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Exterior rust


blazenut
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There is a brick home near my house that is painted white, the chimney runs up the one side of the home, also painted in white, but there are dark brown rust marks running all the way up and down the exterior wall where the chimney is? I havnt run into this yet, but i want to know what to report in the event i do... any ideas to what causes this?

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i was going to take a pick yesterday, but i forgot.. to me it does not look like anything to do with the roof, or flashing.... its a perfect outline of the chimney... its strange, it seems like it has to have something to do with the chimney, the chimney does not stick off of the side of the home either, its just in that side of the wall...

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It sounds like it could be sulfur stains where condensing flue gases have permeated the mortar and brickwork and caused the paint on the side of the chimney to blister. Rain could be causing the sulfur to streak the brickwork. Still, with that description there's not much to work with.

You really need to work on how you describe things when you write them up; if we're having a hard time figuring out what you're describing, imagine the difficulty that some single mom who is a first time home buyer is going to have. Your description needs to convey an immediately and easily understood image of the issue in the mind of your reader. Here's an exercise - take those two posts you wrote above and try and say the same thing with half the words in such a way that even a kid reading it could draw an accurate representation of it on a piece of paper. You don't have to post that here; just ask you significant other and/or friends or relatives to read it and then to tell you what they're seeing in their mind's eye.

Words are what we do; get them wrong and later on, if something goes wrong with a home and you end up in court, an inaccurate description of what the home and the issue is could be what defeats you.

I won't kid you, it's tough for an adult to re-learn this stuff, so you're going to have to really work on it.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by blazenut

when im writing my reports i pick my words differently than i do when im on a forum...

That's a really bad habit.

Ill take a picture of it and post it, i dont know all the information, it is a house i simply drive past on the way to my parents house every so often.

From your description, I agree with Scott Wagar. It sounds like the nasty stuff from inside the chimney is leaching out.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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blazenut,

I know it probably seems like we're being overly harsh about something you think is pretty minor and doesn't really mean a lot; however, there are plenty of folks on this board who now write pretty decently, and have a better understanding about many inspection issues, because some folks on this board cared enough to point out when they were making mistakes and helped them become better inspectors. When I first began taking part in these forums back in the 1990's every time I described something I'd write it in passive voice, because that's how we cops (I'm a retired investigator) used to write. It was on these boards that I learned about active voice and learned to write like I speak.

Like I said, words are what we do; we inspect, sure, but once we've done that we must report what we've seen and we have to do it in a professional manner.

Practice makes perfect.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I have been getting nothing but praise from my clients and my employer regarding my work. Im still not 100% sure what exactly everyone is so concerned about regarding my sentence structure/word selection. Dont get me wrong, i appreciate all the criticism, but we seem to have completely strayed from the original topic. Im not the seasoned veteran that most of the posters are here. Ive only been on this site about a week, and i must say that ive gathered much information that will come in handy, but youre right, my first impression of this site is that many of the responses to posts (and not only mine) are unnecessarily harsh, and never really answer the initial question. Its just a bit frustrating...

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My impression is this particular forum tries to stay professional top to bottom. Some believe that in a trade forum, the information is the the top, and how you say and spell it, is the bottom.

I believe those who particpate regularly here know that poorly written sentences will invite those who enjoy handing out bad info. A flies to shit thing. You see, most idiots can't write a decent sentence, although a few idiots can. There are some smart folks who can't write, but they will have a problem in the HI biz.

This board stands above all others (plus the forum lay out is very good) for this reason. What you say and how you say it are equally important. Or at least nearly. While this rankles some, it's worth it and that's the way it is at TIJ. Top drawer, all the way.

That's just my impression.

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Originally posted by blazenut

I have been getting nothing but praise from my clients and my employer regarding my work. Im still not 100% sure what exactly everyone is so concerned about regarding my sentence structure/word selection. Dont get me wrong, i appreciate all the criticism, but we seem to have completely strayed from the original topic. Im not the seasoned veteran that most of the posters are here. Ive only been on this site about a week, and i must say that ive gathered much information that will come in handy, but youre right, my first impression of this site is that many of the responses to posts (and not only mine) are unnecessarily harsh, and never really answer the initial question. Its just a bit frustrating...

You're still not getting it; sure it's frustrating, but in many cases it's necessary.

When you ask for assistance from others to figure out what an issue on a house is, but your description causes those reading the query to draw a completely false impression of what it is you've described, or struggle to try and figure out what it is you are trying to say, you risk the possibility that those trying to assist you will draw the wrong conclusion from your description and give you a completely incorrect answer.

