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HI Probes for Rot - The Owner Is P****d - Too Far?


hausdok
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I hate to side with the homeowner, but I'd say he definitely went too far. If the siding was rotten enough to leave even ONE "fist-sized" hole, he should have been able to see it just due to surface clues such as cracks and/or a shrunken appearance. A light touch with a fingertip was all he needed to confirm the damage. Even a tiny icepick hole would have provided confirmation of the damage and would not likely have gotten the seller so lathered up.

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Before I read the article I was worried it was about me. Last fall I found a suspicous area in a panel of T1-11 on the south side of a home I was inspecting. I reached up to touch it and the dam thing broke open a little. It was over a core void and the damage was just to the surface layer.

I did my walk and talk with the client and showed it to him but when I was leaving I saw the client and agent go back over to that side of the house. A few weeks later I get a phone call from the seller asking why I put a big hole thru his siding. Now to put things in perspective this same owner was an older gentlemen and had backed out of the deal. He also complained about a couple of other minor things that he alledged that I did which I didn't.

I suspect the client went back over and dug into the siding or one of his compadres. It ain't the first time thats happened to me.

I use my fingers or a box cutter (thin blade) to probe the siding but I know of some HI's like the one mentioned in the article that just go to town with probing the siding.

Chris, Oregon

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Maybe it's just me, but I was always confident that anything I saw that looked like rot, was rot.

With precious few exceptions, I didn't poke it, probe it, or do anything more than press my thumb up against it.

To this day, I can't figure out why an HI would go poking in rotten-looking finishes. Just write something like this: "The wood trim under the front bay window looks rotten. Poke it with an ice pick. If the ice pick goes in without much resistance, repair or replace the damaged wood and repaint."

WJ

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This whole thing sounds like a fish story.

"fist sized holes," was the HI using a sledge hammer to probe? I'd love to see pictures of the holes.

I can't think of too many places where probing with a small screwdriver... or ice pick is going to do the type of damage that this article describes.

Did the HI have a Norman Bates moment or is the homeowner exaggerating?

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I'm a "thumber," too. And you can't always be certain about brickmold and window sills without pushing on them a little. Around here, lots of people paint the exteriors of their houses prior to listing them, and I suppose when the painting crews find rotted wood, the sellers--to save money--tell the crews to caulk and paint over the gunk.

I'll bet the "fist sized" holes described in the article were a bunch of indentations rather than actual voids.

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

"The wood trim under the front bay window looks rotten. Poke it with an ice pick. If the ice pick goes in without much resistance, repair or replace the damaged wood and repaint."

WJ

If I wrote that type of thing in a report, I'd be getting the phone calls. "Whaddya mean it looks like rot. Is it rot or not? That's what I paid you for. Why don't you go back to the house and give it a poke".

I shove a big screwdriver into the wood rot and take a photo of it. No complaints.

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Hi,

Here in Washington the pest guys (includes HI's right now) are required to probe visible areas as carefully as possible but the concealed areas are open game. They actually teach folks to use the pointed end of a nice heavy wood pick and give supporting members a good hard whack wherever one suspects rot or insects. I have to admit, it's a whole lot more effective than a screwdriver for finding those hollowed out sills and rims.

I generally use a screwdriver and my thumb. I did have a big rotten chunk break out of the bottom of a T1-11 panel one time when I pressed on it with my palm, but there was no question that the thing was rotting, because the sills and studs inside the wall were so wet you could squeeze the water out of them.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Originally posted by Jerry Simon

As I often say... I didn't create the damage, I discovered it.

That's my line. If they continue to bitch, they get the probe! [:-bigeyes

Originally posted by Brian G

I carry a lovely ice pick in the tool bag, but I don't need it much. Years of carpentry experience makes it unnecessary most of the time.

Yeah, but I find that I need to use it quite often to illustrate things for the less experienced and skeptics.
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Originally posted by Neal Lewis

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

"The wood trim under the front bay window looks rotten. Poke it with an ice pick. If the ice pick goes in without much resistance, repair or replace the damaged wood and repaint."

WJ

If I wrote that type of thing in a report, I'd be getting the phone calls. "Whaddya mean it looks like rot. Is it rot or not? That's what I paid you for. Why don't you go back to the house and give it a poke".

To which I would've replied: "I'm not going to poke it. I don't poke finished surfaces. You poke it. Or not. I gave you adequate warning and instructions. That's as far as I go." No Nashvillian would start an argument with, "Whaddaya mean..." It'd me more like, "I beg your pardon..."id="blue">

I shove a big screwdriver into the wood rot and take a photo of it. No complaints.

Different strokes. For me, it was no poking, no photos, and no complaints. I trusted the words that came out of my mouth, and the nodding of the customers' heads that followed. That said, it's OK with me if HIs who aren't me poke wood and take photos. Or climb on roofs, light pilot lights, etc.

Also, I suspect (heck, I know) there's a strong regional difference between Nashville and New Jersey. Here, it's just not a good idea to poke people's wood. It would be considered very rude, especially if it were done without permission and explanation. I've seen owner women break down and cry when a guy hired to poke holes in EIFS poked two little bitty ice-pick-size holes.

WJid="blue">

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A nice long thin blade. Slides in and doesn't leave any discernible mark.

Do it when no one's looking. If it's rotten, say so in the report. If someone challenges you, tell them they're wrong. If they insist, tell them to stick a big screwdriver in there. Then, in addition to showing them they're dickheads, they get to take the heat for the damage.

