Home Inspection-Staying Safe

dreamgardenApril 7, 2011

We purchased a house this year and had it inspected. The home inspector noted that our electric panels are very old and recommended that we replace them. After we closed, we hired a handyman to help pull out some carpet and showed him around the rest of the place. He noticed the panels and warned us to be careful when working around them. We have an electrician lined up to replace them.

I was reading an article from the ASHI site about the kinds of surprises and dangers that home inspectors have run into. There were enough interesting points that I felt it would be good to share them here.

Some folks like to do their own DIY repairs without obtaining permits, etc. Our house has a deck that didn't have permits pulled. Maybe its fine, maybe not.

I would be interested to read what other home owners have discovered during the course of having a home inspected and if it made a difference in their home buying decision. Also, what surprises did you discover after your purchase?

Home Inspection-Staying Safe Out There

by Peter Hawley-April 2011

Inspector Peter Hawley reminds us how important safety concerns are.

"A few years ago in my hometown, I was surprised to learn that a home inspector friend of mine had died. It was shocking and surprising because he was a relatively young man and still in good health. When I asked the cause of his death, I was expecting the answer to be a car accident or an unexpected and sudden health issue. Imagine my amazement when I was told he died on the job as a home inspector...."

A link that might be useful:


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That is terrible. Check out the series of "Home Inspection Nightmares" on This Old House's site, it'll make you wonder why people actually go into that field.

Here is a link that might be useful: TOH

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 5:24PM
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This is why nationally accepted standards and most if not all state regs specifically state that the home inspector is not required to engage in any activity that he believes is unsafe.

Many people interpret that as being lazy and/or unprofessional, but no job is worth risking life and limb, except of course those that require one to do so as the primary function in an effort to save lives.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 6:06PM
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Fori is not pleased

I'm purchasing a home that has an unpermitted addition (the seller pointed this out immediately and showed us how to dismantle it), a kitchen remodel that involved removing a load bearing wall (no permit), and a DIY electrical job that left the swimming pool a flick of the switch from a death trap.

These (and other similar) things didn't affect our purchase decision but I think they did scare off other buyers and reduce the selling price--this home is not in the typical "fixer-upper" price range.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 11:37AM
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The leading cause of death remains birth.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 3:39PM
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"The leading cause of death remains birth."

Or life...take your pick.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 11:45PM
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That's sad. I can imagine that it could be a risky job.

Well, let's see. The first two houses I bought I got inspections. It was a crap shoot, guessing who would be a good inspector. I don't remember them finding anything that was helpful. I probably should have asked more questions but I was a newbie then. Which was ironic, because that's why I needed an inspector. After I moved in, there were many things that they missed but I was so happy to get those houses, I didn't care. One of the things I think they should have pointed out to me was there was asbestos around the pipes in the basement. Later, when I sold that place, I had to get it professionally wrapped. But when I was buying the place, it wasn't done because the inspector never mentioned what it was. There were lots of little things but I would have bought the houses anyway. Nowadays I inspect my own houses. If there's something I need further information on, I call a professional. Like I've had a septic tank inspected by a septic company. One time I called in an electrician when we weren't sure about something.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 11:50PM
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I didn't realize the ASHI Reporter was available online to non-members. That was an interesting article.

That article was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I haven't had many close calls, and that has led to some complacency.

I've stepped through roofs twice. Both times I didn't lose my balance and was able to simply pull my foot out of the hole. I don't know what the odds of this happening are, but both times, the very next step I took, I stepped through again. So technically, I guess I can say I broke though a roof four times.

The paragraph in the article about crawlspaces brought back memories of when I almost fell headfirst into a sinkhole in a crawlspace. That was the subject of today's 'Picture of the Day' on my Facebook page. PotD is similar the Reporter's 'Postcard's from the Field', which are used in This Old House's 'Home Inspection Nightmares.

Here is a link that might be useful: Picture of the Day

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 12:56AM
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"I didn't realize the ASHI Reporter was available online to non-members. That was an interesting article. That article was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I haven't had many close calls, and that has led to some complacency."

