HOME FIX: Inspections can dig up problems with a home -- or the inspector

By C. Dwight Barnett | McClatchy-Tribune Published:

Lately I have received more than a few questions concerning the actions of various home inspectors across the country. Mostly the complaints come from disgruntled sellers who think their homes are in a good condition and are amazed that defects are found.

For some, the defects are real and may cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to repair. For others the complaints indicate a lack of knowledge on the part of the home inspector, but end up costing the sellers, who have to make unnecessary repairs to satisfy the buyers' concerns.

If a seller, buyer, lending or selling agent has a complaint concerning a home inspector's action, they can file a complaint with the state's licensing board and a complaint to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) at www.ashi.org, or to the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) at www.nahi.org, if the home inspector has an affiliation with either one or both of these professional societies, or to the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) at www.nahi.org, if the home inspector has an affiliation with either one or both of these professional societies.

Mold: There are many complaints concerning mold on the wood flooring system in a closed foundation such as a crawl space or basement. Mold is treatable and can be easily prevented by controlling the humidity levels in the areas affected. In severe cases, the mold will have to be removed by sanding and scraping the areas affected. The wood is then treated to prevent future growth.

This is an expensive process and is labor intensive, often costing thousands of dollars to control. Yes, this needs to be addressed if there are more than 10 square feet of mold present in a single area. Otherwise, the area can be maintained with a dehumidification system and monitored for future growth. This can be a simple, easy and not too expensive repair.

Ask the inspector what qualifies him to make such a judgment, and then contact a professional mold remediation contractor for additional advice.

Roof bracing: Do you need to add lateral bracing to the supporting framework of a prefabricated roof truss? The answer is "yes" if there is an engineer's tag indicating that additional supports are "required." The tag will be placed on each truss and at the location where the brace is to be placed.

Home inspectors with no experience in carpentry or home building often ask for the unnecessary bracing to be added at a high cost to the home seller. Bracing is used during the installation of the trusses, but is later removed when the roof decking has been installed. A second opinion by an experienced carpenter can sometimes be costly, so you can choose to fight the opinion or simply make the unnecessary repairs.

Safety and code issues: The home inspector insists that Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets be installed in a bathroom, kitchen, on the outside or in a garage. Yes, this is a great idea and is required for safety by modern codes, but to ask the seller of a 30-year-old home to bring the outlets up to code is beyond the scope and responsibility of a home inspector. This should be listed under a safety issue, but should be the responsibility of the new buyer.

The same is true of smoke alarms, but in many areas local codes may require at least one smoke alarm be installed in every home.

These are just a few of the complaints I receive, but without seeing the home it is hard to judge the inspector's action over the phone.

When choosing a home inspector, ask them about their experience, training, professional affiliations and licensing. When a home inspector is referred to you, the referral may be a case of association and not qualification.

C. Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.

MCT Information Services

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