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META TITLE: Home Inspection Tools: A Moisture Meter Is Essential

META DESCRIPTION

Home inspectors need protective gear, a tool vest packed with measurement devices including a full function moisture meter.

Home Inspection Tools: Why A Moisture Meter Is The Building Inspector’s Friend

Not all home inspectors have the same industry knowledge and/or the credentials/licenses (in states where this is a requirement), as a result the assortment of tools and supplies needed by one professional may differ from another.

The American Society Of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Association Of Home Inspectors (NAHI) founded in 1976 and 1987 respectively, are excellent resources for home inspectors and consumers alike. Besides offering home inspection certification courses, and lending a helping hand to home owners searching for a qualified home inspector, they both weigh in on the issue regarding a list of what tools they deem to be necessary for most in-depth home inspections. The focus of this discussion will be based on the consolidation of both lists.

First And Foremost The Health And Safety Of The Home Inspector

When a first responder such as a fireman or other professional visits a home to investigate a gas leak or electrical problem, once crossing the threshold, it is for sure a step into the unknown and the responder must be properly garbed to protect his person against a variety of possible environmental issues that could cause him/her serious health issues. It’s also the same for a home inspector who may be walking into a similar situation. For this reason, both of the associations mentioned above make the following recommendations regarding this protective gear:

  • Respirator and/or dust mask

Inspectors should have a respirator for the times when they must enter areas containing materials that may introduce particles into the air that are potentially hazardous if inhaled. Dust masks are inadequate. Respirators must be equipped to filter out both elements that represent biological hazards, such as viral, bacterial and fungal organisms, and potentially dangerous situations caused by material lodging in the respiratory system, as with asbestos and other carcinogens. Particles that are small enough to become airborne may not be carcinogens but may cause other types of respiratory illness. In fact, some types of organisms can even enter the human body through the mucus membranes around the eyes.

Half-face and full-face models are good for respiratory protection but not very comfortable, especially in the heat. Many inspectors may own them but may not actually use them on a regular basis. They are important to have on hand because some areas of the house may be dangerous to enter without such respiratory protection.

  • Special gloves and safety glasses

Electrical gloves should have high dielectrical and physical strength. They typically consist of liner gloves under rubber insulating gloves, with protective leather gloves worn over these. The International Association Of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) recommends that all home inspectors wear electrical gloves that meet ASTM D-120/EIC903 specifications.

Safety glasses are good protection for situations in which inspectors may find their eyes or vision at risk. Crawlspaces and attics have protruding wires and fasteners. Electrical panels may give off sparks or debris in the case of a short circuit. They are used by some inspectors and owned by most.

  • Coveralls, all-purpose construction gloves and special boots for use when making roof inspections

Coveralls and general purpose construction gloves are recommended so that home inspectors have their outer body covered in case they encounter potentially toxic fluids. Also he/she should keep an extra set of clothes in the car along with a backup pair of overalls and gloves.  High-traction boots with replaceable soles make it easier for inspectors to walk on roofs without slipping. When the soles become worn, they can be changed out.

Now our home inspector is ready to step into the unknown…

How Valuable Are The Home Inspector’s 5 Senses?

There are many lists of tools on the internet deemed to be necessary for a well- equipped home inspector, but you will find that the most obvious ones are overlooked and they don’t cost any money. We forget that we have 5 senses that can tell us a lot in an instant and those precious moments can save lives.

Let’s take a look and see…

Noses are very sensitive and can instantly pick up the scent of gas, alerting us to danger. On a less serious note, the nose can smell dampness and help us to track down the source.

Eyes can take a quick snapshot of what lies ahead in our path and help us to see any obvious structural defect as well as bulges on walls and ceilings so that we can take quick action if necessary.

Ears can instantly pick up the sound of running water or even more seriously the hiss of steam or other potentially toxic leaks.

With hands and feet we can register if there is a sudden encounter with heat that should not be present alerting us that further investigation will be necessary.

Finally, an old trick that lots of building maintenance people know about and that is that if you taste a damp spot, the trained inspector can tell if the water has come from outside the home or is the source within the wall.

Let’s discover what might be the most valuable tool to a home inspector…

The Right Moisture Meter Can Be A Very Helpful Friend To The Home Inspector

As homeowners are getting ready to sell a house, the very last thing they want is for a home inspector to start punching holes in walls, ceilings and don’t forget those beautiful oak floors, taking samples as part of their investigative process.

So, what type of moisture meter will help identify where excess moisture may be present. Well for obvious reasons we can rule out those meters which have pins and probes that must be inserted into the material being tested. Not to mention that measurements taken with this type of intrusive meter are of a very tiny area where the pin or probe has been inserted.

A far better choice would be a non-intrusive type of moisture meter that has a scanning plate on the back of the unit, usually around 1 ½ in. by 2 ½ in. moisture readings are taken using this much larger scanning area and the surface of the material remains unblemished. What separates the men from the boys is a manufacturer that can state that their meters read in the wood not just on the surface. Wagner Meters can make this promise and back it up with over 40 years as being a leader when it comes to the latest technologies/innovations in the world of moisture measurement equipment.

