Why so many home inspectors love their job

Have you ever payed for a service, and the guy who showed up was just overflowing with a positive attitude? It was pretty clear that this guy really enjoyed his job! As a result, you received premium service and were left wanting to do business with this guy again.

That’s not just great business on his part, it’s also great work. We tend to do better at the things we enjoy doing, so wouldn’t it make sense to search for the guy who loves what he does? It seems so.

One thing that I learned years ago, was that I don’t like cooking. While yes, I was one of the fastest line cooks out there, and I did my job pretty well, I couldn’t keep it up. I didn’t enjoy it, so I moved on.

The one thing that has stuck with me for almost ten years now, is real estate. At the age of 14 I read a book on real estate investing, and I just couldn’t stop digging deeper! Understanding how a house with so many systems in it can function as one asset (and look so seemingly simple) intrigued me. While at the time I was more intrigued with the fact that it can also be a money making system, over time I became very interested in how houses worked, and how to make them work better.

Fascination can make you do crazy things. I wanted to learn more, so I spent many hours helping local house flippers (for free) remodel their houses, and read books upon books on real estate. Then, my brother-in-law (who is a house flipper in Oregon), mentioned that he had just became licensed as a home inspector. A home inspector… hmm, what do they do? Well, they learn how homes work, and what makes them work better. They even get paid to do it! It didn’t take long before I found myself going through the same training he did. It was difficult, but totally worth it. It was interesting, and challenging at the same time. That excited me, and does still to this day!

So, why do many inspectors love their job? Well, unfortunately I can’t answer for everyone else, but for me it’s a few things:

  • It’s real estate!
  • It’s a puzzle (challenge)
  • It can support me financially, while continuing to educate me more about what I love
  • It’s a wonderful balance of outdoor/physical labor, and indoor/mental work, and;
  • It’s flexible. I’ve always wanted to start a business and be able to work my own schedule.

So, for me there are many reasons to love my job, and I have a feeling I’m not the only inspector who feels this way. When looking for your inspector, I encourage you to get to know them a bit. You can tell a lot about them by simply asking questions and getting to know them!

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What to expect from a home inspection

First time homebuyer here in idaho? I want to clue you in on some things to look out for, or at least be prepared for upon receiving your inspection report. Before we start, one thing to keep in mind is that home inspectors in Idaho are not licensed, and as such do not have a state regulated “standard” as to what we must report. Most inspectors follow one of two standards of practice created by the following two associations; American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), or International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). These “standards” specify what we are required to inspect, and what we are not. They are accessible for free to the public on their websites.

Now that you know how to find out what we must inspect (conditions permitting), let’s talk about cost. How much do they cost? Are they worth the cost? Well, the simple answer is (in Idaho), usually $300-$600, and most likely. One of many reasons they are usually worth the cost is simply to help you know what you are buying. The value of the home is directly affected by the condition of the home (most of the time), and therefor can be used as a negotiation factor, possibly saving you thousands of dollars! Another equally important factor to consider is you and your family’s safety. We look for safety issues in the home so that when you move in, it’s either already been fixed, or you are at least aware of the concern.

So, we’ve covered why home inspections are usually worth the investment. Now let’s cover another thing I don’t want you to be surprised about upon receiving your inspection report. Cost. Didn’t we already cover that? Yes, the cost of the inspection, but not the cost to fix everything. Construction of most any sort is not cheap. While many things in your report may seem small, costs can add up quickly! We recommend setting aside money beforehand for items that may be on your report, so that if by chance the owner is not willing to front the cost, you don’t have to lose your dream home!

The last thing I wish I could DRILL into every clients head before receiving their report, is that just because there are defects or areas of concern, does not mean that it is a bad deal, or “unfixable.” Trust me, EVERY house we or any other inspector inspects will have issues (new or old). It’s being able to tell when something is too much for you, and when it’s not. Also, many of the smaller issues can be fixed over time. If time or money is of concern to you, we encourage you to prioritize all the tasks, knock out the safety concerns first (depending on severity), and then work your way around to the smaller issues.

Finally, remember that houses are always a work in progress, and that’s ok. It’s home, it’s worth the work!

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Is my home inspection idaho weather worthy?

It’s true, weather changes all the time here in Idaho, and it can sometimes be a good thing for us inspectors. I mean, after all, what’s easier to spot a leaky roof in; a rainy day, or a sunny day? Sometimes a home inspection in Idaho means we simply can’t walk a roof, especially if we have a winter like two years ago where we got the most snow Boise has seen in I think over 30 years! It can be a little disheartening to hear that your inspection may be “severely” limited by weather.

