What I'm Seeing Now

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I Had A Slip And Fall Client, And He's Not A Lawyer!

In order to completely finish the pre-drywall inspection I wanted to see how a space would be completed at the end of construction.  That required we go to the model home of this particular elevation.

This is a row of townhome condos, with designs that leave no room in front or behind for the AC compressors.

That puts the compressors on the roofs.  You can see the trap door to the spot in the photo on the left.

This is fine.  Difficult to get to for service or periodic inspections, but doable.

So, during the inspection and learning this fact, I wanted to go up to see the space.

It was fine, but I really wanted to know how they were going to finish it off, particularly the roof underneath.  I had lots of questions.

What is the roof surface to be?  Would there be a slight slope allow for water to drain?  Were there columns or guardrail there and if so, how are they to be attached to the lower surface?

So when we concluded here we walked over to the model home.

Immediately I noticed something I didn't like.

The way they finished it off there was very little space provided at the bottom of the access ladder.

And, SIGNIFICANTLY, how the ladder was constructed was a set up for an accident, even a slip and fall.

Why?  Because the rungs are nailed into, and are at the same angle as, the support struts.

THERE IS NO PERCH YOU CAN FEEL WITH YOUR FEET.

On a ladder the rungs are at a different angle than are the supports on the sides.  One reason for that is comfort, obviously.

But the other is so you can feel where you are.

In this case your feet are at a funny angle coming down and at the edges it is easy to slip over the side.

I saw that before going up, and mentioned it to my client.  Then, coming down, I felt was I imagined to be a problem.  And I was right.  Coming down I cautioned him.

Removing myself from the attic and going into the bathroom on the third level below to wash up, I heard a crash and yelp!

It was loud!

I thought Zamboni, not his real name, was really hurt and broke something bad!

Looking into the laundry room I saw his foot sticking down about 18"!  Fortunately he was okay.

Laughing I said that our suspicion was correct - this is a design flaw and an accident waiting to happen!

Exceptionally glad Zamboni wasn't hurt, and ALSO glad it wasn't me (!) who fell through the ceiling, we went to the office to admit the deed.

I had a slip and fall client, and he's not a lawyer!

My recommendation:  sometimes you get a feeling that something can happen.  But often that feeling isn't confirmed so quickly!  And with not-so-bad results.  It might be good that this happened so the builder can correct the problem before it happens again in another house!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 48 commentsJay Markanich • July 14 2012 04:44AM

Comments

Interesting post Jay...I noticed from the pics that it would also be difficult for a service tech to lug equipment up and down and there's nowhere to 'set' anything conveniently...Plus, you can't be a 'large' person and navigate this easily...Enjoy your day.

Posted by Ernie Steele, Call me, let's get started!!! 717-273-3774 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jay,

That is a design flaw that will have to be remedied! I agree..sometimes we have those premonitions and sure enough they come true!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899) over 8 years ago

We talked about that during the inspection Ernie.  Good thinking!  I thought the whole thing would make future anything very inconvenient and difficult.

Dorie - a premonition to be sure!  And it came true quickly!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

OMG, that is crazy! They should never have a makeshift ladder like that....

Posted by Frank Laisch, "The Insurance Guy" over 8 years ago

Well, Frank, coming from an insurance guy, it seems my gut was right!  I had a little fun with the title too.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

That's crazy.  Glad neither of you were hurt.  Of course is the builder going to come after you for the cost of the repair of the ceiling? 

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 8 years ago

Jay, I guess a better landing in is order. Glad Mr Zamboni gave you a good research model ; ) He must be a hockey player.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Can you imagine what the design would look like if OSHA got a hold of it? LOL

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 8 years ago

That certainly could have been a lot worse! I'm so glad you or your client didn't get hurt. Hope the builder took your suggestions and fixed the problem.

Posted by Todd Clark, Principle Broker Oregon (eXp Realty LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, it seems like access to HVAC equipment is often not throught through very well.  This is some of the most important equipment in the home and we treat it like it is just something we have to put up with.  Why not make it as easy as possible to maintain even if it means making the master bedroom closet a little smaller or the garage corner a little smaller.  Just plain arrogant mostly.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

A question though Jay---what the heck was the client doing up there? :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Sounds like a bad design all around. At least the copper won't be stolen by vandals while the owner is out of town.

