RAM Builders does do a limited visual inspection on your home, based on conditions you are aware of. Since many of the problems are consistent from home to home, we are usually able to make an accurate recommendation for isolated repairs or for full replacement base on this “limited visual inspection”. When we first started trouble shooting leaks in Utah County we would spend many hours, at the home owners expense, water testing to recreate the leak, once we found the leak we would then remove stucco to determine what problems existed behind the stucco. What we found was that the problems where consistent from house to house. For example, a leak at the head of the window was caused by missing or improperly installed window flashings and over-stapled building paper. So if we came to your home to look at a leak at the head of a window we would assume the problems were related to the window flashings and the over stapled building papers. This is a simplified scenario, and several conditions may exist that we would take into consideration, but it’s an example of how we would “inspect” your home.
Now we also employ various other “non-intrusive” tools to help in this process. A very valuable tool we use now is an expensive Thermal Imager. It allows us to literally see “behind the exterior” of a wall. We can see heat loss, trapped water, etc. using this advanced tool.
In most cases RAM Builders believes every job we do should have an independent 3rd party inspection that determines the problem and designs the repair. In some cases, if the repair is small and localized or if the problem is blatantly obvious, it may not be worth the cost to hire a third party. We have worked with several stucco inspectors and engineering companies that can provide this service. We also know that sometimes home owners don’t want to pay the cost for this service, so we provide it as a free service as part of the bidding process. There are some exclusions to this limited visual inspection, however. For example we don’t know if there is dry rot behind the stucco unless we actually remove a test area of stucco. Naturally this makes it impossible to accurately determine the exact cost to replace the dry-rotted framing without seeing how far or deep the damage has gone. However, once we have removed the stucco we can accurately determine this cost, rather than just throwing out a high estimate such as is common for those companies who do a fairly thorough job. For a fee you can hire us to do an intrusive inspection and determine this cost prior to the commencement of remedial work.
A word of warning in our current industry. If someone includes dryrot repair in a contract as a “lump sum” amount then two possible scenarios will most likely follow. Firstly your contractor will make a ton of money by not having to fix his “worse case scenario”, and secondly he will conceal or “blanket” needed repairs because he has not accounted for the actual repair cost in the job bid. This would heavily cut into margins, and therefore we see it so often just “blanketed” over, or concealed, or ignored.
You should always get your stucco inspected by an independent inspector, one that DOES NOT do actual stucco repair work. It is our experience that home or stucco inspectors that do the same type of work they inspect should not be trusted to give un-biased information. This is the reason that we recommend having a 3rd party inspector carry forth an inspection before we do any work, so that our customers can rest assured that the inspection process is independent, and that no “ulterior” motives are present.
The reason you get an inspection is to make sure that you’re aware of all the problems on your home, or a home you’re buying. Don’t use someone that profits from finding problems with your home! At RAM Builders we pride ourselves in our ability to minimize repairs, while providing only thorough, lasting solutions to any problem, and this often involves complete removal of a improperly installed stucco system in the given problem area.
Also, never use a home or stucco inspector that is recommended by your realtor. Often times, the relationship between the realtor and inspector will encourage the inspector not to find problems that become “deal killers”. Realtors and Inspectors can develop “if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” relationships, and we’ve seen it hundreds of times. Inspectors know that they’ll loose the realtor’s future referrals if he finds too many problems that would keep the sale from going through.
RAM Builders and its principles are extremely qualified to offer independent stucco inspections. RAM Builders has taught numerous continuing education seminars to real estate agents and inspectors and even to city building inspectors. The owner of RAM Builders is also certified as a building inspector, but we don’t do stucco inspections that determine the scope of work. We do a visual inspection when we meet with a home owner, with the work being based off the home owner’s concerns and that which is obvious. Even with a much improved level of awareness, homes continue to be sold in Utah that have major problems.