While weather can be a limiting factor, it is not a fair assessment of whether your home inspection will be a quality one or not. Our job as home inspectors is often times more a job of finding evidence, than the actual thing. I’ll give you an example:

Joe lives in Boise, ID, and has just gone under contract on a house in Meridian. The owner isn’t allowing him more than 5 days to complete his inspection. This would be fine, but because of the snowy weather, and the low availability of his preferred inspector, the roof is most likely going to be covered in snow. This means that the inspector will not likely risk his life trying to walk the roof. Should he have it inspected or rescheduled?

While there is definitely a disadvantage to this, it will not likely keep him from noticing if the roof has indeed already failed. Why? because we can still go into the attic and look for stains, penetrations, and such items that have left evidence, without necessarily seeing exactly what it looks like from the outside. A confirmation of when the roof was installed, as well as no obvious signs of leakage in the attic, can be a pretty good sign that Joe’s new roof is good to go! There is one more thing that many people forget that works to your benefit in these situations, too; pictures! In your report, you should receive a photo of the roof that clearly shows it was covered in snow at the time of the inspection. Depending on your terms, this could be extremely helpful in negotiation with the seller even after the inspection period.

So, in short, while weather can be limiting, it can also be revealing, so don’t fret if Idaho doesn’t cooperate with your timeframe!

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Typical and structural cracks inside your home

While there are many different reasons for cracking in drywall and other surfaces throughout the home, many are not actually structural issues, and often are just cosmetic. Here are some tips for determining if it’s just a typical crack (due to seasonal shrinkage), or a structural crack.

Though there are always exceptions to the rules, I will explain some of the differences in typical cracks (sometimes referred to as “seasonal cracks”) and structural cracks.

Let’s start with vertical cracks:

Vertical cracks (or nearly straight up and down cracks), are often a sign of typical cracking. These are often caused by expansion and shrinkage of the wood behind your walls and ceilings depending on the season. There is usually nothing to worry about with these cracks, however; simple patches aren’t likely to permanently fix these cracks, as they tend to reappear the next year once the seasons have changed again. I would recommend consulting a professional drywall contractor before attempting to fix these cracks; that way you can ensure they never come back!Large cracks, or cracks that change size from one end to the other, no matter how straight or vertical they are, should be inspected by a qualified contractor or engineer. As I said, there will always be exceptions to the rules, and sometimes you will see large cracks that are straight up and down. You should consider that these cracks may be structural, and have them evaluated by the proper person.

Jagged, diagonal, or horizontal cracks are often not typical cracks, and should be inspected as soon as possible by a qualified contractor (often a foundation contractor, or if bad enough, an engineer). These are often caused when settlement of the different soils occurs on one side or corner of the house, causing parts of the house to pull away from each other.

Parallel cracks can also indicate that it’s not just typical. If you see two identical cracks next to each other, or even on different walls (similar shape and direction), these are also likely to be structural.

What should I do if I see something that looks like it may be a structural crack in my house?

  • Look around your home. 
  • Are doors out of square? This can (but not always) indicate that the house is shifting down on one side.
  • Are there cracks in other areas similar to that one? Chances are that it’s structural if you can find multiple areas with these larger types of cracks.
  • Look at your foundation. Many times you will see severe foundation cracks in addition to the suspect structural cracks you found indoors. At this point, your best bet is to consult with a foundation contractor and if bad enough, a structural engineer. It doesn’t hurt to have someone come out and look at it, so you may want to do this even if you don’t see horrible cracking.
  • Check exterior walls (especially brick). Often times you will see what’s called “step cracking” on the brick outside your home if there has been a large amount of settlement. Small step cracking isn’t always a problem, it simply indicates that there was at some point some settling in that area (which may have stopped years ago).

Conclusion:

If you see any of “the signs” to structural cracks, maybe you should have a foundation contractor, or structural engineer come out and verify your findings. Like I said, it doesn’t hurt to have someone look.

If what you see around the home points more towards typical cracks, maybe you just keep an eye on them over the next year or so. If they get bigger, then that is probably an issue, but if they stay the same then there is likely nothing to worry about.

Structural cracks have several possible causes, such as different types of soils beneath the structure, roots that have pushed up and underneath a wall, or maybe improperly placed footings, or footings that have shifted. There are many possible reasons for structural cracking, including some that have not been listed. Additionally, there are different types of cracks that I haven’t listed, and honestly, some I don’t know about! You should always get professional help from someone who’s job is to fix it. My job is to point it out, but it’s the tradesmen’s job to confirm or deny mine or your findings, and to fix them properly.