Let me give you an example; my wife is Korean and her English is still, after lo these many years, not very good because she says she's able to function fine at a certain level and doesn't need to improve. However, many times when she's tried to describe things to me, or asks me questions about things that she's seen or done, I've misunderstood the meaning of what she was trying to convey to me and have given her completely wrong answers. Sometimes, she's acted on my answers with pretty unsatisfactory results. Can you guess who got blamed for the fact that things didn't work the way that they should?

That's kind of what we're saying here. If, from a confusing description, we collectively suggest the wrong answer, you pass that answer along to clients and then the clients later discover the hard way that your answer was completely inaccurate, the client is going to think that you were either 1) incompetent or 2) intentionally misleading them; either assumption on the part of the client is not going to be good. Even if you are able to satisfactorily explain the situation to the client, a certain amount of trust is going to be lost there.

You said that you're not yet actually doing real inspections and that these observations weren't on a real inspection but merely a house that you were passing. Great, that means that no client could have been harmed here - however, do you see why a client could have been unintentionally harmed?

Nobody is trying to be harsh or to belittle you. In fact, if you were to meet the folks on this board in person you'd probably think, "Wow, those guys are all puppy dogs - not anywhere near as mean as they seem to be on that board." That's because professional home inspectors as a breed - at least the good ones - are in the business of examining things and pointing out to their audience issues that they see wrong with what they're seeing. We don't generally soften our criticism of something in order to spare someone's feelings because in our business, though that can net you lots of referrals from the person getting a commission for selling that house, it can also get you in a whole lot of trouble.

To survive in this business, besides learning to write well, you need to learn to be a little bit blunt with folks and not worry so much about whether or not what you say to them is going to upset them or dash their hopes and dreams. To do that, you need to learn to take it as well as dish it out; because you can be sure that being straightforward and blunt is, more than a few times, going to net you a scolding from an unhappy seller or real estate agent.

It comes with the territory. Better to learn it here than out on the street where it will cost you business.

Oh, and those folks that praise the report? It's been my experience that most folks almost universally praise the report when confronted directly by the person that authored the report; because, unlike inspectors, most folks are trying to be diplomatic and don't want to hurt one's feelings.

Every fall I teach a one-semester home inspection class to appraisers, investors, real estate agents, property managers and wannabe home inspectors. Every year I download off the net a bunch of report samples, remove the information identifying who wrote the reports, pass them out to my class and then I ask them to give me their unvarnished layman's opinion of the reports. As we go through the reports, they'll shout out what they didn't like about a particular report and we write those criticisms on the board.

One criticism I see a lot is that they'll complain that the reports are too critical of the house and don't say anything that's very complimentary; this usually comes from the real estate or property management students. That's when I'll randomly pick one of the reports from the heap and claim it as my own. That causes folks start to blush and, most of the time, those who'd been the most critical of that report want to restate their criticisms more softly. That's when I reveal that the report in fact isn't mine and point out to them that their natural tendency not to injure someone else's feelings had just kicked in.

I explain to my students that this tendency to soften words in order not to hurt someone else's feelings is something that good home inspectors must repress when they inspect homes and write their reports if they want to survive and that they need to expect that when hiring a home inspector because the job isn't about making people feel good it's about giving them the information they need to move forward.

That's what all this "unnecessary" harshness is all about; giving you the information you need so that you can move forward and be successful and it's not the kind of information you're likely to get in one of the 10-day shake-n-bake inspector courses.

When I was going through boot camp in the military I didn't like my DI very much. Years later, I looked the guy up and thanked him for being such a hardass 'cuz it gave me the tools I needed to survive in the environment I was going to be in.

Just consider this boot camp.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by blazenut

I have been getting nothing but praise from my clients and my employer regarding my work. Im still not 100% sure what exactly everyone is so concerned about regarding my sentence structure/word selection.

That's good. But don't let it stop you from exploring ways to improve yourself. You should be your own harshest critic.

I've recently been involved in a project designed to assess the way that lay people understand and react to home inspection reports. One of the interesting results is that people *always* love their home inspector's report. When you poll them after a home inspection, they have nothing but praise for the inspector. Likewise if you take people who are not involved in a home purchase and you show them one home inspection report, they'll tell you it's great. However, if you show them several reports, side by side, they'll show strong preferences for some and will get downright nasty in their criticisms of the others. It's an interesting peek into human nature and it's taught me not to rely too heavily on the praise of my customers.

