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After harsh winter, expert says check attic ventilation

Cynthia Schuster, Wisconsin Public Radio

As homebuyers venture out to purchase a new house this spring, they should be on the lookout for necessary home repairs in the wake of a harsh winter that kept many homes under lots of snow, according to one local expert.

John Freiburger, a Wisconsin-registered home inspector, said having a new house inspected will give prospective homeowners peace of mind, but buyers must beware.

“There’s a lot of things a home inspector doesn’t have to look at,” Freiburger said. “So, it’s good when you talk to a home inspector to find out … exactly how much they do for you. And ask them if they have a specialty.”

The standards of practice for home inspection in Wisconsin are outlined by the state’s Department of Safety & Professional Services, and each inspector must be registered by the state. Because of state regulations, Freiburger said consumers can typically expect a standard approach to home inspections, no matter who the inspector is. 

“They’re going to start out with the mechanicals -- the plumbing and the heating and the electrical system,” Freiburger said. “They’re going to take a look at the ‘envelope,’ which is the roof, siding, the windows and doors, and general conditions of the exterior.”

Additionally, inspectors take a look at the insulation system, fireplaces, chimneys and ventilation of the attic.

“Ventilation of attics is a big concern of home inspectors because of the issues that we have in Wisconsin with ice damming and with mold,” Freiburger added. “I get called into an awful lot of ice dam and mold situations  when we have a winter like this last one, where we had so much snow sitting on the roofs for so long.”

When it comes to picking the right inspector, Freiburger recommends first checking the state’s Department of Safety & Professional Services to verify that an individual is a registered home inspector.

Next, he said consumers should ask their inspector whether they belong to any professional associations.

“You don’t have to belong to anything, but usually the people who are members of the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors, etc. ... will follow a higher standard of practice,” Freiburger said. “Many of these national associations have a standard of practice that is a bit more rigorous than the state of Wisconsin, so you may be getting a little bit more for your money.”