DEAR BARRY: We purchased our home two months ago, after hiring a professional home inspector. After moving in, we had plumbing problems with the drains. The plumber we called wants $9,000 for a new sewer main to the street. The old clay pipes are cracked, full of roots, and need to be replaced. We feel that something should have been disclosed about this, by the sellers or our home inspector.

Further investigation has revealed a new drain cleanout in the backyard, covered with a tarp and overlaid with tree limbs, as though someone didn’t want it to be noticed. We believe the sellers were having problems with the main sewer line, had installed a new cleanout to deal with blockages, and failed to disclose this condition. What do you think about this? –Dusty

DEAR DUSTY: The problem with claims of nondisclosure by sellers is to prove that the sellers knew about the problem and that their intent was to conceal. In your situation, there are indications that the seller knew about the problem, and it is possible that the tarp and tree limbs were intended as camouflage.

It is also possible that someone was doing yard cleanup and left the unfinished mess on top of the cleanout. The only way to know for certain is to acquire additional evidence.

In some cases, a neighbor is aware of previous issues. For example, if the sellers had routinely called a plumber to clear the clogged sewer main, people in the neighborhood might have been aware of it. Sometimes a local plumber might reveal that he serviced the property and had told the previous owners that they needed a new sewer main. But in most cases, witnesses of that kind are not available.

Your home inspector’s liability hinges on one issue: Was the problem visible and accessible on the day of the inspection? If so, the inspector may be liable. If there were visible signs that the inspector should have seen, you should call him for a reinspection of those conditions.

However, if the drains were all functioning properly on the day of the inspection, there may have been no reason for the inspector to suspect a problem. And there would have been no reason to inspect under a pile of tree limbs in the backyard.

As for the $9,000 repair bid, you should obtain two more estimates for the work. And be sure to contact a plumbing company that installs new liners in old pipes. That can be a much less costly means of repair.

DEAR BARRY: I need to walk on my tile roof in order to paint the eaves. How can I do this without breaking the tiles? –Simola

DEAR SIMOLA: If you have concrete tiles, they are not likely to break if you walk on them correctly. Just be sure to step on the lower edges of the tiles. Applying weight near the middle or top of a tile increases the likelihood of breakage. If you have clay tiles, it is very difficult to walk on them without causing damage. It takes professional expertise to walk on clay tiles without breaking them.

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


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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