Q. I was speaking with a home inspector last week and happened to mention your column. He said some of your articles make problems for home inspectors. This made me feel that I wouldn't want to hire him to inspect a home I was buying. In many of your articles you have recommended hiring "a truly qualified inspector …" With so many inspectors competing for business, how does a homebuyer know that a home inspector is "truly qualified?"
A. Many of the questions I receive from readers involve complaints about unsatisfactory home inspections. Therefore, it is inevitable that some inspectors will take exception to comments made in this column.
One thing to remember about home inspection is that it is a learn-as-you-go business. There is no way to become thoroughly qualified and proficient as a home inspector prior to going into business, unless an inspector has learned the profession as an employee of an existing home inspection company. Most home inspectors enter business after taking an introductory course in home inspection. Therefore, inspectors who have been in business the longest usually have the greatest ability to discover property defects.
To find the best home inspectors, it is helpful to call several real estate offices and simply ask "Who is the most thorough inspector in the area?" Unfortunately, there are some agents who regard the best home inspectors as "deal breakers." However, agents who might not recommend the best inspectors to their own clients might give an honest answer when the inspection does not involve one of their own deals.
What you want is a home inspector who has inspected several thousand homes and has an established reputation for comprehensive thoroughness. It is also a sign of professionalism when an inspector is a member of a recognized home inspection association, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors. Checking with Yelp and Angie's List can also be very helpful.
Q. Our water heater is located in the garage, and the relief valve is not connected to a pipe. This was pointed out to us when we had our home appraised. The FHA appraiser recommended a PVC pipe from the valve to the outside of the building. My husband installed the pipe through the garage wall to the front porch, but it looks hideous there! Is it a requirement that the valve be piped to the outside of the garage?
A. The plumbing code requires water heater relief valves to have a ¾-inch discharge pipe to the exterior of the building or to "an approved location."
Unfortunately, many building departments allow the garage floor to qualify as an approved location. The problem with piping to the garage floor is possible water damage in the event of leakage, but this piping method may be approved by the building official in your area.
An error on the part of your appraiser was to recommend PVC pipe. PVC is not permissible for this use because it is not a heat-resistant material. If that is what your husband used, replacement with approved material is advised. If you run a copper pipe to the porch, it will not be as noticeable as PVC. If its appearance at the porch still bothers you, try placing a potted plant in front of it.
• 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.
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