Posted by Brad Rachielles, REALTOR, CDPE, Upland, CA (CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453) over 8 years ago

I am sure that was an interesting discussion when you let them know there was a new "feature" in their house! 

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 8 years ago

A foot through the ceiling is pretty lucky and not as bad as it could have been. 

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Well, this is one inspection that found a legitimate flaw!! I'm glad to hear that everyone is OK!

 

 

Posted by Donald Reich (Prudential Centennial) over 8 years ago

1 - Charlie makes a good point...What's the client doing up there?

I once climbed up my ladder fron a second story roof to the third and discovered my 6 month pregnant client had climbed up after me. I got her safely down without incident. THEN I nearly fainted.

2 - What you are describing is a ladder, not a stair. The photos clearly show a correctly constructed (safe) construction ladder. The 'rungs' i.e. cross bars are set into the uprights so they can't slip or break away, as they might if they were just nailed on. The uprights have been toenailed into the plywood surface.

This is considered safe for construction and then the occasional service preson thereafter. The only thing I would do different is make it completely vertical. That gives you more 'landing' space and a vertical ladder has to be 'climbed' both ways. Means you pay more attention.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 8 years ago

Hi - it is always good to haev a great inspector- YOU! Glad you discovered the potential for disaster and then with your client's outcome it will obviously be remedied!

Posted by Gay E. Rosen, As Real as Real Estate Gets! (Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

Jay- Entertaining and informative.  It's too bad that someone had to take a fall, but at least your suspicions were confirmed and hopefully the problem can be remedied without any further damage to another person or the structure.

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

Jay,  Good thing you discovered that and not OSHA.  I'm with the others - what was your client doing up there?  Thank goodness he was ok.  

Posted by Elyse Berman, PA, Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824 CRS, ABR, GRI,ePR (Best Connections Realty, Inc.) over 8 years ago

Any A/C company that would send an employee up there, let alone install equipment there, would have to be crazy.

Posted by Robert Sole (REM Inspections LLC) over 8 years ago

Good afternoon Jay. He should be happy you didn't mention someone could fall off the roof. Proving that statement right could have hurt. lol

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 8 years ago

Cindy - they gave us permission to go up there.  I said that I wanted to see how they had finished it.  I suggested to the office manager that I should be the only one going up, but the client insisted and they gave him permission.

Don - I couldn't believe he did that!  We had talked about his being a hockey fan, hence the name.

Fred - it would be metal, have a cage and an automatic lift.  Plus all the emergency equipment and sign-off sheets.  I would have had to dress in yellow.

Todd - I had not made any suggestions to the builder, yet.  The report did!  I did call the shot before I took it though. 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Charlie - I think it's nonsensical to put anything on the roof like that.  Too much can happen just trying to get to it.  And I was not in favor of him going up there, but it was the model home and he asked specific permission of the office manager.  They took the damage in stride though.  I'm glad he wasn't injured - way glad.

Brad - the silver lining!  Thanks for finding it, because I think this installation is dumb all around!

Kathryn - additional attic ventilation...  How good is that!?

I agree Morgan.  When I heard the crash I thought the worst!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

And legitimate before any accidents happened Donald!  My initial fears became reality.

Robert - I answered Charlie on that one!  The structure is called a ladder throughout the post, not stairs.  My beef was twofold - not much space at the bottom and the rungs are flush to the struts on the edges.  That makes slipping easier.

Wow, I have never been followed up a ladder by a pregnant client!

Thanks Gay.  The repair to the ceiling is easy.  The ladder not so much...

I hope so too Charlie!  I really wonder if they will do anything about the ladder though.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Elyse - valid question, explained to Charlie above.  OSHA and this would be a fun thing to see!

Robert - I bet HVAC companies around here will compete for the business!

