ is sadly mistaken.

It's not the easiest way but it's possible. Kind of like slate vs asphalt shingle.

While I respect Tom, I think a moisture meter is a "must have". It's the difference between saying " the sheathing is stained; maybe it's from a past leak but the roof could be leaking now. Have a competent roofer check it out and repair if necessary" or "the roof leaks, get it fixed."

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I'll probably get spanked for saying so, but here goes...an HI doesn't need a moisture meter to do his job.

Every house will "tell" you where you are likely to find moisture problems and the tools you already carry (like a flashlight, IR thermometer, camera, probes, your eyes and hands) will confirm if there is one or not. A moisture meter will tell you the specific miosture content of an object, which isn't required by any SOP I've seen.

Tom

Well said. Moisture meters are more for show, than go. And in the wrong hands they likely won't provide reliable results.

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6 years in business, never visited a real estate agent's office, never offered an agent a business card, never asked an agent for a referral, never bought an agent candy or donuts.

Agents have referred me a few times to their family but never to a real client.

Anyone who thinks thay can start up in this business without kissing a little realtor a$$ is sadly mistaken.

It's not the easiest way but it's possible. Kind of like slate vs asphalt shingle.

While I respect Tom, I think a moisture meter is a "must have". It's the difference between saying " the sheathing is stained; maybe it's from a past leak but the roof could be leaking now. Have a competent roofer check it out and repair if necessary" or "the roof leaks, get it fixed."

It can't be said better than that.

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I'll probably get spanked for saying so, but here goes...an HI doesn't need a moisture meter to do his job.

Every house will "tell" you where you are likely to find moisture problems and the tools you already carry (like a flashlight, IR thermometer, camera, probes, your eyes and hands) will confirm if there is one or not. A moisture meter will tell you the specific miosture content of an object, which isn't required by any SOP I've seen.

Tom

Well said. Moisture meters are more for show, than go. And in the wrong hands they likely won't provide reliable results.

I have to disagree. The proper training, to use a moisture meter correctly, is pretty basic stuff.

Every time I see a stain on a ceiling, loose toilet, rafters that have stains, stains under windows I pull out the moisture meter. A nice picture with the LEDs in the red zone go right into the report.

I would think that, in a court of law, a moisture meter would be considered a "must have" tool for home inspectors.

Besides my flashlight it is the workhorse of my tool pouch.

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I'll probably get spanked for saying so, but here goes...an HI doesn't need a moisture meter to do his job.

Every house will "tell" you where you are likely to find moisture problems and the tools you already carry (like a flashlight, IR thermometer, camera, probes, your eyes and hands) will confirm if there is one or not. A moisture meter will tell you the specific moisture content of an object, which isn't required by any SOP I've seen.

Tom

Well said. Moisture meters are more for show, than go. And in the wrong hands they likely won't provide reliable results.
I got into this business more than 13 years ago. Back then, I was told that a moisture meter was a must-have tool and that it was being used by most inspectors in my region and that the standard of care was to use it. For 13 years I've done just that and I know very few inspectors that don't have one. If I'm ever called into a courtroom to testify about the use of a moisture meter as part of an inspector's arsenal, I'm going to say exactly that and I think that the majority of inspectors in this country, regardless of where they are, would testify the same way.

My better half, Yung, has some very basic training in how to use my 9-year old Protimeter SM and over the years she has made some amazing finds with it. Out of many hundreds of finds, I know of less than five times where she was wrong and none of those false issues caused any deals to go sour or resulted in serious negative consequences for our clients, sellers or the house.

Many of her findings have had outward indicators of moisture - staining, dampness, mold spots, odor, etc., but just as many did not and I seriously doubt that if we hadn't had the tool that we would have found those issues.

One could argue that if we wouldn't have found an issue without the of the moisture meter that it falls outside the scope of the standards but I think one would be wrong to assume that. I believe that it doesn't matter what your profession is; there's always a "standard of care" for different tasks that are done within every profession. Fail to meet the local standard of care, and I think one risks running smack into a judge that won't be sympathetic to any entreaties for mercy based on some weasel clauses in an SOP or a pre-inspection agreement.

Heck, even the contractors and builders that frequent my building science forum on JLC have been purchasing moisture meters and have been using them as a means to track down issues in homes they've built or are working on. When contractors and builders start emulating something that a home inspector does, you have to admit that whatever that "something" is it must be pretty commonly done and accepted.

Then there's this; how do you convince a client that you didn't screw up if a latent moisture issue, that you could have easily discovered with a moisture meter, shows up later on? What if, after you arrive onsite, tell that client that it's not your problem because it was a latent issue and then drive away, the client hires another inspector to come in behind you to look at the issue? What if that inspector pulls out a moisture meter, finds the issue easily within moments and then says to the client, "It's no big deal; any competent home inspector using even the cheapest moisture detector would have been able to find this easily."

Think about what that does to one's reputation. I think the amount of good will that you could lose over something like this is immeasurable. Why would anyone want to risk that when a small investment in a moisture meter can help you avoid it?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I keep a dryer (softener) sheet in my pocket and one in my tool belt. Since I started doing this a couple of years ago, these guys have never bothered me.

Scoff at will.

Do those particular wasps ever bother you? Up here, wasps that build open combs like that have a painful sting, but they're not particularly aggressive. I've actually bumped into their nests and, while they buzz around me in a threatening manner and spew invective, they don't actually seem interested in stinging me. As I understand it, they're also predators. They're not interested in stuff that's already dead -- such as our picnic food.

