The House Detective: by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector
Dear Barry: We just hired a home inspector for the house that we may buy, and this raised a dispute with the sellers. The inspector found rotted framing below the porch and living room, but he did not list this as a major defect. The sellers say we cannot cancel the deal without losing our deposit because the purchase contract allows cancellation for major defects only. What should we do? Larah
Dear Larah: Home inspectors rarely specify whether a defect is major or minor because that kind of judgment is often subjective. A defect that is major to one buyer might be minor to someone else. In the case of wood rot, two variables directly affect that assessment: 1) the extent of the damage and; 2) the cost to repair.
If large portions of the porch and floor framing are damaged, then the condition cannot be described as minor. Besides this, dryrot is not a static condition. It is caused by fungus infection that spreads further into the wood members whenever moisture is present. If left unchecked, small amounts of rot can become very major. This means that replacement of rotted wood is an immediate necessity.
This leads, of course, to the question of expense. If the repair costs are major, then the rot cannot regarded as a minor defect. To resolve this debate, you should get three bids from licensed contractors for replacement of the affected framing. Hopefully, the repairs will not be too costly and you can proceed with the purchase of the home. Otherwise, you should be entitled to a refund of your deposit.