As an Inspector, you know one of the most important structural components of a home is the roof. Naturally, evaluating a roof’s condition is a critical step of your inspection process, however it’s also reportedly the number one complaint of homeowners who claim that a mistake was made during their home’s inspection.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you are required to climb on a ladder and walk on the roof to assess the remaining useful life. The specific rules are different for every state, but it boils down to the fact that you’re not required to put yourself in physical danger. Your assessment of the roof is visual -- you’re held responsible for a roof leak that you can see.
So what can you observe while not being on the roof? You should be able to determine what roofing materials are used, what constructs the roof, and if there are any flashing and drainage systems.
There are three big mistakes to avoid in your inspection when it comes to roofing. First, you don’t want to be ambiguous about your location in respect to the house while you were conducting the inspection. If you observed the roof by standing on the sidewalk in front of the house, be specific about that in your report. Stating where your review was conducted may make your inspection more defensible in the long run.
The second mistake you don’t want to make is neglecting to identify the significance of any defects, assuming there are any. Instead of just noting “improper flashing” you want to also recommend that the buyer get the flashing checked out by a qualified roofing specialist prior to closing. This improves the clarity of your report and what the next steps should be.
The third potential mistake, and an easy one to correct, is not documenting the house or the roof when it's in good condition. Meaning, support your statement that on the day of the inspection, there was no visual damage. Take photos of the roof in the condition you see at the inspection. What you did not see that day can be substantial evidence in supporting a potential claim or claim down the road- it's your protection.
From the homeowners’ perspective, the roof is a big deal because of the high cost for repair or replacement. If they find out after the inspection that their roof’s condition isn’t as sound as they thought it to be, you could be opening yourself up to great liability. Protect yourself by avoiding these common mistakes.