InterNACHI® Standards of Practice for Inspecting Waterfront Protective Structures and Docking Facilities

 

These Standards of Practice (SOP) comprise the minimum guidelines detailing what home inspectors must inspect, and what they need not inspect. 

The SOP is an important tool:

  1. in providing clients with information with which they can make a more informed purchase decision;
  2. in limiting a client’s expectations of what information the inspector’s report will contain;
  3. in improving client confidence in the inspection by providing minimum Standards;
  4. in improving the ability of inspectors providing this service to obtain insurance;
  5. in providing inspectors with protection against liability; and
  6. as a marketing tool for home inspectors.

Because the SOP offers minimum guidelines, inspectors are free to exceed them to any degree they choose. Many inspectors will not inspect the underwater portions of these structures, preferring to adhere to the “readily visible” standard common to home inspections, and avoiding the necessity for diving. 

The structural deficiencies of underwater portions of these structures may not be observed until such deficiencies have progressed to a point at which damage is visible to above-water components. Through developing a basic understanding of the underwater portions of these structures, Inspectors can often infer deficiencies by their visible effect on the above-water portions. 

Although diving will often produce a more comprehensive, accurate report, it can be hazardous due to concerns like polluted waterways, dangerous wildlife, strong currents, entanglement, electric shock, or drowning. Alternatives are now available for inspectors wanting to comment on the underwater portions of the structures they inspect without entering the water.

Inspectors should be as specific as possible in communicating to clients what they will and will not inspect and report on during their inspection of waterfront protective structures. Limiting their clients’ expectations is key to avoid disappointing them.

I.  DEFINITIONS AND SCOPE OF WATERFRONT PROTECTIVE STRUCTURE INSPECTION 

  1. Inspection of waterfront protective structures includes seawalls, bulkheads, revetments, quays, and similar structures designed to protect waterfront land from erosion caused by the actions of waves, wakes, currents, precipitation, impacts, or other damaging or deteriorating forces.
  2. A Waterfront Protective Structure Inspection is a visual examination of the above-water portions of these structures, performed for a fee, and designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector.  The scope of work may be modified by the Client and Inspector prior to the inspection process.

    1. The inspection is based on the observations made on the date of the inspection, and is not a prediction of future conditions.
    2. The inspection will not reveal every issue that exists or ever could exist, but only those material defects observed on the date of the inspection.
  3. A material defect is a specific issue with a system or component of a waterfront protective structure that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or the present or future ability of the structure to perform as designed. The fact that a system or component is near, at, or beyond the end of its normal, useful life is not, in itself, a material defect.
  4. A waterfront protective structure inspection report shall identify, in written format, defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector. Inspection reports may include additional comments and recommendations.

II.  DEFINITIONS AND SCOPE OF DOCKING FACILITY INSPECTION

  1. Inspection of docking facilities includes the structural systems and major, readily visible, above-water portions of piers and dock structures, both floating and fixed, the means of access and their barriers, boathouse structures and their readily accessible electrical components, and shore power pedestals. The scope of work may be modified by the client and inspector prior to the inspection process.
  2. Inspection of boat lifts includes inspection of readily visible portions of the above-water lift components, and operation with the owner’s permission and with possession of the lift manufacturer’s operation instructions. The scope of work may be modified by the client and inspector prior to the inspection process.

III. LIMITATIONS 

An inspection of waterfront protective structures:

  1. is not technically exhaustive;
  2. will not identify concealed or latent defects; 
  3. will not determine the degree of protection offered by the structure; 
  4. will not determine the cost for corrections, repairs, alterations, or improvements; 
  5. will not predict the life expectancy of a structure or its components;
  6. will not predict the future condition of a structure or its components;
  7. will not predict or identify the durability of a structure or its components; and
  8. will not determine the condition of components not readily visible at the time of the inspection.

IV.  EXCLUSIONS

The inspector is not required to:

  1. determine property lines or encroachments;
  2. report on portions of waterfront protective structures that are underwater at the time of the inspection;
  3. enter the water to perform an inspection;
  4. conduct inspections according to weather, seasonal, or tidal conditions;
  5. identify the cause of observed deficiencies; 
  6. dig or otherwise unearth tie-backs, anchors, or other buried components at either the landside or waterside grade;
  7. offer an opinion as to the adequate structural adequacy, life expectancy, or expansion potential of waterfront protective structures or docking facilities;
  8. inspect adjoining or contiguous waterfront protective structures or storm sewers projecting through such structures; 
  9. operate boat lifts; or
  10. determine the load capacity of boat lifts.

 V.  WATERFRONT PROTECTIVE STRUCTURES

The Inspector shall:

 A. Inspect:

  1. waterfront protective structural components, including, but not limited to: piles, panels, associated hardware, cap, footings, revetments, or other components visible from the landside of the structure (in-water inspection by wading or diving is optional and is not a required part of these Standards); and
  2. the landside soil for signs of soil loss and/or subsidence.

B.  Describe:

  1. visible component materials and construction methods.

C.  Report on:

  1. observed deficiencies in the upland portion of waterfront protective structures, including sinkholes, erosion, and fill settlement;
  2. observed deficiencies in the cap condition, including cracks, spalling, stains, efflorescence, missing sections, misalignment, separation, observed damage, or other conditions that may have a negative impact on the service life of the structure;
  3. observed deficiencies, deterioration, or failures in the visible wall condition, including cracks, spalling, stains, efflorescence, missing sections, misalignment, separation, rotation, settlement, observed damage, or other conditions that may have a negative impact on the service life of the structure; and
  4. observed deficiencies in revetments and their components.

 VI.  DOCKING FACILITIES   

The Inspector shall:

A.  Inspect:

  1. the dock’s structural components, including, but not limited to: pilings, floats, deck structural components, associated hardware, and anchoring systems as they are readily visible, without having to enter the water;
  2. dock-access structures, including any barriers, ramps, or gangways;
  3. the boathouse structure as readily visible, without having to enter the water;
  4. boat-lift apparatus (mechanical lifts and davits) by using normal controls; and
  5. visible and safely operable components of the electrical and water services, if present.

B.  Describe:        

  1. dock materials, construction methods, and anchoring system;
  2. boathouse materials and general construction methods; and
  3. boat-lift type.

C.  Report on:

  1. observed deficiencies, deterioration, failures, or inadequacies in dock or dock-access structures and their associated hardware; and
  2. mechanical or operational failures or deterioration of the readily visible portions of boat lifts or davits.

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