Exploring home inspection frequently asked questions with David Fairbairn in Vancouver, BC
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver, BC and we’re going to be answering some of the common questions that people have about home inspections this morning. How’re you doing David?
David: I’m good Mark, how’re you doing today?
Mark: Good, so what’s included in a home inspection?
David: Well, Mark there’s a set of standards that home inspectors have to use that is considered the bare minimum that home inspectors can look at during an inspection and these are considered a bare minimum but they typically include the major systems of the house. So you’re looking at your structure, your plumbing, your roof, the heating, ventilation, electrical, things like this, so that’s the major systems of the property and almost any home inspectors going to do that and in BC you have to abide by those standards but you can also go above and beyond those, so for instance one of the things that home inspectors actually are not required to inspect, is appliances and they’re not required to use any specific tools, they’re not required to do moisture testing or in fact, as far as I know they’re not even required to have a plug tester which I find funny, but that’s the bare minimum of what’s included in a home inspection.
Now, our home inspection includes more than that but we’ve got the basic major systems of the property, we’re going to give you an overview condition of the building, but we’re also going to give a little bit more than that.
Mark: So do you inspect everything, like what about fences or a big one for me and I think for anybody in the Vancouver area is drainage because we get a lot of rain here, outbuildings, all the sort of stuff, do you look at those as well?
David: Yes, interesting that you should ask that because the standards actually say that home inspectors are not required to look at fences, sheds, any sort of drainage whatsoever aside from the maybe three inches of drain tiles sticking up from the garden bed so what we’re doing with our home inspections is we’re obviously limited by what we can see but we’re going to give you an overview of the whole property so what I like to do is during the inspection I’ll show up and walk the entire property, corner to corner and this is for a number of reasons, you know, if you have a lot, maybe it’s predominately a flat lot but there’s a slope on one side of it and it maybe direct water onto one side of the home where you get pooling in your yard, you might have, this is actually when I find a lot is where there’s a big retaining wall back of the property that you need to sort of go way back and hack through the bushes, take a look, you know you’ve got some types of problems with the retaining wall. That can be really expensive, a retaining wall right now, to rebuild it, a concrete retaining walls between $25 to $35 a square foot so it’s thousands of dollars to actually rebuild a retaining wall. You can’t really shift them back into place, you have to tear them up and rebuild them. So it can actually be a huge item. So retaining walls, that’s a big one, inspecting drainage; what I like to do is actually open up manhole covers if I can find them, pop them open, have a look and we can actually see a little bit of our perimeter drainage, storm drainage system, right. There’s been a couple times I’ve opened up inspection chamber in the front yard, those turquoise lids you see in the front yard, there’s one red one, there’s one turquoise one, never open the red one because that’s sewage and turquoise one is rain water, so if you ever see a red one you’re probably not going to want to touch it. But the green one, you pop it open, you have a look and you can see, there has been a couple times you can see it backing up from the connection from the lateral to the city, so those are the things that be curious, that’s what we’re doing, you know the curious guy we go around the property, take a look at everything we can and if the sheds about to fall; I saw a shed in Coquitlam the other day, the shed was leaning so much that the door wouldn’t open any more, the door was actually seized, so you know, that’s going to be a safety hazard if they move in, start using that shed it’s going to fall over so this is kind of basic stuff that’s it’s not technically required but it’s going to create the impact of the use of the property so all inspections that we do include these areas.
Mark: So what about in the ceiling or above the ceiling in the attic area or whatever you want to call it in that space area, I know that if you just stick your head up you see one view and if you actually walk on the framing members and work your way around you might see a whole different picture, like junction boxes buried in the ceiling and where nobody’s ever going to find them and all kinds of interesting things or different kinds of wiring, aluminum or all kinds of old, old wiring because we have some old houses in the Vancouver area merged with new wiring because part of the house was renovated or . .
David: that’s usually the case, yeah, you know hey this panel looks great and all of a sudden you go up to the attic and it’s tied into a bunch of tubing and electrical tape. Yeah, that’s really a good point and home inspectors are required to go and look at the attic, doesn’t say how so I could technically open the attic hatch, poke my head in there, shine a flashlight around and come back down in three seconds and that would meet the requirements of what I’m supposed to do but that’s not good enough. I always say if we can get into the attic, if I can fit myself into the attic, unless it’s a Vancouver special, now a Vancouver special they have incredibly low attics, they’re almost universally impossible to get into but for a standard house, if you can get into the attic there’s a lot of stuff you can find up there. One of the really common problems I find in attics is somebody’s gone and put in recessed lighting and they’ll put like pot lights all over the upstairs ceiling and they’re really proud of themselves but they actually put in a style that potlight that can’t be in contact with insulation and the manufacturer specifically says that and it’s called a non IC rated light, it’s insulation contact light and this kind of fixture you would have to actually have to build a small box around it or have the insulation not touching it and that can be a big job so that’s a pretty common mistake and you wouldn’t know unless you actually went into the attic or you pull the pot lights down from below which I’m probably not going to start doing.
