Q: The house we are buying is around three years old and has double pane windows. Our home inspector reported moisture condensation in many of these windows, so the sellers called the builder who said this had happened to several houses in the subdivision. He said the windows can be removed, cleaned, and resealed. Is this a viable solution for leaky window seals?
A: When double pane window seals fail, the problem is almost always a manufacturing defect, which is usually covered by the window manufacturer‘s warranty. Find out the name of the window manufacturer and let the sellers contact you immediately regarding the warranty.
Patching these windows as recommended by the builder is an invitation to future problems. Such repairs are unlikely to be permanent and will void the manufacturer’s warranty. In addition, window warranties are typically limited to the original owner of a home; So do not close the escrow account until this situation is completely resolved. Once you have purchased the home, the warranty may no longer be valid.
Q: After we moved into our house, we heard popping noises in the floor, especially at night. This seemed strange as our home inspector found no problems under the building. We called the builder but they said the subfloor is not covered by the warranty. He recommended reattaching the plywood with screws – something that wasn’t required when building the house. So we asked our craftsman to look it up. He found that the floor insulation was laid under the house with the paper side down. Does that matter and could it be causing the popping noises?
A: Your contractor may not guarantee the subfloor (although it’s hard to see why not), but they should guarantee the consequences of a design flaw. If the floor insulation was laid with the vapor barrier downwards, this represents a significant deficiency, as it promotes moisture condensation on the beam construction and the sub-floor. Excess moisture encourages the wood elements to expand and this is a possible cause of the crackling noises. More worrisome, however, is the potential for moisture-related damage such as dry rot and mold.
First and foremost is a comprehensive assessment of the subsoil and the construction by a qualified pest controller. To do this, the floor insulation must be removed. If fungal growth has occurred, chemical treatment or replacement of the wooden elements is required. A professional mold assessment is also recommended. Once these issues are resolved, new insulation should be installed with the vapor barrier up.
The fact that your home inspector failed to identify the insulation problem casts doubt on the thoroughness of this inspection. If an obvious flaw like this is overlooked, other undisclosed problems can arise. Therefore, a second inspection by a more qualified, more experienced inspector is recommended. Try to find an inspector who has conducted thousands of inspections and is known for thorough thoroughness.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him online at www.housedetective.com or write to AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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