Always exercise extreme caution when performing an attic inspection. When evaluating any attic space remember that the space between ceiling joists will typically not hold the weight of a home inspector. This home inspector was inspecting an attic space above a garage. There was a piece particle board laying across the joists. When he stepped on the board in the middle of two joists the board snapped and he fell through the board, between the ceiling joists and through the drywall. The home inspector was able to catch himself with his arms on the ceiling joist as he fell. The inspector was left dangling from the ceiling with his lower body through the drywall.
Luckily the homeowner came to his assistance and he was able to get help from a sewer scope inspector that was on site. The home inspector involved here escaped with a scare and some minor scrapes, but the result could have easily been much more serious. Always maintain three points of contact while walking the attic, similar to climbing a ladder. Have two hands on the attic trusses and one foot on a solid joist as you carefully move the other foot to the next solid ceiling joist. Then move one hand to the next position while you have solid footing with two feet on the joists and one solid hand hold. This way if one of the supports does give way you have three other points to support your weight.
As a home inspector if we cause any damage to the property, we are inspecting then immediately notify your office team and the real estate agents involved to arrange repair of the damaged area. The sooner that the home inspector can get the area repaired the less inconvenience to the homeowner. Many times, by being professional and taking care of the problem promptly you can turn a bad situation into a five-star review and future referrals. You cannot always prevent negative situations, but you can always make sure that you take care of the situation to satisfy all parties involved.
During this fall the home inspector also pulled a wire loose from the radon mitigation system that was installed in the attic. Upon return to the home and further inspection of the attic the loose wire was identify and was able to be repaired. This could also have turned into a safety hazard for the home inspector. If a wire gets pulled loose during a fall then the live wires could injure the inspector. Always be careful of where you place your hands and what you hold onto in the attic and never support yourself with electrical conductors in the attic.
This is also a very good reminder of home inspectors should never let their home buyer clients or real estate agents follow them into the attic. The attic is very dangerous and should only be inspected by the professional home inspector.
The result could be at best some damage to the underlying ceiling and at worst a serious injury or death. The moral of the story is, be extremely careful where you step, even if the surface looks secure. Be extra cautious when in an elevated position and don’t assume a surface will support your weight.