For the most part, there are basically two types of Roof Inspectors out there to choose from:
The technical Inspector & The Practical Inspector
The technical inspector has read all the books and passed all the tests needed to gain his inspector status. Maybe he works for an engineering firm, or another form of Building Science firm and has done so since he left university. He has focused his training on the building envelope, and happens to hold an RRO (Registered Roof Observer) accreditation with RCI, Inc. He has always been very studious, hard working, got good marks in school, and always wanted to be a professional something when he grew up. In university, he studied building science courses, and knows how products relate to one another, knows how to calculate the thermal efficiency of a wall or roof assembly, knows how to find the dew point in an assembly, and even knows what that all means! Yet, he has never swung a hammer. Never shoveled gravel. Never broke a sweat for 10 hours on a hot summer day, six stories closer to the sun, with no shade, while holding a 2000 degree propane torch.
A practical inspector may not have been the best in high school, but maybe he graduated, then went into the workforce as a roofing apprentice for several years, eventually earning his journeyman certification. Along the way, he has installed, or been a part of the crew installing numerous roof systems on numerous buildings all over the province. He has experienced an easy roof tear off, and a tough tear off. He has worked through 30 degree heat during the summer, and chased leaks during the cold, rainy seasons. He has been sent back to fix leaks on his own roofs, and learned from the mistakes he has made. He has worked on inspected jobs, where the main goal is to hide problems from the inspector, so the inspections go off without a hitch. He now knows all the tricks of the trade, both in how to put on a good roof, and how to hide problems from an inspector. after a number of years, he decides its time to move to the next stage of his career…Inspecting.
So, Who do you think will make a better inspector? Who knows what to look for? Who knows what things roofers will try to hide? Who knows what its like to try to install a torch applied roof in 32 degrees of heat? or in freezing cold situations? What problems can arise from these conditions? What other methods of installation will work in a awkward situation where the “book” defined method won’t quite work properly? What do you do when a thundercloud dumps on an open roof in the middle of an otherwise clear sky on a summer day? What are the effects of such a rain dump on the installed or exposed roofing components? Who will understand the pains and complaints of the roofers more?
There is a lot that can be said about both types of inspectors, but the most important is that the two need to be combined. The best of both worlds, with a slight lean to the practical. Its important for the inspector to know the reasons why a roof system needs to be installed the way it does. The technical reasons. But more importantly he must know how to install the products in such a way that they will do their job for the intended period of time. We have often said that it is not the product that makes the roof work, its the installer. Any product can be made to work, but even the best product installed incorrectly wont last ’till next Thursday! So, your inspector should be able to recognize whether or not your roofer is installing the products in such a way that they will perform. He should recognize when something has happened while he was away. He should recognize what things might be hidden, and how to go about finding them.
At Specifex, we are journeymen roofers first, then we are inspectors. What that means is not that we still install roofing, but that we have put in the time needed to collect a body of practical knowledge that we can directly apply to inspections on your roof. We know what tricks roofers can play…because we used to do them ourselves. We know what materials could be improperly applied, because we have made those mistakes ourselves. We have hit our thumb with the hammer numerous times! We pride ourselves in our practical experience, but we also strive to continue to learn about why roofs fail, why they last, why one product combination works well together while others perform poorly. We take courses, we attend seminars, we continue to build on the foundation that our years of practical experience has given us.
That…is what makes a good Roof Inspector.