How does a commercial building inspection differ from a home inspection?
Mark: Hi it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation we’re talking with David Fairbairn, he’s a home inspector here in Vancouver. How are you doing today David?
David: I’m doing great Mark, how are you?
Mark: I’m good… so we’re going to talk about commercial building inspections – so what’s different?
David: What’s different from a standard home inspection is probably what you’re wondering, with commercial building inspection there are quite a few differences from a standard home inspection. Most of has to do with the complexity of the building itself, when you have a commercial building, the equipment you’re going to come across and the building designs that you’re going to come across. If you’re a first time commercial property buyer or if you’re leasing a commercial property and you don’t have experience with them, there can be a lot of things that you don’t understand. So you need somebody who has experience with these buildings and is trained in these systems. First thing is complexity; we see a lot of industrial things, you’ve got a completely different structure design. If you’re buying a restaurant, you’re going to see industrial kitchen equipment and with a lot of these things you may need an education in – that’s the big thing with commercial buildings. The next thing that’s different about commercial building inspections versus a standard home inspection is the type of report that we would provide to you. When you’re getting a commercial building inspected, you are hopefully getting a report that you’re going to give to your lender. They have pretty specific guidelines of what they’re looking for. One of those things that we don’t really see with a standard home inspection, that we do see in the commercial world, is cost estimated. So on the inspection report, you’re actually going to get cost estimate for the work. Usually I give a range of it’s going to be between this much and this much to correct this defect. You’re actually going to have cost estimating on the summary breakdown at the end of the inspection report. So that’s a huge difference as well.
Mark: So, how long does it take?
David: It can be anywhere from a few hours to an entire day and it really depends on the size of the property and the type of property. for instance, if you need a warehouse inspected – they’re large but they’re fairly simple structures. So they’re not going to take the time to measure it in square feet right, so they’re going to be a shorter inspection depending on what’s in there. If you have an office building and you need every single office evaluated then obviously that’s going to take a bit of time – there are a lot of things and furnishings to work around. It really depends on the type of building and the use of the building. Of course, if you have a vacant commercial building, that’s going to be a lot faster to inspect because you don’t have to work around staff and furnishings and equipment. Sometimes with commercial buildings, the customer will actually request it to be at night. This actually happens when there is an existing business and they don’t want interruption during their day to day operations – so we bring in an inspector over night. This does happen once in a while, of course, we try to be flexible to accommodate that.
Mark: How long until I get the report on my building?
David: If we do the inspection, we usually provide you with a digital report as well as an optional printed copy within 48 hours of the inspection. It’s a fully typed out narrative report with photos, and of course, there’s a bit of time in there – and most of that time is based on the calculation of all the costs. If we find an older building that maybe needs a new roof, or there’s some facade work at the front of the building, we’re going to have to work out the cost per square foot and you disposal costs and things like that and put it into a usable number for you. That’s usually where the time frame comes in. Some buildings that are simple and there’s not a huge amount of work to be done, we can get the report a little bit faster than that as well. We try to do as quickly as possible, but it’s usually 48 hours.
Mark: So what about cost?
David: Cost varies. The best way to get a cost on a commercial building inspection is to call us directly. It varies, not only in the number of square feet, which is one of the things you find in a home inspection – it’s almost always based on square footage – if there’s a lane way house in the backyard, we’ll charge a little bit extra. We approach it in the same way but if you’ve got a vacant building and depending on the use of the building – if you’ve got a metal plating facility obviously we’re going to have to bring in some contractors to take a look a little more in depth. It really depends on the use of the building. Best way is to call us for a quote. Usually for a small restaurant you’re probably looking at around $1200, for a larger warehouse it could be $1000 depending on the size of the building and what it’s being used for.
Mark: What about things like soil contamination or water ingress or those sorts of things? Are you looking at that as well or compliance with building codes?
