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  1. #1
    David Banks's Avatar
    David Banks Guest

    Default Gas Flue Dead End

    Did a Home Inspection for a couple who work in my wifes office 3 months ago. Water heater was back drafting. Ran to car got Carbon Monoxide tester. Elevated level around draft hood. All were there to see, Realtor clients. Warned them of the danger. Needs to be addressed. The guy comes to work and tells my wife that they had a chimney sweep out to check fireplace/chimney as I recommended and his wife remembered the WH flue issue. He pulled it away from chimney connection and behold the flue was dead ended at the orange flue tile. Criminal I say!
    What gets me is it took 3 months to follow my recommendation. I called the guy and asked why. He said Realtor said the issue in report would be addressed before closing. I told him he should complain to the Realtor and ask what company checked the water heater before closing.
    Do people even read our reports? It was in three sections of the report including Safety Issue page and a picture with captions.
    He almost seemed miffed at me for not pulling the thing apart myself instead of my recommendation.

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  2. #2
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    Exclamation Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    David, this is why I have a problem with the Stds. of Care not requiring inspectors to peek inside the chimney must less perform a proper level II. As you have demonstrated here, you cannot leave it to the system. People will suffer injuries, exposure, and the damage to equipment and homes will continue unabated.

    You all know Stds. of Care are MINIMUM stds just as building codes, right? That means you can exceed them. This is a case where you definitely should. What good is a house you inspect that passes flying colors except for the fact it kills people? Each of you needs to read this thread, think about it then discuss it with your attorney.

    Bob

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    David, I have had the opportunity to follow myself inspecting the same property on several occasions and find that most items are never addressed at all. Sad to say, but I think you have found the rule rather than the exception. I think most folks just want to know if there are any big financial issues and most of the rest gets lost in the shuffle of the purchase transaction and moving. I had one guy call me wanting to turn in his termite damage on my insurance over a year after the inspection even though I told him in three different locations on the report that the house was eaten up by termites. Said I should have told him more strongly that there was an issue... glad I put it in writing.
    Like they say, if it is not in your report, it did not happen. Glad it was your clients that came to tell you about it 3 months later and not their heirs attorney!

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    Bob, would you have recommended shutting down the system as a safety hazard in this situation?
    It was already clear that there was a problem that needed to be addressed. David showed them and reported that it needed to be fixed.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    Whoever installed that water heater should be in jail, seriously.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    Water heater was back drafting. Ran to car got Carbon Monoxide tester. Elevated level around draft hood. All were there to see, Realtor clients. Warned them of the danger. Needs to be addressed.

    With all due respect Bob, how much else must be done to warn the client this is an issue? If there is access to the flue interior such as cleanout cap, great. If not, we do what we can. While finding the blocked flue would have obviously been best (if possible at the time of inspection), it seems David provided enough warning to all present at the inspection that the issue needs to be corrected. Even if he had been able to show them the flue was blocked, there is no guarantee the client would have jumped on the issue sooner. They apparently ignored all other warnings and report verbiage.

    Believe me Bob, I'm all for exceeding the standards when the situation allows. I'll try to get a peek in any chimney I can and remove any hood cage cap to look down a chimney. But without seeing the setup for the WH flue pipe, I don't think we can say David didn't do enough to warn his clients (even if we could see it, it sounds like he gave them sufficient warning). There is only so much we can do. If all our overtures, verbal warnings, written warnings in the report, etc. go unheeded by the clients and the realtors who are supposed to be looking out for the buyers' best interests, who is to be faulted?

    A sad fact of the inspections we perform is that many issues we find and state need correction never get addressed. Case in point, I performed a checkup inspection for a past client on the same house I inspected for him two years prior. While in the basement, I opened the hinged cover to the service panel to see the white "X"s I place on circuit breakers that are wired with undersized wires (fire hazards). I opened the panel and lo and behold, nothing was corrected inside the panel and the same fire hazards existed.

    Some people unfortunately just don't get it and there is only so much we can do to make them understand the gravity of a situation. If calling an issue a fire hazard or carbon monoxide hazard doesn't make them take action, who is at fault?


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    Bob,

    I have to agree with Nick. Too much liability. Finding the problem is what we do. To do a full diagnosis is beyond. David could have spent 30 minutes dismantling and reinstalling (remantling?) the flue pipe and possibly missed other reportable items. The home inspection is not in-depth. Most folks cannot afford an inspection that examines every system "the way they should be". Your pet system is no less important than electrical, plumbing, foundation or any other system that we inspect. Jerry Peck made a living doing 2-4 day inspections, but the average home buyer does not have $3-4K to spend on a home inspection. Yes, we miss stuff. But, we all work to not miss the BIG stuff. David found the problem, no question. He did not need to do a "Level 2".

