Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mistakes...I've Made a Few. Part One.

Home inspectors are paid to present their opinions, based on their knowledge and experience, to clients who, usually, are not well-versed in building construction. In our role as 'experts' we often have an extreme aversion to being wrong in our observations or in our reports. Being mistaken, or having our lack of knowledge exposed, can be both unnerving and a powerful learning tool.

When our company trains new inspectors we tell them that their motto as noobs should be "Embrace Your Ignorance". It's essential for veteran inspectors to keep that in mind as well. If we pretend we weren't wrong when we were or if we gloss over our errors/omissions we are missing a golden opportunity to learn a powerful lesson; we're also setting ourselves up for disasters, both large and small.

A dozen years ago or so I had just finished inspecting (or so I thought) a single family home with a full basement; I had put my tools in my truck and, since the client and realtor were still standing in front of the home I walked back to join them. As we stood in front of the home the buyer reached her hand under the bottom of the vinyl siding at the front wall of the home and said, "is this normal?"  I bent down, put my hand under the wall, and much to my surprise I found that the wall plate was 'floating' out in the air well beyond the concrete foundation wall upon which it should have been sitting! I went back down to the basement, stood in the corner, and visually 'sighted' the length of the front concrete foundation wall which, upon further and highly embarrassed reflection, turned out to be about 3" out of vertical alignment or 'plumb' as we say. The foundation had been pushed inward while the exterior wall had remained in place. That's why the plate was resting on nothin' but air.

That little vignette taught me to always stand in the corners of the basement and visually sight the foundation walls for leaning. It also taught me to never dismiss an observation of a clients and to always perform a final walk-around both inside and outside the home before wrapping up an inspection.

Home inspectors need to observe, operate, and evaluate hundreds if not thousands of discrete components and dozens of complex systems during an inspection. If we are well trained, disciplined, and mindful of what we're doing during an inspection our 'misses' should be few and minor. If we pretend we're infallible's gonna be a hard fall!