Home inspectors look for clues to hidden conditions.
For example using a very bright flashlight at a tight angle to scan across a wall or ceiling surface is indispensible in evaluating interior spaces. Such scanning can find indications of crappy drywall installations, previous repairs to the surfaces, closed-in windows and swelling related to water leaks. This one technique can save an inspector a lot of embarrassment later---even while displaying conditions that are “normal” in the seemingly unfavorable light of the bright flashlight.
Agents sometimes grimace a bit when I use this technique, because even normal drywall unevenness will show up under the bright light. Sometimes a little education on what a normal drywall surface looks like is necessary to calm the buyer and the agent, but this is usually not difficult and most appreciate the kinds of information that can be discovered with this approach.
I am sure we have all witnessed the sun shining across a wall or ceiling at this same sort of tight angle displaying for the first time all the drywall seams and nail pops and sunken fasteners---that previously were “invisible.” All kinds of smooth-wall finishes have some sort of “signature” under bright light.
The inspector can read these signatures to obtain important information as to the condition of the home. This approach is a “known” source of information---a known method of looking for clues.
But, the inspector must be vigilant and ever mindful that sometimes new clues present themselves that can give fair warning as to possible hidden conditions. Such a clue presented itself to me at an inspection recently. I often find sow bugs in the cobwebs and dust bunnies of closet corners. I would typically note that their presence can often mean there is some wood decay rot present “somewhere” nearby, as these kinds of conditions are what sow bugs love.
In a similar vein, what is an inspector to conclude when several earthworms are noted squirming across the finished basement floors in several areas?
“It is a safe bet,” the sow bugs say, “That there is a nice compost bin hidden ‘somewhere’ behind those finished walls.”
On this day the flash light did not reveal the hiding place of the compost bin---but in time it may.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle