Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: We are in escrow to buy a home. When we made our offer, there was an attractive concrete walkway in the front yard. Since then, the sellers hired a contractor to inspect the septic tank. The contractor had to cut out two sections of the walkway, but when he replaced the pieces, he set them in a way that is uneven, unsightly, and could cause someone to trip. Now the sellers and their agent say it is up to us to replace the damaged pavement because temporary removal was required to meet the terms of the sale. Do we really have to fix this ourselves, or is it the responsibility of the sellers?  Misty

Dear Misty: The sellers and their agent are entirely out of bounds. You made an offer to purchase a property in the condition that existed when it was marketed. Since the offer was accepted, that condition was adversely altered by contractors who were hired by the sellers.

The excuse offered by the sellers and their agent is entirely unacceptable. Suppose the sellers’ chimney sweep had damaged the roof? Would that also be your problem? What if the sellers’ painter had cracked a window? Would you be required to replace the glass? In this case, the sellers had to hire a septic contractor. The performance of that obligation did not license them to denigrate the property at your expense. Either the sellers or their septic contractor should restore the property to the conditions that existed when you made your offer. Your agent, not theirs, should step up to the plate and demand that this be done. Hopefully, you have your own agent in this transaction.

Dear Barry: When we bought our house, the home inspector said he could not open the damper in the fireplace and suggested we have it checked further. We probably should have taken his advice but did not. Recently, we used the fireplace for the first time, and our teenage son had no problem opening the damper. The fireplace worked okay, but on a rainy day the brick firebox became wet. Now we’re wondering why the home inspector was unable to open the damper and whether leak repairs are covered by the home warranty policy.  Mike

Dear Mike: Your son would most likely prevail against the home inspector in an arm wrestling match. Be that as it may, leaking at the chimney top apparently caused rusting of the damper hardware, causing the damper to stick. The resistance was too much for the home inspector but not for your son. To prevent further water intrusion and rust, a chimney cap should be installed. It is unfortunate that caps are not required on all masonry chimneys.

You should also follow the home inspector’s original recommendation and have the fireplace system fully evaluated by a qualified professional, such as a certified chimney sweep. And make sure the chimney cap is the type with a four-sided spark arrestor.

As for home warranty coverage, that will depend upon the fine print in the policy. Warranty companies typically exclude pre-existing conditions.