I frequently visit various job sites and inspections and sometimes I am amazed by what I see.
I have had so called construction experts show up on cases I am involved in and provide me with a very professional business card and introduce themselves, then they pull some cheap tool out of their vehicle that looks like they just picked it up at the discount store and use it to on a project.
Now don’t get me wrong, some tools tools work well no matter the price. Most any hammer will drive a nail, however you wouldn’t want to use a framing hammer on a finishing nail or you could damage the finish of what you are securing. (My grandfather used to call that leaving your rookie trademark)
Some cheap tools just work great. For example I use a golf club (7 iron) to check for hollow tiles or cracks under the tiles. I got is used for 75 cents. It works so much better than anything else I have found but I digress.
If you hired an attorney and found out they were using some free online program to search case law instead of using Westlaw (arguably the best legal research product on the market) how confident would you feel in their representation?
If you went to your doctor and they were using popsicle sticks as tongue depressors, would you go back?
Then why would you hire a contractor, inspector, or expert that doesn’t have the right tools for the job?
If your home is the biggest purchase you are going to make, wouldn’t you want someone that has the tools to find issues that may cost you money in the future?
I was at a project and this “Expert” from the other side of a case pulls out this cheap plastic two foot level to check the grade around the home. This is wrong for several reasons: When the grade is supposed to slope away for 6 feet, how do you check it with a 2′ level? They placed the level on the top of the rock next to the home, when checking grade you should check the soil not the rock on top, water runs through the rock to the grade below, what if the rock is thicker next to the foundation?
Then there is the question if the level is accurate.
I asked the “Expert” if I could borrow the level for a minute and placed it on a flat level surface, it said it was slightly out of level, then i turned the level around 180 degrees and checked it again now it said it was perfect. This is a simple test that should be performed every time you use a level to determine if it has gotten knocked out of level. (Try it in the store before you buy the level, you will be surprised at how many cheap levels are off)
I offered to loan the “Expert” my 6′ aluminum Empire level and some 3 inch wood blocks. They looked at me with awe. I explained that you should move the rock off the soil and place the blocks on the soil then 6′ away do it again, bridge the level across the blocks and that will give you a better idea of the soil grade. They said they appreciated the thought but they didn’t need the level or the blocks.
A few months later I was at a mediation on the same case, the “Expert” provided photos they had taken of their level and I provided photos of mine. I was explaining to the mediator why I used the blocks and the mediator stopped me and said, “I don’t need your explanation, the fact you used professional tools and they used some cheap piece of junk gives you more credibility.
I was on a home inspection and I found there was an issue with the air conditioning. They called their AC contractor and he arrived almost instantly. He introduced himself and he had major attitude.
We walked to the outside unit and he saw my Fluke AC test equipment still connected to the unit. I swear, he almost had to wipe the drool from his face. He looked at my Fluke tool and I instantly had credibility. He no longer was questioning if I was correct, he was asking how much was the tool and what else could it do.
I will tell you I love Fluke tools, they make have a habit of finding a great product made by someone else, buying the company then improving the tool to make it one of the best in the industry.
When other inspectors (or contractors) look at my tool bag they are impressed with the quality of the tools I carry.
I frequently use my Fluke thermal imaging camera to find things other people can’t.
At this point I need to mention that having good tools does not mean the people know how to use them.
I get calls about once a month from some upset Realtor or Contractor because some home inspector used a inexpensive thermal imaging device and pointed out that their was an issue with the insulation in the home. The home owner called the contractor and they came out and said it was fine. Now the parties are arguing about if it needs to be repaired or not, so I am called to provide an independent third party opinion. Most of the time, if the contractor said it was fine, it is, however a couple of times I found other issues that the first inspector missed. If the inspector had been properly trained to use the camera and the conditions that need to be present in order to get accurate results, this could have all been avoided.
So what can you do?
No matter what professional you are hiring, ask questions. Do a little research and learn a little about the industry the professional works in. Don’t base your decision on price alone, frequently hiring the cheaper person cost you more in the long run.
I teach classes for Realtors, Home inspectors, and other industry professionals. My local fluke representative was in one of my classes and after he heard me tell the stories I wrote about above he asked to see my tool bag. I showed him and he wrote down all the tools I had. About a week later he replaced all of my old Fluke tools with new ones. (He did not replace the thermal imaging camera, darn it.)
This did not change my opinions of them or their tools, especially since I was already bragging about them, but with disclosure rules the way they are I feel I needed to mention it.
If you want more information about home inspections, what to look for in an inspector, common issues found during a home inspection or how to get your home ready for a home inspection click the links.
Scott Warga, is the Qualifying party for ACSI American Construction Specialists and Investigations LLC,(ROC216772) a dual licensed residential and small commercial contractor. He is also a qualified Phoenix home inspector certified by the Arizona Board of Technical Registration (#38062) and was appointed to the Arizona Board of Technical Registration’s Enforcement Advisory Committee. He has 9 years construction experience and has performed residential and commercial property inspections for over 8 years. He has specialized in forensic inspections, investigating failed, damaged and defective construction for over 4 years. He is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors, (#205826) and currently sits on their board of directors. He has been an instructor of home inspection at Mesa Community College, for Inspection Training Associates, a Kaplan Professional School and Arizona Sun-Tech Home Inspection School. He has served as District Chairman & Vice President for the Arizona chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors and an approved instructor for both them and the Arizona Department of Real Estate. If you need an Arizona Home Inspector, he is your guy.