Q. We recently purchased an older home and hired a contractor to remodel the interior. An unexpected expense arose when the contractor found asbestos. He wants an additional $30,000 for asbestos removal, and this makes the total cost of the project more than we can afford.
Is someone accountable for failing to disclose asbestos before we bought the home -- the sellers or the home inspector -- or are we now stuck with this problem?
A. The only way to have known there was asbestos before you purchased the home would have been to hire an asbestos inspector to sample suspect materials and send them to an EPA-approved lab for analysis. This is not something a home inspector would have discovered or reported because environmental hazards are outside the scope of a home inspection. It is also unlikely the sellers would have known about asbestos in the home unless someone had informed them about it in the past.
Some home inspectors report "possible asbestos content" in materials such as popcorn ceilings or insulation on old heating ducts, but most asbestos materials cannot be identified without laboratory analysis.
Your contractor's bid of $30,000 seems unusually high, and you did not specify the type of material that needs removal or the method by which the contractor determined asbestos was present. Unless asbestos was verified by a qualified testing lab, I would question the findings.
If you have a lab report, it would be wise to get additional bids for asbestos removal by a properly licensed asbestos abatement contractor.
Q. We purchased a newly constructed home last summer and were certain it was well built and free of defects. But during the past rainy season, several of our dual-pane windows became foggy. Now we're afraid we may have bought a defective house and are wondering what to do.
The contractor says that leaking dual-pane windows are common. He said they can be replaced at no charge to us. Is this a reasonable explanation or should we be concerned?
A. Dual-pane window leakage is a common problem, but leaking seals do not indicate faulty building construction. The seals along the window edges are factory-installed, and leakage can be caused by defective workmanship by the manufacturer or faulty handling during transportation or installation.
Fortunately, most window manufacturers warrant dual-pane windows to the first owner of the property, and typically will replace them at no charge. The problem with some of these warranties is that shipping and installation costs may not be included, but with a new home, a reputable builder or contractor can be expected to assume the additional expenses.
As long as the contractor who built your home is willing to remedy the problem, let him replace the faulty windows, and don't worry needlessly about the general quality of construction. If other building defects become evident, a thorough evaluation of the property by a qualified home inspector will provide you with a detailed repair list for the contractor and will also help to allay unwarranted concerns.
• 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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