Dear Barry,

I recently purchased a new home with an unconnected water line to the refrigerator. The line is not attached to the water supply beneath the kitchen sink, and the end that is near the refrigerator has been capped. I’ve asked the builder to complete the connection, but he thinks the line was capped due to leakage beneath the slab. He and the plumber both refuse to repair the line, and the bid from another plumber is $275. What do you suggest I do? –Yolanda

Dear Yolanda,

The faulty water line is a construction defect. Regardless of who made the error, the buck stops at the builder’s tailgate. If he is unwilling to address the issue in a forthright manner, try the following: Send a certified letter informing the builder that he has 30 days to correct the problem, after which you will hire a licensed plumbing contractor to install a new line and will then hold the builder responsible for costs. If he calls your bluff, have the work repaired and take the matter to small claims court.

Dear Barry,

Last year, my neighbor declared my fence to be on his property and the trees in my yard to be his. We shared the cost of a surveyor, and his claim regarding the property line was proven correct, so I paid to relocate the fence. Now the trees are in his yard and he wants me to share the cost of their removal. I don’t think this is right. Do you agree? –Matt

Dear Matt,

Your neighbor should be happy to have acquired additional land, including free trees. Now that the trees are securely in his possession, why does he expect someone else to share the costs of their upkeep or removal? They are his trees. What does that have to do with you?

Dear Barry,

We have a 30-foot-long, concrete-block retaining wall that is leaning 4 inches out of plumb, and some of the bottom blocks have small cracks. Does this sound like a serious problem? –Larry

Dear Larry,

A retaining wall that is leaning a full 4 inches should be regarded as structurally failed. However, it may take many years before the consequences of that leaning become significant. Before that happens, you can have the wall structurally reinforced. For repair specifications, have it evaluated by a structural engineer.

Dear Barry,

We are purchasing a home that is in need of many repairs. Our main concern is that the foundation may have been damaged by roots from large, nearby trees. How can we determine the extent of this problem? –Lisa

Dear Lisa,

If the trees have done significant damage to the home, some evidence must be visible. For example, are there cracks in the foundation or the walls? Are the floors out of level or the doors or windows misaligned? If any such conditions are evident, a structural engineer should be consulted for further evaluation. In the meantime, you should find a highly qualified home inspector to determine the extent of other conditions that may need repair.

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

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