Check out some of our other helpful articles below!

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Do splash blocks really help?

Many people have these water diverters placed around their house underneath their gutter downspouts. The idea is that when it rains, the water is diverted away from the foundation, keeping it from pooling up and eventually finding it’s way into the basement or crawlspace. There are a couple problems with these seemingly helpful devices though:

  1. Most don’t move the water far enough away from the house. Unfortunately they just aren’t long enough to keep the water from seeping back into the dirt, and right back up against the foundation. As home inspectors, we usually recommend getting fully enclosed gutter discharge extensions that are at least 5-6′ in length. That way the water is placed well away from your home, and doesn’t hang out right next to the foundation. There is another reason that we recommend such long, fully enclosed gutter discharges; which brings us to problem number two:
  2. If the siding material is close to the ground, it can wear out prematurely or even start to rot when water is constantly splashing onto it from the underside. Siding material is designed to have water drip from the top down. This is why they are almost alway overlapped from the bottom up. If water is splashing from your splash block back up and onto the siding every time it rains, there is a good chance it will start to wear out long before the rest of the siding, and if it’s wood, possibly start to rot. This is why we recommend it be enclosed and as far away from the house as possible.

I’m not going to say that splash blocks are useless, because frankly, they are better to have than nothing at all. However, they just seem to do the job poorly in comparison to having fully enclosed gutter extensions.

I hope this helped you understand more about your home, and please feel free to leave a comment if you have any additional questions!

What is ‘ice damming” and should I be concerned?

Do you see an unusual amount of icicles hanging off of your roof? This is a usual sight during the Winter, and often times is overlooked as just a pretty decor offered up by mother nature itself. While icicles hanging from your roof might not be a problem, it can turn into one if left alone with the right conditions.

Here’s what’s happening:

Heat from the living areas in your home is constantly rising into the attic space, and in turn heating all that fresh or old snow that landed on your roof. This drips down the eaves and then refreezes forming icicles. The problem comes in when Ice starts to build up around the eaves. The constant freeze and thaw cycle can cause ice to build up, or create a sort of “dam” at the edge of the roof. When the snow that’s left melts, instead of dripping off the edge of the roof, it pools up because of the “ice dam” that was created. This in turn leads to water getting underneath your shingles, into the soffit area, and then possibly even into the wall cavity.

What to do:

Luckily there is one thing you can do right away to help prevent this; simply use an extended broom or broom-like tool to pull the snow that is on the eaves or near them off your roof. This will prevent any unnecessary snow from melting in that area.

Once you have cleared the snow from around the eaves (the higher the better!), you now have to think of long-term solutions. Should you just make it a habit to clear the snow every time it snows? Should you install ice melt cables on your roof?

Both of the above actions might be plausible solutions, but may actually just be putting a bandaid over the real problem. The real problem usually lies in the ventilation of the attic space.

I’ll explain:

Underneath the eaves you have what’s called the “soffit”(see diagram). On the soffit, there should be vents installed that help bring cool air into the attic space. In addition to these, there should also be attic vents at the top of your roof that look like little boxes spaced out near the ridge (if you don’t see these, there may be ridge vents, which are hidden underneath the ridge shingles). The purpose of these is to simply pull in cool air from the soffit vents, which in turn forces the warm air from the home out the attic vents. This helps keep the shingles cold, and prevents that freeze and thaw cycle from happening. Often times what happens, is someone will put insulation in their attic space without thinking about these hidden vents near the edge, and will mistakenly cover 1 or more of the vents. This prevents the cool air from coming in, thus making it harder for the warm air to escape. Simply calling in a professional to clear them out may fix the issue entirely!

Improper Ventilation:

Proper Ventilation:

Under-insulation in your attic may also be the problem. This could let more heat than necessary from the living spaces into the attic. Check with an Insulation contractor to see if your attic is sufficiently insulated.

If you’re certain it isn’t the insulation that’s the problem, there is a possibility that the wrong type of vents were installed. Attic vents and soffit vents have certain criteria in order to be compatible. In short; Spaced out attic vents (the box looking vents) need spaced out soffit vents, and continuous ridge vents need continuous soffit vents. If you mix these with the wrong styles, you may have issues with the ventilation not working to it’s full capacity. If you suspect that this is the issue, I would recommend having a professional roofing contractor look at the vents, or maybe even a qualified carpenter.