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***Official FBG Home Inspector***


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Since questions come up from time to time, I thought I'd try and answer any questions you guys have and offer some advice from time to time all in one thread.

I have been self employed doing Home Inspections in Md,VA, & DC since 2001. Licensed, insured, and have performed almost 10,000 inspections.

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Since questions come up from time to time, I thought I'd try and answer any questions you guys have and offer some advice from time to time all in one thread.I have been self employed doing Home Inspections in Md,VA, & DC since 2001. Licensed, insured, and have performed almost 10,000 inspections.

what qualifications do you have/need to become a home inspector?
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Since questions come up from time to time, I thought I'd try and answer any questions you guys have and offer some advice from time to time all in one thread.I have been self employed doing Home Inspections in Md,VA, & DC since 2001. Licensed, insured, and have performed almost 10,000 inspections.

what qualifications do you have/need to become a home inspector?
Depends on the state. A lot of states don't even have licensing yet. (Maryland didn't have it until Jan. 1st 2008!) If your state has licensing, you will usually be required to have insurance. If your state doesn't have licensing, there are training certifications, usually 48 hour classes. You should know as much as you can prior to going to one of these, because you won't learn much while there unless you know what to ask. Other ways to educate yourself are calling in HVAC guys, electricians, ect.. to your house and grill them.
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90% of home inspections are a cakewalk. You're simply doing things the buyers should do themselves. Opening and closing windows, checking door locks, running water and checking for leaks, walking on the roof.

It gets a little trickier if the houses are old or have some complicated systems.

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What engineering degree do you have? I prefer structural (or mechanical) .

Neither. Neither is required to be a home inspector. Nor is it even remotely necessary. A home inspection is a basic visual inspection of the property at the time of inspection. In fact, the licensing usually has the standards set so low, that there are certain things you're not even allowed to do (such as opening furnaces or using gauges on compressors). Basically a home inspector is an HVAC guy, electrician, plumber, roofer, ect.. all rolled into one, at a cost far less then that of having them all in individually.
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I have an offer on a house as of Monday. Our inspection is this Friday. Unfortunately I cannot make it due to work. What kind of questions should my old lady be asking and what should I be asking after the fact?

You're buying?There are a lot of things.....First off, how old is the house? If we are talking a house that has been built in recent years...A 3-tab (non architectural) shingled roof should last roughly 20 years from install.Gas water heaters last roughly 20 years.Electric water heaters last 10-12 years, and upwards of 20.Fuel burining furnaces last about 25+ years.Electric heat pumps and air handlers last anywhere from 10-20 years depending on the quality. A few other things...IMHO, the single most important element of inspecting a house, is the grading. There should be at least a slight positive grade, diverting water away from the foundation walls. Clean and properly installed gutters and downspouts. If there are any areas of negative grade, there will most likely be moisture penetration.To try and limit what she should ask.... After the inspection she should know and have documentation explaining....How old the furnace/A/C or heat pump is, the age of the water heater, and what kind of condition the roof is in. We can't always know exactly how old a roof is, unless the house was built in the last 20 years.She should know what the furnace/air handler filter size is and how/where to change it.She should know where the water main shut off valve is.Where the electric panel is.Thats at a minimum.
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I have an offer on a house as of Monday. Our inspection is this Friday. Unfortunately I cannot make it due to work. What kind of questions should my old lady be asking and what should I be asking after the fact?

You're buying?There are a lot of things.....First off, how old is the house? If we are talking a house that has been built in recent years...A 3-tab (non architectural) shingled roof should last roughly 20 years from install.Gas water heaters last roughly 20 years.Electric water heaters last 10-12 years, and upwards of 20.Fuel burining furnaces last about 25+ years.Electric heat pumps and air handlers last anywhere from 10-20 years depending on the quality. A few other things...IMHO, the single most important element of inspecting a house, is the grading. There should be at least a slight positive grade, diverting water away from the foundation walls. Clean and properly installed gutters and downspouts. If there are any areas of negative grade, there will most likely be moister penetration.
Thanks for the insight. Yes, we are buying.House built in 1922Roof ~10 years old, but I dont recall the compositionAC/Furnace (gas, forced air) ~4 years oldThere was a balcony so I saw some of the gutters/downspouts and they were virtually pristine.I will have to look at the grade again but my untrained eye didn't catch anything noticeable when on the showings this past weekend. Also the basement was above grade (I think thats the term), if that matters any. It's only about 5' below the ground.The previous owners had cats which I am slightly allergic to. Should I pay for a duct cleaning?
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Gas water heaters last roughly 20 years.Electric water heaters last 10-12 years, and upwards of 20.Fuel burining furnaces last about 25+ years.Electric heat pumps and air handlers last anywhere from 10-20 years depending on the quality.

