Sometimes I hate home inspections...

Okay, perhaps my subject is too harsh. I’m at an inspection yesterday and my client is with me the whole time. I begin looking at the water heater(4yrs. old), I turn up the dial to fire it up and when I pull the cover off to get a look at the flame, the thing shuts down completely. (here’s where I started breaking rules). I tried to relight it 3-4 time and the pilot ignites but it won’t hold a flame. It looked to me that the thermocouple wasn’t really inside the flame much at all, but it’s that tiny window so who knows. There’s a few reasons it would shut down, but none of them should be predicated on the removal of the outer cover. I just decided to step away and get my hands off it at that point.

I tell the owner when he gets home that he needs to have a plumber come get it fired back up and figure out what caused it to shut down. He said no problem and the inspection ended. Two hours later I get a call from the owner and of course, he’s ticked and thinks I broke his water heater. He’s a flipper who lives in the houses he flips and as I talk to him I realize he never called a plumber, he has no intention of calling one, he just figured he would go downstairs, fire it up and wonder why I thought something was wrong with it. That’s why he’s mad. He even mentioned that he had the thermocouple replaced a few months ago(I wonder if that means he did it himself). After I told him to get a plumber out there for the tenth time, I had had enough of his cursing so I just hung up. I called the agents and told them what was up and reassured them I did remain professional and polite the whole call.

Here’s where I begin hating my profession. I know some guys say if you’re touching it when it breaks it doesn’t matter if you did it or not, you’ve got to fix it. I keep thinking about that, but then I think I should be able to remove the cover off of the dang water heater all day long. The fact that it shut down proves something is wrong. So I can’t figure what to do cuz I’ve thought about it too much.

Any advice appreciated, just don’t call me a f***ing f***er because I’ve heard that enough times this weekend and I’ll hang up on you too. :wink:

Hey don’t hang up just listen 3 words is all it takes end of conversation. (Failed during testing) Period. Tell the Jerk to F off it will make you feel so much better;-):wink:

The way I look it at it is that you did your job. You operated it using control that are meant to be used and it failed. Good catch, I think all you did was your job. I would rather something fail on me while I was inspecting it then the first day my client moves in.

I’m under the impression that if it breaks during normal operation then it broke. If you knock over a vase then that’s a different story. How do you know that the thing wasn’t back drafting and that’s what is putting the flame out? You don’t that’s why you call someone on. I was on an Energy Audit and the home owner said the water heater went out and he replaced the thermocouple. When I tested for draft it failed and you could see the window starting to fog up. There was a carbon monoxide detector in the room but it only alarmed at 100 ppm. We tested 10 ppm right before the water heater went out. We stopped work and called the guy to tell him he said he would call someone out. He let us know that is was a problem with the flue and had to have it replaced. You might have identified a problem that the guy is unaware of and should get properly repaired.

On the sealed burners, the thermal couple has to be really tight at the control valve for some reason, or the water heater will only work when it feels like it.
Also Whirlpool water heaters had thermocouples recalled several years back. There is a big lawsuit going on, because of this. I use to just carry an extra thermocouple back when I installed Whirlpool water heaters. About one out of four had bad thermocouples from the get go.

I’m in Kansas City. The rule is simple…If for any reason it quits, stops or won’t work - The home inspector broke it AND should pay for it.

You handled it correctly.

I am not familiar with an inspection process that requires me to adjust any heat control switches on the water heater from their original settings. During a home performance evaluation (aka "energy audit) I will adjust the control to “Pilot” before doing a blower door test, but for a simple home inspection I do not know of any protocol that calls for adjusting the water heating controls.

Adjusting the temperature setting to a level higher than 120 degrees is inconsistent with “normal operation”. In fact, when I find it at that level, I recommend that it be lowered. I would have a difficult time explaining or justifying how I needed to set it at an undesirable and abnormal level of heat in order to inspect it’s ability to provide hot water at or below 120 degrees.

When I want to observe a flame in a water heater, I do it while (or immediately after) I am filling the tub.

So if the home is vacant and the water heater is turned in vacation mode, what do you write in your report?

BS, all of this crap is owner accessible and adjustable.

If they have access to it, so do you.

When you start breaking down the furnace to inspect the heat exchanger, I’ll have to say you are going too far.

Absolutely no different than adjusting the thermostat on the HVAC system to check proper operation. It’s not to “heat up the water,” it’s simply a short cycle to observe the operation of the unit.

The water heater failed during normal operation of the temperature settings. It’s a business decision whether or not you want to take responsibility for the repair, but in general, I would not be inclined to do so.

If the house belonged to a “helpless little lady,” I’d be more inclined to assist than if the house belongs to a “rude flipper.” However, in this case, he already knows there’s a problem with the unit. That’s why he changed out the TC earlier.

It appears that the guy is an opportunist. The question is, could he further trouble you? No one knows.

If he calls you, it would it make sense to sort it out in a less expensive way now, then later? Although, doesn’t seem a biggie at this point.

If Mr. Flipper gives you a hassle, offer this solution (a court should back you up if it ever goes that far)…

He is to meet with you and a plumber of your choice at the home. The plumber is to evaluate the problem and report what/who caused it. If you are at fault, you pay for the service call and repair. If you are not at fault, the Flipper must have it repaired and pay all costs. Your client gets the problem corrected, and 3 out of 4 of you are happy.

Appreciate all the advice guys, it’s good to have other opinions when your own feels jaded.

This is why I take before and after pictures so often.
Thermostat before testing and thermostat after ,etc.

"failed under testing " is a good comment .

Yes, but several real estate contracts state that the person who hired you is responsible for any damage or breakage you do when inspecting. Should the deal not go through, then a portion of their deposit will be held until the repairs are made and I wouldn’t be expecting a call from them for the next inspection.

That is where, as you admit, things went wrong.
Here, the real estate contract states that all systems must be in a condition to be inspected during the inspection period. If it was not in a condition to be inspected, note it and move on. Had you done that, you wouldn’t have had to make this post.

I know we have a few “cowboy inspectors” here who are under the misconception that the home is theirs to do what they want without any repercussions. One day, something big will get broken and you will find out just how wrong you are.

From how I read it the water heater was in inspection condition and once the inspector messed with the dial the pilot light went out. Do you mess with the dial? If so, how would you deal with this situation?

I was inspecting a home the other day and when I opened the basement awning window the outer pane fell out and broke. Is it my fault that the outside clips were broken. I say h*ll no. I would never pay for it. If you pay for it then it is like you are admitting that you are at fault. Failed during normal operation. I love that saying and use it when needed.

If it was in a condition to be inspected, he wouldn’t have to mess with the dial, would he? :wink:

Now before everyone starts asking, “What do you do Eric”, I will turn things on, move things or do whatever is necessary to get the task at hand accomplished. I am also aware, that when I do these things, I think about what might happen. On a vacant house,the breaker for the water heater is off…should I turn it on?
On an occupied house, the breaker for the pool pump is off…should I turn it on?
If something goes wrong, I have to be prepared to accept the responsibility for it. That is just me though.

I always turn the stuff on. But then again, I just feel stupid saying the water heater was not turned on, I can bring myself to say the “water heater was not inspected, the breaker was off at the time of the inspection”. The first response out of my mouth would be “well did you turn it on”?

Do whatever you think is right Its your business, its your way of life and its the beauty of small business ownership.

I personally turn it all on and every which way I can…If it made to twist, I twist. If it is intended to bend, I bend. I want things to break when I am using them rather thena right after closing and break on my client.

Is it right or wrong? I don’t know but we are about 10 days out and slammed busy. We must be doing something right…