Dear Barry,

Before I bought my house, the home inspector said the roof was worn and needed about 2-4 bundles of wood shakes. The seller said there used to be some leaking but assured me this had been repaired. After moving in, I noticed a hole in the roofing and called the inspector to reconsider this omission in his report. He agreed to install a metal patch and invited me onto the roof for a look. What I saw was very disturbing. The condition of the shakes was much worse than stated in the home inspection report. After this, I got repair bids from three roofing contractors. Each of them independently agreed that the roof needed replacement. This was a major shock to me, considering the huge expense of re-roofing. It doesn’t seem right that I should be stuck with this problem, but what can I do about it now? –Chris

Dear Chris,

Critical evaluation of roofing is a vital consideration in the course of a home inspection. Competent home inspectors make every effort to discover and disclose conditions that would compromise the reliability of a roof. It is surprising, therefore, that the revealed condition of your shakes was not reflected in the inspection report. The consistent recommendations of three separate contractors would indicate professionally negligent on the part of your inspector for not having disclosed the full extent of repairs warranted. Even if the shakes still retained a few years of serviceability, the defects that were noted by the inspector called for “evaluation and repair by a licensed roofing contractor prior to close of transaction.” That is the correct recommendation offered by home inspectors whenever there are observable roof defects. Had that recommendation been offered, a roofing contractor would have reviewed the shakes before you purchased the property, and the need for replacement would have been revealed while negotiation with the seller remained a viable option.

In this respect, your home inspector appears to bear some professional liability. As to seller liability, you’ll need to obtain legal advice in that regard.

Dear Barry,

Is there color coding for electrical plugs for positive, negative and ground wires? I have a brown, a blue and a green/yellow. Which ones connect to which screws? –Cathy

Dear Cathy,

The standard coloration for residential electrical wiring is black for hot, white for neutral, and green or uninsulated for ground. In your case, the person who installed the wires used materials more commonly found in commercial electrical systems, where multi-colored wires are used to enable identification of specific circuits. To determine which of the wires in your home are hot, neutral, or ground, you could check to see how they are connected in the breaker panels. However, since you are dealing with an unconventional installation, and since you are apparently not professionally schooled in electrical matters, a full review of your electrical system by a qualified electrician would be a wise precaution. This will provide a definite answer to your question, while ensuring that your wiring is safe and property installed.

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


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