Dear Barry,

My gas water heater recently died. Fortunately, replacement was covered by my home warranty policy. The plumber who installed the new unit found code violations with the gas and water lines and said that these should have been reported by my home inspector when I bought the property. These repairs are not covered under the home warranty and will have to be paid by me. The plumber said these defects could prevent the city inspector from approving the water heater replacement. If I have to pay for defects that were missed by my home inspector, do I have recourse? –Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

One of two possibilities is at work: Either your home inspector missed some apparent plumbing defects, or your plumber is promoting work where none may be needed. Fortunately, you will be able to get the municipal inspector’s opinion on this when the water heater installation is inspected. Then you can verify what is acceptable, according to the code enforcement officer, and what is not. You should also notify the home inspector of the plumber’s claims and ask that he come back for a second look at the pipes.

Dear Barry,

We’ve heard that fireplaces with gas logs should have their dampers fastened in the open position to prevent combustion exhaust from entering the home. But the person who installed the gas logs said nothing about this, and the gas company people were completely unaware of this as a requirement. Is this procedure widely known and is it truly required? –Nancy

Dear Nancy,

When fireplaces have gas logs, the Uniform Mechanical Code requires the damper to be secured in the open position. Section 901.2 of the code states as follows:

“In addition to the general requirements … approved gas logs may be installed in solid-fuel-burning fireplaces, provided:

1. The gas log is installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

2. If the fireplace is equipped with a damper, it shall be permanently blocked open to a sufficient amount to prevent spillage of combustion products in the room.”

Those who install gas logs in fireplaces, and especially your gas company, should be aware of these requirements.

Dear Barry,

We bought our home about two months ago. Since then, we’ve discovered leaking and mold in the basement, a live wire end hanging from the back porch, and other electrical problems. Not one of these conditions was disclosed by the seller, the agent or our home inspector. Who, if anyone, is liable? –Debra

Dear Debra,

It would seem that all of the parties mentioned share in the liability: the seller for failing to provide adequate disclosure; the agent for not conducting a complete walk-through inspection; and the home inspector for not reporting conditions that should have been visible at the time of the inspection. Enforcing such liability, however, is not always easy and not always worth the trouble. Before taking any action, you should inform all parties of your concerns and ask that they take a look at the problems.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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