Mark: So, what don’t you inspect?
David: The only thing, there’s a few things that are difficult for us to inspect, anything that’s not visible, right so we have to remember it’s a visual inspection so anything that we can’t see so if I walk into a room and it’s packed with storage items I may not be able to inspect that room so that ties in with how to prepare for the home inspection. If you have an inspection you are going to want to make sure that they haven’t taken one of the basement rooms and filled it storage items because they’re moving, it’s packed with boxes. I’ll give it a shot, I’ll try to pull back the boxes and take a look behind it if we can or if we can reasonably move some items out of the way but if we can get everything visible then I can inspect more of the property, actually that’s one of the big things I can’t inspect is anything that’s not visible, locked doors, we’ve had a couple mystery rooms this month where you know, it’s locked, nobody knows where it goes and I have to say, you know what, I can’t get in there, I don’t know. Attics if they’ve got shelving installed overtop the attic hatch, I can’t go up to the attic, so you just want to make sure we have access to all the areas and one more thing I don’t inspect is the security system of the house. We’re finding a lot of these newer homes, they come with installed security systems but they don’t, sometimes they’re half way there, maybe you don’t have your sensors in, maybe you don’t have your control box, so there’s a few different steps to get a security system up and running and I leave that up to the security experts so that’s one thing I don’t inspect and I also don’t want to set off any alarms while I’m in the home otherwise I get a call from the homeowner asking why the fire truck was there this afternoon so but everything that I can see we can reasonably test is on there. We can even sometimes if you go to a garage you can see the central vac, it’ll have a on/off switch, I can actually test that out. If the buyer wants a test on anything else specifically let me know, I’ve even tested a stereo system one time, it was quit or leave the house. It was a nice one too. We had some tunes going through there so . .
Mark: So what about like you mentioned the stuff you can see, now you do have some tools that you use that can look behind the walls, infrared basis.
David: That’s right, what we’re seeing is that tools aren’t really . . . but I have a great collection of tools and I constantly get people asking about what I’m using and some of these tools are just really cutting edge and they’re great for determining if there’s a hidden problem that we’d never find otherwise so for instance a possible gas leak detector, it’s basically a gas . . . ., you can use it on your gas meter, you can use it on your furnace gas piping, you can use it on your homes anywhere you have gas piping, you can actually test the joints and see if there’s a pin hole leak and sometimes it’s so fine it takes a lot of looking before the repair man can actually determine where it is so I actually have to circle it and say actually you know, this joint needs to be resealed and so that’s a big safety thing. There’s a moisture meter, a pretty standard home inspector will have a moisture meter with you to determine if there’s moisture behind the shower walls or if there’s some wet drywall and then of course the thermal camera. The thermal camera is going to give you that image of, sometimes you can see the studs, you know wet insulation, find gyproc with that so all my tools we include that with a standard home inspection, the only difference is that the thermal camera, if you would like a whole building scan done we offer a thermal imaging package which depends on the size of the property but it’s very affordable.
Mark: Awesome, sounds pretty thorough and from what you keep finding and surprising us on your posts, thorough which is great, which I appreciate, I’m kind of a bit anal about this. I just had my drains scoped actually.
David: Excellent, so how’d they look?
Mark: They looked great, very happy, so . .
David: That’s great; you’re one of the few that actually will do it. I’ve gone in houses you know, the owners have lived in there thirty years and like, what are perimeter drains? Literally they had no idea, right, and you’re going o.k. this is the old tile from the 80’s. It’s corrugated, how much junk is in that drain tile, right, yeah you’re a good home owner, I look forward to inspecting your home one day.
Mark: Alright, thanks David. It’s been great talking with you. We’ve been talking with David Fairbairn from FairbairnInspections.com in Vancouver; give him a call 604-395-2795. Buy a house you can trust. Give David a call; he’ll look after you – 604-395-2795. Thanks Dave.
David: Thanks Mark.
Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has been featured in the media and has contributed to "24" Newspaper, and Global TV. He has spent years working with residential and commercial building projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC. Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection? Call 604 395-2795 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today!