Another very useful feature would be the ability to store readings in memory for later recall.  Finally it would be great if there was a Bluetooth app. which would allow readings to be downloaded to a computer or smart phone to be used at a later time when the inspector is compiling his final report.

An Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera is fast being recognized as a companion to a highly accurate and multi-function moisture meter with all the features that have just been described.

These cameras form images using infrared radiation in a manner similar to the way a conventional camera forms images using visible light. Different colors correspond to different temperatures, so an inspector is able to identify areas that are abnormally hot or cold.

Even though the price of these cameras have dropped over time, an infrared camera can still cost a couple of thousand dollars and more as compared to some of the best moisture meters which would be much more affordable. Another consideration is the training that the home inspection professional must complete to truly understand and interpret what the color changes are indicating.

Utility Vest Or Belt-Type Tool Holder For Hand Tools

The most efficient way to carry several small tools is to have a utility vest or belt tool holder leaving the inspector’s hands completely free. Let us take a look at some of these small tools that would be required by a home inspector offering in-depth investigative services:

  • Dial or digital penetration probe thermometer
  • Electrical circuit testers

Inspectors use a variety of electrical testers according to their preference and how much they are willing or can afford to pay. Generally, the more expensive testers identify a wider range of defects than less expensive testers.

The most widely used electrical tester indicates only the more common defects. The button located on the unit is for testing Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices and the three colored lights indicate various defects. It does not test for defective Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) devices that are often required in certain rooms in new homes. It tests 120-volt electrical receptacles but not 240-volt receptacles.

An AFCI/GFCI tester checks for proper operation of both arc-fault and ground-fault circuit interrupter devices. It is used by some Home Inspectors.

Another very simple device is a voltage indicator which is used to determine whether voltage is present in a device or in wiring. It has limited accuracy and may give positive readings where no house current is present but levels of generally harmless static electricity are present.

Finally there is a type of electrical tester which can indicate the presence of both 120-volt and 240-volt electrical current. It is useful for testing electrical receptacles for dryers when no dryer is installed in the home at the time of the inspection.

  • Water pressure gauge
  • A combustible-gas detector detects small amounts of combustible gases. Most inspectors use their noses since the most common combustible gases – natural gas and propane – have odors that are easy to detect.
  • Carbon monoxide analyzer

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a tasteless, odorless, toxic gas produced by appliances such as water heaters, furnaces and boilers. CO can accumulate in the human body over time to a point at which it can be fatal. Excessive levels can be produced when appliances operate inefficiently and need servicing or when they are improperly vented.

  • The digital readout on an infrared thermometer tells the temperature of whatever you point it at using an infrared beam. It’s used for checking the temperature of heating and cooling equipment, including registers, hot water, etc., and the temperature of electrical equipment, such as circuit breakers. Infrared thermometers are also convenient for checking the temperature of items that are difficult to reach.
  • 6-in-one screwdriver (Philips, slot, ¼ in and 5/16 nut driver)
  • Flashlight, rechargeable 50 candlepower minimum plus backup
  • Tape measure (8 ft. Min)

Necessary Larger Tools/Equipment That Won’t Fit In A Tool Bag

  • Ladder 12 ft. Minimum for roofs
  • Ladder 6 ft.

Some home inspectors prefer to use telescoping ladders which when collapsed can easily be carried through homes without bumping into walls and can fit snugly in the trunk of a car. They can be more dangerous than other types of ladders because it cannot be visually confirmed that the locking mechanisms are fully engaged. They are used by some inspectors. Many offer a step-ladder configuration.

  • 4-ft level
  • Telescoping magnets make it easier to retrieve dropped items, such as screws from the main electrical panel cover.
  • Telescoping adjustable mirrors are easy to carry and useful for looking into areas where accessibility is limited, such as behind siding and stucco to confirm the presence of house wrap.

Time To Clean Up

Upon entering a house the home inspector must take certain precautions to make sure that rugs, polished wood floors, tile and linolium floor coverings are not damaged by ladders and other equipment that has been dropped accidentally. For this reason the home inspector will lay down sheets or tarpaulin before starting the home inspection. Still, accidents will happen through the course of the inspection. His tool bag should contain towels, moist wipes and other cleaning fluids.

In general, home inspectors are free to use whatever equipment they choose depending on the type and depth of the services they offer as well as personal preference. As long as their inspections comply with the International Association Of Certified Home Inspectors Standards of Practice.

It must be noted that a home inspector’s Standard of Practice typically does not include the following, for which a specific license to inspect and identify may be required by the state where his/her business is located:

Asbestos, radon, methane, radiation, formaldehyde, lead, mold, mildew and fungi

This list would also include the detection of rodents and wood-destroying organisms

If some or all of these ansilary services are provided as part of the home inspection, then the tools/equipment required by the home inspector to perform these types of investigations would be added to the list discussed in detail previously in this article.