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Moisture meter says it's wet


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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Moisture meters don't measure moisture; I know that. But what do you recommend when you find an anomaly that traces out in a circular pattern right at the sewer flange of a toilet but it's absolutely clear of moisture stains or deterioration from below and toilet is firmly attached to the floor?

Chris, Oregon

"Pull the toilet. Ensure that there are no leaks or moisture damage then reinstall the toilet."

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Which search mode; pin or non-invasive?

Reason I ask, if it was non-invasive, you might have been picking up the screws holding down the substrate, or some other metallic component.

Telling them to pull the toilet is pretty safe though; cheap, and then you know for sure.

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It's probably just the top side of the plywood floor that's getting wet. Or, if the floor is vinyl, there's probably a layer of particle board that's getting wet.

I hardly ever find obvious wet wood or even water staining when I'm in the crawl space right under the toilet (after getting high sub-surface reading top-side with my meter). A lot of moisture damage can happen top-side before it ever works its way all the way through the wood.

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Most of the time there is correlating evidence like swelling or a loose toilet or seeing darkened PB from below. I have had realtors complain in the past that they have had inspectors declare there was leak but when the toilet was pulled everything was fine.

I was curious what the brethren say when there is no correlating evidence of an anomaly that sure looks like moisture because of its rounded pattern and rate of attack.

I am familiar with the fact the meters can get anomalous readings from things metal or denser like hardibacker thats been used to make a repair. In those cases the meter usually will peg to quickly or the outline will be rectangular or anything but indicative of spreading moisture.

Chris, Oregon

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I say screw what the realtors say.

They'll say anything to try and get you to change your mind and not write it up. Do what makes the most sense; pull the toilet and replace the seal. The seal ranges anywhere from $.59 to $2. and takes less than 20 minutes to replace. It's not going to break anyone's wallet to check it to be on the safe side.

I've had moisture readings on a tile floor around a toilet and no water stains from below and have called it. The listing agent called me up howling and insisted that I had to be mistaken and the plumber who'd installed the toilet a month before told the client I was off my rocker. I said I'd meet the plumber on-site and if that toilet wasn't leaking I'd pay for his time but that if I was right someone was going to have to pay me. The listing agent agreed and he met me there smug as can be. I walked in, scanned the area around the pedestal to show him the meter, walked him into the basement to show him that there was no water stains and opined that there was water there. He said, "Nope, there won't be any water there. Come on, I'll prove it. We went upstairs, he pulled the toilet, and then his jaw dropped when he found moisture outside of the seal area. I held up the moisture meter and said, "Protimeter, never leave home without it." Then the listing agent, red as a beet, forked over $75 for my 10 minutes on-site.

Ya gotta stop worrying about what the realtors are thinking and saying, Chris, or you're going to to give yourself an ulcer.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by hausdok

I say screw what the realtors say.

Ya gotta stop worrying about what the realtors are thinking and saying, Chris, or you're going to to give yourself an ulcer.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Truly. An HI, on his worst day, has got to have the confidence to say something like, "that thing's leaking. Get it fixed." Sheesh, if we can't get a commode fixed, what's the point of getting up in the morning?

WJid="blue">

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Chris,

I use the meter on a relative basis. To be sure it's not giving me false info I check the floor away from the toilet. My report says elevated levels of moisture were measured in the floor at the toilet base. That statement I can substantiate. I tell the client pretty much the same as already mentioned above.

The one thing that I learned - pull the client and agent into the bathroom and show them what you did with the meter - how it gives a high reading at the toilet and not elsewhere. Then can see it for themselves and understand what you're reporting. I'll often do the same for a small leak or some other such condition that I expect the contractor won't find. Seeing is believing.

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Eric's approach is what I do. Show 'em what I measured, what it could mean, tell 'em I can't know for sure without pulling the toilet.

Logic will lead anyone w/a brain to the next step, which is what Katen said about 6 posts previous. Leading the customer to water by demonstration allows me to still maintain credibility if there's no real problem. If I just go right for the "pull the toilet", and there's no problem, I'm left w/a customer thinking I might not be so sharp.

Now, where this inevitably leads is to IR. Eric, would your IR cam tell you anything more than the Protimeter?

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Originally posted by kurt

Leading the customer to water by demonstration allows me to still maintain credibility if there's no real problem. If I just go right for the "pull the toilet", and there's no problem, I'm left w/a customer thinking I might not be so sharp.

Exactly so. With me, that goes without saying, because my inspections are a walk-n-talk school of the house from minute 1 until completion, so, unless they don't attend, which is pretty rare, they see it, hear it, smell it, and sometimes even get to touch it.

The agents who know me just go sit down and wait, 'cuz they know better than to try and argue with me. Not necessarily because they always believe me or agree with me, but because they've learned that trying to get me to say things the way they want is a waste of breath. It's the zoids who don't know me and hang around and then try to interject crap and argue semantics that are the spoilers. I just ignore them, tell the client to get it fixed (he's seen why) and move on to the next item.

You just gotta ignore them. You are the inspector and you have to be in control of the inspection if you want to maintain your credibility.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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  • 2 years later...

This may be a little late but I just had to send a comment. Another inspector that I have mentored over the years - female and widely regarded by most contractors and some other "inspectors" as a "dumb woman" butting in on their territory - recently got involved in a pissing match with the listing agent over calling high moisture readings in a wall below a leaking roof / rotted sill plates. This "agent" managed to get her "regular inspector" to give a judgement call over the phone and he said that his company employees have been instructed for 20 years to "refuse to use moisture meters because they are not reliable"! One main problem with this scene is that he has only been licensed since 2000 as an inspector in Oregon. I just love the inspectors that can be duped into doing second guess "phone inspections" to keep their agents happy. FYI - he had inspected the same home last year and found rotted sill at the crawl entrance but failed to notice pretty obvious rot in 2 other areas at these other sill areas. Go figure! Any Portland, Or inspectors want to know who the "phone inspector" is just e-mail me and I will send info!

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If I'm not mistaken, a protimeter is simply a battery in series with a scaled meter and some resistance. Any conductive material will result in a reading. It's used to detect moisture because water, other than pure water, is a conductor. It's value as a moisture indicating instrument is zero only when it's in the hands of a couillon (idiot).

Marc

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If I'm not mistaken, a protimeter is simply a battery in series with a scaled meter and some resistance. Any conductive material will result in a reading. It's used to detect moisture because water, other than pure water, is a conductor. It's value as a moisture indicating instrument is zero only when it's in the hands of a couillon (idiot).

Marc

I thought the Protimeter SM used radio frequencies instead of the resistance method.

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