Building Failure Inspection, Diagnosis, & Repair Advice
Forensic, building, environmental & consulting services provided by Daniel Friedman, with expertise & experience in forensic building, indoor environment, & particle identification.
Daniel provides consulting, onsite fieldwork & forensic laboratory services including for clients throughout North America. In addition to describing my own special topic-area services, this document also outlines what you should expect from a professional building or forensic inspector both on-site and in a written report.
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Notice: My current interests focus on building diagnostics, forensic microscopy, and environmental inspection and testing. I do not work from real estate referrals nor do I have relationships with any other party which could jeopardize my reputation for thorough, un-biased independent investigation & research services..
ONSITE INSPECTION / INVESTIGATION AVAILABILITY NOTICE: Except for special cases including our pro-bono services we no longer provide onsite building investigations.
For on-site building & home inspections the extensive list of building inspectors and specialists at >
Below are examples of some of our special interests in diagnostic investigation in buildings:
Daniel Friedman draws on a combination of formal education, more than 40 years of construction & 35 years of building & environmental inspection, diagnosis, & testing experience. AIHA, BOCA, and other certifications (ASHI member from 1986 through 2006, Licensed Home Inspector to 2008) to provide on-site and forensic laboratory investigations of building & environmental failures.
With 35 years of home inspection and diagnostic experience, we currently specialize in forensic building and materials investigation including paint, art, artifacts, and the building indoor environment, including specific and in-depth building problem diagnosis, and forensic analysis and forensic microscopy.
Expert, experienced, unbiased, professional, specific-problem building & environmental diagnostic & forensic inspections as well as sick Building investigations, IAQ mold inspection and testing (including our own rapid-response in-house mold test, toxic gas test, and particle forensic laboratory services), paint failure analysis, building leaks, water entry, moisture, indoor air quality, water, septic, radon, lead, asbestos, UFFI, and other tests and advice for building owners and occupants.
Client participation in inspections is strongly encouraged. Unlimited future consulting regarding inspection findings & report, no additional fee. With special arrangement, diagnostic inspection and testing services are provided anywhere in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America.
On-site experience in other U.S. states and in Britain, Canada, France, Spain, Morocco, Mexico. Consultant to attorneys & insurance companies. Educator, writer, researcher on Building failures, defects, and inspection methodologies. Inspector: Daniel Friedman, a nationally recognized Building consultant, researcher, and writer, educator.
I do not work from realtor-referrals or other sources which could produce or even suggest interests at conflict with those of my client, nor do I perform actual repair work on properties for which consulting has been provided. Also see How to Get the Most Benefit from a Professional Building Inspection, my areas of expertise & research -- -- My Contact Information -- More Information on Building defect inspection, diagnosis, & repair --
Diagnostic or forensic building investigations to determine the cause and best remedy for specific environmental or building problems draw on education, experience, and research across a wide range of professions such as building science, forensic microscopy, practical construction experience, home inspection experience, mycology, industrial hygiene, and technical training in the choice and use of various investigative tools and methods.
Standards and ethics for the more general topic of home inspection are well defined by various state licensing standards as well as by national professional associations such as the ASHI Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors which set the minimum scope of a professional home inspection.
The same ethical practices that pertain to a home inspector should be applied to a building specialist (like me) who diagnoses specific problems. Significant cost as well as health and safety concerns are at stake. The client must have confidence in the experience, skill, honesty, and ethics of the investigator.
For example, a mold remediation plan should be prepared based on solid and thorough building investigation, a detailed client and building history, appropriate tests. But more, the remediation plan, which defines the work that is needed at a property, should be prepared by an expert who is free of any conflict of interest whatsoever. In this case that means that the company doing the cleanup or repair at the property should have no business or financial relationship with the investigator whatsoever.
Having an extensive background in the home inspection profession, its education, standards, and ethics, below I provide advice for consumers who need to hire a home inspector. Other information about home inspector education, training, qualification, and how to choose a home inspector can be read at HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS
Before the Inspection: choosing a qualified and un-biased professional inspector significantly reduces the chance of future costly surprises.
The inspector's work product should not be just "the report" but rather it should be a genuine effort first to discover important costly or dangerous conditions and second to make sure that the client "gets it" - that is that the findings and their significance are explained clearly both orally and in writing in the report.
The question is not "Will the inspector find anything wrong?" Even the finest homes of the best components and craftsmanship are subject to effects of human error, imperfect materials, weather and wear. A careful, detailed, competent inspection of any property, brand new or 200 years old, will always reveal quite a few items needing attention. Findings range from minor to significant. Virtually any Building defect can be corrected. The questions is not "can I fix it?" The questions are "what are the priorities, what is dangerous, what will be costly, what are the alternatives?"
In reviewing the findings of a careful Building inspection and in setting Building repair priorities, I like to pose this question: "Who's in charge of our money - the Building or the client?"
then the Building is in control of our money in that those repairs needed to be addressed promptly.
By contrast, Improvements such as adding insulation or replacing leaky windows, may be highly desirable, but the client is in charge of when those expenses are incurred. Improvements can generally be deferred. Building operating costs may be higher, but the owner is not losing the Building itself to deterioration or injury.
