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'House" a Rich Guide of Inspecting Tips

"Inspecting a House," by Rex Cauldwell (Taunton Press, Newtown, Conn., 2001), $24.95, 260 pages.

April 08, 2001|ROBERT J. BRUSS

Written primarily for professional home inspectors, "Inspecting a House" by Rex Cauldwell illustrates typical home inspection problems. Residential real estate agents, home buyers and sellers also will benefit greatly from this lavishly illustrated new book.

Cauldwell, a master plumber, master electrician, building inspector and licensed general contractor with more than 25 years of experience, has created a superb book that explains what to look for when inspecting a home. Hundreds of color photos, drawings and checklists make this guidebook invaluable. The photos show typical home inspection problems, so the text on each topic can remain simple.

In addition to showing what professional home inspectors look for, this book explains the key tools an inspector needs, such as nonconductive fiberglass ladders, hand tools for probing and testing, Sure Test plug-in electric circuit tester, gas leak detector and others.

Although the book contains many checklists, I kept hoping it would include an all-inclusive one that tied the individual checklists together. It didn't. Instead, Cauldwell suggests home inspectors design their own master checklists. Then he shows how such checklists can either be highly detailed or simplified. The book would have been greatly enhanced by including Cauldwell's master checklist.

The color photos make the book an invaluable reference. The author's comments under each photo explain when a deficiency should be written up and when something that looks like a potential problem is acceptable.

Cauldwell must have collected these photos for many years because they illustrate so many diverse inspection problems. Having been an investor in "fixer-upper" houses for more than 30 years, I wish I had read a book like this many years ago; it would have saved me much grief.

The author emphasizes that the old days of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) are long gone when it comes to home sales. Even when a home is sold "as is," meaning the seller won't pay for repairs, Cauldwell explains why most buyers today insist on professional home inspections to avoid surprises.

This book won't make the reader a professional home inspector, but it will show what inspectors look for, whether a potential problem is serious or trivial, and how to correct dangerous conditions that might be easily overlooked. The emphasis is on potentially life-threatening situations, such as unsafe wiring and incorrect plumbing.

The author recommends hiring professional home inspectors who are members of either the American Society of Home Inspectors ( or the National Assn. of Home Inspectors (

In addition, he explains why inspectors should stick to their jobs and not get involved in related areas, such as advising how to make repairs or whether a specific home should be purchased. He recommends referring those questions to specialists, such as realty agents and contractors.

It's hard to get excited about the normally dull topic of home inspections. But Cauldwell makes the subject come alive with his fascinating explanations and color photos that illustrate the importance of competent home inspections.

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