Knowing which professional contractor to recommend for further evaluation of a condition or deficiency is key to enabling you clients to obtain the information they need to guide their purchase decision. This can be complicated by the fact that often times the location and nature of the condition exhibiting itself is not the system or component causing the condition. Even though it is not the job of the home inspector to correctly identify the locus of the problem, recommending the correct contractor or specialist can go along way in maintaining the credibility of a home inspector. That is why a proper understanding of the relationship between components in a building can be highly beneficial to producing a satisfactory inspection.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the relationship of components in a building. Gravity and watershed are prime examples. A stain on a first-floor bedroom ceiling may or may not be related to the hall bathroom on the second floor. A thorough investigation of the attic space and roof covering may suggest that a failing auto-boot at the sewer vent roof penetration is the more likely source of water penetration. In this instance, a home inspector would want to recommend a roofing specialist for further evaluation, as opposed to a plumber. Various forms of movement is another observable condition that can exhibit itself across a number of building components. For example, if a foundation moves, the walls move, and consequently the roof structure sitting on the walls can move as well. Joint separations in the roof structure may be indicative foundation problems, in which case further evaluation by a foundation specialist may be the more appropriate recommendation. It is true in both of these instances, a painter and carpenter may be required to repair the water stain and rafter joints respectively, however, knowing which contractor to suggest for further evaluation of the primary condition is helpful to all parties involved.
In short, deficiencies or signs of poor or failing performance in the following building systems and components can exhibit themselves in a variety of related components. Of course, the home inspector will want to confirm the potential locus of a deficiency by correlating a number of conditions across components. The list discussed below is by no means exhaustive, but will help the home inspector begin to understand the relationship between building components.
Movement in a foundation, whether due to settlement, seasonal expansion and contraction, or structural can exhibit itself across a number of related building components. If the observable conditions raise enough concern in the judgement of the inspector, the appropriate specialist to recommend is a qualified foundation contractor or professional engineer.
Observable conditions related to foundation performance include, but are not limited, to the following:
The majority of deficiencies in electrical systems typically reveal themselves within the electrical components themselves – panels, switches, receptacles, fixtures. However, there are times when deficiencies exhibited in various other building components point to potential electrical problems. Kitchen appliances and mechanical equipment performance are good examples.
Examples of observable conditions in related building components where a licensed electrician should be recommended for further evaluation include, but are not limited:
Leaks related to water from either water supply or drain pipes side can reveal themselves as deficiencies in numerous related building components. In some cases water can travel significant distances within hidden components before manifesting itself. Knowing when to recommend a licensed plumber for further evaluation is important to correctly diagnosing the problem for clients.
Examples of observable conditions in related building components where a licensed plumber should be recommended for further evaluation include, but are not limited:
The improper conditioning of air, whether heating or cooling, can manifest itself in a variety of conditions around the home that ultimate relate to HVAC deficiencies. In these instances, correcting the deficiencies with heating and cooling equipment by a licensed HVAC technician would be necessary prior to repairs of related components.
Examples of observable conditions in related building components where a HVAC technician licensed should be recommended for further evaluation include, but are not limited:
Roof Coverings or Attic Structures
Roofs are designed to shed water and other weather-related issues in order to protect building materials and interior finishes. Often times the observations of moisture intrusion across building components are related to deficiencies in roof coverings or attic structures and require further evaluation by a qualified roofing or framing contractor.
Examples of observable conditions in related building components where a qualified contractor should be recommended for further evaluation include, but are not limited:
Grading and Drainage
Negative drainage or inadequate movement of roof or surface drainage water can result in a multitude of problems around the building structure. Obviously, repairs or replacement of damage building materials may be necessary by qualified contracts, but recommending further evaluation by a qualified site contractor or landscaping specialist may be prudent to ensure the problem is corrected in a more permanent fashion.
Examples of observable conditions in related building components where a qualified site contractor or landscape specialist should be recommended for further evaluation include, but are not limited:
Deficiencies and poor performance of appliances such as kitchen components, mechanical exhaust fans, garage door operators can be related to the need for further evaluation by a licensed plumber, electrician, or qualified contractor.
Examples of observable conditions in related building components where a licensed plumber or electrician should be recommended for further evaluation include, but are not limited: