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Every so often we will publish a true story of an 
actual event that transpired during one of our 
Home Inspections.


Bill & Mary's New House

I think that the inspection service I provide for my customers is a cut above the rest. Every once in awhile I run across a situation that clearly illustrates why I think so. I’d like to relate this true story about an inspection I recently performed for Bill and Mary, on the big 4,000+ s.f. house they just purchased.

Bill and Mary had lived in their new house for about six months, when they started to notice water leaking in through a wall and ceiling in the basement. They had the house inspected before they purchased it, and the inspection report they got was a nice little handwritten checklist that said "everything was just fine". It had been a rainy spring, and having moved from a part of the country where basements are a rarity, Bill was convinced that his "basement was going to flood and his walls cave in". Well, they called their inspector for some advice on what to do. Apparently he was too busy to return their phone calls, so on the advice from a friend, they called me for help.

I met Bill at his house the next day. We walked around to the back yard and found that the grading looked fine, as did the gutters and downspouts. Also, I knew that this general part of the city was not noted for being particularly "wet". It was then I noticed that the "leaky area" was directly under the plumbing soil stack, on the roof. I thought to myself , "I wonder if this might be a plumbing leak instead of a basement water problem?" I told Bill, "Let’s go inside and look at the main level bathroom".

The first thing I did was look inside the shower. When I pressed on the ceramic tiles around the faucet and knobs, they almost pushed right through the wall. "Bill, I think we may have found your problem", I said. We spent the next fifteen to twenty minutes talking about the relative merits of dura-rock (cement board) behind tile vs. drywall and green-board, the need to re-grout and seal tile showers, etc.  When we were done Bill said,  "I didn’t know all that. . .no one ever told me".

Since it was fairly obvious that the shower had been leaking for quite some time, the next step was to head down to the basement and see how extensive the damage was. On the way, we passed by the furnace. I said to Bill, "By the way, did you know that this particular model may be part of a nation-wide recall, due to unacceptable levels of internal corrosion?" Bill said, "What??!" We spent the next twenty minutes talking about what recourse he had. I was able to give Bill the manufacturer’s toll free number to call, and showed him where to find the furnace model and serial number.

Well, we finally did make it to the wall and ceiling where Bill and Mary first noticed the leakage. The damaged area had been recently painted over. Due to the thickening of the drywall and the stains on the trim, it should have been obvious to an experienced inspector that it had been leaking for quite awhile. I thought to myself, "Oh brother. . . ."

This experience, and others like it, really demonstrated to me the difference in how I perform my inspections. Some inspectors don’t feel the need to take the time to educate, some may be afraid of getting people mad at them by being honest about their findings, others may just not have the experience to correctly interpret what they are seeing. Fortunately for Bill and Mary, other than having to replace some drywall, no internal structural damage had been done because of the shower leak. They had to eat the cost of replacing the ceramic tile themselves (about $1,200). On the positive side, the manufacturer of the furnace did provide them with a brand new unit.



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