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  8. #8
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    Question Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    Let me ask you this: Does the presence of a full backdraft, as demonstrated with a combustion analyzer, represent an immediate danger to the occupants of the building?

    By leaving the equipment firing and not shut down, the implication is that the equipment can be left in service until repaired.

    The rules for what constitutes proper warning are complex and changing with each court case but suffice it to say telling everyone present is probably one step away from worthless in court. If you are not prepared to remove the smoke pipe and at least verify the flue is not blocked yet you know it is backdrafting, a court would hold a dim view of you leaving the equipment in service. We don't have a copy of the written report so we cannot comment on that. However, when push comes to shove, if you identify an immediate danger and fail to disable it, such as shutting off the breaker to a live exposed wire, you could be liable even though you warned them verbally and possibly in writing. Proper written warning must include not only the hazard but the consequences of the failure to address the hazard and what those ramifications are: Danger! Immediate threat to life and health! Water heater is backdrafting high levels of carbon monoxide, which is a deadly poison and can kill in short order. Do NOT operate this appliance until the entire appliance and venting has been thoroughly inspected, tested including combustion analysis and the carbon monoxide and backdrafting issues resolved. If you simply state the water heater is backdrafting or that backdrafting carbon monoxide is a problem that needs to be addressed, most courts would probably tear you up as a failire to adequately warn. Keep in mind, while there were witnessess present who saw and heard you, it is what is in writing that counts most.

    Nick, you tell me, if that was your daughter buying that house out of town where you couldn't be there personally and you found out this water heater was left in service, how would you respond? Would you instruct your daughter to see her doctor to make sure she didn't have CO poisoning or permanent effects from it? What about children and elderly, who are more susceptible?

    I'm not being an extremist here. If there is sporadic spillage, that is a hazard that must be duly reported and repaired. But a full backdraft is an immediate danger the same as fire or a gas leak.

    Just my two cents worth....
    Bob

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    I can agree with you on the removal from service, Bob.
    But the disassembly if you are not fully qualified is maybe over the line, maybe even illegal in some jurisdictions.
    I would have to be there to make that call.
    I have been know to step over that line (when no one is watching) on occasion just for curiosities sake, but then I have a background in HVAC and am probably more comfortable in that realm than some inspectors.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    Nick, you tell me, if that was your daughter buying that house out of town where you couldn't be there personally and you found out this water heater was left in service, how would you respond? Would you instruct your daughter to see her doctor to make sure she didn't have CO poisoning or permanent effects from it? What about children and elderly, who are more susceptible?

    Bob, my response to my child would be "why on earth did you wait until 3 months after moving into the house to have anything done about an issue your inspector told you was a hazard? And where was your realtor in helping you decipher the important aspects of your home inspection report". Yes, I would be concerned for their well being as any parent should but I would still wonder why they neglected to take action on a stated hazardous situation.

    It all comes down to personal accountability. We can lead our clients to water but we cannot make them drink. Plus, as generalist home inspectors, we are not in a position to shut down a system in a house every time we see something that prevents a possible hazard. Say for example we shut down a hot water boiler in a situation like David described in the orginating post of this thread. If the house is vacant and in a cold climate, imagine the pipes freeze and burst from lack of warm water in the pipes. Never mind the fact that the house is vacant, they'll come after the person who took it upon himself to shut down the heating system. "Thanks for looking out for our well being Mr. HI but your actions resulted in thousands of dollars in water damage to our property. Pay up."

    Believe me Bob, I hear you and understand your stance. However, the client has to take on a level of responsibility. We can't save everybody from themselves. Whether it is my child or somebody elses' in this situation, they need to be accountable.


  11. #11
    David Banks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gas Flue Dead End

    Proper written warning must include not only the hazard but the consequences of the failure to address the hazard and what those ramifications are: Danger! Immediate threat to life and health! Water heater is backdrafting high levels of carbon monoxide, which is a deadly poison and can kill in short order. Do NOT operate this appliance until the entire appliance and venting has been thoroughly inspected, tested including combustion analysis and the carbon monoxide and backdrafting issues resolved. If you simply state the water heater is backdrafting or that backdrafting carbon monoxide is a problem that needs to be addressed, most courts would probably tear you up as a failire to adequately warn. Keep in mind, while there were witnessess present who saw and heard you, it is what is in writing that counts most.
    Bob Harper

    After reviewing the report I agree with Bobs statement above. Although I feel I gave adequate warning in the report.( WH section with captioned pic, Safety issues section,Major concerns section) I wish I had added something on the lines of Bobs statement above. Learn something everyday.
    I still do not know if I would be taking things apart as there is some old rusted parts in this area. I will have to think about that long and hard.


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