Why do people try to do their own electric work? I'm not talking about basic light or fan installations. Every home we have ever owned has had some "special" electrical anomalies. Some were noticed by the home inspector prior to purchase and some were not. Most were hidden in the walls where they escaped notice until they reared their ugly heads in some not so great ways (like flames shooting out from an on/off switch). We had two different home inspections up at the river. I interviewed several inspectors over the phone and checked reviews. The initial inspector came with great reviews and had been in business for a long time. In his earlier years he was both a builder and contractor and now he is a home inspector. When I interviewed him he told me the inspection would take at least 2-3 hours. He would be on the roof, under the trailer, in the sheds, checking electric, plumbing, etc. I didn't have to be there but I wanted to ask some questions. I highly recommend any time you are purchasing a home that you make time to meet your inspector at the home and hang around. I was unaware that inspectors don't even need the realtors to be there anymore. If the home is on a lock box it is fairly self service. The inspector goes and does his thing and leaves. Had I not been at the first inspection, I would have felt that I had received more than I asked for. The report seemed very thorough and professionally delivered via email on preprinted forms that the inspector filled out regarding every aspect of a property. The reality of the inspection was much different.
The inspector arrived promptly at the predetermined time. I introduced myself and a friend that had come up to spend the day with me. He didn't seem very happy to see us but everyone has a bad day now and then so I let it go. As he set up his computer and got ready to begin his inspection, I asked a couple of questions which also seemed to put him off a bit. So I tried to just relax and give him a chance to do his inspection. I would wait until later to address my concerns. Eventually I was able to point out a couple of things that we were concerned with and he kind of blew me off. I showed him some dust that I thought might be termite droppings and he confirmed that it was in fact termites and showed me the exit hole for the droppings. When he was finishing up, I asked if he had indicated the termites in his report and he said "No, did you want me too?" To be fair, he is not a termite inspector but the presence of termites would indicate that there might need to be a termite inspection. I also showed him an area in one of the bedrooms that we thought might be evidence of a water leak. That also was not on his report and he stated that it was termite damage. Water marks running along the ceiling were also passed off as not being anything to worry about. I asked about the washer and dryer in the shed as I was told that would be one of the things he would check. His reply "I saw it but didn't check it." We walked out to the shed after I confirmed that I wanted them inspected. He tried them and said they didn't work. Then he opened them up and said "Oh, well, it isn't even hooked up all the tubes are still inside." The more questions I asked the more irritated he became. He was there just a little over an hour not the several hours promised and a good part of the time there was answering my questions. To make a long story short, we got our money back and tried again.
The second inspector got under the house, had a ladder to look on top of the house and took the time to explain everything he found at the time of inspection. He was very happy to answer any questions, confirmed that the ceiling damage in the bedroom was water damage not termite damage (termite inspector also confirmed this fact). There will be more on the termites later. He also brought up the electrical issue with the trailer. The initial inspector had noted a couple of minor problems mostly having to do with grounding in the kitchen and wiring that might wiggle and cause a problem. The second inspector, deferred to an electrician after checking and rechecking several outlets and noticing that a couple of breakers were "double tapped" meaning more than one item was wired into them. There was plenty of room in the breaker box for the items to be appropriately wired they just weren't.
After a lot of phone calls and a referral from a friend, we were able to get an electrician to come out and take a look. He felt the problem was easily fixed and gave us what seemed like a fair price. Once the closing took place the electrician was the first person we had out to do repairs. He spent a few hours working on the place correcting the breaker box issue, grounding outlets, figuring out the specifics of the wiring and making everything safe. He said it was impossible to get an old mobile home up to current code but that he felt he had made it safe. There was one outlet that he couldn't quite figure out. He indicated that it still was not grounded but that it was totally fine. The next day the septic company came out to redo the drain field, repair the septic reattach the plumbing. During the septic repair we found our electric anomaly. My husband was taking the trim off of the home so the septic guys could get underneath to check the plumbing and "POW" the trailer arced. In spite of it being a Saturday, our electrician was back out again. Apparently, the previous owners had down some wiring of their own under the trailer and then screwed the skirt of the trailer into it. So again, I must ask why do people do their own electric wiring?
Anyway, the point of this post is ask questions. Ask lots of questions. If your inspector doesn't want to answer your questions, politely send him on his way and get another inspector. You are paying him for a service. If your electrician says "I'm just not sure about something but it is safe" ask how he can be sure it's safe if he isn't sure about it. There was no way he could have known that the skirt was screwed into the wiring but there was something that just wasn't right and in hind sight I should have pushed him to investigate a little further. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but now I know to always err on the side of caution.
A friend sent this article to me about how to pick a good home inspector. It is very informative and I would say one of the most important pieces of information in there is "ask a lot of questions." Also, find out how many inspections your inspector does a day. If they are pulling of several a day they aren't doing a good job. Here is the link: Why I Fell in Love With My Home Inspector—and How You Can, Too