Dear Barry,

I bought my home about two years ago, and my home inspector listed no roof problems in his report. A year later, some of the shingles blew off. When I contacted the inspector, he brought some replacement shingles and nailed them in place. But more shingles blew off later, so I called a roofing contractor. He said the shingles are cracked, worn, and need to be replaced. The inspector says he only inspected the roof from the ground because of winter weather, and he insists that this is a common practice among home inspectors. Regardless of weather conditions, shouldn’t he have provided me with proper disclosure of the roof’s condition? –John

Dear John,

If the roof was wet at the time of the inspection, this may have prevented the inspector from walking on it. However, it should not have prevented him from setting his ladder against the eaves to get a closer look at the shingles. Inspecting shingles from the ground only, simply because of winter weather, could be an alibi for professional negligence. Barring unusual circumstances, the inspector should have taken a closer look. If he was unable to do so – for example, if the roof was covered with snow – the report should have stated that the roof inspection was incomplete and inconclusive, and further evaluation should have been recommended.

The standards of practice for roofing inspections are set forth by professional associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). Most home inspectors are members of one or more of these organizations and must comply with these standards. ASHI, for example, requires member inspectors to inspect roofing components that are readily accessible. A ladder would certainly enhance accessibility. NAHI is more specific in their roof inspection standards, stating that inspectors should inspect roof surfaces from arms-length distance or with binoculars from the ground.

Given these standards, your inspector should either have discovered that the shingles were defective or have recommended further review prior to your purchase of the property.

Dear Barry,

We have a lot of white dust around the walls of our basement. It sits in little piles on the floor, and we believe that it’s caused by the high water table in our area. A few years after moving in, our son developed asthma, and we’ve wondered if this could be an allergic reaction to the white dust. Can you give us any information that would help? –Kathleen

Dear Kathleen,

Without having seen the white dust, I presume that it is a substance called efflorescence, a formation of mineral salts often seen on concrete and masonry surfaces where moisture seepage occurs. Efflorescence is primarily a cosmetic nuisance that rarely has a significant effect on structural materials, and I’ve neither read nor heard of any health problems related to its presence. Preventing the continued formation of efflorescence may not be possible without significantly altering the drainage conditions on the property.

To determine whether any environmental conditions in your home could be affecting your son’s health, you should consult a certified industrial hygienist. They are generally listed in the yellow pages as industrial hygiene consultants.

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


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