One has to know what we gotta know; is it a little surface rot, or does it go down into the framing? Folks gotta figure out how to know without getting in trouble; sad, but it's a fact of the biz. Sounds like the guy was being cavalier, and didn't use his head.

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As Neal will confirm, many NJ home inspectors also conduct WDI inspections.

I gotta say, if I find 'moisture damage' I pick & probe to determine if it's rot, termites or carpenter ants.

Have I ever left a fist size hole? Yes. Some seller know there's a problem and just fill it with wood filler and paint over it. When I'm a probing, if I remove the filler, it just shows what was there.

Just like when I'm in the basement and find termites, I probe & actually 'open up' the joist if there's major damage. I didn't create it, I'm just exposing it so the repairman can't say they couldn't find it.

Darren

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It's really easy for us to sit here and "Monday Morning Quarterback" what we would have... or should have... or should not have done while doing a home inspection and coming across some wood rot.

Let us not forget that in most cases, the person that hires us is not the owner of the property. I think that any inspection technique that is going to cause damage, should be very limited and done with the thought that our client may not purchase the property, and the owner is going to be left with the damage.

I really try to avoid damaging finished surfaces and feel there are plenty of places we can dig to our hearts delight.

I also do WDO/WDI inspections and once again feel that there is more than enough to visually inspect and probe in places that won't be so noticeable. If I can... or can't push my awl or screwdriver into the wood in a number of suspect places, I don't feel that it is necessary for me to remove grapefruit sized pieces of wood to prove my point.

If I'm doing a home inspection for a potential buyer, and it includes a WDI/WDO inspection, I feel a "representative" amount of testing is appropriate. Once I've determined that there is a termite infestation, or wood rot, especially if I can document my findings in a couple of locations, I am finished. I don't think I have to list every l.f. of lumber or trim in my report.

But if someone wants me to determine the extent of damage, that is quite a different inspection than the "basic" home inspection. My fees will vary accordingly.

Even when I am doing an EIFS inspection, before I do anything invasive, I insist that the owner of the property sign a waiver giving me permission to poke, cut, or core holes into their building.

Now, having said all of that, I wasn't at the inspection in the article, I have not seen pictures of it, and really am not in the position to judge the accuracy of it or whether it was justified.

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Here in assbackwards Tennessee, an HI has no duty to report on WDO or WDI. That's the bug man's job. Probing wood is a waste of time and effort.

For once, our lawmakers got something right. Leave the bug hunts to the bug hunters. Long may they crawl.

Now keep in mind: Outlander HIs should not relocate to Tennessee. There's nothing here but full-time banjo-picking, TV-preaching and snake-handling. The Banjo Boy from "Deliverance" will be your next-door neighbor. And on Sadie Hawkins day, hillbillies will descend from the high country and take any and all of your family members as spouses.

WJ

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In NY, there is no license for doing WDI/WDO inspections. Really, anybody can do a termite inspection. But, when a lending institution requests a termite inspection (NPMA33), they want one endorsed by a "NYSDEC Certified Pesticide Applicator."

Although in NY, the HI has no "duty" to perform this service, many "make it their business" to.

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Originally posted by Neal Lewis

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Probing wood is a waste of time and effort.

WJ

Tell us you don't mean that.

Sure I mean it, but the meaning is clearer if a quoter leaves my original comment(s) in context.

In the context of HIs working in TN, the state legislature has given the HIs the gift of leaving the bug-and-fungus work to the bug men. The bug companies wanted it that way. They got what they wanted.

The bug-and-fungus work gets done, but HIs don't have to crawl around in quite as much rat crap, explain how/why "fist-sized" holes suddenly appeared or pay the claims for damage done by insidious little wood-eaters. The way I see it, the state law takes one of the nasty parts of HI work off the HIs' backs, and loads it onto the bug companies.

It's cause for celebration. One less bell to answer; one less egg to fry. Who enjoys a bug/fungus hunt?

WJid="blue">

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Originally posted by charlie

So the area was broken and then the seller gets mad because the broken part got "broker"?[:-graduat

I've seen that happen. A naive homeowner, let's just say the lady of the house, knows that the window stool behind her rose garden looked just fine yesterday. But today, a chunk of wood is gone from the window stool, her garden looks marred and vandalized, and tool marks show that somebody has been messing around with her house, without her permission. She doesn't like it. She wants her house to be like it was yesterday. It's human nature.

Naive homeowners don't really dig that HI "failed under testing" explanation. It's mumbo-jumbo to them.

Any time I knew I would leave a mark on a house -- even a little mark in a hard-to-see area -- I'd make sure the homeowner saw the spot in question, understood why I needed to poke it, and understood that it would look different when I was done. (Mostly, these situations came up with electrical-panel deadfronts that were caulked in place and/or had wallpaper stuck on them.)

I wouldn't mar somebody's house, even a little bit. It's bad mojo.

WJid="blue">

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After following this thread, I've decided that I'll continue to probe suspect areas, as long as it's not conspicuous, but not include any photos of a probe inserted into rotten wood in the report. Instead, I'll explain the method used. I may still take photos of a probe stuck in the wood as a reminder to myself, but they won't go in the report.

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Doesn't anybody read the SOP's of ASHI?

If deterioration is suspect the inspector is to probe.

My comment, failed during testing!

Secondly, the inspector did not cause the rot, deferred maintenance did. If there is a softball size of deterioration that is found during probing, the majority of the wall is toast. I would tell the guy not to kill the messenger. Blame yourself for not taking care of your property.

Steve Rush

On-Site Inspections

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