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Reporting potential future problems

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Winters here, business is slow, and I've been combing through the year's reports collecting comments I've written than should be incorporated into my report templates.

Most of this is pretty straightforward, but one of the things the process does is focus my attention on the defects for which I'm not entirely satisfied with my current reporting.

I noticed that the theme for this year seems to be how to report potential problems; for example you've got a relatively new roof on which somebody has slobbered up one side of a dormer's wall/roof junction with roofing cement, and underneath that a finished interior where there is no evidence of current or previous water intrusion, including when inspected with a meter and IR, even though recent weather has been wet.

I'm clear about how to report what I see, what I'm less certain about is exactly how to report what I suspect, and how to separate speculation unsupported by immediate evidence of a current problem from reasonable concern that one is or will soon be present.

What I currently feel I ought to say in such cases is that experience tells me that if somebody took the trouble do this patching it was because there was a leak, that given the nature the repair if this junction is not already leaking again it soon will be, that when the leak when it occurs may be intermittent, but that if there is any evidence of leaking in this area at all it's important to address it immediately instead of hoping it's going to just go away, that only way to permanently correct the problem will be to remove the sealant, determine how the junction is flashed and correct any defects found, that this may be a substantial expense, especially as it may be necessary to remove and replace some of the wall cladding, trim and shingles adjacent to the junction, and that the only way to be certain that you are not going to experience this leakage at an inconvenient time and before it has already caused some hidden damage (if it hasn't already) is to get a competent roofer up there to do the work now.

So I even know what I want to say... but after mulling this over off and on all morning, and I just can't seem to strike the right balance between the known, the inferred and the suspected in my written recommendation in such cases.


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I think I know what you're asking but I'm not sure because the example you gave is, in my mind, a slam dunk. There's a crummy mastic repair on the roof. Mastic repairs are temporary and unreliable. Get it fixed properly. Why the need for hand wringing?

If I run across something that's truly a potential problem, I just say that it's a potential problem and explain why.

As a better example, what about a brick veneer wall with no through-wall flashing or weep holes? It might be a big problem or it might be no problem at all. There's no economical means to determine for sure one way or the other. It's a pickle. In that case, I put on my teaching hat, teach them about the problem and let them take it from there.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Stolen from Walter a long time ago.......

"Unless the wall is opened up, there's no way for me to know if there are problems -- such as trapped water, rot, mold etc. -- inside the wall. Also, in the absence of visual clues to developing problems, there's no good way for us to know what part(s) of the wall(s) should be opened up for further inspection.

We can't predict what problems -- if any -- will develop over time. When builders and tradespeople deviate from well-accepted practices such as those described in the building code -- and develop their own way of doing things -- results are unpredictable."

I've plugged that little gem in a few hundred times, at least. Then, I customize it to fit the situation.

I often plug in........

"Unpredictable things in buildings usually mean there's going to be problems; buildings aren't that complicated, and it doesn't take a psychic to figure out if things are going to leak or not.

You should fix this, the sooner the better."

Or, something like that........

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Originally posted by Jim Morrison

I stole this line so long ago, I forget who I stole it from. It's one of my faves, and is readily applied to weep-less brick veneer walls:

"Unconventional things behave unconventionally."

Powerfully understated, unassailably true, stupefyingly simple...I'm thinking I could only have gotten it from Mssr. Katen.

Yes, I do believe that is a Katenism from several years back. I use it as well.

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