Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a building inspection?
What is the purpose of the inspection?
What is included in the inspection?
What is the process of the inspection?
What is the purpose of the report?
Why do you not provide a report on site?
Do you provide a pest inspection?
When is the report available?
What are the 3 essential qualities/skills an inspector must have?
How long does the inspection take?
Do I need to attend the inspection?
Am I licensed?
Does a building inspection come with any warranties or guarantees?
Do you work for the realtor or me?
Do you provide follow-up help?
Which areas do you serve?
Why have a new construction inspection?
What forms of payment do you accept?
Unsolicited e-mail testimonials


What is a building inspection?


Technically, a building inspection is a professional, objective, unemotional visual examination of the systems and components of a building. It is limited in that only readily accessible components can be inspected. Destructive testing and disassembling of any components cannot be done. It is not intended to be technically exhaustive.


However, it is my job to provide as complete an inspection as possible and to explain everything about the building and its systems in intimate detail. I will explore all areas that I can and test as many systems as possible. If there are additional systems or areas that need inspecting that I cannot access or require a specialty inspector, I will inform you of this.


What is the purpose of the inspection?


The purpose of the inspection is to educate you fully about the building you are purchasing and identify those system and components that are in need of repair, replacement and/or maintenance.


The priorities are:


Safety hazardous conditions first
Structural and major systems concerns next

The rest of the list:


Attention is also given to items that may hinder your ability to obtain financing or insurance.

My job as an inspector is to provide you with intimate and detailed knowledge about the building structure and its systems, along with information about the building site. The primary service I offer is one of education. I offer an objective, unemotional assessment. I will also provide significant information about the positive aspects of the home. However, I cannot provide referrals due to potential conflicts. In addition, I am not available to perform any repairs.


All inspections include at a minimum all items listed in the standards of practice, as set out by the State of Washington home inspector licensing division. My inspections are very detailed and in depth and almost always include much more than these minimums. To view these standards, click on the Standards/Agreement tab at the top of the page.


What is included in the inspection?


At a minimum, the inspection covers all of the following systems and components:


Building site - grading, retaining walls, walkways, stairs, driveways, patios, fencing/gates, drainage, outbuildings
Exterior - siding, trim, windows, doors, porches, decks, hose bibs
Structure - foundation, structural framing, excessive settling, seismic anchoring, ventilation
Roof - type, condition, life expectancy, flashing, skylights, needed maintenance
Gutters/downspouts - type, condition, drainage issues
Chimney - structural integrity, mortar condition, flue liner condition, caps, corrosion
Plumbing - supply lines/drain lines, hot water tank age and condition, testing of all fixtures
Heating/air conditioning - type of heating system, full testing of all systems
Electrical - circuit breakers/fuse quality, all wiring, outlets, switches, light fixtures, smoke alarms, hazards/safety concerns, GFCI [ground fault circuit interrupter] and AFCI [arc fault circuit interrupter] protection
Attic - roof structure, insulation, ventilation, electrical issues, heating, ducts, exhaust fans, water penetration, pest activity
Interior - walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors
Kitchen - sink plumbing, oven, dishwasher, electrical outlets, exhaust fan, disposal
Bathrooms - test all plumbing fixtures, determine integrity of shower walls/tile, flooring, electrical outlets
Insulation - type and amount where visible
Ventilation - check for detrimental moisture conditions
Fireplaces/woodstoves - condition, dampers
Appliances - oven, refrigerator, disposals, dishwashers, clothes washers, ceiling fans
Garage/carport - structural integrity, electric door openers safety devices, electrical, outlets, doors and windows


Because of my intention to provide you with as much information as possible, most inspections include significantly more information than these minimum items.


To view a sample report, click on the Sample report tab at the top of the page.


To view the invoice/agreement contract click on the Standards/Agreement tab at the top of the page.


What is the process of the inspection?


When we meet at the inspection site, I will introduce myself and explain in detail how the inspection will proceed. I have given this introductory speech many times. It goes something like this:

I work for you. My job is to describe everything about the building, the systems in the building and the building site to you in intimate detail. Your job is to follow me and ask any questions that arise, and to pursue any line of questioning until you have all of your questions answered. There are no silly or irrelevant questions.

