Dear Barry,

I am curious to know why you fail to mention an up-standing organization such as The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) in any of your articles. I am a “certified” member and proud of it. We are required to pass an annual exam and to produce yearly evidence of continuing education. While I enjoy your articles, and even find them educational, I’m wondering if you are enticed by other organizations because of either ignorance or lack of diligence. Why don’t you give NACHI the respect that it deserves? –David, member #04101694

Dear David,

Please be assured that no disrespect for NACHI was ever intended. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors is a relatively new organization, compared to the American Society of Home Inspection (ASHI), the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), and the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA), all of which were founded in the 1970s.

NACHI may be a very worthy and respectable association, but their credibility is not yet firmly established in the minds of most experienced home inspectors and industry leaders. The NACHI certification test, administered via the Internet, has raised concerns among many industry leaders because it is not proctored. A criticism often heard is that anyone can pass (or appear to pass) an online test since there is no way to ascertain the identity of persons taking the test or to assure that test-takers are unassisted.

Newcomers to every professional field must prove themselves over time. This is true for new doctors, carpenters, engineers, home inspectors and even professional associations. NACHI is still a fledgling organization and needs more time to establish itself in the minds of home inspection professionals. To the extent that they advance the standards of the home inspection industry, I sincerely wish them well.

Dear Barry,

Some of the bricks on the interior back wall of my fireplace are loose, and the mortar is crumbly. Since the fireplace is built along the exterior of the building, with no wood construction behind the loose bricks, is this a serious problem? Should it be addressed soon, and if so, what should be done? –Randy

Dear Randy,

Loose bricks in the firebox portion of a fireplace should always be regarded with concern. They can allow heat and combustion byproducts (smoke, creosote, and ash) to vent into cavities within the masonry construct of the fireplace and chimney. Gaps between the outer wall of a chimney and the chimney liner are not always filled with mortar or concrete during the construction process. When heat enters these cavities, it can be transferred to the adjacent wood framing, eventually causing a fire in the attic or at other adjoining structures. Additionally, creosote can accumulate in these unfilled spaces and possibly cause a chimney fire.

These consequences are not likely to occur with all masonry chimneys, but wherever fire safety standards are compromised, it is always best to err on the side of caution. The safest course of action is to have a licensed masonry contractor reset the firebox lining with new firebrick mortar.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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