Dear Barry,

Our home just underwent a detailed home inspection, as requested by the buyers. As a result, we incurred major water damage during a shower pan test. The inspector filled the pan nearly 5 inches deep and let the water stand for 3 1/2 hours. When I got home, the closet was flooded, and we had no previous history of shower leakage. Isn’t there a limit to the amount of water that one should use during a shower pan test and the length of time necessary for this procedure? – Kris

Dear Kris,

The water tightness of a shower pan is typically checked by filling the base of the shower to within one inch of the overflow rim. The height of the shower dam, therefore, determines the appropriate water depth, and 5 inches would not be unusual for many showers. But a leak test lasting 3 1/2 hours is needless and excessive. The typical duration for such tests is 20-30 minutes. If a longer test was deemed necessary, the area around and beneath the pan should have been checked at periodic intervals during the inspection to determine whether leakage was occurring and to curtail further leakage once the problem became apparent. Allowing many hours to pass while significant leakage was taking place was not a responsible approach to this process.

Shower pan tests are typically performed by pest control operators, not by home inspectors. These tests are generally considered to be outside the scope of a visual home inspection and are specifically excluded from the standards of practice of professional associations representing the home inspection industry. Those home inspectors who include shower pan testing provide a valuable service to their clients, as long as such tests are performed in a responsible manner. But inspectors assume considerable liability for resultant damage when tests are conducted in careless ways. In this case, the home inspector should accept responsibility for repairing the moisture damage to your home.

Dear Barry,

My home is about 25 years old, and the attached garage is separated from the house with a brick wall and a steel entry door. However, the brick wall does not extend to the roofline, leaving the garage open to the house attic. The home inspector never mentioned this condition when I bought the property and it was apparently approved by the city inspector when the house was built. I am concerned about this incomplete partition wall and would like to know if it is a fire safety violation. – Jack

Dear Jack,

A one-hour rated firewall must separate an attached garage from a dwelling, including any attic space that is above the dwelling. This has been a requirement since the 1920’s and therefore is applicable to your home. The lack of a complete firewall should have been disclosed by your home inspector and should also have been cited by the municipality prior to issuing an occupancy permit. Correcting the problem at this time involves framing a wall where the garage adjoins the attic and installing 5/8-inch fire-rated drywall over that framing.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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