When I worked with a realtor last year, she had a similar list of big ticket items to look for. I was curious about why windows aren't commonly included in the list? A new water heater is gonna run $800 - 2,000. New windows can run $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the number of windows. As you can guess, the house we bought has new water heater and roof, but will need new windows soon.
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This is funny.

Have a home inspection on the house we are buying in exactly 1 and a half hours....

The house is 6 years old, it has a definitive positive grade.

If I were to ask the inspector..."Is the basement finishable" would that be an apporpriate question? It looks plenty finishable to me, but I wasnt sure if there some things he will check for....

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What engineering degree do you have? I prefer structural (or mechanical) .

Neither. Neither is required to be a home inspector. Nor is it even remotely necessary. A home inspection is a basic visual inspection of the property at the time of inspection. In fact, the licensing usually has the standards set so low, that there are certain things you're not even allowed to do (such as opening furnaces or using gauges on compressors). Basically a home inspector is an HVAC guy, electrician, plumber, roofer, ect.. all rolled into one, at a cost far less then that of having them all in individually.
What would you consider structurally sound vs unsound for something like cracks in a foundation?I mean what do you look for that shows average wear in a moderately active earthquake zone vs something the owner needs to be concerned about? How much moisture should someone be worried about against an EIFS siding?
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This is funny.Have a home inspection on the house we are buying in exactly 1 and a half hours....The house is 6 years old, it has a definitive positive grade. If I were to ask the inspector..."Is the basement finishable" would that be an apporpriate question? It looks plenty finishable to me, but I wasnt sure if there some things he will check for....

Absolutely that is a fine question to ask. Assuming the basement ceilings are 8 ft high, it can be considered habitable. If it's any lower, it may not be considered a true livable basement, but that kinda thing is code, and varies from state to state, from county to county, and city to city.So yes, you will just need to have it framed, wired, and have drywall installed.
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What engineering degree do you have? I prefer structural (or mechanical) .

Neither. Neither is required to be a home inspector. Nor is it even remotely necessary. A home inspection is a basic visual inspection of the property at the time of inspection. In fact, the licensing usually has the standards set so low, that there are certain things you're not even allowed to do (such as opening furnaces or using gauges on compressors). Basically a home inspector is an HVAC guy, electrician, plumber, roofer, ect.. all rolled into one, at a cost far less then that of having them all in individually.
What would you consider structurally sound vs unsound for something like cracks in a foundation?I mean what do you look for that shows average wear in a moderately active earthquake zone vs something the owner needs to be concerned about? How much moisture should someone be worried about against an EIFS siding?
I'll be completely honest, I have zero knowledge of anything housing related in earthquake zones. Where I live and work, that just isn't a concern.Things I look for structurally are cracks in the foundations, settlement cracks, grading, efflorescence (A chalky white residue where moisture has occurred), structural movement, door jams that don't line up, uneven floors, and a few other things that will help me come to a conclusion. Don't get me wrong, if you have a choice between a home inspector who has a structural engineering degree and one who doesn't, go with the one who you're more comfortable with.I have a theory that I try and be as honest as I can with clients. There still things I come across from time to time that I am not familiar with. Rather then BS them, I will explain this and tell them I will find out more and get back to them. I think by being honest in this fashion, I create more trust.I would rather somebody tell me that then just BS me and move on.
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Gas water heaters last roughly 20 years.

Electric water heaters last 10-12 years, and upwards of 20.

Fuel burining furnaces last about 25+ years.

Electric heat pumps and air handlers last anywhere from 10-20 years depending on the quality.

When I worked with a realtor last year, she had a similar list of big ticket items to look for. I was curious about why windows aren't commonly included in the list? A new water heater is gonna run $800 - 2,000. New windows can run $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the number of windows.

As you can guess, the house we bought has new water heater and roof, but will need new windows soon.

