Engineer homeowner disputes buyer’s inspection

Q: When the buyers’ home inspector inspected our home, we made the mistake of not attending the inspection. My husband, Bill, is a civil engineer and he disagrees with some of the home inspector’s findings. For example, the inspector said the fireplace chimney is cracked and also needs to be cleaned. But Bill says there is no crack, and besides, we had the chimney cleaned and inspected when we bought the home and have only used gas logs ever since. The home inspector also said the air conditioner needs repair, but our HVAC guy says the system is OK. The buyers want these things fixed. What can we do to reassure them that repairs are not needed?

A: Conflicting disclosures can disrupt the closing of a real estate transaction. Therefore, clarification is needed. The first step in this process is to arrange a meeting of all concerned parties. Therefore, call the home inspector and request that he meet at the property with you, your engineer husband, the HVAC contractor, the buyers, and the agents.

The inspector can then point out the specific conditions observed during the home inspection. If the fireplace is cracked, where is the crack? If the chimney needs cleaning, where is the soot? If there are observable defects with the HVAC system, these should be made apparent. Before completing the sale, there should be a full and satisfactory consensus regarding the true condition of the property.

Q: My condo association hired Plumber No. 1 to install thermal expansion tanks on all the water heaters in our complex. While doing this, he tested my water heater system and found 115 pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure. He said the “pressure relief valve” needed to be replaced, and he proceeded to make that repair, but I did not notice any change in the water pressure. So I hired Plumber No. 2 to test my plumbing system. He found only 50 psi of pressure and said there was no reason to replace the pressure relief valve. I then questioned Plumber No. 1 regarding his pressure test. He insisted the pressure had been 115 psi and that he had manually adjusted my pressure relief valve to the 50 psi reading. How can I know who to trust?

A: Part of the problem here is a discrepancy in terminology. Water pressure is adjusted at the pressure regulator, not the pressure relief valve. The purpose of the relief valve is to release water in the event of excessively high pressure in the system. Why Plumber No. 1 would address high water pressure by replacing the pressure relief valve is a mystery, unless he actually meant repair or replacement of the pressure regulator. The only time you would replace the relief valve would be if it was leaking. Otherwise replacement would have no remedial effect on high pressure.

Given these circumstances, I would be inclined to trust the findings and recommendations of Plumber No. 2, assuming Plumber No. 1 actually did replace the pressure relief valve.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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