Seven Questions with Andris B.
Q: How does your industry background transfer to the home inspections training industry?
I am a Red Seal carpenter with 40 years of experience. Although I have worked on everything from repairing a dock to installing balcony railing systems on high-rise buildings, by far the greater part of my experience has been as a residential renovator, first as a tradesman and later as a contractor. Along the way I spent several years as a supervisor in the insurance restoration field. In the process of building, repairing and renovating I have had an opportunity to see how materials and workmanship, both good and bad, stand up to the tests of time, use and weather. I have learned to assess the condition of materials and structures and recognize the signs of deficiencies.
In 1997 I began teaching at Conestoga College in Ontario, first in the Renovation Technician program, later in other programs culminating with carpentry apprenticeship training at the senior levels. During my time at the college, I served for several years as department co-ordinator and sat on the provincial Curriculum Advisory Committee for carpentry apprenticeship, including a term as Chair. I was also responsible for the design and implementation of a number of college level programs in the construction trade. I retired from the college in 2014.
Q: What made you want to get involved with the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors?
I support any initiative to improve the level of competence and professionalism in any field, but particularly in one that is largely unregulated as yet. There are too many marginally competent individuals who operate as home inspectors, but do not possess the training and skills to properly assess critical areas. I know of several instances where an inspector was hired prior to a home purchase, but failed to identify important issues. If identified at the time of inspection, these concerns may have affected the selling price of the home, or at least allowed the purchaser to plan for repairs. Incidents such as these affect the reputation of the inspection industry as a whole and should not happen, particularly when the costs of home ownership are so high. I was pleased to have the opportunity to reinforce the credibility of the inspection industry through improved training.
Q: What are the challenges of putting together a national home inspector training program such as the one created by the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors?
For me, there were three. The first and easiest to resolve was ensuring that the course material was applicable across Canada despite regional differences in construction practice and historical preference with regards to style and material. To ensure this, reference has been made only to national or international standards and an attempt made to avoid regional terminology. A glossary with common variations in terminology was included as needed.
The second challenge was to address the varying levels of construction experience among prospective inspectors without baffling the less experienced while not boring the seasoned hands. To do this I have tried throughout to provide background and historical context, avoid ‘insider’ jargon and supply references to commonly available resources which students can access as needed or desired. A large number of images have been included to aid in identification of materials and deficiencies.
The third was attempting to cover all likely scenarios in construction practice, materials and modes of failure. It is not possible to imagine every possible variation, and in fact most inspections will cover a fairly narrow spectrum of building types, but there will always be exceptions. I have tried to concentrate on the commonly encountered situations but provide enough scope for the unusual.
Q: What was the most enjoyable part for you with your contribution to the development of the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors.
I have had a long and varied career in the construction industry and learned a great deal, a fair bit of it the hard way. As an instructor I tried to pass on some of that experience as well as the bare course material. It has been rewarding to have the opportunity to continue doing so even though I have physically left the classroom. On another level, it is true that an instructor is also a student, and over the years I certainly learned a great deal from both my students and colleagues. Writing for CIHI has given me the opportunity and incentive to continue learning as I gather material.
Q: If you could solve one trades related issue in Canada, what would it be?
We continue to experience a shortage of skilled tradespeople, and by skilled I mean properly trained and accredited. That has to change. A move in the right direction would be to make certification for all trades mandatory and ensure that the training resources are available. Certification is not a guarantee of competence but it does a great deal to validate trades such as carpentry or masonry and increases professionalism in those trades. This in turn would help to address the social stigma that is still attached in many minds to trades, as opposed to professions requiring costly university educations. This bias is an endemic problem with parental expectations and many secondary school guidance counselors and keeps many young people from entering rewarding careers in the trades.
Q: What do you feel makes an effective training program for home inspections?
In this case, ‘seeing is believing’. Text-based material is absolutely necessary to provide the parameters, background and specifications but it should also be rich in visual content. While other senses do come into play, as do instruments, the eyes are the main tool for identifying the age and condition of a building. To this end, classroom instruction should include slides, video clips and physical samples. Shadowing an experienced inspector during an inspection would be ideal.
Q: Do you believe that the material written in the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors is done in such a way that while comprehensive; it is not restrictive to an individual with limited trades experience?
I’d like to think that is true with anything I’ve submitted, as discussed above.