The Inspector Who™ Investigated Stained Drywall

The Inspector Who was asked to investigate a possible water problem due to a roof leak that was repaired the previous year; he was immediately suspicious of other problems that could have caused the discoloration of the drywall. The people who were planning on purchasing the home were not initially too concerned because they anticipated having to replace the drywall prior to moving in.
Before even going to the home, he was suspicious about a roof leak, because someone told the people interested in purchasing that the stains on the drywall was due to a roof leak that had been repaired.  In his experience, it was best to approach the problem with an open mind, rather than to start with assumptions given by any third party.
The inspector wondered about the source of the stains, recommending cutting open the walls to assess the situation.  However, since the people had yet to purchase the property, the seller’s real estate agent told him that he couldn’t do any investigation that involved cutting into the dry wall.  He suspected there might still be a moisture source, such as ceiling condensation, wet insulation, roof leaks, or plumbing issues.  It was difficult to assess the degree of the problem without being able to see behind the drywall.  This made the inspector unsure if this was a larger problem or not..
The home inspector understood that allowing the party who was selling the home to dictate the terms of what could or could not be done might lead to an error or omission on his part, and he again asked the people contracting him whether he might open up the wall.   He told them that contracting a specialist to open up the wall maybe necessary is a real problem.  Since his inspection is one of involving visible items only he recommended that a specialist be contracted to investigate further.   He informed the people that contracted him that there are several ways to perform wall cavity inspections with limited intrusion.  He also recommended that the buyers be sure to contract a specialist with mold experience and remediation to further assure all parties involved that there are not additional areas of concern.  Some of the areas that a specialist will investigate include indoor air quality and humidity test performed for good measure.
He further explained to the buyers that there are several sources of indoor moisture that can produce stains such as these.  Examples include:

  • Flooding and damp basements
  • Backed up sewers or plumbing leaks
  • Leaky roofs
  • Condensation from humidifiers, house plants, steam from cooking, cloths dryers vented indoors or lack of exterior insulation
  • Bathroom steam not being vented
  • Stoves not vented outdoors

Based on his recommendations, the buyers contracted with a specialist to open the drywall and look behind it at the insulation.  They discovered that it was still damp, indicating that a further leak was indeed present.  Because of his diligence and curiosity, the home inspector was able to save the potential buyers thousands of dollars in repairs after they purchased the home.    The moral of this story is that home inspectors should always trust their instincts, and not be swayed by any party involved with the sale of the home.  By recommending a professional to handle moisture, mold and drywall remediation the inspector did the best possible job for the party that contracted him.   All home inspectors should also purchase E and O insurance, also called error omission insurance to help protect themselves and their businesses from possible lawsuits.