While winter can pose some specific dangers to a home inspector, summer is the time of year with the most hidden dangers that can pose a risk to safety and wellbeing if they are not prepared. Here are some of the biggest summer home inspection dangers and ways to avoid them.
One of the biggest threats to the safety and health of a home inspector during the summer is the heat. Whether you are outside, on a roof, in a crawlspace or especially in an attic, the threat of hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) is always present. With temperatures in some parts of the country regularly topping 100 degrees and attic temperatures far above that in many others, inspectors are particularly susceptible to heat.
The first tip is to limit time in the heat to a few minutes. This may mean breaking up an attic, roof or exterior inspection into several smaller trips with intermittent breaks. It’s important to stay hydrated and plan attic and roof inspections based on the time of day to avoid the greatest heat concentration.
Apply plenty of SPF50 or better sunscreen on all exposed skin, and wear a hat when doing roof and outdoor inspections. To guard against hot roofs, always wear gloves and kneepads as part of the inspection process.
Relegate attic inspections to the morning hours whenever possible. The idea is to think about when the attic will be cooler. Always open the hatch to the attic and wait a few minutes for the additional ventilation provided by airflow to begin permeating the space. Opening a window on the lower level may speed the process if the home is not air conditioned in the adjacent living spaces below.
Certain safety problems are common to hot environments such as slipperiness due to sweaty palms, dizziness and fogged safety glasses. All of these factors can affect your performance alertness vigilance and coordination, which can adversely impact your safety. Surfaces can be hot as an oven both inside and outside during the summer so protective clothing can prevent burns from contact.
Stinging and Biting Insects and Reptiles
Bees, wasps, hornets, spiders and other stinging and biting insects are always a concern in the summer months for inspectors. A seasoned inspector should know the signs of a possible infestation of the stinging variety in attics, crawlspaces and exteriors of the home and surroundings.
Make an exterior visual pass looking for cracks and entrance points to the attic as well as any telltale signs of stinging insects. Be aware that bees and wasps are attracted to lights, especially flashlights carried by inspectors as they enter dark attics or crawlspaces.
If you even see one or two entering or hovering around an area, its best to take precaution with protective gear for a quick closer inspection without disturbing the area. If you get visual confirmation, inform the homeowner so that they can bring in a professional before you inspect the area further.
There are many health dangers during the summer that can be inhaled while doing an inspection. Just like pests, mold and fungus can grow rapidly in crawlspaces where they can be a health concern. Molds produce allergens that can be irritating or even toxic causing a wide variety of short-term and long-term reactions.
Every inspector should have and wear a NIOSH-rated N-95, double-strap mask when inspecting attics and some basements. Open dirt crawlspaces may require the use of a respirator as the soil (especially in older homes) can contain contaminates such as mold spores, decomposed animal carcasses, rodent feces and urine. Other dangers include insulation and even asbestos.
A good inspector knows the short list of potentially dangerous and even deadly snakes that can be found in their region of the country as well as the environments and conditions that they love. Once again, protective gear such as gloves, proper boots and other protective clothing are essential to keeping safe from the unknown and unexpected threats of a summer home inspection.
Home inspectors rely on their sense of sight, sound, smell, and touch to do their jobs effectively. It’s important to use those skills along with a good dose of caution to stay tuned to any dangers that may be present. It’s best to always keep in mind that the job starts with inspecting the property for any potential dangers to you or the occupants before concentrating on the search for passive dangers that will affect the soundness of a home and its saleability.