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

Home Inspector Didn’t Report Wood Rot

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:We purchased our home about six months ago, and the home inspector said nothing about wood rot. I recently discovered rotted eave boards when I was repainting the exterior. Shouldn’t this have been reported by our home inspector?  John

Dear John:  Wood rot is caused by fungus. In most states, inspection for wood destroying organisms such as fungus is not within the scope of a home inspection. Damage of this kind is typically covered by a licensed pest control operator, commonly known as a termite inspector. You should check your records to see if there was a pest report when you purchased the property. If so, call that company and ask them to re-inspect the eaves around your home.

Major or Minor, and all that rot

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.

Dispute Over Wood Rot & Purchase Deposit

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: We just hired a home inspection 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.

Moisture from dryer ducts could lead to mold or fungus growth

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: We live in a 6-unit apartment building, and the dryer exhaust ducts for all six of the laundry rooms blow into my attic. Every few months, the landlord’s maintenance man goes into the attic to remove the lint that clogs the neighbor’s dryer vents. He insists that this is not a problem, but I’m afraid it is causing the moldy smell in our apartment. What is your opinion of this situation? Wendy

Dear Wendy: It is not legal for a clothes dryer exhaust vent to terminate within the confines of a building, either in the foundation crawlspace or the attic. Section 504.3.1 of the Uniform Mechanical Code states that: “Moisture-exhaust ducts for domestic clothes dryers shall terminate on the outside of the building…”

There are two reasons for this requirement: 1) Moisture condensation can promote the growth of fungus or mold; 2) The accumulation of lint can pose a fire hazard. Therefore, someone should extend the dryer vents in your building through the nearest exterior wall or through the roof.

The moisture from six laundries could definitely be causing mold or fungus growth in your attic. To determine possible mold infection, a professional mold consultant should conduct a thorough survey of your home to determine the types of mold that may be present and the proper means of remediation if hazardous mold is found. At the same time, a pest control operator should inspect the attic for fungus infection of wood framing and resultant dryrot.