Plumber challenges home inspector

Q: Two weeks after moving into our home, the water heater died. Fortunately, this was covered by our home warranty policy. The plumber who installed the new fixture found code violations with the gas and water lines and said these should have been reported by our home inspector when we bought the property.

These repairs are not covered under the home warranty and will have to be paid by us. The plumber also said these defects could prevent the city inspector from approving the new water heater installation. If we have to pay for defects that were missed by our home inspector, do we have recourse?

A: There are two possibilities here. Either your home inspector missed some apparent plumbing defects, or your plumber is promoting work which may or may not be needed. Fortunately, you can get the municipal inspector's opinion about this when the water heater installation is inspected. You should also notify the home inspector of the plumber's claims and ask that he come back for a second look at the gas and water pipes.

Q: We had our fireplace converted from wood-burning to gas logs. Since then, we've heard that a fireplace with gas logs should have the damper fastened in the open position to prevent combustion exhaust from entering the home. The person who installed our gas logs said nothing about this, and the gas company people were completely unaware of it as a requirement. Is this procedure widely known and is it truly required?

A: When fireplaces have gas logs, the Uniform Mechanical Code requires the damper to be secured in the open position. The code states as follows:

“In addition to the general requirements … approved gas logs may be installed in solid-fuel-burning fireplaces, provided:

1. The gas log is installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions.

2. If the fireplace is equipped with a damper, it shall be permanently blocked open to a sufficient amount to prevent spillage of combustion products in the room.”

Those who install gas logs in fireplaces, and especially your gas company, should be aware of these requirements.

Q: We bought our home about two months ago. Since then, we've discovered leaking and mold in the basement, a live wire end hanging from the back porch, and other electrical problems. Not one of these conditions was disclosed by the seller, the agent or our home inspector. Who, if anyone, is liable?

A: All of the parties mentioned share in the liability: the seller for failing to provide adequate disclosure of things that would seem to have been apparent; the agent for not conducting a reasonably complete walk-through inspection; and the home inspector in particular for not reporting conditions that should have been visible at the time of the inspection. Enforcing such liability may not be easy but is definitely worth a try. To begin, all parties should be informed in writing of your concerns. The home inspector should definitely take a look at the problems.

Distributed by Action Coast Publishing. Questions to Barry Stone can be emailed to

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