The House Detective: by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector
Dear Barry: I bought my home about five years ago and hired a home inspector prior to purchase. Recently, my contractor replaced some exterior siding. When the old boards were removed, he found rotted framing inside the walls. Is this something the home inspector should have found five years ago, and do I have any recourse? Kate
Dear Kate: A home inspection is specifically defined as a “visual inspection of conditions that are exposed and accessible at the time of the inspection.” No home inspector can determine conditions that are hidden within finished walls. The rotted wood, after all, was discovered by removing the siding; something that does not take place during a home inspection. Keep in mind also that five years have passed since your home was inspected. Wood that is currently rotted may have been intact at that time. But that could only have been determined by opening the walls, and investigations of that kind are beyond the scope of a home inspection.
When hiring a home inspector, it is wise to read the inspection report and contract in their entirety. This will familiarize you with the standards and limitations of the home inspection process.