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posted: 5/2/2014 12:01 AM

Overreaching advice from home inspector

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Q. I am selling my home, and the buyer's home inspector recommended replacing the furnace and water heater because of their age. Both are 20 years old and in good working order. Should I replace them even though they are in good condition?

A. When home inspectors evaluate old furnaces and water heaters, it is typical to report these fixtures may have limited remaining life and to recommend further evaluation by a plumbing and heating contractor. But to advise replacement without specifying actual defects is not a reasonable recommendation. A furnace may be damaged, inoperative or improperly installed, which would call for further evaluation, repair or replacement, but age itself is not sufficient cause for replacement.

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A 20-year-old water heater is well beyond its expected useful life. A unit of that age may fail very soon. It would not be unreasonable for a homebuyer to request replacement, but that is a negotiable matter. If the fixture is still in operable condition and it is not damaged or leaking, it is your choice whether to replace it.

Some home inspectors, especially inexperienced ones, tend to overreach in their recommendations. Most home inspectors would not recommend replacing fixtures that are functional and intact.

Q. We bought a foreclosed house that had been abandoned by the previous owner, and we were given a report by a mold inspection company. It found mold in the bathroom resulting from a plumbing leak. The leak was fixed, the room was cleaned with mold-killing liquid, and the moldy flooring and cabinet were replaced. Do you think there is a risk of residual mold in the house?

A. After mold mitigation is completed in a building, re-inspection and air testing by a qualified mold specialist is recommended to certify that there is no residual infection. This is because remaining spores can become active when exposed to moisture. Furthermore, treating mold with chemicals is not regarded as an adequate remedy, because dead mold spores can have adverse health effects on people who have mold-related sensitivities. Instead of treating the infected areas, all materials with mold should be removed, not just some materials. You should hire a qualified mold specialist for a final inspection of your home.

Q. Our home was built in 1979, and we are concerned about possible asbestos in our popcorn ceilings. We tried painting these surfaces with a roller, but the popcorn stuff became loose and muddy, and pieces kept falling onto the drop cloth. What are we doing wrong, and what do you recommend?

A. Acoustic ceilings that have not yet been painted must be spray painted, rather than rolled. Popcorn ceilings that have not been sealed with a previous coat of paint will soak up moisture and become loose and muddy. If you are not sure about asbestos in the ceiling texture, send three small samples to an EPA-certified lab for analysis. Asbestos began to be phased out in 1978, so there is a slim chance your ceilings do not contain asbestos.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

© 2014, Action Coast Publishing

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