Is Some Moisture OK?

Home inspectors are often asked to render opinions on other professionals work. Many times we are challenged by licensed professionals, such as engineers, architects, and contractors, who feel differently about a problem.

Who is right?

Remember professional inspectors offer an OPINION of the condition of a building. This should be an informed opinion based upon knowledge and experience; but it is OUR opinion and not someone else’s. Sought after home inspectors are often in disagreement with others and we need to be firm in our conclusions if we are to best serve our clients.

Recently, I inspected a 7 year old commercial building that was in bank foreclosure. My first and primary concern was moisture intrusion. I began my analysis on the exterior of this concrete block and brick structure. Soon, I found a number of details that concerned me:

  • The roof valley drainage was restricted by a decorative facade
  • No rubber gaskets were on the nails of the roof to wall metal flashing
  • Many brick wall locations requiring weep ropes had none or were mortared over
  • The window and door steel lintels were painted but had already rusted

When I went inside I observed:

  • Water stains on the concrete floors and plaster ceilings
  • Water stains on the window sill frames

Shortly after relating these concerns to my client, I received an engineering report on the building. Evidently, the building had already been in litigation and this had not been disclosed to my client. The engineering report confirmed many of my findings.

The engineering firm designed a very thorough and costly solution to this complex problem. It included all new window, door, and roof flashing, as well as adding brick weep ropes. I recommended that these detailed repairs be completed to resolve the issue and keep the water out of the building. However, the engineer also said that this problem could be managed by water sealing the exterior bricks. In the end, the bank determined that sealing the face of the bricks was sufficient to correct the problem and resell the building.

My client looked to me to advise them on this matter. Was I OK that this moisture problem had been resolved with a thin coat of brick water sealer?

How do you feel about it?

Email me at with your opinion and I will reply with mine.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor


How BAD Is It?

Determining the significance of a problem has always been challenging for home inspectors. For most inspectors, this can even become an insurmountable and unnerving task. The concern is if we misrepresent our findings either our liability will go through the roof or ours clients might not buy a home they really want. Neither of these is good. The quality of an inspector is directly proportionate to their ability to confidently tell a customer precisely how serious or how insignificant a problem is. Home inspectors can no longer get away with merely identifying the existence of a property defect; they must also state its severity and impact. So how does one acquire this wisdom and sureness?

The answer is quite simple; a home inspector must fully understand the primary purpose(s) of each component they are analyzing. The scope of each problem is based upon whether the component is performing its intended function or not. Let me give you 3 examples:

  1. A grounded outlet in a bath is safe; by adding a GFCI receptacle it would be safer. So the lack of a GFCI to a home inspector would be rather insignificant. Why…because the outlet is performing its intended purpose and is safe to use.
  2. The cedar siding on a home is properly installed and watertight; however, the paint is peeling. Because cedar is naturally decay resistant, the peeled paint is normal maintenance and low in significance to the inspector. The siding is performing is intended purpose which is to make the exterior walls water impervious.
  3. You’re inspecting a home with a front porch which has a severely sloped floor and the walls are pulling away from the main building. Very significant problem; why…because the existing foundation is not performing its intended function. A primary function of a foundation is to protect against earth movement and that clearly is not occurring.

So how BAD is it? Ask yourself, am I trying to tell my client the component…

  • Has potential for failure where a minor improvement is recommended (example #1)
  • Is in process of failure needing a repair (example #2)
  • Has failed requiring complete replacement (example #3)

The ability to communicate these findings in balance and with conviction will define you as either an average or a super inspector. So whether you are new to the real estate business or a seasoned agent is your current inspector capable of properly communicating to tell your clients?

Really, how bad is it?

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

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