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posted: 2/1/2013 5:03 AM

Home inspector: Who's to blame for faulty water heater?

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Q. We recently bought an old home that was just remodeled, including a new water heater. But since we moved in, the pilot light keeps going out. The contractor who did the remodel says he didn't install the water heater, but he should know who did. We called the manufacturer of the water heater, and they said the vent pipe should be installed straight up and not sideways through the wall. Nothing was said about this by our home inspector. He said the water heater is "satisfactory." Who is liable for the cost of repairs?

A. Some high-efficiency water heaters are designed to vent horizontally through a wall. Your home inspector may have thought this was one of those models, or he may just be inexperienced and not very qualified as an inspector.

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If the installation was done as part of the remodel, under the authority of the general contractor, then he should take responsibility for what was done under his watch. At the very least, he should disclose who did the installation. If the installer was an unlicensed "craftsman," the contractor could be doubly responsible.

The contractor, the home inspector, and the sellers all have a share in the liability. You should get a bid from a licensed plumber so you'll know how much money is needed to correct the problem. Hopefully, someone will accept that responsibility.

Q. Our tree has some limbs that extended beyond the back fence, into the neighbor's yard. The neighbor trimmed some of these branches, which is entirely reasonable. But instead of disposing of the trimmings in a neighborly way, he threw them over the fence into our yard, leaving them for me to pick up and throw away. Was it legal for him to do this?

A. Whether it was legal for your neighbor to throw the tree prunings into your yard is a question for a legal expert. What is more certain is that your neighbor is not concerned about good relations and may have anger management issues. As annoying as his actions are, the best advice is to let it go and be glad he's not a member of your family. An interesting response would be to send him a "thank you" card.

Q. What do you think of orange oil as a "green" option for eradicating termites? How does it compare with fumigation?

A. Orange oil is one of several methods for killing termites with local treatment instead of fumigation. It can be highly effective where applied. However, the problem with local treatment is that termites continue to live in areas of the building where their presence was not discovered and no treatment was applied. The best and most reliable way to kill them all is by tenting the entire building and using fumicide.

• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Distributed by Action Coast Publishing

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