Copyright 2022 Kenton Shepard

STANDARDS OF PRACTICE for the INSPECTION of WATERFRONT PROTECTIVE STRUCTURES and DOCKING FACILITIES

Current (2021) home inspection industry Standards of Practice (SOPs) do not cover the inspection of waterfront protective structures like seawalls, bulkheads and revetments. As with General Home Inspections, SOPs are minimum guidelines detailing what home inspectors must inspect, and what they need not inspect. They are an important tool:

  1. In limiting client’s expectations of what information, the inspector’s report will contain;
  2. In improving client confidence in the inspection by specifying Standard minimums;
  3. In providing inspectors with protection against liability; and
  4. As a marketing tool for home inspectors.

 

About the Standards

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

Many above water structural deficiencies are obvious to anyone who takes the time to look. Similar structural deficiencies of underwater portions may not be observed until deficiencies have progressed to the point at which damage is visible to above water components.

Diving can be hazardous due to environmental concerns like polluted waterways, dangerous wildlife, strong currents, entanglement, or electric shock drowning. Alternatives are now available for those 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 client expectations is key to avoid disappointing them.

 

STANDARDS OF PRACTICE for WATERFRONT PROTECTIVE STRUCTURES and DOCKING FACILITIES

I. 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;
  8. Will not determine the condition of components not readily visible at the time of the inspection.

 

II. EXCLUSIONS

The inspector is not required to:

  1. Report on portions of waterfront protective structures that are underwater at the time of the inspection;
  2. Enter the water to perform an inspection;
  3. Conduct inspections according to weather, seasonal, or tidal conditions;
  4. Identify the cause of observed deficiencies;
  5. Dig or otherwise unearth tie-backs, anchors, or other buried components at either the landside or waterside grade;
  6. Offer an opinion as to the adequate structural adequacy, life expectancy, or expansion potential of waterfront protective structures or docking facilities;
  7. Inspect adjoining or contiguous waterfront protective structures or storm sewers projecting through such structures; or
  8. Determine the load capacity of boat lifts.

 

III. WATERFRONT PROTECTIVE STRUCTURES

The Inspector shall:

Inspect:

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

Describe:

  1. Visible component materials and construction methods

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;
  4. Observed deficiencies in revetments and their components.

 

IV. DOCKING FACILITIES

The Inspector shall:

Inspect:

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

Describe:

  1. Dock materials, construction methods and anchoring system;
  2. Boat house materials and general construction methods;
  3. Boat lift type

Report on:

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