Plumbing problems should have been caught

 
 
Published3/8/2008 10:26 AM

Q. I purchased a brand new home -- a bank-owned, "as-is" property. On the day of the home inspection, there was no hot water because the bank refused to turn on the gas service. Because of this, the home inspector did not discover that the upstairs bathrooms were piped with hot water only. So now I can't use the tubs or showers because the water is scalding hot. Our plumber says there is a cross-connection of the hot and cold water lines somewhere in the building and that it will be difficult to find where the problem is. I can't afford to re-pipe the house and don't know what else to do. What do you advise?

A. Your house probably does not need to be re-piped, but some investigative work will be needed to determine where the faulty pipe connections are located. To do this, some of the drywall will need to be removed to enable inspection and evaluation of the pipe layout. You should consult with your plumber to determine the least intrusive way to approach this process.

 

At the time of the home inspection, this problem could have been discovered, even without gas service or hot water. Your home inspector could have turned off the supply valve at the water heater. This is how home inspectors verify that faucets have cold on the right side and hot on the left when the gas service is off. Had your home inspector done this, he would have discovered the lack of cold water plumbing in the upstairs bathrooms.

Q. We purchased a home that was repossessed by the bank, and we hired a home inspector to check it out. After moving in, the gas company red-tagged the water heater because of improper exhaust venting. The gasman said this should have been disclosed by our home inspector, and according to our plumber, a new vent pipe will cost $629. Is the home inspector liable for this costly repair?

A. Without knowing the specifics of the vent violation, I cannot comment on whether the home inspector should have disclosed it. The most surprising aspect of your situation, however, is the incredible cost for a new vent pipe. For $629, you could have a new water heater installed.

As for the home inspector's liability: If you have not already replaced the vent pipe, you should notify your inspector about the problem and request that it be reinspected. That call should have been made as soon as the gas company pointed out the problem. Many home inspection contracts specify that the inspector must be given the opportunity to view the defect before it is repaired. Otherwise, the home inspector may be relieved of liability.

If the vent pipe has already been replaced, you have two separate issues: 1) You may have been grossly overcharged for the repairs; and 2) The home inspector may no longer be liable. If the repairs have not yet been done, call the home inspector and get two more bids for the cost of repairs.

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