I will explain things in two ways: technical and reality. Technical is code and how things are supposed to be and reality is how things actually are. Sometimes technical and reality issues are one and the same and sometimes not. I will explain the difference to you. Keep in mind that you are not required to make code requirement repairs or upgrading as a result of purchasing a building. Also, code requirements change through time. The report however will be technical in nature only to support legal and negotiation considerations.

We will inspect the building site, exterior of the building and the roof first. We will then inspect the garage, basement, first floor, upper floors and attic next. If there is a crawl space, the crawl space area will be inspected last.

After all areas are inspected, we will take time to summarize the findings verbally. I will then prepare the report in my office and e-mail you the report no later than the next morning. Often, the report is available later on the day
of the inspection.


What are the 3 essential qualities/skills an inspector must have?


Technical knowledge
Practical knowledge
The ability and skills to effectively communicate the findings.

Clearly, a qualified inspector must have all of the technical knowledge necessary to perform a detailed inspection. The inspector must be able to thoroughly inspect electrical systems, heating systems, and structural systems, etc.


Practical knowledge is also essential. What are the actual ramifications of specific conditions that are found?


The inspector must also have the ability and skills to effectively communicate the findings, both verbally and in written form.


I will elaborate:


Building inspectors generally come from two different fields: the technical fields, which include engineers and architects and the practical field, which includes building contractors.

Those coming from the technical fields tend to excel in having technical knowledge, but can lack practical knowledge. This is particularly problematic when the technically only oriented inspector for example finds a roof problem but does not know enough on the practical level to explain what will be needed. This inspector then notes in the report that you should contact a roofing contractor. This just adds more unnecessary work as you try to track down a roofing contractor. The inspector should know enough to explain what is needed at the inspection. Occasionally, a specialized inspector referral will be
necessary.


Those coming from the practical field of experience could easily lack necessary technical knowledge.


Technical vs. Reality:


When I introduce myself prior to an inspection, I tell my clients that I am going to explain what is found in two ways: technical and reality. Technical is: code and how things are "supposed to be", and reality is… well, reality. A small example is as follows: technically, a bedroom window is supposed to be a certain minimum size for fire escape access. Many bedroom windows, especially in older buildings, are smaller than this minimum size. In reality, the main concern is to ensure that the window is at least large enough for whoever is sleeping in that bedroom to be able to escape if there is a fire.


The possible problems with an inspector that is lacking in practical skills, is that they will tend to condemn conditions that are found from a technical perspective only without bringing to bear the practical reality of the situation. Conversely, an inspector that is lacking in technical skills could easily miss identifying very important safety conditions or problems that exist with more complex systems.


In addition, municipal code changes through time. Current code requirements were not in place for older buildings. You are not required to bring any system of an older building up to current code unless that area is being remodeled or your financing requires it.


The final report however, must be technical in nature. While I believe the explanation of what is found during an inspection must be grounded in reality, the findings in the report must be written in a clear, technical, decisive manner for descriptive, legal and negotiation purposes.


Do you provide a pest inspection?


I was a licensed pest inspector in the state of Washington for five years. Current Washington state home inspector licensing does not require us to maintain this separate license so I no longer do. Only licensed pest inspector can perform specific pest inspections. However, as I was trained and licensed in the past, I am fully familiar with pest conditions and always indicate if they are present during an inspection and refer you accordingly.


What is the purpose of the report?


The purpose of the report is to document the findings of the inspection. I provide a combination checklist and narrative report, which is thorough and detailed. This report will describe systems and components and will also include specific comments about the systems and components along with detailing out needed repairs and replacement and maintenance issues.


Why do you not provide a report on site?


Receiving a report on site at the completion of the inspection would seem to be convenient. However, in order to deliver a report on site at the completion of the inspection, the inspector must use pre-prepared forms, which usually include checklists and the use of "boilerplate" comments. Check list systems, by their very nature limit the ability to fully describe conditions. In addition, any additional comments have to be hand written. Boilerplate comments inserted by computer systems are necessarily generic. Often, these on site reports also include large folders including generic information about building maintenance. This material is only helpful in an overall general sense at best.


