A Probing Question: Seller angry about probing damage to rotten door jamb

The company I work for received a complaint today about an inspection I did earlier this week where I found a rotted front door jamb that was recently painted. I probed it with my screwdriver, which left cosmetic damage in the paint. The seller reached out and said I damaged the home, and wants us to fix it. They even had before and after pictures of the painted (but rotten) door jamb.

My question for you all is this: Do you or do you not probe wood with a screwdriver or similar instrument? I have been asked to only touch similar areas with my finger from now on and comment, and the cosmetic damage is going to be repaired for the seller.

I am very “gentle” with damaged wood.
I am also suspicious when it’s painted over.
As long as you didn’t tear it up, the only thing you did is
uncover intentional hidden damage.
I myself do not have have a magic screwdriver that I can pass over the wood & create damage.


It really also depends on the level of probing done to the rotted area.
I’ve seen wood that looks like shredded wheat after some pest inspector ripped into it.

Stuff like this is always a tough call, you made a reasoned decision. Second guessing yourself after a less favorable outcome is normal and to be expected. Do what you can to amicably resolve the problem and move on.

On painted, rotten exterior components, I’ll usually just give it a light press with my fingers. If it is soft, that’s all you really need to know.


Ask if you can borrow a dab of paint that they used so you can “fix it”.

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Unless otherwise agreed to in writing, a home inspection is “none” invasive. When you start poking holes in otherwise “cosmetically” sound material, you become liable. While you want to do the best you can for your client, there are limitations. HI needs to apply common sense as to where he can poke, where he should poke/probe, and where he can just apply pressure and sense that the area was merely painted and not properly repaired (old wood cut out and replaced).

Do you have pictures of the probed area after it was probed?

Yes, fix it, and learn from it, no big deal :slight_smile:

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I’ve carried an Awl in my toolbag for 20+ years. I think I have only pulled it out once or twice. A press of my thump or finger is all that’s necessary for most situations (painted over rotten window frames). The wood is either ‘solid’ or it isn’t. If it isn’t, it get’s reported for deteriorating XXXX and defer to the appropriate contractor for evaluation of extent of damage and any/all necessary repairs.


:thinking: Wasn’t there an astute invention fabricated in the late 1920s? Thus, we’ve been able to use that knowledge that can provide us with quantifiable data about a piece of wood’s moisture condition. This intuitive invention collects moisture data from various species of wood is called a moisture meter. :smirk:

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It is easy to detect rotting wood visually without probing.


What’s the point? If the wood is soft, it is failing and requires replacement. I rarely need to use my MM for such obvious issues!!

Ever hear of “Dry Rot”??


I get the picture

See also
Doing Damage During an Inspection: It’s your Job - Misc. Discussion - InterNACHI®️ Forum

Now I’m going to give a different perspective, related to the eventual need to repair. Covering something up deliberately comes with an obligation to disclose, at time of sale. So frankly he’s screwed either way.

If he demands you paint the area, then you do, you write that in your report and he’s worse off.

Repairing something involves removing essentially all the rotted wood – rotted wood holds moisture and fungus and needs to go to effect any sort of repair.

Once the flaky crumbling stuff is out of the way a cellulose based epoxy helps stabilize and make breathable for moisture the remaining fungus infected wood (see http://smithandcompany.org/ ). 5100 Channel Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804 (Disclosure the factory is in my inspection area, and I have met the founder and toured the production facility, having used the product for many years before that).

There’s published work behind this:

Yet, there are no agreements among manufacturers, users, property owners, architects or structural engineers as to exactly what is being done, or how, or with what result. The reason for this is that there has never been any such thing as a standard piece of rotten wood. Until now. http://www.woodrestoration.com/

The “request” you got was essentially to be part of the process of covering up rotted wood for sale. Think carefully about how complicit you wish to be. Where do your ethics fall?

I’m in termite haven Florida.
Can’t tell if it’s termites or WDF without taking a proper look.
If I just press & feel softness, I can put in the report that it may or may not be termites? … … ?

A WAFI moisture meter will do crap if it’s dry or from drywood termites… … …


If you share the before & after photos, we could comment farther on what we’d have done in the same situation.

My bet goes on it got torn up

Damn… left my MM in the truck again!! :roll_eyes:



Another ‘wood in a paint can’ moment!!



I will concede that I could tell it was damaged without the use of a probe, but I had just read a post that one of the Internachi higher-ups wrote that the “inspector is NOT responsible for the defect that permitted her screwdriver to blow a hole through it…Inspector observed it. Screwdriver confirmed it. Keep tapping that wood!”

I was inspired, you could say.


I think the argument for me is a philosophical one… I think repairing the damaged paint to appeal to the Seller (and their agent), that was caused while doing my job to find defects for our Client is short-circuiting my logic center.

I will, of course, comply with the request of my employer and only touch these areas with my finger. I will even happily perform the “repair” myself, but I’m just trying to get some perspective and input from you all to help make this sit right in my head.

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