Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: I’m a Realtor and am having a disagreement with another agent. He insists that home inspectors routinely walk on concrete tile roofs. A home inspector I know says that tile roofs should not be walked on by anyone except a licensed roofing contractor. Who is right, and what is the standard for inspecting tile roofs? Karen

Dear Karen: There is no rule that mandates whether home inspectors should or should not walk on tile roofs. But the standards of practice of ASHI (the American Society of Home Inspectors) and NAHI (the National Association of Home Inspectors) exclude walking on tile roofs as an obligation for home inspectors. The reason for this exclusion is to relieve inspectors from the liability imposed by broken tiles, whether or not those tiles were broken by the inspector.

Actually, it is not difficult to walk on a concrete tile roof without causing damage, but sometimes, regardless of care and caution, damage does occur. And home inspectors who break tiles are liable for the costs of repair or replacement. The other risk assumed when inspectors walk on tiles is the chance of being blamed for tiles that were already broken. This has happened to some inspectors and is one of the reasons that most inspectors refuse to walk on roof tiles.

Tile roofs are usually inspected by placing a ladder against the eaves at various places around the building. When the eaves are too high for the inspector’s ladder, binoculars are sometimes used. Walking on a tile roof admittedly enables a more thorough inspection, but unfortunately, liability pressures have had an adverse effect on the conduct of tile roof inspections.