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Barry Stone: Who should repair dryrot damage?

DEAR BARRY: Before selling my home, I hired a termite inspector, as advised by my Realtor. No termites were found, but the inspector did find dryrot on the eaves. His cost estimate for repairs seemed high, so I hired a carpenter at about half the price. That seemed to be the end of the matter until a home inspector found additional rot on the eave fascia. Now I've got to pay for further work. Why is this problem so endless and so expensive?

— Gail

DEAR GAIL: Homeowners often complain about repair estimates quoted by termite companies, and in some cases these objections may be justified. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that licensed pest control operators (termite inspectors) offer knowledge and expertise that is not possessed by carpenters and general contractors. Termite inspectors are different from other professionals because they are specialists in the causes, effects and characteristics of wood-destroying organisms. This is why pest-related repairs performed by carpenters, handymen or contractors may not be satisfactory or complete.

The condition commonly known as dryrot is caused by fungus infection (athlete's foot of the wood framing, as it were), wherein the fibrous structure of wood is digested by insidious colonies of micro-organisms. Mere replacement of visibly damaged boards may not constitute adequate repair. The slightest infection of adjacent wood members will inevitably spread, affecting attached portions of the structure. If residual infection, left behind by a well-intentioned carpenter, is not removed or chemically treated, ongoing damage might not become apparent for many years. By that time, the consequences could be extensive and expensive.

To ensure against continued damage, all repairs, if not performed by the pest control company, should be reviewed and approved by them to ensure that all infected wood members have either been removed or chemically treated.

DEAR BARRY: After my house was inspected, I noticed that the rain gutters had been bent by the home inspector's ladder. I checked this out by placing my own ladder against the building and found that the gutters bend quite easily. I mentioned this to my neighbor, and he said that his gutters did not bend when his house was inspected. Isn't there a way for home inspectors to access a roof without damaging the gutters?

— Ron

DEAR RON: There is a simple way for home inspectors and other professionals to prevent a ladder from bending rain gutters. Here is how it works.

Most rain gutters consist of thin-gauge sheet metal that bends easily under the weight of an occupied ladder. The trick is to place the ladder so that its rails straddle one of the fasteners that secure the gutters to the building. These points of attachment are the only places where the gutters are resistant to lateral pressure. If a ladder is placed against the intermediate locations between these fasteners, bending is likely to occur.

Home inspectors who adopt this method of ladder placement can avoid damage and potential liability.

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