An old carpenter once told me that a really good carpenter never makes mistakes while a really great carpenter knows how to fix their mistakes so they never show.
I am not so sure of the validity of this wisdom, but most likely it happens all the time. After all, if the carpenter uses a really expensive piece of wood to make something, and some mistake happens, what can be the harm if repairs can be made in such a manner as to not affect function and in such a manner that no one but them ever knows?
Every carpenter probably makes these kinds of calls all the time.
In an older home, mistakes made during repairs to the house might be more forgiving and the same mistakes on new construction might show up more and be less forgiving.
I think psychologically we demand more perfection of something brand new. The slightest scratch on the new car we drive off the lot is certainly going to be overlooked when the same car is ten years old.
So how do we decide when something can be “fixed” or whether the item should be “replaced?” For me if there is any chance that the fixed item is going to affect “function,” then it would most likely behoove us to replace the item instead of attempting to fix the item.
If you are an old New England Yankee or Rube Goldberg, you can pretty much forget about what I am saying. For them “fixing” will always be the first and pretty much only option. Once the fix has been fixed a couple of times---then replacement may be considered.
I started thinking about this the other day when I was inspecting brand new construction and found a broken neutral bar in the electrical panel. The electrician had made a “repair” to the broken bar by connecting the two pieces together with a piece of heavy copper wire.
There is no question that this will likely be “functional,” but was it a good idea to attempt to repair this bar or should the bar have been replaced?
I for one, think the bar should be replaced because of the unpredictability of such a repair.
Of course I am certainly going to move the liability from my E&O to the Electrical Contractor’s E&O.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board