QUESTION: Iíve been told I need an inspection before I buy or sell a house. What's the difference between a Professional Enginer and a Home Inspector?-J.S.
ANSWER: We're glad you asked that! We were about to write what would amount to a blatant advertisement for our engineering services on that topic, but your question has rescued us. Thanks to you we can retain our sham of journalistic integrity.
In 1996, the State of California amended the Business and Professions Code to create a legal line over which a home inspector could not step. In simplest terms, the law forbids home inspectors from practicing engineering without a license.
A bad analogy:
Doctor A has accumulated 30 hours of continuing education credits and successfully passed a written examination on symptom identification. This allows him to join the Association of California Symptom Identifiers. If you schedule an office visit, Doctor A can tell you that you have a sniffle, bad gas, thinning hair and that you are a little over weight. He'll even put that in writing, in a shiny three-ring binder.
Doctor B has a degree from a 4-year college, has more than two years of experience and has passed two eight-hour exams. This earns him the title Registered Doctor in the State of California. If you schedule an office visit, Doctor B can tell you why you have a sniffle and bad gas, but he can't help you with your weight or thinning hair. He can recommend treatments for your internal ailments, and will put them in writing so you can pull permits, hire a contractor and...oh, never mind.
So the main differences are scope and depth.
A reputable home inspector will take a superficial look at the structure, plumbing, appliances, roof, water heater and electrical system. He can then list the things that appear to be material defects. Don't trust an inspector's analysis of causation or recommendations for repair, as he's not qualified to make that judgment (and prohibited by law from making it). And as for his "seal"? Don't be fooled.
A professional engineer will analyze both the structure and conditions that can affect the structure, and can provide expert advice about both the cause and repair of any material defects. Unless he's an electrical engineer, don't trust his analysis of electrical systems or appliances, as he's not qualified to make that judgment. And his seal will help get you a building permit.
California Business and Professions Code Sections 7195-7199 (excerpts)
"Home inspection" is a noninvasive, physical examination...of the mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems or the structural and essential components of a residential dwelling of one to four units designed to identify material defects in those systems, structures and components.
A "material defect" is a condition that significantly affects the value, desirability, habitability, or safety of the dwelling.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to allow home inspectors who are not registered engineers to perform any analysis of the systems, components, or structural integrity of a dwelling that would constitute the practice of civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering...
Style or aesthetics shall not be considered in determining whether a system, structure, or component is defective.
(So donít let them tell you your house is ugly, either.)
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