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preemptive commenting

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WJ recently said that an inspector is asking for trouble by characterizing cracks as normal, minor, etc.

We all see cracks that we would characterize as non-significant but to most clients any crack is a call for concern.

I will often preemptively address stress or shrinkage cracks in drywall or in concrete and do just that make some sort of statement to the effect that they don't imply any sort of symptom of a deeper problem, that their signifcance is cosmetic and offer some advice in some cases if they wanted to correct the issue.

I would be happy to not report on non-noteworthy cracks, but if I don't I know the clients will be asking about it; particularly, clients who don't attend the inspection.

How do you handle those kinds of situations, and what kind of report language do you use?

Chris, Oregon

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Usually my clients attend the inspection and I can explain in more detail about the crack. Probably causes, typical solutions, etc. If the crack is cosmetic but large enough that would be noticed by a casual observer, then I report the crack in the report as "primarily cosmetic" and call it out to be repaired.

I explain to my clients at the beginning I will not be reporting cosmetic items in the report. Many of my inspections are 1 year warranty inspections. I hand the client a role of blue painter tape and suggest they mark cosmetic items as we move through the house. I encourage them to report these cosmetic items to their builder and emphasize I will NOT be reporting them. Usually they are keen to put blue tape on every little blimsh.

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I don't say major or minor or even locations, but I do note misc. cracks in drywall that will need repair when it's time to repaint.

Cracks in concrete showing any water staining are noted as water entrance points, w/a recommendation that they may need epoxy sealing. No stain, no particular comment. Of course, it depends on the house age and several other things.

I don't think about it too much. If it's very noticeable, I write it down.

More importantly, do you check for drywall sagging on ceilings? Much more common, with a definite possibility of problems.

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If the client is present we'll discuss the "normal" cracks and their significance, or lack of, but generally I will omit them from the report.

If the client isn't on the inspection I'll toss in a comment as an FYI that I saw them and found no reason for concern.

As Kurt said, age of the home is a consideration. Seeing an old crack in a 50 yr old home is not necessarily the same as seeing that same crack in a 2 yr old home.

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Kurt indicated that with drywall, perhaps plaster, that he would state there are cracks that will need repairing next time the walls, etc. are painted (Statement absent any language that the cracks have no structual significance).

Walter are you saying that you would go further and make it clear that you don't know why they are there or if they will get bigger, but if they want them repaired then they will need to hire the appropriate hairdresser?

I guess what I want to ask is if you are sure that what you are looking at is a shrinkage crack, you still would never use any language that would indicate that the crack is not a concern?

Chris, Oregon

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I would never tell a customer that I found a "normal" crack

What about:

Normal settling?

Normal shrinkage?

Normal sag?

Normal this or that?

Would you recommend striking the use of the word "normal" and like words from narrative used to indicate any anomally as being non-significant?

Well, my policy was to make sure I told 'em what I did know and what I didn't know, what I could see and what I couldn't see, then give them some guidance on what to do regarding "monitoring" (cringe) or repairing.

Walter, I imagine you told them that verbally on the walk & talk. Did you also back it up in the report the same?

Chris, Oregon

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