Michael Thornton, who is a well-respected home inspector from Nashville TN, wrote an awesome post regarding inspections of older homes! It was SO good that I felt it needed to be sent out to my readers!
There are many resales in Wake Forest NC and I actually have run into some of the very problems that Michael points out in his piece. He makes some very valid points regarding building codes - what is code today may dramatically change in just a year or so - read on.....
Inspecting Older Properties ~ Decks...
So you or your buyer are looking to purchase an older property. For the sake of argument, let's assume that it was built to some sort of acceptable trade standards by competent tradesmen. Does the property conform to today's building standards? Probably not. Building standards continually change and are subject to the interpretation of local building authorities.
A home inspector is a generalist, and should stay abreast of the building standards of the municipalities in which they practice their craft. Yesterday, I wrote an article about inspecting the steps on older properties. Today, I will address decks.
Today's standards require a secure guardrail for any raised platform that is 30" or more above grade. The current standard also requires that baluster or spindle spacing to be placed on 4" centers for child safety. So does this mean that this guardrail is unsafe? That depends. Do the clients have small children or animals that can be injured or will just adults be occupying the property.
Many home inspectors, in an effort to protect client's interests, often let their opinions guide their words - not the facts. During property transactions, some States require safety issues, such as these, to be brought up to current standards. Some do not. Your home inspector needs to be aware of this and report factually and unbiasedly.
While the guardrails on this deck do not meet today's standards, they are secure and functioning as designed. This is the key phrase, "Functioning as Designed". It is the inspector's job to accurately report the findings and address the issues with the client in a calm professional manner during the inspection walk-through. These also need to be professionally addressed in the final written report.