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Book Review: Inspecting A House by Rex Cauldwell

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by Mike O'Handley, Editor

It's no secret to even the newest home inspector that there aren't that many decent books written about inspecting homes. Sure, you can order various books about the profession from the aftermarket retailers who cater to the home inspection profession, but the information in many of these is dated, highly generalized and technically drab. There aren't many that actually provide new inspectors with a feel for what it is like to be a home inspector.

Noted author, electrician, plumber and home inspector Rex Cauldwell has taken a different approach with Inspecting A House (Taunton Press, $29.95). Cauldwell seeks to give inspectors an idea of some of the unique situations that inspectors are often exposed to, while at the same time providing a firm understanding of the technical basics of a home inspection. All in less than 260 pages.

While most experienced home inspectors won't find a whole lot of new information, new inspectors can learn a great deal - particularly from the electrical and plumbing sections, which are reflective of Cauldwell's extensive experience as a Master Plumber and Electrician and are written in easy-to-follow text that is light on technical background and gets quickly to the point. Cauldwell begins most sections with amusing anecdotes about his inspection experiences and accompanies most technical discussions with some very good color photographs of frequently-encountered deficiencies.

Like most inspection texts, many of the topics discussed reflect strongly those issues commonly seen in the author's experience, in his own part of the country, while at the same time providing sparse information about issues commonly seen elsewhere. Fortunately, the amount of information contained in the electrical and plumbing sections - areas that the majority of inspectors, being primarily fresh from the construction trade, have little understanding of, makes up for these shortcomings.

Most veteran inspectors will consider the $29.95 price tag steep for the amount of information Inspecting A House contains, but the kind of insight that a rookie inspector can garner from this book early in his or her career will be worth every penny.

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Hi Mike,

I could not agree more, there are very few good home inspection books out there, and Cauldwell's is about the best for newer inspectors, what it looses in scope it more than makes up for with quality diagrams and super photographs. I actually teach to Becker's book due to it's wider scope, but have to do a PP presentation along side it with my own pictures. However I suggest to my students, that they also buy the Cauldwell.



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When it first came out, I found three technical errors and one mis-labeled picture after less than one minute of flipping through it. There seemed to be very little breadth to the topics, just enough to make someone dangerous.

Becker and Burgess have very good books and the Carson Dunlop books are truly excellent. Personally, I wouldn't bother with Cauldwell.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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  • 1 month later...

I liked the book. I thought it was well organized and insightful. I thought the photographs of frequently-encountered deficiencies were well chosen.

Rex mentions taking plywood boards up to the attic with him so as to access the far reaches better. I've asked around and no inspector I know of does this. It seems like you could do more damage than good in this manner.

David McPhee

Washington State

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Hi David,

I dunno, I've often thought, when straddling joists while belly-crawling the length of attics in our ubiquitous "airplane" ramblers with their 1-1/2:12 pitch roofs that I could do it better if I had a couple of stiff boards to leapfrog through the space ahead of me. It would make it especially helpful when one reaches the far and and needs to turn around without going through the ceiling joists in a space barely high enough for my...um,..."stocky" body. Sometimes I find that a homeowner has nailed a string of 1 by 6's the length of these animals and I get in and out in about 1/5 the time it takes to do it without something to slide along the top of. A couple of nice stiff boards would be helpful in these.

However, in our higher attics with their 16 inches of blown-in fiberglass or rockwool I think that compressing all of that insulation beneath a board would make it a whole lot tougher to re-loft the insulation as one comes back out of the attic, and it could damage the drywalled ceilings by bowing the drywall downward and causing the fasteners to pull through. The damage might not be spotted right after the inspection, but it would eventually appear when the mud and tape over the fasteners began to crack and come loose.

I do most stand-up attics with deep blown-in insulation in my stocking feet and use my feet to feel beneath the insulation and ensure I'm resting my foot on a solid member and not on pipes, wires and whatever. You have to be real careful not to step on a truss gusset and cut your foot and to make sure you don't step on a nail sticking up through a framing member, but you get a whole lot better feel for what you're standing on than when wearing shoes.

Works for me.



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  • 6 months later...

Thanks for the book review... I just found it like new on http://half.ebay.com for about $14.00. I'm anxious to read it.

What about these titles? Any comments?

The Complete Book of Home Inspection,

by Norman Becker

Home Inspection Handbook,

by John Traister

Structure, Interior and Roof Inspection of Existing Dwellings

Home Inspection Business from A to Z,

By Guy Cozzi


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The Becker book isn't bad, except that a lot of the systems included in it are dated and it is regionalized. It's pretty difficult to write a definitive text about this business, unless you utilize a group of authors from all over the continent that are familiar with all of the systems and peculiarities of different regions, so the best advice I can give you is to read everything and anything that can be even remotely related to home inspections and make like a sponge.

Myself, I have about 30 magazine subscriptions - Fine Homebuilding, Journal of Light Construction, Popular Mechanics, Family Handyman, Walls & Ceilings, Plumbing & Mechanical, Metal Roofing, Reeves Journal, This Old House, Handy, Frame Building News, etc., etc. My office is lined with rows of books about construction, home maintenance and repair, plumbing, electricity, HVAC, etc.. I have been saving articles out of magazines for more than a decade. I used to file them all neatly in filing cabinets until I ran out of room for filing cabinets. Now there are stacks piling up in here that I have noplace to file. Not sure what I'm going to do about all of those.

Bottom line, it doesn't matter what your read and what courses you take. When you get into this business you must continue to learn every single day of the year, year after year after year, if you intend to remain competent.



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