If it isn't broken, I will not note it as a deficiency. I find that windows and their condition vary from buyer to buyer. Some people couldn't care less as they never open them, some people are the opposite.

If the window doesn't work 100% properly, I make a note about what is wrong.

Broken glass

Broken sash chord

Balancers not connected or broken.

Window doesn't fully open or close

Missing or broken locks

Missing window screens.

But to answer the bolded part, unless the window is broken in some fashion, the buyer should make their own determination on the condition and if they will or won't be happy with them down the line.

Another thing to consider is, I'm there to educate them on their prospective house, not to decide whether I'm happy with the condition of the windows. I operated every window I can physically get to, and they should be right there with me watching me or participating so they should have good working knowledge on the condition of the windows prior to purchase.

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If it isn't broken, I will not note it as a deficiency. I find that windows and their condition vary from buyer to buyer. Some people couldn't care less as they never open them, some people are the opposite.If the window doesn't work 100% properly, I make a note about what is wrong.Broken glassBroken sash chordBalancers not connected or broken.Window doesn't fully open or closeMissing or broken locksMissing window screens.But to answer the bolded part, unless the window is broken in some fashion, the buyer should make their own determination on the condition and if they will or won't be happy with them down the line.Another thing to consider is, I'm there to educate them on their prospective house, not to decide whether I'm happy with the condition of the windows. I operated every window I can physically get to, and they should be right there with me watching me or participating so they should have good working knowledge on the condition of the windows prior to purchase.

I get where you're coming from. It's just surprising to me that, in general, realtors make a big deal about the age of the A/C unit and water heater on potential homes when these may not be the biggest ticket items for most buyers.
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If it isn't broken, I will not note it as a deficiency. I find that windows and their condition vary from buyer to buyer. Some people couldn't care less as they never open them, some people are the opposite.If the window doesn't work 100% properly, I make a note about what is wrong.Broken glassBroken sash chordBalancers not connected or broken.Window doesn't fully open or closeMissing or broken locksMissing window screens.But to answer the bolded part, unless the window is broken in some fashion, the buyer should make their own determination on the condition and if they will or won't be happy with them down the line.Another thing to consider is, I'm there to educate them on their prospective house, not to decide whether I'm happy with the condition of the windows. I operated every window I can physically get to, and they should be right there with me watching me or participating so they should have good working knowledge on the condition of the windows prior to purchase.

I get where you're coming from. It's just surprising to me that, in general, realtors make a big deal about the age of the A/C unit and water heater on potential homes when these may not be the biggest ticket items for most buyers.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. Water heaters are nothing. In fact I always tell people things to consider in this order:Grading/foundationRoofHVACWindowsI didn't include electricity because they won't know what to look for and 90% of the time I don't come across anything worse then open electrical junction boxes or improperly wired outlets. I love the agents who are bluntly honest with their clients. Much easier to work with. I'd say only about 10% of agents take those kind of things into consideration. On the flip side, why do you say you need new windows? Are they the older wooden kind with rotten wood?
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I agree with you wholeheartedly. I love the agents who are bluntly honest with their clients. Much easier to work with. I'd say only about 10% of agents take those kind of things into consideration. On the flip side, why do you say you need new windows? Are they the older wooden kind with rotten wood?

They are the older kind and 5 or 6 (out of ~20) have rotted wood. One was experiencing water leak into the basement when it rained. They are original and the house was built in 85. Many of our neighbors have recently updated their windows. it's not the kind of thing we need to fix tomorrow, but it would be nice to have some rooms done before next winter. Thanks for your thoughts. I know there have been good threads on this board already on window replacement buying.
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What engineering degree do you have? I prefer structural (or mechanical) .