Now, yellowjackets, on the other hand, are a whole nuther story. They build nests with enclosed combs and they'll send out twenty wiseguys to sting the crap out of you if you just look at them crosseyed. They're scavangers -they want the same food that we want and, at a picnic, they're willing to fight us for it.

That said, yes, I've had good results with the Bounce sheets. An organization that I'm involved with has a picnic every September --the height of yellowjacket season up here. We hand out Bounce sheets by the gross. If I tuck one up each of my tee-shirt sleeves and have one hanging out of each pocket, I can eat fried chicken in peace. If not, I'd be eating mouthfulls of yellowjackets.

I don't know why it works, but it clearly does.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Do those particular wasps ever bother you? Up here, wasps that build open combs like that have a painful sting, but they're not particularly aggressive. I've actually bumped into their nests and, while they buzz around me in a threatening manner and spew invective, they don't actually seem interested in stinging me. As I understand it, they're also predators. They're not interested in stuff that's already dead -- such as our picnic food.

Now, yellowjackets, on the other hand, are a whole nuther story. They build nests with enclosed combs and they'll send out twenty wiseguys to sting the crap out of you if you just look at them crosseyed. They're scavangers -they want the same food that we want and, at a picnic, they're willing to fight us for it.

That said, yes, I've had good results with the Bounce sheets. An organization that I'm involved with has a picnic every September --the height of yellowjacket season up here. We hand out Bounce sheets by the gross. If I tuck one up each of my tee-shirt sleeves and have one hanging out of each pocket, I can eat fried chicken in peace. If not, I'd be eating mouthfulls of yellowjackets.

I don't know why it works, but it clearly does.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Agreed. That was just a handy photo from a recent inspection.

'Round here, what we refer to as yellowjackets live underground. They invade our picnics, yes, but become really aggressive when we mow over their homes.

Funny. I don't take the dryer sheets with me when I mow....

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I'll probably get spanked for saying so, but here goes...an HI doesn't need a moisture meter to do his job.

Every house will "tell" you where you are likely to find moisture problems and the tools you already carry (like a flashlight, IR thermometer, camera, probes, your eyes and hands) will confirm if there is one or not. A moisture meter will tell you the specific moisture content of an object, which isn't required by any SOP I've seen.

Tom

Well said. Moisture meters are more for show, than go. And in the wrong hands they likely won't provide reliable results.
I got into this business more than 13 years ago. Back then, I was told that a moisture meter was a must-have tool and that it was being used by most inspectors in my region and that the standard of care was to use it. For 13 years I've done just that and I know very few inspectors that don't have one. If I'm ever called into a courtroom to testify about the use of a moisture meter as part of an inspector's arsenal, I'm going to say exactly that and I think that the majority of inspectors in this country, regardless of where they are, would testify the same way.

My better half, Yung, has some very basic training in how to use my 9-year old Protimeter SM and over the years she has made some amazing finds with it. Out of many hundreds of finds, I know of less than five times where she was wrong and none of those false issues caused any deals to go sour or resulted in serious negative consequences for our clients, sellers or the house.

Many of her findings have had outward indicators of moisture - staining, dampness, mold spots, odor, etc., but just as many did not and I seriously doubt that if we hadn't had the tool that we would have found those issues.

One could argue that if we wouldn't have found an issue without the of the moisture meter that it falls outside the scope of the standards but I think one would be wrong to assume that. I believe that it doesn't matter what your profession is; there's always a "standard of care" for different tasks that are done within every profession. Fail to meet the local standard of care, and I think one risks running smack into a judge that won't be sympathetic to any entreaties for mercy based on some weasel clauses in an SOP or a pre-inspection agreement.

Heck, even the contractors and builders that frequent my building science forum on JLC have been purchasing moisture meters and have been using them as a means to track down issues in homes they've built or are working on. When contractors and builders start emulating something that a home inspector does, you have to admit that whatever that "something" is it must be pretty commonly done and accepted.

Then there's this; how do you convince a client that you didn't screw up if a latent moisture issue, that you could have easily discovered with a moisture meter, shows up later on? What if, after you arrive onsite, tell that client that it's not your problem because it was a latent issue and then drive away, the client hires another inspector to come in behind you to look at the issue? What if that inspector pulls out a moisture meter, finds the issue easily within moments and then says to the client, "It's no big deal; any competent home inspector using even the cheapest moisture detector would have been able to find this easily."

Think about what that does to one's reputation. I think the amount of good will that you could lose over something like this is immeasurable. Why would anyone want to risk that when a small investment in a moisture meter can help you avoid it?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Mike

I agree with many things you are saying. I guess the point I wanted to make is that there are some inspectors who get every gadget known to man kind and proceed out to a home inspection with no training or idea what the results mean.

Unfortunately I can not count how many times where someone inexperienced with a moisture meter has come into a home, declared there was moisture around a toilet, or in a shower wall, and told the buyers/ sellers that the floor or wall has to come out to address the issue. Upon removal of the materials it was found that there was no problem.

I am just saying to the newbie inspector posting the original question to be careful. There are many instances where the moisture meter is not practical.

For instance the bank owned home where no one has taken a shower, used toilets, etc. for several months or more. How about the shower stall that was just used an hour before the inspection, that is totally saturated on the surface? Or what about the bathroom the homeowners never use anymore because the kids grew up and moved out. Substrates also can confuse the readings.

But I do have to ask why moisture meters are not made part of the Standards of Practice? ....Given that they are a "must have".

Also why wouldn't an IR Camera be a "must have" in the inspectors arsenal? Like the moisture meter they have alot of practical applications for the home inspector, .....besides being a show peice to impress clients and realtors.

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