David: What we do in terms of the soil contamination, I’m glad you mentioned that because a lot of the time when you’re purchasing commercial property you’re going to hire someone to do a Phase One Environmental Site Assessment or a Phase One ASA. A Phase One ASA is basically an evaluation of possible contaminants on the site – soil conditions, things like asbestos, lead – they would cover a few of those issues as well. For that reason, the commercial building inspector wouldn’t address those issues directly, we would leave it up to the Phase One ASA. We can help arrange that for you but typically it’s done through a different company. Water ingress is one of the most important concepts in building inspections, especially in the lower mainland. So we’re obviously going to take a close look at water ingress issues, we’re going to have a look at the roof. We use thermal imaging on the commercial building inspections, scanning flat roofs, checking lot grading. It’s equally as important if not more important than with a standard home inspection to avoid water ingress.
Mark: Awesome. So we’re been talking with David Fairborn, he’s a Vancouver building inspector and home inspector. You can reach him at 604-395-2795. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark
Throughout my career inspecting buildings, I have never seen a parkade (parking garage) without at least one moisture stain, or active leak. It’s very common for parking garages to leak, and when they do, the stains left behind are often not removed. This may scare off a potential buyer, when in reality the leak may have been solved already.
Here is a list of what to look for when inspecting a parkade:
Efflorescence is a chemical salt that becomes drawn out of the concrete when moisture passes through it. It’s commonly described as a white, chalk- like substance. It stays behind, even after the leakage problem is solved. When inspecting these stains, look at the pattern of the staining. If you see small, perfect circles on a ceiling, you can bet that water has been dripping at some point. A pale, whispy stain with no soft edges is probably left over from construction, and is likely not a concern.
All concrete, during curing, will crack and shift slightly. New, small cracks may form as the live load of the building changes. These most commonly appear as vertical cracks on the exterior foundation walls, and are a common point of water entry. One or two of these can be normal, however, if a wall is cracked in multiple locations and all are leaking heavily, an expert should be called.
Some water ingress at side walls may be caused by improper or defective waterproofing at the exterior wall.
Leakage around drain lines is common, particularly below landscaping and patio decks on ground floor units. Some cast iron drain lines may corrode and leak in the slab, leading to cracks and staining around the connection in the garage. Repairs usually involve removal of the drain base, and part of the cast iron stack, and replacing and waterproofing as necessary.
Widespread leakage, or heavy staining around the parking garage may indicate a waterproofing membrane failure. This is a potentially expensive repair – a building with complete membrane failure may need to remove significant amounts of the landscaping above, and torch on a new membrane. Repairs sometimes involve destruction of landscaping, concrete walkways and patios. The photo above is from a building in Vancouver – they ultimately dug up the entire courtyard and re-waterproofed.
Perimeter Drain Failure
The image above is from a condo with a failed perimeter drain. We can see the rust colored sediment leaching through, as well as a water stain running along the base of the wall. Since the pipe was completely plugged, no water was being carried away from the base of the foundation, into the storm drain, and instead seeped into the basement. The rust color is due to the oxidization (rusting) of the iron in the soil.
Epoxy injections are a popular solution for concrete leaks. They can be identified by small injector plugs that follow a crack line, usually along the ceiling of a parkade. Epoxy repairs will remain forever and cannot be cleaned/removed to hide the repairs. When inspecting these areas, consider that they may have been done recently or long ago – it’s very difficult to determine.
Repairing heavy leaks using epoxy injections is not the best method – the source of the water should be eliminated before any action is taken.
As an alternative to Epoxy Injections, products such as the Kryton Krystol waterproofing compound, can be used with good long-term performance. One advantage to these products is that the finished result looks much more professional – with no visible epoxy residue, oil or injection plugs left over. The installation involves chipping or “routing” out the crack with a chipping gun and packing the product into the trench. The product expands and “follows” the water source, effectively stopping the ingress.
Garage leaks are common, and knowing what to look for can greatly help buyers differentiate between small repair jobs and larger issues. A certified home inspector can help you identify any issues in the building. And, of course, always read any strata documents provided by your seller.
Due to advances in waterproofing technology, we have added information regarding the Kryton waterproofing system (an alternative to epoxy injections), as well as improved the general readability of the article.