Dont get me wrong, i appreciate all the criticism, but we seem to have completely strayed from the original topic.

Welcome to the internet.

Im not the seasoned veteran that most of the posters are here. Ive only been on this site about a week, and i must say that ive gathered much information that will come in handy, but youre right, my first impression of this site is that many of the responses to posts (and not only mine) are unnecessarily harsh, and never really answer the initial question. Its just a bit frustrating...

The harshness here is nothing compared to the harshness you'll meet from an unhappy customer. And, honestly, as home inspector forums go, this site is just about the friendliest on the net. The thing you have to remember is that your talking about a bunch of people who spend every minute of their working lives looking for problems and writing about them.

As for not answering the initial question, I think you're wrong about that. If a someone posts a question that can be answered, they usually get that answer here. The things that don't get answered tend to be the highly esoteric questions and the extremely broad, general questions that don't really have an answer.

That said, I moderate the electrical forum. If you find any unanswered questions there, be sure to let me know and I'll hunt down the answer for you.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by blazenut

Can one of you re-write my original question the way it should be written then? Keep in mind that all of the information known is in the original question (i simply drive past this home now and then). Did i simply prematurely post due to lack of all possible information?

There is a brick home near my house that is painted white,

Stop there. That's a complete sentence. Unfortunately, it says that your house is painted white. I think that you meant to say that the brick home is painted white.

the chimney runs up the one side of the home, also painted in white, but there are dark brown rust marks running all the way up and down the exterior wall where the chimney is?

You've put a question mark at the end of a sentence that isn't a question. Unless you're quoting a teenage girl, the question mark makes the sentence confusing. You've said that the home was "also painted in white" when I think you meant to say that the chimney was also painted in white. Also, you're unclear about where the brown rust marks are. You say that they're on the wall where the chimney is. I kind of though that you meant that they were on the chimney itself. Which is it? If they're not on the chimney, where on the wall are they? If they are on the chimney, where do they start and where do they end? How wide are they? How do you know they're rust marks and not creosote marks? Did you mean to say "rust-colored marks"?

I havnt run into this yet, but i want to know what to report in the event i do... any ideas to what causes this?

The missing apostrophes and the uncapitalized letter i make the sentence harder to read. My eyes stumble. That makes the sentence harder to understand. Personally, I like your use of the ellipses; it makes the sentence colloquial and makes you sound like a real person. However, the other stuff just gets in the way. I can, mostly, figure out what you're trying to say, but that's really not a very high bar.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Everything that you thought i meant, i meant. So, i guess its more of a grammer issue than content issue. I'll do my best to correct this. I guess i make the mistake of typing differently on forums than i do when im being paid by a client (i know you ALL disagree with that). Do you all talk to your wives this way, your friends? I have a totally different personality with my clients than i do outside of work. I don't think that I am alone with that. This thread has told me all that i need to know about this forum. You will all see nothing but professionalism from me from this point forward. Thank you.

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Everything that you thought i meant, i meant. So, i guess its more of a grammer issue than content issue.

I agree. But there is some missing content as well that might have made it easier for people to respond. How old is the house? How many flues were in the chimney? Did it look like it was being used for a fireplace or a furnace? Was there a metal cap that might have been rusting? Was there no cap at all so that rain could enter the flue? Are chimney flues in your area typically lined?

I'll do my best to correct this. I guess i make the mistake of typing differently on forums than i do when im being paid by a client (i know you ALL disagree with that).

I don't disagree; lots of people do that. Unfortunately, when they do that, the stuff they write for their paying clients is worse than the stuff that they write on the forums. For paying clients, they typically break out the fancy passive-voice style that, they think, makes them sound professional and important. In practice, the passive-voice inspector-speak writing style is simply harder to understand.

Do you all talk to your wives this way, your friends? I have a totally different personality with my clients than i do outside of work. I don't think that I am alone with that.

Talking is another subject. I talk differently to my kids. Whenever I see them at school, I say, "Hey, what up dawg?" But they pretend that they're not related to me. As for writing, it doesn't really matter who I'm writing to; I write the same way for pretty much everyone. For instance, I'm a pretty poor speller. So I try to remember to check my spelling before sending anything out. It doesn't matter if it's a e-mail to my wife, a note to the kids or an inspection report. It's the habit that's important.

This thread has told me all that i need to know about this forum. You will all see nothing but professionalism from me from this point forward. Thank you.

Hey, write any way you want. I have no desire to be the grammar police. But if your posts are clearly written, I'm more likely to be able to understand what you're saying and provide an intelligent response.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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