Homework with Mitch Kuffa: LESSONS LEARNED

By Mitch Kuffa

I was recently sitting in my office, looking out the window and reminiscing about some of the lessons that I have learned about home inspections through time and due to surprises encountered. In retrospect, some of these incidences bring a smile to my face while others make me realize how lucky I have been.
Here are some of the more unforgettable incidences I have encountered.

I remember this one day I had my son accompany me and I asked him to pull away from the debris at the crawl space access so that I could look inside. As he bent over on one knee at the crawl space opening a pack of dogs came running out. Needless to say, we didn’t go into the crawl. I have actually disturbed homeless people occupying a crawl space.

Another time I was inside a clean and neat crawl space that had a concrete floor. Above (in the living area), a plumbing contractor was replacing the hot water tank. There was water running down and there were puddles on the concrete floor. As I tried to avoid the water I bumped into something. I pushed it aside and withdrew from the area. At that time I noticed that the item in my path was an open 220 electrical box that was now sitting in the water.

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On another occasion, I was in a crawl space of a vacant summer home located on a large lake and all the adjacent cottages were empty (they were closed for the winter). Suddenly, I heard someone on the outside put the steel access door back in place and lock it shut. I yelled to no avail and wondered how I was going to get out. Finally, after a few minutes, the realtor showed up and opened the access door laughing (hearing my pitiful wails). I learned never to enter anything that you can’t exit.

There was this time when I was asked to look at a house that was rebuilt after a fire. They were concerned about mold. As I drove up to the house, I came to realize that the person who met me (homeowner) was in his mobile home in the driveway. He directed me to the front door, but would not enter. Upon entering the house I found sheets of clear plastic over the floor with puddles of coffee-colored liquid accumulating. In addition (are you ready for this!), there were large areas that had “slime” hanging down from the ceiling. I was so fascinated that without thinking I continued up a step-ladder and looked in the attic. There was an array of multi-colored mushroom type growth and more “slime”. I then realized that I should exit immediately. Since that day, I carry a quality mold filtration mask at all times. SCARY!

At another inspection, I entered a new construction vacant residence and I was informed that the utilities were on. Upon entering I found the electrical off. I decided to find the main panel in the basement and check the circuits. My flashlight was in the car. Not wanting to waste time, I proceeded to feel my way through the dark basement (some light was coming through the small windows), and lo and behold I found the panel. The problem was, that the front panel was off. I placed my hand into the mechanism and came to realize that it was “hot”. Well, in 42 years of construction I have accidentally shocked myself, but this had to be like someone putting emergency room paddles on my chest. Fortunately, however, I had rubber boots on, because I came to find out that I was standing in a puddle of water. I have never since been in a basement without light.

There was this house in the country that was vacant, was during a snowstorm and the driveway was long and not shoveled. There were no other houses in sight and I decided that my vehicle could handle this. What I didn’t know was that the inspection was actually called off at the last minute and about halfway up the 100-yard driveway I slid off the driveway and became stuck. I called for help and realized that I was in an area with no service. Since then I have changed phone companies and during the winter months, I never enter if I feel I cannot leave safely. Thank goodness a passing farmer saw me and came back with his tractor to pull me out. Otherwise, I would have been a popsicle inspector.

Finally, with winter coming, this story always makes me be more careful than usual when walking around a house. I was measuring the outside exterior and I kept encountering this strange aroma. As I was intent on making sure my tape measure stayed in place, I suddenly realized that I had stepped on something relatively large. It was the remains of a dog. No more needs to be said.
Overall, the main lesson here is to watch where you go, make sure it’s safe, and be aware of how you’re going to exit when necessary.

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