A Fisherman's Tale

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

The hookAs a fisherman I have heard a fish grow from the water to the dock. That 12 inch bass that was caught and released becomes closer 20 inches by the end of the day. These kinds of fish tales are thought of as amusing and generally accepted as harmless embellishments. In the world of tournament fishing, it's called cheating and can land the angler in hot water. Punishments can range from mild, disqualification, to severe, arrest, fines and jail time.

I occasionally find what I would call fisherman's tactics in the houses I inspect. Often the responsible party has long left the dock, gone on to another honey hole. The homeowner is left with the what amounts to the stink of dead fish.

Popping my head into the attic during a recent thermal imaging inspection on a newer house, I immediately was suspicious of the insulation. Looking over the blanket of white blown fiberglass, the surface was wavy and uneven like waves on a pond.  Around the attic entry the insulation was obviously high, looking like a swell set to break on the beach. Looking across the sea of insulation something caught my eye at the very end of the attic. Pulling myself in, I made my way towards the object.

Blown insulation gauge bent so the installer could cheat the customerUsing the  rafters like stepping stones  across a brook, I finally arrived at my destination, the insulation gauge set by the installers. Oddly I saw just this one. Typically there are at least two set. This one was placed as far from the attic opening as possible.

What was also strange, I was able to easily wend my way over to gauge, since the ceiling framing was, for all intents, easily distinguishable through the thin layer of insulation. The gauge said there was 15 inches of insulation, the required R -38. My tape measure said there was 8 inches around the opening, with about 4 to 6 inches here at the gauge.

Pulling the gauge from the insulation like a fish from a pond, the cheat was revealed. The installer had bent the gauge at the 10.5 inch mark. The required depth is 15 inches. This attic is grossly under insulated. Instead of R 38, the depth is equivalent to about an R 11.

This is a very well conceived method to cheat on the amount of insulation put down. Pile it up around the entry and place a single bent gauge as far from the point of view as physically possible.

The whole thing stinks like day old fish left in the sun. 

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

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Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


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Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

What an analogy? Surely this is a rare thing, why can't we just do the right thing

Jan 25, 2013 10:54 PM #4
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, That is a cheat. One of my buddies found where they cut off the bottom portion of the marker, Nice. 

Jan 25, 2013 11:03 PM #5
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

There may be only one solution.



Jan 25, 2013 11:51 PM #6
Rob Ernst
Certified Structure Inspector - Reno, NV
Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor

Like Donald I've seen them cut. Guy your guys forget the scissors.

Jan 26, 2013 12:28 AM #7
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

James:  I'm Featuring this post in BananaTude.  Homeowners and Agents (all of us) should know that this kind of contractor is out there ... and know of their tricks.  What I want to know is ... how long ago was the insultation added?  Is there any recourse that can be pursued by the homeowner?  Someone was obviously cheated and overpaid for the services rendered ...

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Jan 26, 2013 01:14 AM #8
Chuck Mixon
The Keyes Company - Cutler Bay, FL
Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR

Fishermen have all kinds of tricks. Great post

Jan 26, 2013 01:26 AM #9
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James -- from your description, I am guessing this is a resale -- and that the seller probably didn't have a home inspector check things out before he bought the home  - if he did have an inspector checking, I would think he would have some liability for missing something so blatant.

Jan 26, 2013 02:42 AM #10
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, while I could see getting away with bending it a couple of inches, bending it that much sure would not fool anyone that knew anything about how roofs are framed :)

Jan 26, 2013 04:19 AM #11
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Don't you love it.  People trying to get away with a scam and are SURE they will never be caught.  Nobody could prove anything!  Like I say, caveat omnia - beware of everything.

Jan 26, 2013 05:27 AM #12
Jimmy Faulkner
Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage - Wantagh, NY
The Best Of St. Augustine

Just another reason to get a good home inspector.

Jan 26, 2013 07:51 AM #13
Joel Weihe
Realty World Alliance - Wichita, KS
Helping you to use your VA home loan benefits

When I was building homes we always had our set contractors we liked to use.  When it got to busy and you needed to hire more it paid to keep a close eye on the ones you didn't know!

Jan 26, 2013 10:11 AM #14
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

For sure they knew that no one would go up to check the depth so by now they have changed the name of the company and are doing it some place else

Jan 26, 2013 11:13 AM #15
Joanna Cohlan
Fresh Eyes For Your Home - Chappaqua, NY
Designing, Decorating & Staging Westchester Homes

Great analogy James and this tale just highlights why a really experienced home inspector is so critical in the purchase process.

Jan 26, 2013 11:47 AM #16
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

James - That's a dirty trick, especially making it hard to see the number was wrong.

Jan 26, 2013 02:14 PM #17
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Andrew, Love the Maine lobster! There is none better.

Tom, Yes it is, fraud is a criminal act. And to answer your question, once is too often.

Fred, The insulation at the scuttle was deeper. As I got into the attic it thin out. My theory is it was done this way to fool the building official, IF he stuck his head up for a look. 

Charles, Not as rare as one might believe. At least from my experience. This time it was very extreme. 

Don, Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to money.

Lenn, LOL.

Rob, Why cut when you can bend :)

Gene, Thanks for the feature. The house was built in 2006. The current owner purchased the property about a year ago, so no, there is no chance for recourse. 

Jan 26, 2013 08:17 PM #18
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Chuck, So good and some not :)

Steven, Actually the new owner told me he did have a home inspection. I will tell you this, the insulation wan't the only thing wrong in the attic that wasn't called out according to the owner. 

Charlie, Agreed, but it fooled a few before me OR they just weren't really looking. 

Jay, Unfortunately they did get away with it. This company is long gone. 

Jimmy, Yep.

Joel, Based on what I see, many would probably bear close scrutiny. 

Ed, I'm sure.

Joanna, Thanks. Something like this should never happen. 

Christine, It is indeed dirty. 

Jan 26, 2013 08:27 PM #19
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Maybe "they" did, but the buyers/homeowners are on the good end of the stick with the employment of a good energy investigator!  Time to rectify.

Jan 26, 2013 08:36 PM #20
Pat & Wayne Harriman
Harriman Real Estate, LLC (203) 672-4499 - Wallingford, CT
Broker/Owners, Wallingford CT Real Estate

I know a homeowner who might be placing a call to one very sorry insulation company for an explanation of this "fishy' situation. I know I would be, and he wouldn't like what I had to say!

Jan 26, 2013 10:11 PM #21
Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886
Phoenix Property Shoppe - Phoenix, AZ
Arizona's Top Banana!

Wow James I've not run into this one - yet.  I'll ask our inspector about this nasty 'trick'.  Thanks for making us aware of it.

Jan 27, 2013 04:17 AM #22
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jay, Yes they are aware and have a good idea on where to fix. 

Wayne, This type of thing is done by companies who know it is very unlikely they will be caught. 

Anna, Awareness is the best way to fight cheats. 

Jan 27, 2013 07:32 PM #23
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