Talk about close calls....

I have friends in Ohio who were looking at houses. They found a nice wooded property built in 1907 but didn't buy because they couldn't build a garage on the property. They sent me this story. I'm glad they didn't get it because they have curious kids. The present owner is lucky he had a friend with him that day.

911 Call: 'My Friend Fell Down a Well; Can't Get Him Out'

WESTLAKE, Ohio -- A man came close to drowning in his own sump pump after his basement filled with water Wednesday.

A friend who was nearby when the accident occurred at 851 Bradley Road, told police that 53-year old Hal Seagraves, fell head first into the 8-foot hole.

"I've got a friend that fell down a sump pump well...he's submerged and I can't get him out," the victim's friend said to the 911 dispatcher, "Too heavy."

When police arrived at the home, they found Seagraves not moving, wedged upside down at the bottom of the 8-foot well. According to Lt. Ray Arcuri with Westlake police, the man's head and arms were submerged in two feet of water.

A link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 11:05AM
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What a horrible thing to have happen. I can't imagine the feelings of panic and helplessness the friend felt when he couldn't pull the guy out. It's amazing that the police arrived quickly enough to get him out while he was still alive. I hope that by now he has recovered without any long-term damage.

When I go through a house, I'm always looking for potential safety hazards, no matter how remote the possibility. I guess I can be considered a bit anal about it, but the reality of what can happen hit home last week when I fell from a set of steps. Luckily, I was on the bottom step when it happened.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't noticed the bottom tread was about an inch narrower than the others. I discovered it at the end of the inspection as I was carrying my Little Giant ladder down the steps. The nose of the bottom tread wasn't where I expected it to be, and down I went (with my arm still through the ladder rung). It hurt for a while, but I don't think I have any long-term damage.

Last year, as I was removing a breaker panel deadfront, a screw made contact with a hot wire, giving me a close-up miniature fireworks display. I'm always careful when replacing improper, sharp pointed screw, and don't replace them if they are anywhere near hot wires. Prior to the fireworks display, I hadn't considered it might happen when 'removing' a screw.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 11:54AM
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Thanks for posting the article. I thought that the stats on the 6 deaths that the author knew of were interesting: 2 falls from roof (expected, although regular inspectors around here will not go on roofs, you have to call a roof person), 2 from electrical (easily believable, even when trying cautious) 2 from Hantha Virus - this one surprised me, but makes perfect sense.
The area I live in has some challenges for inspectors - no basements, but some lovely attics to peruse on our many, many 80-110 degree days and crawl spaces. Who would not love to go breath in 50 years of dust and dirt and..probably rat droppings.
Joe - You've got some great pictures. I'm dying to know what the end story on the hosue with the crazy plumpbing/eletrcity and roof was.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 5:31PM
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Thanks for the kind words on my pictures, gardenspice. I get a lot of enjoyment out of captioning them. With some, I try to sprinkle in a bit of education, but many are so absurd that a goofy caption is all that would be appropriate. I stared the album a little over a month ago, adding one picture a day. Sadly, I have several years worth of pictures ready to go.

The house with the crazy plumbing, electrical and roof issues was inspected back in August 2003. I did the inspection for the house's long-term tenant. He paid low rent in exchange for doing the "maintenance" and "repairs" to the house.

The inspection was the beginning and end of my involvement with that house, so I don't know what the end story is. I think the renter may have gone ahead and bought it, then lived with things as they were. I'm thinking this because I got curious and brought up a recent aerial picture of the property. At the time of the inspection, a barn near the house was missing a lot of roof slates. In the aerial pic, the barn was still there, but had lost about half of its roof.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 1:06AM
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LoveInTheHouse, the inspection for environmental hazards such as asbestos, mold, etc. Is beyond the scope of a home inspection.

It is best to only hire a home inspector who provides you with a copy of the Pre-inspection agreement before the inspection, in order that you know what is and isn't included.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 3:20PM
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