Why are you more expensive than some of the other inspectors?
The combined time we spend on inspections is more than many other inspectors and it is my opinion that the time is necessary to properly check out a house. In addition, my experience inspecting homes in the Houston area and structural engineering knowledge give you an advantage. Not all inspectors provide the same level of experience and time spent on your inspection. In addition, I have extensive experience with all aspects of foundation repairs and some design experience.
How long do the inspections take?
Our inspections typically take about one hour for each 1000 square feet of floor plan. Since the “mechanical inspection”, performed by another inspector I work with, takes about the same time as mine on average, the inspection time for comparison with other inspectors would be about two man hours per 1000 square feet. Some less thorough inspectors have been known to do a structural/mechanical inspection on an average size house in as little as one half hour. We also help each other out on an inspection so that if ones sees something another might not see, it is mentioned – two sets of eyes are better than one in this case.
Why do you split your inspection into a structural and a mechanical part?
This enables me to focus on the structure where most of my expertise lies and reduces the time of the inspections without reducing the quality of them. The mechanical inspection, which includes plumbing, electrical, A.C., furnace, water heater, appliances, sprinklers, and more, is usually performed by Randy Clayton of R&C Inspections unless the clients have another preference.
Do you schedule all of the inspections to occur at the same time?
We do. Every once in a while the termite or mechanical inspection cannot be performed concurrently, but usually they are. In addition to the termite inspection, other inspections can also usually be scheduled as a service to the clients if so desired. We schedule only the most competent people to do the other inspections. There is no extra charge for this and each person is paid separately. Sometimes the clients just want us to do the structural part while they or their realtor schedules the others, and that is okay too.
Do I ask for you when we call to schedule an inspection?
I am currently the only person at Sealy Engineering and usually schedule the inspections for the mornings (Monday through Friday) and then do the formal reports in the afternoons.
Do you go on top of the roof to inspect for problems or just look from the ground?
Many inspectors do not go on roofs, so be sure and ask them if you are speaking with another inspector. I have found this to be important since there is often damage not readily visible from the ground. I can access most two story roofs if there is a lower roof next to it. Otherwise, we use a drone to look at the otherwise inaccessible roofs. While the drone is not as good as being there in person, it is better than trying to see all of the roof from the ground.
Do you go under crawlspace foundations as a part of your inspections?
I will go under crawlspace foundations if they have adequate clearance and conditions are not muddy. Otherwise, I have found the time to do that is better spent taking level readings and looking for damage above. Lack of adequate support below will usually show up as unlevelness above. The pest inspectors we schedule do go under pier and beam foundations and report rotted wood and any other items related to the structural or mechanical inspections. I always at least look underneath wherever possible to know the general condition.
What other reasons do you have for charging more for your inspections?
Not all inspectors or engineers do the same things. With the formal report the soil type as listed on the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service is noted and its relevance is explained. There are sometimes measures other than foundation repairs that can be undertaken if the soil properties are known. Also, I believe in having the best tools available to help with inspections and this includes several moisture meters, a thermal imaging camera, a camera drone, a probe camera, a Ziplevel for level readings, and more.
Are level readings all that important?
Some other inspectors downplay the importance of level readings, but after having done foundation inspections before good level equipment was generally available for use inside houses and having taken levels on all houses inspected since 1996, I can say that level readings on all floors with experienced interpretation are essential for a more thorough inspection and you get them on the scale drawings for future reference as a baseline. See our blog entry Why Level Readings are Important for more information on this subject. My experience on this is your advantage!
Air conditioning systems note
In many cases cooling problems can be traced to undersized air conditioning systems that may be working perfectly okay mechanically, especially on newer homes. On older homes, ACs were generally sized for one ton of cooling per 500 square feet. On newer homes that are better sealed and insulated the size is often reduced but, in my opini0n, they should still be approximately that size or not too much less. The sizing method that, in my opinion, can give undersized units, the Manual J method, is based upon a 19 degree temperature drop from the outside to inside temperature in Houston, which would result in an 81 degree inside temperature on 100 degree days and not enough capacity to be able to reduce cooling while absent from the house and still be able to cool it down rapidly when needed later. There have been cases where homeowners thought there was a problem with the ACs and there was simply insufficient capacity to keep up in hot weather. HVAC contractors are now often being taught that an AC size that can keep you cool on a 100 degree day is “oversized”. The amount of outside to inside temperature difference that can be handled depends on the size of the unit(s). Actual oversizing is less common but also a problem by not removing enough humidity.