Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


I’ve got hard, wind-driven rain in my tool bag!

Rain can often be the inspector’s friend.

While it might not make for the most comfortable of inspections---especially a typical rainy winter day in Seattle---rain can often give the inspector information that he could only lose sleep over in the summer.

Brick ChimneyBelieve it or not it is not all that uncommon, at the end of the summer to have had many weeks in a row with almost no rain in the Seattle area.  When that first hard rain hits in late September or early November most inspectors don’t even want to answer the phone in dread of some missed roof leak.

Those calls that begin with, “You inspected my house a couple of months ago and…..”  Of course they always end with, “….now we have found another house and would like you inspect it for us.”  But it seems there is that split second when you heart sinks and you wonder if you missed some problem with the roof that is only showing up now that it is raining.

I wish I could put some hard wind-driven rain in my tool bag---which I could bring out for an hour or two while I am doing the inspection---just to assist with obtaining the best information about the home.

Of course this is not possible and I have to rely on secondary methods----analyzing stains and other indications of past leaks.  While I might be able to prepare my client for the “possibility” of problems to come---it becomes difficult to say for sure that the stains mean anything at all.

The other day I inspected a home---a very expensive home---with a brand new architectural 50 yr composition roof.  One would like to think, that it being new, it would be perfect---especially one as expensive as this grade of shingle is. 

It was pouring down rain during most of the inspection and the roof was WAY to steep to get on----14/12 pitch and---like I said---raining cats and dogs.  But again, because it was new---confidence was high that all would be OK.  Plus, because it was so steep, it could pretty easily be seen from at ladder at the eaves with binoculars.  Of course details around chimney penetrations were difficult to assess.

The picture above is of one of the three brick chimneys on the home---and from the outside the chimneys looked pretty good.

Once I got in the attic, I suddenly stopped complaining about the rain (even though it was mixed with snow) and realized what a friend the rain had been.  By now I was nearing the end of the 6 hour inspection and my hands were completely thawed out from testing outside faucets and wrestling my cold wet ladder around the house.

All three chimneys were visible in the attic and had staining similar to the one pictured here.

leaking around chimney leaking around chimney

Chimney leaking into house structure leaking around chimney

The "highlighted areas" are surfaces of the chimney that were saturated with water and wetting the insulation around the base in some locations.  One thing that inspectors will look for in attics (and document) is any historical staining on the woodwork around the chimney.  The framing and roof sheathing around these chimneys had surprisingly little staining given the amount of water running down the sides.

Fortunately there was also no evidence of its doing damage to finish ceilings and walls in the areas below---but it will if it does not get fixed pronto.

In other words, the water had not been doing this for very long.  Something was seriously wrong with the flashing details around the chimneys.

Hopefully the roof replacement is still under warranty.

This time it will be the roofer getting the call instead of the home inspector.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle


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Comment balloon 13 commentsCharles Buell • December 17 2012 06:38AM


great points Charles, you can only inspect what you can see, and the rain definately helped you out on that one.


Posted by Jeffrey Jones, AZ Home Seekers, (AZ Home Seekers) over 6 years ago

Wow...looks like a cool home, but 6 hour inspection?  ouch!  I am glad you caught this problem for the buyers though

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) over 6 years ago

They were very lucky that it was raining cats and dogs.... and yes, a call to the roofer instead of to you is a wonderful thing! New or not, all homes need good inspections by proven, qualified inspectors like yourself.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 6 years ago

Charles, good home inspectors, like yourself, provide an invaluable service for buyers.  One that many do not fully appreciate.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 6 years ago

Jeff, yes, without the actual rain I would have only been reporting the evidence of past leaks.

Kristin, yes I breezed through this one in 6 hours :)  5100 sq ft takes time---full crawl space---big attic---all the "extras" that come with big expensive homes.

Andrea there was stuff in this house that should have been caught 20 years ago when it was built

Chris, thanks---just doing my job---or trying to :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

Charles -- yes, with the rain and wind recently around here these kinds of issues would be showing up much better than they did back in September.  Yes, one wonders about what the roof warrantee covers at this time in its life.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

I can clearly see no duct tape was used on that chimney flashing.  And no Billy Jays products either.  When you do something, do it right.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

That's a lot of water on that chimney. hard to imagine what the roof could have done so terribly wrong. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Steven, I hope to hear back what the full story of this is

Jay, absolutely---never even thought of that :)

Jim, it is hard to imagine how it could be so wrong---almost like the step flashing is either missing or lapped the wrong way :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

That's an awful amount of water, the roofer must have messed up on the flashing.

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) over 6 years ago

Hi Suesan, nice to see you back in the rain :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

Charlie, sometimes the Seattle Rain can be an inspectors best friend. Just shows you that even them nice fancy homes can have the same issues.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Don, yes---often it is the same builders that build the expensive ones as the cheap ones---they are mostly just "bigger" not better.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago