May, 2017
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Deck Safety Month

CAROL DIKELSKY



May is Deck Safety Month®, so we’d like to spotlight the partnership that ASHI has with the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA). NADRA is the voice of the deck and railing industry. Its goal is to prevent injuries and save lives from the use of decks that are old and unsafe. NADRA promotes safe outdoor living and recommends that consumers get regular deck checkups by a Deck Evaluation/Inspection–Certified Home Inspector.

The NADRA-ASHI Partnership
One way that NADRA partners with ASHI is by sending representatives to several ASHI chapters to present training on deck safety, followed by the administration of a certification examination. For a $200 fee to NADRA, an ASHI member receives a half day of training, a certification exam and an annual membership. Membership and certification with NADRA allows inspectors to market their expertise in providing deck safety inspections and to tap into the array of NADRA resources, including access to its logo and a personal online profile that can generate leads.

Michael Beaudry, Vice President of NADRA, said, “This is an exciting collaboration for both organizations. I’m positive that we’re making a difference every time we welcome ASHI members as new Deck Evaluation/Inspection–Certified Home Inspectors. These inspectors are knowledgeable about how to inspect decks well, and their outreach into the community helps raise awareness with homeowners about the importance of maintaining safe decks and railings.”

This awareness can translate into fewer accidents that may occur on older, weathered decks. “For example,” Beaudry continued, “an inspector can point out to clients that the deck that’s attached to the home they are about to purchase (and which the client might consider to be ‘new’) actually could be several years old and may not have always had proper maintenance. The inspection is a great opportunity to get the deck inspected thoroughly.”

Deck inspections can drive business. Inspectors can earn $200 to $250 for each deck safety inspection they perform, and having a NADRA certification validates their high level of competence. Beaudry commented, “A great way for inspectors to increase business is by marketing ‘deckonly’ inspections. Marketing this angle of your expertise can build revenue and add to your client base. If you’ve performed a deck safety inspection for a client one year, they’ll remember your skills and call on you when they plan to move to a new home. Some inspectors even may decide to focus solely on this end of the business to differentiate themselves from other general inspectors.”

Beaudry added, “The NADRA Deck Evaluation/Inspection Certification class has been well received by members of the ASHI chapters that have partnered with NADRA to bring this important education to their members. Over the years, NADRA has determined that ASHI has the highest professional standards in the industry, evidenced by how ASHI leaders and members treat their colleagues as family and by how ASHI promotes the professional networking that helps bring our two industries together. In addition, ASHI inspectors, national and chapter leaders and staff are terrific, friendly people. We enjoy our relationship with ASHI, and our satisfaction is confirmed with each chapter event that we attend.”

NADRA is on track to achieve its goal of certifying 1,000 ASHI members in deck safety. With 30 or more ASHI members attending each chapter’s NADRA education and certification session, home inspectors affiliated with ASHI chapters are a fast-growing part of NADRA membership.

Deck Safety and Certification at the St. Louis Chapter’s Spring Seminar
ASHI’s St. Louis Chapter leaders recently promoted deck safety at their spring seminar by offering NADRA’s education and certification program. Thirty ASHI members attended this class and were certified in Deck Evaluation/Inspection.

Beaudry said, “ASHI leaders are extremely serious about moving the inspection profession forward.They drive home the message that education is a key element to having a successful inspection business. That philosophy trickles down to the members, and it creates a community in which ASHI members take their job seriously and are genuinely passionate about learning.”

As a result, he commented, “ASHI members are fantastic students at the NADRA course. They take great notes, and they pay attention. You know the class is going well when people are engaged and asking questions, even toward the end of the session. The pre-certification session runs from 8 am to noon, and we administer the certification examination after a break for lunch. ASHI members who pass the test become NADRA Deck Evaluation/Inspection–Certified Home Inspectors.”

“If a person doesn’t pass the exam, we work with them to make sure they learn what they still need to know,” Beaudry said. “Our goal is to provide a successful education experience and to impart deck safety information to everyone who can use it.”

To do a simple projection of the benefits to the community at large, if the 30 newly certified inspectors in St. Louis each perform three deck safety inspections per week during 45 weeks in a year, that could equate to a total of 4,050 decks being inspected in one year alone. In turn, this number increases the corresponding prevention of potential injuries (or worse) due to the types of accidents and injuries that can happen with the use of old and decaying decks.

Deck Safety Promoted by St. Louis Media
Mark Goodman, Vice President of the ASHI St. Louis Chapter, sent out a press release about the education and certification session to local media the evening before the session. He said, “The next day, a reporting team from the local Fox affiliate interviewed us. We had a chance to talk about the importance of checking your deck in front of a viewing audience of potentially 2.5 million consumers living in the greater St. Louis area.”

