General Contractor vs. Home Inspector

Have you ever wondered who is right for the job?  This is a fairly common question in the inspection industry and a great topic for discussion.  Not because all contractors are bad.  In fact, we recommend a variety of different contractors to our clients all the time.  I have chosen the topic of contractors because I wanted to shed light on the differences between a good contractor and a good home inspector.

The Inspection Process

Before I get into that, we need to briefly discuss how a home inspector views, or should I say, inspects a property.  A home inspector uses a PROCESS and I want to emphasize the word process here because it is the key to success in the industry moving forward.  The process does not change on a per-house basis either.  Inspectors will arrive on-site and take notes on the macro and micro perspectives of the property.  Make keynotes on the exterior and interior to determine that interior components are installed correctly and performing as intended (i.e. venting exhausts, etc).  Inspectors, or should I say good inspectors, start with exterior components, cladding, windows, doors, roof, etc and then move to the interior where they will typically start in the basement and work up.  All while educating you about the property.  This is the short version of what we do.

This real process will take roughly two hours depending on the size of the home and the condition that it is in at the time of the inspection.  From here the inspector will put together a detailed report for the client that covers not only the defects, maintenance items, updates but also key data like the age of mechanical systems such as the furnace, water heater and air conditioner.

What many don’t know is that this process of inspection needs to flow with how the report is written so that we can articulate findings in a clear and concise manner.  

Whole Home vs Specific Trade Knowledge

Now that I have established how the inspection process should work in a perfect world, I can make comparisons to the differences an inspector will have to a contractor.  First off, an inspector is more of a jack of all trades in that we have been trained in defect recognition for all components of the home.  Whereas contractors typically have stronger knowledge in some areas and then contract out the electrical, plumbing, etc.  This is what should be done but it isn’t always the case when fast flips are concerned.

Inspectors will observe and report, but using advanced diagnostic tools such as Infrared, moisture detection devices, roof scopes, etc.  Contractors tend to give opinions on specific problems or to update existing components but will often lack defect recognition and use only speculation.  They are usually trying to up-sell at this point.

Let’s Circle back again to the word process because this goes hand in hand with the training of a home inspector.  A contractor does not follow a process, nor are they trained in defect recognition.  A contractor is someone that you need if repairs are required but without a process to identify defects you are likely going to have a lengthy quote for items that may not need to be updated or repaired.

Educating the Home Owner

Furthermore, your home inspector should teach you about your home, be able to identify defective items or nearing the end of service life items and general maintenance.  This information will be delivered to you in a clear and concise reporting format that should prioritize the findings.  Summary concerns are issues in which your inspector recommends repairs, usually immediate and to be completed by a qualified contractor or respective professional with certain expertise.  This is where the contractor comes in.  

Conclusion

This blog was intended to aid consumers in identifying the differences between inspectors and contractors.  I hope you can now see how both go hand in hand.  Though, training is much different for each.  By no means will a home inspector be an expert in any one given area, but they should be qualified enough to identify defects and who can fix them.  It happens all too often that contractors will throw inspectors under the bus to get a job by stating “that is not to code” or “the inspector should have caught that”.   Remember that code is always changing; if it was lawfully installed in the home when it was built then most likely it is grandfathered to this day.  A home inspection is more than just a checklist of repairs; it is training on how to take care of your property.

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