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Barry Stone: Home inspector makes faulty recommendation

A reader has a question for Barry Stone about garage door openers. [Metro Creative Connection]
A reader has a question for Barry Stone about garage door openers. [Metro Creative Connection]

DEAR BARRY: Our home is about 35 years old. When we bought it, our home inspector reported that the two garage door openers lacked automatic reverse for child safety. We asked if the repair would be costly, and he said "any fool with a screwdriver could do it."

We would have asked the sellers to pay for this repair but decided not to bother them over an inexpensive adjustment. After closing escrow, we called a garage door contractor. He discovered that the openers are very old and are not equipped for automatic reverse. He urged replacement of both openers to eliminate a hazardous condition. Our cost for two new openers is nearly $500, so we feel totally stung. How could our inspector have made this kind of error?

— Claire

DEAR CLAIRE: The scope and purpose of a home inspection is to provide discovery of defects and to recommend repairs by appropriate specialists. When inspectors venture into the realm of prognosis, advancing prescriptions for repairs, particularly recommending unqualified persons for such repairs, they stray beyond the defined boundaries of their profession and assume the risks of error and liability.

Automatic reverse for garage door openers is a vital lifesaving function, routinely checked in the course of a professional home inspection. Your inspector was right to test the openers and report them as defective, but the nature of his recommendation was totally out of bounds.

When the reverse function of a garage door opener fails to operate, the problem may be improper adjustment, as presumed by your inspector, or it may be something more serious and costly. To surmise that a faulty opener is out of adjustment is a leap in logic that dismisses other possible causes. Many older openers were never designed with automatic safety reverse. Replacement of these fixtures is always advisable.

With any technical defect, whether the problem involves a garage door opener or components of the plumbing, heating, electrical or other building systems, repairs should never be referred to "any fool with a screwdriver." Qualified experts, not fools, are the only people to recommend for evaluation and repairs of property defects.

DEAR BARRY: Last year we purchased a 4-year-old home. The following winter, several of the dual-pane windows became foggy due to leakage. We were very surprised that this could happen in such a new home and are wondering if a guarantee on the windows might still be in effect.

— Sandy

DEAR SANDY: Dual-pane window leaks are very common, even in new homes. Fortunately, most dual-pane windows are warranted against leaking seals. However, the length of these warranties varies among window manufacturers. The most common warranty period is five years, but some manufacturers provide lifetime warranties to the first owner of the home, or to the first owner of windows that are installed as replacements.

To learn what coverage may apply to your dual-pane windows, contact a local window contractor to find out whether the warranty is still in effect.

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