Beaudry added, “The great news for the home inspectors is that anyone who happened to watch the report about deck safety and NADRA’s education and certification class (that ran on the 5 pm, 6 pm and 10 pm news) also may have visited the ‘Find an Inspector’ pages on the NADRA or ASHI websites. Those clicks can propel new business.” (Check out the chapter’s media coverage: click here)

The St. Louis Chapter is planning another media push during May to draw attention to Deck Safety Month.. Goodman said, “We plan to drive coverage—including TV, radio and print—to advance deck safety and inspections. We believe that even if people don’t immediately set up deck safety inspections as a result of this media push, if we can at least get them to go out and look at their decks and think about doing some safety checks and maintenance, it’s a step in the right direction.”

Takeaways from NADRA’s Deck Evaluation/Inspection Certification Class
The inspectors who left the session in St. Louis showed a renewed interest in tackling their next deck inspection and applying what they learned. They also were inspired to start marketing their ability to provide NADRA-certified deck evaluations/inspections as part of their business.

Here are some comments from the inspectors who attended:

John Wessling, ASHI Certified Inspector, Instructor for
The ASHI School and 2014 President of St. Louis ASHI
Wessling Home Inspection Services, St. Louis, MO,
john@wesslinginspections.com

What I learned in the class reinforced my knowledge of components of design and the importance of paying attention to details when inspecting any deck. Now that I’ve become certified with NADRA, I plan to discuss the importance of regular deck inspections with my local agents, building associations and neighborhood groups, and I’ll include some of the statistics about deck failures and injuries that I learned. I’ll also promote the fact that I can perform deck inspections and safety reviews to these associations and neighborhood organizations.

I found that this education and certification session was time well spent. It is great to see NADRA and ASHI, two professional organizations, working together to promote home and deck safety.

Mark Goodman, ASHI Certified Inspector and St. Louis ASHI
Vice President, Brewer Inspection Services, Manchester, MO,
mark@homeinspectstl.com

Statistically, handrail failure is the largest source of deck injuries, so I would have to say the most valuable thing I learned during the class was about the proper attachment of handrails to the deck structure. As home inspectors, we see a lot of decks, and the vast majority of all handrails are attached wrong. It doesn’t matter if the handrails are bolted to the rim joist, or if the rim joist is attached with nails and hardware only. Handrail failures can result in injury, head trauma and death—even if the deck is only a few feet off the ground.

We already encourage homebuyers to choose ASHI Certified Inspectors to perform their home inspections. After taking this class, I see that, for a stand-alone deck inspection, I should encourage homeowners to choose an inspector who is certified by both ASHI and NADRA. Having the NADRA certification gives you a competitive edge, but more importantly, it arms you with the tools and knowledge you will need to perform a superior deck inspection.

One of the benefits that NADRA provides to its members is access to a marketing toolkit, available online on the NADRA website. Just like ASHI, NADRA provides great marketing tools that are part of your membership package.

As part of my business, I do stand-alone deck inspections. I’m hopeful that ASHI’s new deck standard will be approved by the ASHI membership. [Editor’s note: See Page 13 for more information about the proposed deck standard.] Using that new standard, along with having NADRA certification, will help me and other ASHI members advance our efforts toward promoting deck safety and securing more deck inspections with clients.

Nick Zlotopolski, Brunic Home Inspection Services,
Florissant,MO, Nick@brunicinspections.com

For me, a newer inspector who’s not yet certified by ASHI, the biggest takeaway from the class was that I realized I haven’t been reporting on decks as comprehensively as I should be. It’s clear to me now that I should spend more time on the deck portion of my reports.

The class taught me to think about decks differently. Although we generally say that decks have a life span of 10 to 20 years, with all of the new hardware and sealing products on the market, I wonder how the “life expectancy” of decks will change in the future. I was surprised to learn that people end up with more severe injuries from guardrail failures than from deck collapses.

I believe that real estate agents who are looking for inspections on homes with decks or deck inspections will likely refer inspectors who have NADRA certification in the same way they refer inspectors with ASHI certification for a general home inspection. Having the NADRA certification gives me the credibility that will help me get those referrals. Going forward, I’ll be sure to educate agents on the importance of my NADRA certification and explain that it can reduce the liability of the inspector as well as the agent.

I enjoyed this class, and I highly recommend that other home inspectors attend it if NADRA comes to your chapter!