TOOLS OF THE TRADE
No tool is more important to a home inspector than their senses and their training, yet home inspectors rely on a number of tools which help to evaluate a home. Some are simple tools that have been around for ages and others are cutting edge technological marvels. No matter the tool, a skilled inspector must know how to use them appropriately in the field. Correct operation, care taken not to cause damage, and proper interpretation of measurements are all critical to good outcomes.
Below are some of the tools of the trade, and how I use them:
Digital Camera - Performing a home inspection includes conducting a visual inspecttion and creating a written report of the findings. A good digital camera is an essential to taking photos that capture the essence of any condition and I use a Sony RX100II for its ability to produce great photos in a compact size. Getting good photos in low light areas like attics and crawlspaces can help homeowners and specialists prescribe and apply solutions.
Moisture Meter - Inspectors use moisture meters to identify areas in a home which may be wet without showing surface moisture. The dual function of the Protimeter Surveymaster Moisture Meter allows for accurate measurement of moisture percentage in wood which can be probed or relative moisture content of materials through non-destructive surface measurement. Surface measurement utilizes RF radio frequencies to identify water below the surface and helps to identify moisture content behind finished surfaces like tile or hardwood. Moisture meters are not magic, however, and understanding the properties of building materials as well as the factors which affect accuare measurement are critical to accurate findings.
Thermal Imaging Camera - Thermal imaging was developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s for military applications. Since the early 1990s the cost of thermal imaging technology has come down and new industries are finding ways to deploy the technology. Thermal imaging cameras can help inspectors to find unseen conditions which are only detectible with infrared technology. The ability for a thermal imaging camera to detect a condition depends greatly on the camera and the training of the person operating it. I use a Flir E60 Thermal Imaging Camera and am certified as a Level 1 Thermographer. More information on thermal imaging in inspections is available here.
Carbon Monoxide and Combustible Gas Detectors - Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas found in fumes produced by gas burning appliances within a home. We use a carbon monoxide detector as well as a combustible gas detector around gas burning appliances to detect harmful gasses in the home.
Electrical Tools - Inspecting a home's electrical system is an important task. Electrical problems are often critical safety issues which can be costly to repair, and diagnosing and fixing electrical problems are typically outside of the skill and comfort level of homeowners. We use a variety of electrical tools to test outlets, including a basic outlet tester as well as an Amprobe INSP-3 circuit analyzer.
Ladders - We use a compact Little Giant folding, multi-position ladder for most jobs and carry a Werner 27ft, 3 section extension ladder to get up to higher roofs. Higher roofs which cannot be accessed are inspected with binocculars from the ground or from windows within the structure when possible.
Handtools - Simple tools like an awl, inspection mirror, measuring tape, pocket-knife, and screwdrivers are essentials in an inspectors toolbelt.