Builder and buyer at odds over inspection
Q: The home we are buying is still under construction. For insurance reasons, the developer will not allow us to have a pre-drywall home inspection. He claims his company can be sued if the inspector is hurt on the job site. Is his refusal reasonable, or should we insist on the inspection?
A: Some builders employ veiled excuses to prevent buyers from hiring home inspectors. If the lack of insurance coverage is a basis to forbid access to a construction site, then other personnel would likewise be barred from entry to the job site. This could include sales representatives, material suppliers, engineers, architects and so on.
The refusal to allow buyers to hire their own inspectors is suspicious and does not promote confidence in the minds of prospective buyers. If the problem is truly a matter of insurance, the solution is simple. Most qualified inspectors carry their own liability insurance policies, and most would be willing to sign a liability waiver to placate the builder.
If the builder is confident in the quality of his work, he should welcome any inspectors you choose to hire.
Q: Our water heater is installed on the same platform as the forced air furnace in our garage. Recently, the water heater began leaking and had to be replaced. Now we are worried about moisture damage and possible mold where water leaked into the platform.
The interior of the platform is part of the air duct system for the furnace, and we are worried that mold inside the platform could be a health hazard to our family. Is it OK to let the platform here dry out, or should it be opened up for inspection of the interior surfaces?
A: Water heaters and forced air furnaces are commonly installed side by side on raised platforms in garages in the South where homes have no basements. The potential for moisture-related problems should be obvious when these installations are made, but in most cases, little consideration is given to the inevitability of eventual leakage. The obvious solution would be to install an overflow pan (commonly known as a "Smitty pan") under the water heater, with a drainpipe to convey water from the pan to the exterior of the building or at least to the garage floor.
In most cases, the raised platform serves as a passageway, known as a plenum, whereby air is conveyed from the house to the furnace. If the interior of the plenum becomes wet, mold or fungus can develop, and this can adversely affect air quality within the home. Therefore, steps should be taken to promote rapid drying of the platform as soon as water leakage occurs. To do this, the furnace blower should be operated, along with additional fans in the garage. For professional assistance, there are companies that specialize in moisture removal and water damage mitigation.
Once the plenum has been dried, an inspection of its interior by a qualified mold specialist would be a wise precaution.
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