Ceiling leak might be fixed by process of elimination

Inspector's Eye

March 17, 2002|By Dean Uhler

Emma Hudson wrote seeking advice on a leak at her house, which she bought new from the builder in July 1999.

In September of that year, she noticed a stain on the ceiling near her front bay window. Over the next two years, the developer made several attempts to find the leak that caused the stain. They included cutting a hole in the ceiling where the stain had occurred and spraying the roof with water.

Despite those efforts, the builder never found the source of the leak or corrected it.

Recently, when she contacted the builder about the leak, Hudson was told that the house might be beyond the warranty period. She asks whether she is justified in demanding that the builder pay for an independent inspector to find the leak.

Since it appears that the leakage began and was brought to the builder's attention during the warranty period, lapse of the warranty should not be an excuse for the builder to walk away from the problem. There has been ample opportunity to determine the source of the problem, so it is reasonable to request further investigation of the problem by an independent inspector.

As an alternative, the builder could correct the problem by a process of elimination, making repairs to conditions that might be causing or contributing to the leak.

A prime suspect as the cause of the leak should be the flashings that cover the joint between the bay window roof and the exterior wall.

Ceiling stains caused by defective bay window flashings are relatively common and difficult to diagnose, and might be several feet from the window. Replacement of those flashings by the builder would not be very costly and would be a reasonable starting point where efforts to pinpoint the source of leak have failed.

The ceiling would then be monitored for leakage with the new flashings. If leakage recurs, the flashings were not the source (or not the only source) and other exterior conditions should be reworked.

For advice and assistance negotiating with the builder, it would be worthwhile to contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the attorney general of Maryland, which offers mediation services to help resolve consumers' complaints against businesses.

A written description of the complaint and the events leading up to it should be mailed to: Consumer Protection Division, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore 21202.

A complaint form and instruction sheet are also available on the Internet. Go to www.oag.state. md.us and click on "Consumer Protection."

Inspector's Eye

Dean Uhler has been a home inspector for more than 12 years and is president of Baltimore-based Boswell Building Surveys Inc. Uhler is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and is the treasurer of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of ASHI.

Questions, with name, address and daytime telephone number, about homes and home inspections can be faxed to 410-783-2517, e-mailed to real.estate@baltsun.com or mailed to Inspector's Eye, Second Floor, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.

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