Dear Barry,

In a recent column, you excused the unprofessional performance of a home inspector who failed to discover asbestos floor tiles under carpeting. I strongly disagree with your opinion. A competent inspector should take the time to pull up a corner of the carpet and check for this very condition. Even though home inspectors don’t test for asbestos, they can certainly let buyers know where suspect materials are found within a home. Let’s stop making excuses for these so-called professionals and hold them to the high standard they claim to represent. –JB

Dear JB,

If you’ve read this column with any regularity, you know that home inspectors are often taken to task for failing to perform their work in a competent manner. However, your expectation that home inspectors inspect for asbestos flooring beneath carpets involves a number of impracticalities.

If an inspector were to “take the time to pull up a corner of the carpet,” as you suggest, all that would be learned is whether there were asbestos tiles at that particular corner. It would tell us nothing about all the other carpeted corners throughout the house. To provide the level of disclosure you are suggesting, an inspector would need to lift all carpet corners in bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, family rooms, hallways, etc., a process that would include the moving of heavy furniture such as beds, dressers, sofas, hutches, and so on. Even if this procedure could be limited to corners without furniture, the lifting of carpets could easily run afoul of the sensibilities of sellers. Some would view the process as needlessly invasive and potentially damaging.

And what if carpet damage were to occur? Some carpet corners lift easily, while others do not. Tools are often needed to dislodge carpet edges from the tack strips, and pulling up on the carpet nap can sometimes damage the loops. Furthermore, pressing the carpet back into place might not be acceptable to some sellers; especially if they are familiar with the stretching processes employed by professional carpet layers.

Another problem posed by the lifting of carpets is that the scope of a home inspection would be expanded beyond its current definition. At present the scope is specified as “a visual inspection of exposed, readily accessible areas.” If the lifting of carpet corners were to become an accepted practice, then numerous other limitations would also be subject to reconsideration. Wall and floor surfaces that are concealed behind furniture would need to be inspected; clothing in closets would need to be shifted or taken out; removal of drawers from built-in cabinets would become necessary to enable inspection of concealed areas; attic insulation would need to be lifted to provide access to hidden wiring, plumbing, and other conditions; storage in garages would need to be pulled away from walls; and the etceteras would be endless.

Without question, there is room for improvement within the home inspection profession, but the lifting of carpet corners is not the most practical way to raise those standards.

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

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