These distinctions are a useful way to think through the findings and results of a Building inspection, and to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of findings.
Unfortunately, Building inspection looks too easy. The appeal of talking about, rather than actually doing Building work, sometimes attracts folks who lack the education and experience, and on occasion the ethics, to do a proper job. Use an experienced, un-biased professional:
A professional, objective report of condition identifies significant deficiencies, reduces costly surprises, reduces anxiety, increases home buyer or homeowner confidence in the condition of a property, and sets priorities for action. Detailed advice also helps avoid future costly repairs.
Full time experienced ASHI professionals study large numbers of Building problems, are familiar with common defects and their causes, and must meet specific examination, education, and experience requirements in order to be certified as professional inspectors.
A professional inspector does not: warrant future condition, appraise value, nor perform engineering/structural/capacity analysis. I do not perform destructive testing/inspecting unless there is prior arrangement with all parties.
A professional Building inspector does: give unbiased opinion, not affiliated with any seller, contractor, attorney, realtor. Education, training, examination, & strict ethical codes assure our clients of an independent opinion from a well-qualified full-time established professional.
Before the inspection:I discuss the inspection thoroughly with you ahead of time, giving advice and answering whatever questions you may have about home inspections or about your future home.
At the inspection the client accompanies the inspector both to hear a detailed examination of the property and an explanation of how things work and what concerns may particularly concern the client, but also to hear answers to questions and concerns raised by the client.
How Long does a real home inspection or Building inspection take at the inspection site? Typically a post-1930 one-family home in good condition takes 3 1/2 hours, ranging to about a half-day. The process may be shorter for a new empty condominium, and longer for an old or large or complex Building with multiple mechanical systems or hard-to-access areas, or when the client has many questions.
If I were inspecting such a Building alone, with no client to add time by asking questions or receiving explanations, just to direct my eyes to every item and system or component that needs to be examined and to make my field notes of findings would take 2 1/2 hours or more. So in my opinion an inspector is unlikely to complete a thorough, thoughtful inspection of a one family home with a client present in a much shorter interval.
But remember that you should not be paying your inspector for "time" or "by the hour." You should be engaging the inspector and paying him/her for bringing competence, ethics, experience, attention to a Building to discover its condition. You should be engaging an inspector who has genuine commitment to protection of the interests of the client and well being of the Building occupants.
All findings, significant, dangerous, costly, as well as detailed maintenance items, are written in a well-ordered, easy to understand report which can be provided right at the inspection. After the inspection you are welcome to call to discuss any current or future questions you may have about the report or the property, including advice about future repairs for items I have identified or for new problems which may develop. There is no added fee for this service. Here's a summary of what to expect:
The written report must be thorough, and it must completely agree with what was said during the inspection. The written material is what survives the inspection and what will be referred to later. The client must not be required to make notes or to otherwise "remember" some observation or warning issued at the inspection but not provided in the written report.
An bad inspector who suffers from interests conflicting with those of the client may provide oral comments at the inspection which make the Building sound great, with few concerns, and then may write a written report designed to protect the inspector from future claims of malpractice by including severe warnings, either clearly or hidden in technical language. This is a poor practice and a bad inspection and report. The written and oral reports should be the same, except that on occasion the written report may amplify or provide additional explanatory detail.
The written report should make clear what the inspection findings were, and for each finding it must make clear the significance of the finding to the Building buyer or owner. In other words it must make clear the nature and need for action, repair, or other measures, and it must indicate when such an action or repair is likely to involve significant cost or unsafe conditions. (This requirement is also expressed in the ASHI, NAHI, or New York State Standards of Practice.)
Not that other repairs might not eventually lead to significant costs, but the claim that "anything can be costly depending on client repair choices or on the discovery of hidden damage" is not an excuse for failure of the inspector to distinguish his/her inspection findings which are immediately necessary and obviously costly or dangerous conditions.
During the actual building inspection the inspector records his/her observations of defects, suggested improvements, and other property information on worksheets which are designed for each major building system (see "Home Reference Book Explanatory Text and Illustrations" just below.)
For each finding noted and discussed, the inspector records the following:
A remarks and comments section on each note page permits the inspector to write additional suggestions, warnings, or explanation for the topics discussed on that page.
The Home Reference Book provides additional explanatory text and illustrations for most residential (and some light commercial) building defects. The text is keyed to the field observation or report pages which are prepared by the inspector. The sections of this document include:
Each of the major topics discussed in the Home Reference Book expands into sections of detailed, illustrated explanatory text for each major subtopic (For example, under roofs, roof types and typical defects for each type are discussed and illustrated).
Professional Building inspectors I know are sometimes frustrated by inexperienced clients who believe that a home or Building pre-purchase inspection is a generic procedure, that all inspectors are equally competent, and that all have equally high regard for the interests of their clients.
John Ruskin had the following thoughts on prices and values:
"It is unwise to pay too much, but it is unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money; that is all. When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything. Because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It cannot be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run and if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better."
