Does an inspector pay for decay that was found because of probing?

I posted this in the exterior section of the message board but I think this board is a better fit.

I recently did an inspection on a home with hardboard lap siding on 3 sides of the home. I found decay around the chimney area, where siding butts into inside and outside corner boards, along the decking area where someone applied flashing directly to the siding then on top of the decking, where siding butts into window casing. I also found window casing decay, garage door rail decay, soffit decay and front door casing decay. I used a screw driver to probe these areas and without probing would have never found the decay. One area around the chimney I probed deeper and wider because I was concerned about framing decay and sure enough I found framing decay also.

My client went on to get pricing for the issues I found and to renegotiate her contract during the due diligence phase. The seller is pi#%ed and wants me to pay for the “damage” he said that I did to his home. $500 worth. He contacted me in an email and I have as yet not responded. I feel that I located all the decay that his painters and handyman tried to hide prior to the home going on the market.

Any thoughts on this issue would greatly be appreciated.


I would say - “Contact my client. I was working for same and any damage that I caused is their responsibility” I would also contact your client as ask if they are happy and what are their thoughts on the subject

In short the $500 is a small price for your client to pay to find the damage that was already done. You did not cause the damage. You just exposed it

I would also like to see how they came to the $500 number. Sounds like wood filler and a can of spray paint to cover it up but not to correct the problem. I do not think that this was improper testing. A garden hose or pressure washer would have done more damage

In short it was bad

The seller should be happy that you found it and I would try to also try to mend that bridge also

Your client should be very happy - you did a good job unless you used a chain saw to expose the problems



In my opinion from what you wrote here using a screwdriver will result in considerable unnecessary damage to the house and probably also make matters worse allowing for more moisture intrusion to occur.

Personally I think you should either have someone repair the holes, or repair them yourself with a good quality caulk so at least the damage caused by probing is eliminated to not allowing possibly more significant damage to occur to the house.

You may want to think about buying an awl to keep what damage may occur in the future minimized, and even carry a tube of caulk with you to at least seal any holes you made even though they may have been necessary for you to determine the extent of the rot.


Good post but what color caulk do we carry??

Be it be an awl or a screw driver is not the point. I agree that we are not to do any damage during an inspection but in some cases we do have a problem called during inspection. If the wood was good their would have been no damage.

If a drill or chain saw had been used it would been a different story. If a screw driver had been used and the wood would have been good there would have been no damage and thus no claim


RB…I carry “Clear” and “White”…but I don’t make holes with screwdrivers either so regardless of the caulk a tiny dab of clear on a hole from an awl is all that is necessary for an exterior wall if the probe location is at an area where future moisture intrusion can occur.

I will not cause destruction using an awl which the average person could see anyway, but if I think the hole may allow moisture intrusion to an exterior wall I simply seal it, then there are no phone calls.


A small hole will not show up on a picture. Once again it is a “failed under inspection” and “I just exposed the problem”

Florida is got to be the WDI captital of the world. Sometimes if on taps a base board it all breaks off in ones hand

Yes, an ispector should be carful but sometimes we will make a dent


It will with the head of an “Awl” sticking out of the hole.

Bloody funny, true, but still funny :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:



Assuming you didn’t go nuts with the screwdriver, and were just doing basic probing, here is a potential response.

Mr Seller,

I’m very sorry you are upset about this situation with your home. However, I will not be paying for your requested repairs. My inspection did not cause the damage to your siding, it exposed it. The wood was decayed, and in need of replacement. Basic probing, such as is performed in a home inspection, does not cause damage. However in wood products in need of replacement, it can and will, expose failed areas.

According to my understanding of Real Estate laws, these defects in question should have been mentioned in your disclosure statement, as it is obvious that someone was aware of them because they have recently been painted over in an attempt to hide the flaws.

You should be grateful that the defect was uncovered now as opposed to after your buyers moved in. Should major defects of this nature be uncovered after the sale, you could have been subject to a large and painful law suit, and in a worst case scenario been forced to purchase the property back and pay additional damages and legal fees to your buyers.

If you are in a position to sell another home in future, I would highly recommend having an inspection performed prior to placing it on the market, and making all needed repairs ahead of time, to avoid similar situations.

Regards and best wishes.

Nice response. Almost tempted to add in, " and I hope the inspector you hire for your next purchase will be able to uncover equally hidden defects to protect your investment." Heck with a little salt, pour a pound on…:mrgreen:

Very nice! Hope I never need to use it, but very nice.

Here are some pictures. The bigger area is the chimney soffit that is 18 inches off of the ground. It came apart and disinegrated when I probed. The large siding area did the same thing and all the framing behind is also decayed. I will post more after I post this. It seems that I can only post 5 attachments at a time.




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And more pictures. The larger area disintegrated exposing the decayed framing behind the structure.

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Looks like masonite siding, I hope you reported this too.

You can probe that stuff with your thumb and find plenty of soft areas without making a hole.

Tell the seller and the client, its not $500 worth of damage but $10k-15k

Doesn’t look like excessive probing to me.

Tennessee Home Inspector Licensing SOP says:
© The home inspector shall:

  1. Probe structural components where deterioration is suspected;

Yes it does.

But in my opinion, the deterioration that was “suspected” was quite obvious even without probing.

The law says you should probe, but doesn’t say how.
Remember the State law is an old ASHI SOP. Please don’t push it!
We will end up like Texas.

The termite guys locally are very aggressive when they probe. But then, if they miss something they have to pay for the repairs so they need to be aggressive. Does not look like he went to excess when probing. Ive done worse with the tip of my finger. Ive seen sellers try to fill up holes the size of a softball with caulk. It looked like Fido’s behind and didn’t work. I do know not how it works everywhere else but if I discover rot, Im doing my job. I do not need to tear the side of the house off to report it. Like I said, the termite guys here will wallow out a hole you can put your arm in so the sellers can not just cover it up and they will not issue a letter until it is fixed to their satisfaction. 1 Pint Natural Wood Putty](
Buy new: $5.792 Used & new from $2.94In Stock (1)

Fine I have reconsidered, give them 6 bucks. :smiley:

If you had enough of that stuff you could make yourself a canoe.:wink: or a pair of wooden shoes, or…

A good thought to keep in mind - my client hasn’t bought it yet, so don’t break it. :smiley: