Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


Who Inspected Your Roof?

Last week I mentioned that municipal inspectors will sometimes miss important details on permit inspections, partially because they just don't have the time to go over every little detail on a home the way that a private inspector does.  That reminded me of another aspect of municipal inspections in the Twin Cities that most people don't know about:

Municipal inspectors typically don't walk on roofs to inspect them.

That's right.  When municipal inspectors in the Twin Cities come out to inspect roofs, they will rarely set foot on the roof, or even lean a ladder up against the roof.  The rules vary between cities - some prohibit their inspectors from walking roofs, while others actually provide ladders for their inspectors.

So why don't municipal inspectors walk on roofs?  Because they don't have to.  It's documented in the Minnesota Administrative Rules for Inspections (1300.0210, Subp. 4.):

"The person requesting an inspection required by the code shall provide access to and means for inspection of the work."

This means that if you expect your municipal inspector to walk on your roof, or even use a ladder to inspect it, you better have a ladder leaning up against your roof when they show up.  They probably won't be bringing their own ladder.  If you DO have a ladder... they still might not.

Home Inspector on Snowy RoofRoofing contractors all tell me the same thing; municipal roof inspections are anything but thorough.  One roofer told me that city inspectors barely get out of their vehicles.  I have a high degree of respect for municipal inspectors and I had a hard time believing my roofer friends.  To find out for myself, I sent out emails to twenty of the largest municipalities in Minnesota, asking if their building inspectors will walk roofs.  I wrote:

"If a municipal inspector is coming out to inspect a permit for a residential roof replacement, will they walk on the roof to inspect it if a ladder is provided?  The roof has a pitch of 4:12, and is free of snow, ice, water, debris, etc."

FYI - A 4:12 roof is a very low-sloped roof (see photo above).

Here are the responses I received:

  • No response - 4
  • No. Inspectors are not allow to walk on sloped roofs, period - 4
  • Maybe? Vague answers to my direct question - 4
  • Yes. As long as all of the requirements listed above are met - 7
  • Yes, we rock. Department policy requires inspectors to walk on roofs with a slope of 6:12 or less, and the inspector's vehicles are equipped with ladders for doing so - 1 (Saint Louis Park).

Go Saint Louis Park.  Their municipal inspections department continues to impress me.

Here are two more tips I picked up from the email responses that I received:

  • Some municipalities allow / require digital photos of the roof underlayment in lieu of an initial inspection.  The City of Blaine (among others) has a document detailing how to send in digital photos to the building inspections department.  Click here to see it - scroll to the bottom of the document.
  • None of the municipalities will approve permits when the roofs are covered with snow.  Homeowners are supposed to call for inspections in the spring, after the snow has melted.  Municipalities end up with "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of roofing permits that never get closed out.

If you have your roof replaced, make sure someone leaves a ladder for the inspector.  At least this way you'll have a chance of someone getting on your roof to inspect it.


"...But The City Approved It!"

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 11 commentsReuben Saltzman • February 16 2010 05:03AM


Rueben....I always understood that if a roof has a slope of less than 6/12 the manufacturer of the shingles would not warranty them.....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 9 years ago

Great points, all to often overlooked...  We have a responsibility to our clients to know these things...Thank you for the education!

Posted by Barbara Kornegay, Wilmington NC Real Estate, Homes (REMAX Essential) over 9 years ago

I have gone through many inspectors. I have my professional team in place.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) over 9 years ago

Barbara T - I've never heard that.  Why would that be?

Barbara K - Until I sent out all the emails, I didn't even know this stuff.

Harry - this is about municipal inspectors.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

It is important to know an inspectors credentials. Is he a engineer or was he delivering pizza until decide to become a home inspector?

Posted by William True, Sarasota Real Estate (True Sarasota Real Estate) over 9 years ago

I have to tell you Reuben, I absolutely would not climb on a roof with that much snow on it. Actually any snow for that matter. Not worth the risk in my opinion.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago

William - or is he still delivering pizza?

James - I don't blame you one bit.... but I have to ask: what if there was a four foot deep snow drift below you? 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

I agree with James. I do not walk on a roof with snow or ice. Not worth the risk of injury.

Posted by Bruce Breedlove (Avalon Inspection Services) over 9 years ago

Bruce - there's nothing wrong with that.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

Thanks for the info but no sense in looking at a roof you cant see.

Posted by Gene Allen, Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate (Fathom Realty) over 9 years ago

Well do say! and yet the end results are in most case situations turn out just fine! either the state licensed contractor followed the manufacurers instructions or he did not and the manufactures instructions are there doing the inspection, further the manufacture normally have a certification program for State Licensed Contractors to be certified to install thier product.

Posted by Fred Sweezer Sr., Certified Home Inspector (Hud Certified 203K Consultant) 5 months ago