I've read the other replies to this and would offer this:
1. Home Inspection Services - Inspectors are not, for the most part,
engineers qualified to identify structural defects. I qualify this as I have
not verified every home inspector and noticed the websites of a few in
Florida who seem to have extensive experience and whose judgment may be
2. Whenever I am called in to inspect a problem discovered by the home
inspector or owner in escrow - I am sure to place a disclaimer in my report
that limits the inspection to what I can see. The statement also states that
I have been hired to provide a cursory inspection and anything more would
require destructive and potentially costly investigative work that was not
part of this service. The recipient of the report is also warned that the
report is, essentially, a professional opinion, based upon the facts that
are visible at the time of inspection and upon the engineers knowledge of
the methods of construction used at the time the home or building was
constructed. Although I am paraphrasing this, the disclaimer was used for
assessments of damage after the Northridge earthquake and was created by a
large firm in Los Angeles area who allowed the distribution and "tweaking"
of the statement by those who wanted the protection.
Engineers should not fear litigation for expressing their professional
opinions. The issue with the fireplace chimney may have been avoided by the
issuance of the above statement. I do admit that the wording of reports is
crucial - and wherever possible, the professional should reiterate that it
is a professional opinion and what facts are used to justify the position.
In other words, cover your butt.
The process of buying a home is intended to protect both the buyer and
seller, but most involved interpret the process as nothing more than an
inconvenience. The buyer wants what they want and they want it NOW!. The
real-estate agent wants their commission - NOW. The buyer wants to hide as
much as they can and get out with the most profit - fast!. Later when
everyone has a few free hours, the new owner comes out of shock and starts
to pick over the incidentals. Most want to nail the builder and I am amazed
at how many homeowners are dissatisfied that to obtain a golf-course view
they paid luxury prices for tract-home quality.
I simply stay out of the line of fire. I had one owner who was terribly
angry with me because I limited the weight applied to his new roof to an
asphalt shingle where he wanted to use a clay tile. The city would no longer
allow cedar shake and the owner did not want one of the new metal roofs.
Lightweight was too much for one portion of the home. The owner was a
developer and was selling the house. He came to my office one day angry
about the looks of the home. I apologized for his choice of roofing
materials, but would not waiver as to what I rate the existing framing. I
explained what we found and where the problem was but also gave him the
choice of ripping the roof off completely and reframing - which he was not
willing to do.
He left, feeling better about me (although he never hired me to design the
homes he develops) and he stiffed the roofing contractor for about
Just stay out of the line of fire.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: John P. Riley [mailto:jpriley485(--nospam--at)peoplepc.com]
> Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2001 2:16 PM
> To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
> Subject: Re: Residential Fee Range (Was Porch Conc. Cracking)
> A nationally syndicated radio talk show host gave prospective homeowners
> this advice, paraphrased of course:
> If you want to buy a home, but are not an expert on structures, you should
> hire an expert, a structural engineer, to examine it for you. It
> will cost
> $200 or $250; he'll inspect the entire house and provide a written report.
> Then, if you purchase the home and something goes wrong, you can sue the
> structural engineer. (I was afraid to use quotes, but I think I'm very
> close to the exact words)
> That was about 10 years ago, I'm guessing. Then about 5 years
> ago, a fellow
> called in saying he had heeded the advice. The structural
> engineer charged
> $250, provided an 18 page report, gave the home a clean bill of health
> except that the chimney needed to be cleaned. He bought the
> home. About 2
> years later he hired a chimney sweep, who would not clean the chimney
> because it was in such poor condition. Repairs cost $5,000. The
> talk show
> host advised the fellow to sue the structural engineer and the realtor who
> recommended him.
> When homeowners call me for assistance, I tell them I do not do
> work. If they whine a bit, I tell them the above story.
> "Well, I'm not looking to sue anyone, I just need a report for closing."
> they say.
> "But if a crack shows up in the drywall next year, your attorney
> may advise
> you to sue me. No thanks." says I.
> Some are understanding, some just get huffy because they are
> between a rock
> and a hard place . . . that society created, not me. I would love to be a
> facilitator, to offer my opinion based on what I can see. But
> when society
> views my opinion as an insurance policy, I must raise the premium . . . to
> $5,000 for a home inspection. With about 10 of those under your belt, you
> could reduce premiums a bit for everyone.
> John P. Riley, PE, SE
> Riley Engineering
> 20 Oakwood Drive, Blue Grass, Iowa 52726
> Tel & Fax: 319-381-3949
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