Roof and Other High-Level Defects

Is it Acceptable to Visually Inspect from Ground Level Only?

It’s fair to say that survey and inspection of Buildings has advanced considerably over the last ten years in terms of the tools and equipment now available to aid us in that work. In particular, high-level or roof survey work was often an area which was for the most part, left unchecked. This was simply because, Surveyors cannot access at high-level to thoroughly inspect. This left a potential option of paying for expensive access equipment to aid in roof or high-level inspection works, and indeed, whilst most clients do not want to bear that cost, this is something that is still occasionally undertaken.

Chimney defect
Failed cement flaunchings

Current Expectations or Requirement

I recently had a discussion with another Chartered Surveyor about the equipment available for carrying out high level inspection works, and he responded that he “Didn’t want to open up that can of worms.” In essence, as far as the RICS is concerned, there is no expectation that surveyors carry specialist equipment, and they are only expected to comment on what they can see from ground floor level. Of course, this leaves a large area of the roof and other potential roof defect or high-level issues unchecked. Moreover, with a lot of pre-purchase surveyors working on tight time slots, this work may add another 15 minutes to each survey. I won’t criticise that because I understand the time pressures that surveyors often work under, but I do think it’s time that the RICS assessed this issue, because survey equipment is available that would remove that doubt for potential home owners. Understandably, hidden roof defects can be incredibly expensive to repair, when considering that access equipment alone may cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds to install as a requirement for safe access to remedy any high-level defects.

Roof Inspection Equipment

I’ve had a brief foray into the use of Drones for high-level inspection work, and indeed I still carry a drone but it is rarely if ever used for business purposes. The legislation has gotten incredibly tight on the use of drones and over the time I used them, I lost two, both carried away by the wind, possibly user error on my part, but their use never inspired confidence in me.

As I mentioned earlier, for some very high-level inspection, I do still use a mobile elevating working platform occasionally, but the bulk of my high-level inspection work is carried out with a carbon fibre telescopic camera pole, which has a GoPro camera attached.

Camera Pole
Camera Pole fits into my car boot.

I’ve been using camera Poles for about 5 years now and they give me the ability to see things clearly, which I wouldn’t ordinarily see. The camera can be connected to your mobile phone so you can see what what the camera is seeing in real time, but I rarely use this feature; finding that I can point it in the general direction of the hidden roof areas and get everything I need.

The following range of images highlights some of the roof defects found using a Camera Pole, which would otherwise not have been seen during the survey:

This gallery provides a relatively small snapshot of defects that would otherwise have been missed without employing the telescopic camera pole, and it is not uncommon to find defects, where repairs would run into many thousands of pounds.

Challenges in Using a Camera Pole

I bought three different camera Poles prior to having my own manufactured in Carbon fibre. They were generally too heavy, lacked the required stiffness in high wind, or generally just fell apart due to lack of durability. Since I couldn’t find what I needed I decided to have one designed and manufactured in Carbon-fibre. This is almost 13 meters long, retracts to 1.25 mtrs and weighs only 3.1kilos. I have a GRP one that weighs around 8kgs and is just very difficult to use in even moderate winds as they can exert quite a leverage on your arms when extended. Carbon fibre gives me the stiffness, lightness and durability I need for this work and it rarely leaves the boot of my car.

I consider the use of camera Poles to be an essential part of any survey work, since they are relatively cheap, safe to use and remove any doubt relating to any roof defect which may exist at high-level. Sadly, should a home buyer encounter any roofing defects missed by their surveyor; well, their Surveyor was only expected to report on what they could reasonably see from ground floor level.

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