Randy - the little loft the compressor is sitting on is very small, but has a guardrail that would hold anyone I know.  I wouldn't want to work up there!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I only read the title, but I''ll bet he knows one or more

Posted by Karen Kruschka, - "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS" (RE/MAX Executives) over 8 years ago

It's a title to grab the eye and describe the post Karen!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I'm glad that "Zamboni" wasn't hurt. I am always careful in new construction, but this is crazy.  I have only heard of the "trip" into the sunken living room problem in my office. I am always careful in guiding my clients but all properties should be safe.

Posted by Carol Faaland-Kronmaier, PhD, e-PRO, Manville, Hillsborough, Somerset NJ (Weichert, Realtors; Hillsborough) over 8 years ago

Jay, If you had spoken up right then they probably wouldn't have taken note of it. Too bad about the other person though. Glad nobody was hurt.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties, The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730 (Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070) over 8 years ago

Jay  As your Marine son, daughter or my son would say, "Whatever"  :) 

Posted by Karen Kruschka, - "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS" (RE/MAX Executives) over 8 years ago

Carol - on home inspections I don't like the rooms that are sunken!  They always seem to throw somebody!

Debbie - he was fine and quite embarrassed!  I wasn't in favor of him going up, but he insisted.

That was a whatever moment for sure Karen!  It sure made a loud crash!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I think this is a perfect example of why one should have an inspection even if one is buying new construction.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 8 years ago

In our area, inspectors rarely enter attic crawl spaces for just the reason demonstrated by your client. Inspectors have been known to step through and fall through ceilings!

Posted by John Juarez, ePRO, SRES, GRI, PMN (The Medford Real Estate Team) over 8 years ago
Jay: The more I read your posts about the problems with new construction the more convinced I am that home inspections are a must.
Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 8 years ago

Wow lucky that wasn't worse. I had an agent trip over a raised driveway the other day and cut her tow but it's nothing like falling through the ceiling.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 8 years ago

There are hazards waiting for us every day in almost everything we do.  Spotting these before they do someone harm is important. 

Posted by Doug Bullwinkel, Mortgage Loan Originator NMLS #281609 (Envoy Mortgage,NMLS ID 6666) over 8 years ago

Morning Jay talk about deja vu I bet you were happy it wasn't you.  On the good side no one got hurt which is a plus.  Congrats on the feature

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 8 years ago

Dale - I don't like the idea at all, but it is what it is.

Joan - an inspection needs to be done in so many contexts.  This surely is one of them!

John - I go into attics and it demands careful attention to where one steps! 

Evelyn - new construction inspections didn't really come into vogue until about 15 years ago, but I do them every week now.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Rob - I had the listing agent once listen to me explain why a sidewalk was a trip hazard and as she began explaining why it was NOT a trip hazard tripped backwards and her dress went over her head.  That was an embarrassing object lesson!  She shut up after that one.

Doug - we inspectors try to think ahead.  In this case I was right.

Thanks James.  I was exceptionally glad he wasn't hurt!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Atleast no one was hurt. Home inspectors have a difficult job.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 8 years ago

Thanks Gita.  My client is not as used to this stuff as I am.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good call, Jay.  I would think that rungs attached vertically like that might also be more likely to tear away from the ladder under the weight of use, as opposed to perpendicularly angled and secured steps.

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 8 years ago

I had a real estate agent crack a ceiling after going into the attic. I warned him not to go, but...

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

It's a pretty long way too Brian, about 15'.  That's hard to get equipment up and down too.

James - once a client came up, after my asking him not to (he spoke an Asian language and pretended not to understand me).  I looked over and he was standing right on the drywall, over the staircase!  When I virtually screamed for him to stand on wood he seemed to understand pretty well.  When we got down I showed him where he was standing.  A good drop!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Bad times!  I did an inspection a couple of years ago where the listing agent did something similar at his own listing, while checking out something I had mentioned was a problem in the garage attic.  His foot went right through the garage ceiling.  Luckily he wasn't hurt.

Better him than me :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

Reubs - I did not want him to go up there, but he insisted!  He was a very embarrassed boy too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I would have been too :(

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

It's funny too, because in his pre-drywall I mentioned how tenuous and potentially dangerous the construction was.  The power of suggestion I guess.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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