Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


The hidden costs of candles or smoking in bed?


It is not uncommon to find vinyl siding that has been melted/deformed by either sun reflection off windows or from someone parking their grille too close to it.  However, the other day, while I was inspecting a house with wood siding I saw the same sort of deformation that looked like the wood had “melted.” 

Everyone knows that wood does not “melt,” so what could possibly be going on?

Can you see the melted area in the following picture?

Fire damaged wood painted over

This actually is the result of where parts of the house up near the roof that were on fire, dropped to the ground and caught the lower portion of the house on fire---then the charred wood was painted over.  Perhaps this area should have been replaced when the top of the wall was replaced.  Either way it does not seem to impact the comings and goings of rodents through the crawl space vent screen.

I don’t see a lot of fire damaged houses, but this was a good example of what can happen to the structure of a home after a fire because the house drywall was yet to be installed.  By the looks of the front entryway door---20 feet away from the origins of the fire in the master bedroom---it had to have been pretty lucky that the entire house was not lost.

Fire damaged door

Hopefully no lives were lost.

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle


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Comment balloon 22 commentsCharles Buell • December 22 2012 11:15AM


The "hidden" costs are high enough, let alone the actual cost of a fire from smoking in bed or candles left burning, particularly in terms of the safety of a living thing.

Posted by Joanna Cohlan, Designing, Decorating & Staging Westchester Homes (Fresh Eyes For Your Home) over 6 years ago

I inspected a place that had been renovated after a fire. The floor joists visible in the basement had serious suface charring but they had been inspected and approved for continued use. A select few had to be sistered with new stock.

The wrinkle here is the fire was caused by the original knob and tube wiring. It had all been replaced with new wiring and service entrance.

HOWEVER, the electrician drilled so many holes in the joists to run the new wiring that 2 of them had split in two. The residents (students) just thought the kitchen floor was kind of funky.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 6 years ago

Not sure I understand - in an occupied house, why hadn't drywall been installed?

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 6 years ago

Looks like the fire was moving along the ceiling to the front door where perhaps it was fed by some bad weatherstripping and receiving air?  The corner is more charred than anywhere.  If the inside was still a shell, with removed drywall, why was the outside painted?

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

Charles -- things do look different when there is need for restoration after a fire.  Looks like this one was fairly major.  It also looks like there is a pocket door that belongs in the wall to the right of the door (as we are looking at it.)

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

Joanne, yes---the actual costs could be staggering on many levels

Robert, one always has to wonder about "repairs" and their adequacy long term

Brian, it was not occupied---long ways to go yet.  This was a foreclosure---and as we all know, they can be in ANY condition:)

Jay I think this is mostly heat damage until it found its way into the roof structure.  The heat just builds and builds.  There was a line like you see at the door at that level throughout the home at all the doorways.

Steven, indeed it is the frame for a pocket door.  They had put the house back together pretty well after the fire.  Rebuilt some trusses replaced some roof sheathing and some of the siding.

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

Jay I forgot to answer the second part of your question.  Technically when it is bare wood siding it should always get painted long before the interior is done.  Lots of paint failure can be attributed to wood being exposed to sunlight for too long.  Some say two weeks is the maximum it should be exposed before the surface would have to be sanded down again.

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

That answers me.  They are renovating.

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

I am surprised no one has asked me about the "black" to the left of the door :)

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

Oh my.. I had one deal fall apart because when the inspector went into the attic, it was clear there had been a fire and there was some structural damage.  The agent had lived in the house when the fire ocurred, but did not make sure her parents disclosed this.  My buyers took a pass and the agent would not reimburse them for their inspection costs even though she had actual knowledge of the fire.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 6 years ago

Joan, past fires seem to be routinely "forgotten" :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago
Charles - That door looks pretty charred for not being near the origin of the fire.
Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 6 years ago

Charles, since the fire was contained, was there a lot of water damage? Hopefully, no one was hurt.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

I sure hope nobody was hurt here.  Nothing scarier than a house fire.                                                                           

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) over 6 years ago

I have found fire damage many times. Not to this extent. The issue is often the house has not been repaired correctly. 

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

Charlie, I been in a few homes that have burned. It is always interesting to see how the fire moves through a structure.

Hey Charlie what is the black stuff next to the door ; )


Burned Home Wenatchee Home Inspection 

Here is a good example of that thermal layer that forms as a home burns.

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

Smoking in bed...dumb. Candles...can be as dangerous a s a gun! Respect for fire is key.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 6 years ago

This is a good tip to see if there has been a fire and non-disclosed. Thanks for the tip

Posted by Lori Bowers, The Lori Bowers Group over 6 years ago

Christine, house fire damage often looks like this---there is so much heat at the ceiling---everything at that level can catch on fire.

Michael, of course things like drywall will be a total loss, but because the water is not ongoing and of relatively short duration, most wood will not sustain very much damage---damage from the fire is another matter however.

Christiansens, for sure---whenever I see fire damage, I have an emotional reaction

Jim, and sometimes it is hard to tell if damage has been repaired properly.

Don, I am sure the house I inspected looked somewhat like your picture before all the drywall was removed.

Gary, yes---fire can make a mess in a hurry under the right conditions

Lori, I think that all too often the first person to bring this to everyone's attention is the Home Inspector.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago
They are fortunate this whole thing didn't burn to the ground. Yikes.
Posted by Paula McDonald, Magnolia Realty ~ Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Magnolia Realty ~ Granbury) over 6 years ago

I lifted the lid to my warmed up grill and set it accidentally against the vinyl years ago. I still tell the story. Could've been much worse.

Posted by Eric Michael, Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519 (Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI) over 6 years ago

Paula, I think they caught it just in time---a little bit longer and they might have well let it all go up

Eric, we don't have a lot of vinyl siding around here---but what I do see is frequently "grilled" :)

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