In our last issue Part 2 of this series, we described an issue discovered not during an inspection but just out of curiosity of our lead inspector while he was doing other work in the basement of a home. The questions that arose out of that discovery led to the finding of an underground leak that created a sink hole that would eventually cave in. In this entry (Part 3) of the series, we will talk about a finding we made during an inspection. That story goes as follows…
We were doing an inspection west of the Greater Toronto Area. We entered the basement as we normally do immediately after inspecting the roof covering and exterior. A quick cursory view indicated the home owner had made the center area of the basement vacant, by packing all the personal items nearest to the four exterior walls. It was a big home with lots of personal items to store, which limited the view of each of the four walls.
In line with our inspection routine we did the appliances such as furnace and water heater then he attempted the electrical panel before looking at anything else in the basement. In order to view the top portion (the service area) of the electrical panel up close, the inspector attempted to rearrange some of the personal items so he could stand on something. Upon moving some items, the inspector quickly noticed evidence of significant leakage through the foundation wall. The stain marks covered a good horizontal portion of the basement wall where it meets the slab.
This was the result of a vertical crack in the wall that traversed the the full height of that segment of the foundation wall and ran adjacent to the electrical panel. Interestingly though, from about 18 inches or so above the slab, the crack appeared to be an hairline crack and showed no evidence of a more significant problem. So, had we not looked at the bottom 18 inches of that wall, we might have concluded all we are seeing was an hairline crack of little significance. After all, concrete do naturally tend to generate hairline cracks as it cures, and in most cases an hairline crack is not a sign of anything more. This case though was different though.
This find led to some questions, and their possible answers (in blue):
Q. Did the homeowner attempted to conceal this defect?
A. Who knows.
Q. Would the inspector see this defect if he did not have a need to move any thing?
A. The hairline crack was noticed after the stain was seen. So there is a remote possibility we probably would not have noticed the defect, but cannot say for sure.
Q. Were there other leaks or cracks else where?
A. Possibly yes, given there were personal items stored against all four walls. It is not normal for home inspectors to move personal large items around to see what they are covering, if anything. The Standards of Practice of our association dictates that home inspectors are not required to do this.
The analysis here is, this defect was concealed. That is for sure. What is not known for sure is, was it done deliberately with the hope that it would not be discovered on an inspection. Clearly the home owner must have known they had this leak given it shear size. So if we had not found it, some damage to our reputation would have been realized after the buyers moved in and find it. However, the seller would not be able to claim they were not aware of the crack, in the event the buyers took them to court because the stain marks would have indicated this to be going on for some time because of its
appearance and size. The home was a lovely home in every other respect. So the buyer tried to negotiate around this with the seller. However, they failed to come to any agreement so the buyer walked.
It is our belief that all homes have defects. In a well built and properly maintained home these defects will be minor in most cases. In other homes the amount and seriousness of the defects will vary. So, whenever we uncover a significant defect we will appraise the customer. It is incumbent on the both parties (seller and buyer) to then discuss and come to some agreement or not. It may or may not be that the seller already took the defect into consideration before putting the home on the market. Both parties therefore should agree on what is acceptable, or what the defect is worth before coming to some agreement.
Qualitex Home Inspection services the Greater Toronto Area: Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, Vaughan.