Up On The Roof...

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
— The Drifters

One of my favorite duties as a home inspector is walking the roof of a home. Great views of the surrounding neighborhood, and a calming source of solitude (albeit relatively brief) during a hectic workday. It's puzzling to me why many inspectors don't walk roofs; besides missing-out on a neat foray, these inspectors are not serving their client's interest well. The very definition of 'inspect' is to "look at something closely" - closely being the key word here.

Reasons for avoiding the roof include "too dangerous", or "if there is damage up there I'll get blamed for it", and "I'm afraid of heights". The height thing I'm somewhat sympathetic to, as I am a little acrophobic myself. Used to be very acrophobic, but when I was in college working on my Mechanical Engineering degree, I took a year off to labor on an offshore oil drilling crew; climbing a ninety-foot high derrick out in the middle of the ocean sort of cured the acrophobia.

Now, there are times when an inspector legitimately cannot get up on a roof, and that is when the mere act of walking on the roof will cause damage. In my area of Southern California, many of the houses have Spanish clay tile roofs. Very fragile clay tiles.

There is a very certain way to walk on these tiles, and one must not weigh a whole lot. Inspectors, in this instance, are wise not to walk on clay tiles. Roofers get up there, of course, because they have to. Every roofing crew that I've seen has a few little guys just for this purpose. If you are small and light, you can have a great future as a horse-racing jockey, or a clay tile walker.

Most inspectors will just note the presence of a clay tile roof in their report, and recommend that the client hire a roofer to inspect the roof. But that is just abdicating the very responsibility for which the inspector is being paid, and forcing the client to spend more money to hire a roofer. Not acceptable.

Now, since I'm not built like a jockey, I don't walk clay tile roofs. But I have conjured a way to closely inspect them - a camera on a pole. Implementing the use of a drone was also considered, but a myriad of FAA regulations and liability insurance requirements put a damper on that idea.

The pole camera is very simple, really; all it takes is a telescoping pole, a wi-fi camera, and a tablet computer mounted to the pole. I use a Canon PowerShot camera. It acts as the network node to connect to the tablet. The tablet is used as a monitor to see where to aim the camera, and is also used to operate the camera (e.g., zoom and take the pics). Both of these are attached to a 30' window washer's telescoping pole. The result is fantastic:

The system is easy to assemble and operate. Get on site, attach the camera and tablet and extend the pole, and then circle the house snapping pictures in HD.

So, fellow inspectors, no more excuses to not closely inspect clay tile roofs.