Neither. Neither is required to be a home inspector. Nor is it even remotely necessary. A home inspection is a basic visual inspection of the property at the time of inspection. In fact, the licensing usually has the standards set so low, that there are certain things you're not even allowed to do (such as opening furnaces or using gauges on compressors). Basically a home inspector is an HVAC guy, electrician, plumber, roofer, ect.. all rolled into one, at a cost far less then that of having them all in individually.
What would you consider structurally sound vs unsound for something like cracks in a foundation?I mean what do you look for that shows average wear in a moderately active earthquake zone vs something the owner needs to be concerned about? How much moisture should someone be worried about against an EIFS siding?
I'll be completely honest, I have zero knowledge of anything housing related in earthquake zones. Where I live and work, that just isn't a concern.Things I look for structurally are cracks in the foundations, settlement cracks, grading, efflorescence (A chalky white residue where moisture has occurred), structural movement, door jams that don't line up, uneven floors, and a few other things that will help me come to a conclusion. Don't get me wrong, if you have a choice between a home inspector who has a structural engineering degree and one who doesn't, go with the one who you're more comfortable with.I have a theory that I try and be as honest as I can with clients. There still things I come across from time to time that I am not familiar with. Rather then BS them, I will explain this and tell them I will find out more and get back to them. I think by being honest in this fashion, I create more trust.I would rather somebody tell me that then just BS me and move on.
I thought you were in CA?I am almost positive we have a home inspector for CA in these forums.The cracks in the foundation was one things that I saw in homes when I looked out in CA a few years ago, and EIFS is like stucco but I was not sure if it is better in a more wet environment.
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What engineering degree do you have? I prefer structural (or mechanical) .

Neither. Neither is required to be a home inspector. Nor is it even remotely necessary. A home inspection is a basic visual inspection of the property at the time of inspection. In fact, the licensing usually has the standards set so low, that there are certain things you're not even allowed to do (such as opening furnaces or using gauges on compressors). Basically a home inspector is an HVAC guy, electrician, plumber, roofer, ect.. all rolled into one, at a cost far less then that of having them all in individually.
What would you consider structurally sound vs unsound for something like cracks in a foundation?I mean what do you look for that shows average wear in a moderately active earthquake zone vs something the owner needs to be concerned about? How much moisture should someone be worried about against an EIFS siding?
I'll be completely honest, I have zero knowledge of anything housing related in earthquake zones. Where I live and work, that just isn't a concern.Things I look for structurally are cracks in the foundations, settlement cracks, grading, efflorescence (A chalky white residue where moisture has occurred), structural movement, door jams that don't line up, uneven floors, and a few other things that will help me come to a conclusion. Don't get me wrong, if you have a choice between a home inspector who has a structural engineering degree and one who doesn't, go with the one who you're more comfortable with.I have a theory that I try and be as honest as I can with clients. There still things I come across from time to time that I am not familiar with. Rather then BS them, I will explain this and tell them I will find out more and get back to them. I think by being honest in this fashion, I create more trust.I would rather somebody tell me that then just BS me and move on.
I thought you were in CA?I am almost positive we have a home inspector for CA in these forums.The cracks in the foundation was one things that I saw in homes when I looked out in CA a few years ago, and EIFS is like stucco but I was not sure if it is better in a more wet environment.
No, I'm in Maryland. :kicksrock:We have EIFS here as well. EIFS is an OK wall covering, but it is usually installed poorly and needs to be kept bone dry to avoid mold growth. Something that is hard to do in this humid area.
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I agree with you wholeheartedly. I love the agents who are bluntly honest with their clients. Much easier to work with. I'd say only about 10% of agents take those kind of things into consideration. On the flip side, why do you say you need new windows? Are they the older wooden kind with rotten wood?

They are the older kind and 5 or 6 (out of ~20) have rotted wood. One was experiencing water leak into the basement when it rained. They are original and the house was built in 85. Many of our neighbors have recently updated their windows. it's not the kind of thing we need to fix tomorrow, but it would be nice to have some rooms done before next winter. Thanks for your thoughts. I know there have been good threads on this board already on window replacement buying.
I'm guessing they are beyond repair now, but those windows require painting from time to time to prevent the wood from rotting. That goes for any exterior wood. If there is exposed wood, it needs to be painted.Another thing that might help you in the meantime - if you have the style with no storm window on the outside, and the rain hits the window and rolls down to the wooden window sil, then check to make sure the window sil is painted and not rotten. I find this is the cause of a lot of window leaks with those style windows.
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A quick mention to all home owners with wood trim outside.

You need to maintain that ####. It needs painting periodically.

IF YOU HAVE A HOME THAT IS NEW OR PURCHASED WITHIN THE LAST FEW YEARS

You need to paint all your exterior wood trim and re-caulk all your bathrooms. Builders use builders grade materials. That means its cheap and it doesn't last.

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