Peter Bunai: A Background in Building
A Home Inspector with Experience in Construction
I finished High school in June 1985. That summer I got a job as a carpenter’s helper. The ad said, “must be able to cut straight and read a tape measure”. I could do both but not very well. My new boss turned out to be a great carpenter. Framing a house can be exciting because it looks like the house is being built quickly. It’s often only a few weeks to a month to frame most houses. It’s the last 10 percent when you realize you are just halfway there.
The Unlikely Path to Home Inspection
I spent the next six years in the Navy in their nuclear engineering program. This was a great education for anything and everything about the physical world. My job was the operation and maintenance of a naval nuclear power plant on a submarine, the USS Spadefish. That nuclear plant had many different systems: Electrical systems, plumbing system, HVAC systems, etc. It was this experience that would later be so useful as a builder, and then as a home inspector.
I had several jobs after the Navy. I worked as a framing carpenter on and off. I built furniture for a while. In 1994 I bought 5 acres of land in Surry, Virginia with the idea of building myself a house.
Up until this point I had only build traditional stick frame houses. In 1996 My mother who lived in Australia asked me If I would help build her a house. When I got there, she told me they were building a mud brick house. I attended a mud brick workshop to learn more about it. I learned mud brick is cool during the day and warm at night. It was also beautiful and practical. That is even before you get to the environmental benefits of it.
When I returned to America, I wanted to build some type of alternate construction but from local materials. I decided on a straw bale house with post and beam for the structure. For the plans, I worked with an architect from Charlottesville that had already designed several straw bale houses for the community there.
The house I built was a typical three bedroom, two bathroom home. What really sets my experience apart is the lengths that I went to, to build as much of the house as I could. I built a small excavator that I used to clear the land and dig the foundation. I brought in a sawmill and milled all my own lumber. I did all my own plumbing, electrical, HVAC and roofing etc.
I did have help with some of the labor. Family and friends showed up. I held a Straw bale workshop so others could learn about it and there were many volunteers.
Soon after completing that house a friend of mine asked me to build one for him. I can honestly say I had really enjoyed the process of designed then building a house. I ended up designing and building seven houses from start to finish. One was Insulated concrete forms; another used the Superior wall system for the foundation and basement. Most had a focus on energy efficiency but not to the exclusion of ascetics.
In 2008 when the housing market started to get crazy, I thought it was time for a change. I joined the Newport news Police department and stayed there till I retired in 2016. After that I wanted to go back to building but didn’t really want to do the building anymore. I had a friend who was a home inspector and thought it might be a good fit for me. I became licensed as a home inspector in 2017.
When I look back at that first house, what stands out for me is the extent to which the house built me. I spent long hours learning, studying, and planning. Never intending for it to be an occupation. I was going to just build one house so that I had somewhere to live, and yet here I am almost 25 years later looking at and talking about homes with all the passion that I build that first house.
As the owner of First Choice Home Inspections Peter brings the same technical approach and attention to detail that he learned as a Navy engineer to his business. He has more than 10 years of experience working in all aspects of home construction, which gives Peter a critical eye as a home inspector. Professionally trained and licensed in Virginia, he has passed the National Home Inspectors Examination. Peter is also a member of the International Association of Certified Home Inspections and the National Radon Proficiency Program.
Peter currently resides in Williamsburg with his wife and three children. He is also an avid pilot and in his spare time enjoys flying around Virginia. In 2017, Peter became a Virginia Aviation Ambassador by flying to all 66 public-use airports in the state.