Dear Barry,

I recently purchased a brand-new home and hired a home inspector before closing the deal, but the inspector did not give me a written report. He just reviewed his findings verbally by phone and then sent a bill for $750. When I complained about not receiving a written report, he discounted the fee to $600. This doesn’t seem right to me. What should I do? –Thomas

Dear Thomas,

A home inspection without a tangible report is not worth the paper it isn’t written on. What good is a verbal report when requesting repairs from the builder? And who can prove later what the inspector did or did not disclose? Your response to the inspector should be blunt and simple: No report equals no payment. The inspector should provide a product in exchange for his fee. Give him a choice. Without a report, he’d have a hard time convincing an arbitrator that he’s entitled to payment.

Dear Barry,

A new water heater was installed in my home about two years ago. Recently, I noticed that the pipe leading from the water heater to the outside of the garage was leaking. I talked to a plumber who was at my house for another repair, and he told me that the downward slope of the pipe was causing the leak. He also said that the water heater should be drained periodically. According to the owner’s manual, it should be drained about every two months. Do you think draining the water heater would stop the leak? If so, is it really necessary to drain it every two months? And should I change the direction of the pipe as the plumber advised? I hope you don’t mind this many questions. –Linda

Dear Linda,

The pipe that is leaking is most likely the discharge pipe for the TPR (temperature pressure relief) valve. The purpose of the TPR valve is to release hot water and steam in the event of an overheated water heater. Without a TPR valve, excessive heat could cause a water heater to explode. The purpose of the discharge pipe is to convey water from the valve to the outside of the building. If water is leaking from the discharge, your plumber should make sure the water heater is not overheated. If that’s not the problem, he should replace the leaking TPR valve.

Draining a water heater at periodic intervals is one way to extend the life of the fixture, but twice a year, rather than every two months, is often enough. Although draining the water heater is recommended, failure to do so will not cause the TPR valve to leak.

And finally, the discharge pipe should be installed so that it is level or has a downward slope. Upward sloping of the pipe creates what is called a “trap,” which can retain water in the event of a leak. A trap in the discharge pipe is prohibited in the plumbing code.

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

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