I simply believe that these on site report forms do not provide the quality I want to provide for my clients. As such, I return to my office after the inspection and type the report using specific information that applies directly to the building that you are purchasing. Another benefit of typing the report after the inspection is that I am allowed the time to reflect on the inspection issues and comment carefully. This timing is not available with an on-site report system.


When is the report available?


Your report will be available either later in the afternoon on the day of the inspection or at the latest, the following morning. I am also available to answer any follow-up questions you may have after receiving the report.


How long does the inspection take?


Most inspections take between two and three hours. We always stay as long as it takes.


Do I need to attend the inspection?


It is not essential that you attend the inspection. However, it is highly recommended that you attend if you can. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words". A high quality building inspection will provide you with a significant amount of information. The majority of this information will be detailed in the written report. Digital pictures will be included. However,
if you attend the inspection, I am then able to interact with you on the spot as we discuss what is being inspected. If you attend, you are able to ask questions as we go. However, if you are not able to attend, I will provide you with as much phone time as necessary to answer any of your questions.


Am I licensed?


Yes I am. My Washington State home inspectors license is # 338. Current law states that only licensed home inspectors can perform building inspections in the State of Washington.


Does a building inspection come with any warranties or guarantees?


No. A professional inspection provides information on the condition of accessible systems and components at the time of the inspection only. It is not possible to predict the life expectancy or future condition of any particular system.


Do you work for the realtor or me?


Although often your realtor will recommend me as an inspector, I work only for you. I do not receive any compensation of any type other than your direct payment to me.


Do you provide follow-up assistance ?


Both during and after the inspection I am available for any questions you might have. Please feel to call me at any time and I will be happy to speak with you at length.


Which areas do you serve?


The majority of my work occurs within King and Snohomish counties. On occasion, I have traveled to the nearer Islands and other adjoining counties.


Why have a new construction inspection?


In general, as new buildings are constructed, the major systems are inspected by the municipal building inspectors. Given the nature of their approach, some items are still missed.

I use the analogy of buying a new car. Would you drive a new car off of the lot with incomplete paint or doors that do not close correctly? Certainly not. While new construction buildings are generally quite sound and most mechanical systems are good, the age of "pride in workmanship" is not as prevalent any more. As such, it is quite common to find a sometimes very long list of smaller items in need of repair/completion that the contractor has not dealt with. In a new construction inspection, all of the major systems are inspected. I also provide a “punch list“ of items that the contractor needs to complete.


What forms of payment do you accept?


The preferred form of payment is personal check.


Here are a few unsolicited e-mail testimonials:

"Hi
     Stephen, Thank you for the time well spent! Pat was right in recommending
     you for the job. Not only did I get an inspection, I also was taught about
     maintaining the integrity of the property I will soon own. You've made me
     comfortable in my choice of this home. I appreciate your efforts and
     summary. Take care, Best Regards, Evita"


 Very thorough! Thanks so much Stephen, we would highly recommend your services
     to anyone in need of an inspection. -- Maile


 Thanks Stephen! It was great working with you, I learned so much !!!!! - thanks
     for your patience. -- Emily


 Thank you so much Stephen,
    you were a great help to us Wednesday and I look
     forward to reading your report. I will happily refer you to anyone else I
     know needing inspections. Thank you for putting us at ease about buying
     our new house. -- Jeff


 Thanks
     for your prompt reply and the many suggestions. It was a pleasure meeting
     you. We will certainly call on you if we do any more real estate
     purchasing. Thanks again, George, Janice, and Kari


 Steve,
     Thank you for your speedy work! It was a definite pleasure working with
     you, and I'd be happy to refer anyone I know to you in the future. I'll
     call you if I have any questions. Thank you, Margie


Contact:
Stephen Metcalf
Metcalf Building Consultants Inc.
4509 Interlake Ave North # 215 Seattle WA 98103
206-527-9224 metcalfinspections@hotmail.com