There is a great deal of discussion among home inspectors about whether or not to get on the roof during a home inspection. Some inspectors feel that you cannot do a thorough and proper inspection without getting on the roof and they are entitled to their opinion. My goal here is simply to provide some insight as to why some inspectors choose not to walk on the roof.
Getting on the roof – Positives and negatives:
Is the inspector required to get on the roof during an inspection?
Here are excerpts from the Standards of Practice for the three organizations that Virginia home inspectors answer to: (1) International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) – “The inspector is not required to walk on any roof surface.” (2) American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) – ASHI Standards of Practice only state that the inspector is required to inspect the roof system, nothing more. (3) Commonwealth of Virginia – “The method of inspecting the roof covering shall be noted and explained in the home inspection report. If the roof covering cannot be inspected, the licensee shall explain in the home inspection report why this component was not inspected.”
None of the Standards of Practice require the home inspector to get on the roof. It is a personal choice made by the individual inspector.
But there is one more thing to consider. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. So as I read that requirement, the home inspector who climbs on the roof without fall protection would be in violation of OSHA regulations (unless you have a roof that is less than four feet from the ground). I have had inspectors become angry with me and insist that the OSHA regulations do not apply to home inspectors. I respectfully asked them to provide proof of such an exception, and I’m still waiting.
Methods for inspecting the roof without getting on it:
(1) Binoculars from ground level (2) Ladder placed at roof edge (3) Drone (4) Extension pole with wireless camera (5) Upper-level windows looking down on lower-level roof surface. The savvy inspector uses a combination of these methods to get the job done. I have two extension poles, one 24-foot and one 30-foot, and have achieved excellent results using the extension pole with a wireless digital camera. I can zoom in on plumbing vents, flashing and individual shingles to get great photos. I’ve had more than one client and realtor comment on the “cool pole” or ask how I got such great roof shots when I didn’t get on the roof.
A word of caution about drones – if you hire an inspector who uses a drone, confirm that they are properly licensed through the FAA and have the appropriate insurance coverage.
The inspector can also tell a lot about what is going on with the exterior of the roof by doing a thorough inspection of the attic interior. For example, water stains on the roof decking inside the attic may alert the inspector to problems on the exterior roof surface.
In my humble opinion, it is possible to do a proper and adequate roof inspection without getting on the roof. Don’t refuse to hire an inspector just because they don’t walk on roofs. And don’t hire one just because they do.