Just as the experience, attention to detail, and quality of reporting vary among inspectors, so do fees vary among consultants. To understand what you're paying for, and to have a clear idea of the relationship between fee-paid and value-received, be sure to understand the qualifications and experience of your inspector, the time and detail of the inspection, the quality of the written report, and the extent of consulting and advice that are provided.
Home inspection fees vary by size, age, price, location, and ancillary services that a client may need like termite reports, water or septic testing, and radon testing. A typical minimum home inspection fee for a well qualified home inspector is $450.00. The service typically includes a detailed, buyer-accompanied field inspection which takes about a half-day, along with an extensive written report and some inspectors use the Home Reference Book which provides more than 400 pages of clear and authoritative information which is keyed to the actual field findings. Also included is unlimited future consulting regarding the condition of the property and future repair work that may be needed.
Additional fees (see below) may apply for special services: water tests, termite/wood-destroying insect infestation report, septic testing, and other special services. Fees are adjusted when multiple services are ordered with a home inspection.
Reduced-fee/pro-bono work is available as appropriate for religious institutions, senior citizens, low-income or disabled clients.
Schedule an appointment for a diagnostic or forensic building investigation or see a published fee schedule (Inspection fees and fees for other services will be reviewed with you and committed before any work is performed. The fees in the table are subject to change without notice. For pre-purchase home inspections we are pleased to refer clients to our state licensed (not all states license home inspectors) and certified qualified professional associates.
The most complete list of my areas of special interest, expertise, and Building failure research are listed at my
Examples of these interests are listed below.
These and other special tests can be performed separately, by referral, or during a home inspection. I will arrange special tests or will assist clients in conducting tests themselves.
Recommended Building Purchase Contingency Clauses:
I recommend including in the purchase offer or contract this wording: "Purchase is subject to buyer's approval of the results of a professional home or Building inspection and approval of environmental or other inspections and tests which buyer may opt to have performed."
Then ask your client to contact us by telephone, fax, or email to schedule an appointment. You should avoid traditional contingency clauses which omit the "buyers' approval" language, miss environmental testing (such as mold, IAQ, radon, water contamination, oil storage tank testing, or termite inspections).
You should avoid traditional contingency clauses which mis-describe the inspection as an "engineering" or "structural" inspection because those terms are either too limited in scope or are not adequately defined in the literature and in case law. For example, the scope of "home inspection" is defined by the New York State Home Inspection Standards of practice.
"Structural" inspections, by clear definition, might exclude significant and costly defects which do not involve structure (the Building foundation, framing, and structural connections) such as rotted windows, leaking roofs, or unsafe aluminum electrical wiring.
In addition to extensive home inspection services, I perform field work and conduct research on Building failures and defects in support of litigation or arbitration for law firms, consumers, and various agencies. I also offer special problem-consulting, defect analysis, repair recommendations, cost estimates, expert photographic and videotape as well as written documentation, legal consulting, case preparation assistance, and research to find the best and most authoritative answers to your construction and Building failure questions.
Be sure to see some of my areas of special expertise listed at Additional Services.
Daniel Friedman is a full-time professional residential & commercial Building inspector with more than 30 years of construction problem diagnosis and Building inspection experience. His construction experience dates from 1964 and includes new construction, military construction, home renovation, historic house restoration, and both education and work experience in the Building trades: electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, insulation, siding, painting, roofing, structural repairs, foundation repairs. He has been a certified ASHI inspector from 1986-2006), is a New York State licensed home inspector # 16000005303 (inception to 2008), and has performed environmental testing and inspections since 1986. We also operate a forensic microscopy laboratory for analysis and identification of environmental and mold test samples, paint failure samples, house dust, and other particulates.
Author: construction journals, professional publications.
Leader: New York and National professional associations for home inspectors as well as in specialty trades
Building failure cause and detection researcher
Educator: professional and university-level programs at state and national levels.
Professional Member: American Industrial Hygienists Association, AIHA #149892
Licensed Septic System Inspector: Title 5, by Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Member: Pan American Aerobiological Association & International Aerobiology Association (Certified Fungal Spore Counter Exam-I)
Director: New York State Association of Home Inspectors - NYSAHI - progenitor of home inspector licensing in New York
Professional Member: International Association of Electrical Inspectors, IAEI #195930
Professional Member: International Conference of Building Officials, ICBO #22178-0
Professional Member: National Pest Control Association, NPCA #120827
Building Code Certified: BOCA Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector
Construction Arbitrator: American Arbitration Association - AAA
New York State Home Inspection License #16000005303 (inception to 2008)
Certified member: American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI#000577, from 1986 to 2006, a developer of the National Certification Exam for home inspectors, served on ASHI's Education, Exam, Technical, Ethics, and other national committees for more than two decades. Writer, Editor, Publisher, ASHI Technical Journal.
You're welcome to review the details of my background and credentials at >
my resume or look for advice in some of
my publications and classes, or you can
see some of my areas of special expertise and research listed at
my Home Page - InspectAPedia.com or at
Additional Services above.
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