An ASHI Member Looks Back Over Four Decades
By J.D. Grewell, ACI
It has now been more than four decades that I have been a professional home inspector. I knew many of the charter members of ASHI on a personal basis. Recently I’ve been thinking about what it was like back in those early days of ASHI and how much has changed. There have been some great advances over the years.
The first big change was the formation of ASHI. Prior to 1976, there was no local or national organization. Once ASHI was chartered, the Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics were created. I joined ASHI in large measure due to those two documents. If there was going to be a measuring stick, I wanted to have high marks.
The next big changes in our profession were the formation of local chapters (originally, ASHI had five chapters) and the start of an annual conference, which continues today with InspectionWorldTM. The primary purpose of having chapters and annual events is to share experiences and knowledge. Learning new techniques and the proper procedures for using new, improved tools is never-ending.
The first tool I was instructed to purchase was a “good” flashlight. All flashlights back then were carbon cell battery types with replaceable bulbs, and even a five-cell D flashlight only produced a puddle of yellow light. They were over two feet long, had lamp heads about three inches in diameter and weighed in at over two pounds fully loaded. Police used the same lamps. There were no real holsters, so we fashioned our own.
There was a tool company, Professional Equipment, started by a fellow ASHI member, that came to the conferences. Receptacle testers were novel devices, along with analog pin-type moisture meters that we all purchased and used. The tool choices have continued to expand and improve our diagnostic abilities.
I believe that the biggest change in tools is in the flashlights that are now available. Going from buying a great Maglite that used D-cell batteries to the newer, rechargeable Maglites and Streamlights has been a huge change for the better. The candlepower output was enormous compared with the prior lamps; and the quality of the light was far superior. Now, the newer lamps with over 1,000 lumens that fit in your palm are amazing tools that have radically improved inspecting. You can only inspect what you can see, so improved sight is an immense change for the better.
Early on, every inspector either designed their own report form or purchased a preprinted format. Most of the preprinted ones were rudimentary with nothing more than checkboxes and maybe a few lines for a narrative. I created my own forms and updated them over the years to reflect the changes in the Standard of Practice, but they were still handwritten and generated at the site for the paper exchange of issuing the report and then collecting the check.
The introduction of digital cameras brought in a real sea change. Just think of the Kodak or the Land companies. When I took color photographs for court work, I had to wait to get them developed to see the results or take a vast number of Polaroid photos. For over 25 years, I took a Polaroid shot of every house I inspected and filed it with the report in the archives.
Today, we have great compact, high-resolution digital cameras and the results not only reflect what you saw, but are shared with the client. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is highly valid, especially when someone contemplates challenging the results. The use of digital photographs in emailed reports is a fantastic leap in progress; however, the level of communication about items of concern is still basically the same—it is faulty, damaged, improper or incomplete, so get it repaired by a competent individual.
The early years were simpler in many aspects. A friend of mine said it well—we booked the inspection, found the property, completed the inspection and collected the payment. When he said this, I fully agreed, but oftentimes the hardest part was finding the home to be inspected. Thankfully, I lived in an area that had accurate book maps. As the metro area expanded, so did the number of maps. These all had to be purchased new every couple of years so that we could find the newly built homes. GPS and online map programs have changed this process tremendously; however, I ignore my Garmin regularly because, although it gives me the most direct route, that is not necessarily the fastest or safest route. I do appreciate knowing in advance that the house is “on the left” side as I drive the final block.
I am quite sure that other, older members have their own observations that they can contribute, and I would welcome reading their reflections about the changes we have experienced. Knowing where you came from sometimes helps you to figure out where you want to go.
A Story from the Field
By Neil Saltzman Structure Tech Home Inspections 952-915-6466, firstname.lastname@example.org
In moer than 24 years of being a full-time home inspector, I’ve seen a lot, but one house I inspected stands out as “the house from hell.”
I began the inspection on the outside and, in the crisp fall weather in Minnesota, I could hear the crunching of leaves under foot and see the wonderful yellow, brown and red colors of the leaves that mix with the briskness of the air. You know another thing that mixed well with the brown colors of the leaves? The droppings from the seller’s dog. As I was checking the outside, I stepped right into a big one. I’m sure we can all relate. So, I went to wash off my shoes.
Later in the inspection, while using my borescope on the furnace’s heat exchanger (yes, beyond the ASHI SoP, I know), I ran into problem #2. Although I was trying to be very careful around the ceramic ignitor,
when I touched it, it shattered. OK, now what? I got on the phone and learned that the closest store was 35 minutes away. Since I was training a new inspector on this inspection, I gave him the task of driving to the store to pick up the new ignitor (which, by the way, would cost $60).
As my trainee was installing the replacement ignitor, it broke. I could not believe it. So, he drove back to the store, bought another one and very, very carefully installed that one with much prayer. So, two hours of driving and $120 later, this was not quite the afternoon of inspecting I had planned.
I like to finish my inspections in the attic and as I was looking around this house’s attic, I dropped my flashlight. I couldn’t believe it and I started to think that maybe this house was haunted. I never drop my flashlight! And now that it was underneath 16 inches of fiberglass insulation, everything went dark. (This was before the days of the flashlight app on your smartphone.) I think I moved insulation around for at least 10 minutes before I found it. I wasn’t about to leave a $100 flashlight in someone’s attic.
Well, you’d think that would be enough problems for one day, but on the way out of the house, the little dog bit my trainee in the butt and then bit one of the kids in the house.
What topped it all off was that the seller had installed a radon mitigation system after getting high radon results from us, and now the buyer’s agent wanted us to retest for radon…for free…because she had referred us many times…
Finally, we happily left this house, after completing four trips, wasted dollars, bruised butts and egos. It was time to go home and pour a stiff one.