Disagreement over roofing disclosure
Q: I have a general complaint against some home inspectors. Often, I find conditions listed as faulty in home inspection reports are found to be no problem at all when evaluated by local contractors. A case in point occurred involving a shingle roof. The inspector cited a metal pipe that penetrates a roof valley. He said the pipe could cause a leak because it lacked flashing. This pipe, however, is thoroughly sealed with roof mastic and appears leak proof. When I called the contractor who installed the roof, he said vent flashing in a valley is only required in cold climates where snow and ice are prevalent. How can I trust home inspectors when their reports are so unreliable?
A: What you have is a case of conflicting professional opinions, and it would be wise to consider both sides of the argument before assuming one is right and the other wrong. In this case, the home inspector has been presumed to be wrong because a contractor had an opposing view.
Consider, for a moment, inspectors who work for municipal building departments. On a daily basis, they evaluate new construction and are trusted to make reliable judgments regarding the performance of carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc. In such cases, the building inspector's opinion takes precedence over that of the contractor or tradesperson. Why then, when the inspector is in private business, rather than in the employ of the building department, is his opinion automatically subject to the judgments of builders and tradespeople?
In the case of the roof condition you cited, it is commonly regarded as bad practice to have penetrations of any kind in a valley. Here are two reasons why:
• All roof penetrations have the potential for leakage. When leaks occur in a valley, they are likely to be very wet ones, due to the high volume of water that flows through a valley.
The best way to safeguard against leakage at vent pipes is to install metal flashing. This is not an optional procedure. It is required in all cases, especially in a valley.
• Furthermore, to allege that vent pipe flashing is only required where snow and ice are prevalent would generate laughter at a convention of roofing contractors.
Q: The tree in my neighbor's front yard is damaging my main sewer line. Last year, the main pipe became clogged with roots and caused a backup in my shower and toilet. It cost $4,000 to repair it. I've told the neighbor, but he won't do anything about it. What can I do?
A: If you've notified your neighbor about the problem, but he won't do anything, you might have a liability claim, but you would have to prove the roots from his tree were causing the problem.
One way to prevent further problems from that tree would be to dig a trench along your fence line and sever all the roots that are growing onto your property.
• 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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