Follow The Clues

Home Inspectors are, by their nature, curious. We take in incomplete bits of information and work to put them together in a way that makes sense and hopefully provides real concrete information to our clients. Sometimes the clues are obvious… a deteriorated cabinet bottom under a sink pretty clearly suggests a past or present water leak. But sometimes the clues are a little more cloudy and, on the surface, unrelated.

I recently inspected a 4-year old home in the Olympia area. I always find out what I can on-line about the home prior to the inspection, and one detail from the listing caught my attention… the home has new flooring. Now a 4-year old home rarely has new flooring installed, but maybe it was an esthetic decision, or maybe the owners had a dog that didn’t play well with the house, or maybe… So I filed the info away.

While inspecting the exterior, I tested the water pressure. It was 106 PSI… quite high. We typically want to see pressure between 40 PSI and 80 PSI. Less than 40 PSI can result in reduced water pressure if more than 1 or 2 taps are open at the same time, and more than 80 PSI can wreck havoc with plumbing fixtures, water hoses, etc. So I filed it away.

In talking with my client, she indicated that she had looked on-line at a bunch of photos of the home, and while the kitchen and living room now have a decent quality laminate floor, earlier photos showed a different floor covering in those areas. Filed it away.

It’s not unusual for the garage of a home being sold to be full of boxes, and this garage was no different. They were stacked everywhere, and while putting on my crawl space equipment I noticed that several – not all, but several – of the boxes were printed with the name of a company that I know specializes in restoration work after fires or floods. OK… now the file was filling up and beginning to look like something!

While doing an inspection, I always try to capture model and serial numbers on appliances. We use the model numbers in our RecallChek service, and we use the serial numbers to determine the appliance’s date of manufacture. As you can imagine with a 4-year old house, all of the appliances were manufactured about 4 years ago. Except one. The dishwasher. It was manufactured in January of this year.

Now the story is complete… or so it seems. Home Inspectors provide objective information, and preferably information that can be verified. All I had at this point was a bunch of disparate facts leading me to a conclusion that may or may not be correct. So here is what I said in my inspection report… (with the restoration company name withheld).

The marketing for this home indicated that new flooring had been installed. For a 4 year old home, new flooring is unusual. The client had seen photos indicating the wood laminate flooring in the kitchen/living room area may be new. During the inspection, it was observed that several of the cardboard boxes in the garage were labeled “X Restoration”. X Restoration is a company that specializes in clean-up after a flood or a fire. The water pressure is quite high for this home, registering 106 PSI, while 80 PSI is considered a reasonable ceiling. The serial number on the dishwasher indicates that it was manufactured in January of this year, and it is the only appliance in the kitchen to have been replaced. Dishwashers have a 10-15 year life expectancy. All of these facts may be unrelated and not indicative of anything, or these facts might work together to suggest a flooding event. We recommend the client find out from the seller whether a flooding event occurred, and if so, specifically how it was cleaned up and by whom.

After our report came out, the buyer’s agent discussed this with the seller’s agent, who professed no knowledge of a flooding event. The buyer’s agent got creative and called “X Restoration”, and they confirmed that they had recently worked on this home. As I write this, the seller’s agent is going back to their client for an ‘updated disclosure’ that includes information on what occurred… which I’m willing to bet was a dishwasher hose failure that was the result of high water pressure.

My client now needs to decide whether the possibility of flood-related issues is a problem for her or not. We do offer indoor air quality testing that includes VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) and Mold VOC’s (a test for indicators of active living mold), but because the air sampling takes two hours, we typically only offer it during and in conjunction with a home inspection. In this instance, I have let the buyer’s agent know we will waive that requirement and are willing to go in and conduct the sampling as a standalone service.

It was a good day.

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