Home inspectors often get to play a bit of detective. In fact, most home inspectors would likely confess to being wannabe PI’s. Being a home inspector is just a little bit safer and not likely to get us killed by some jealous husband or boyfriend.
We still must be careful to be objective and not jump to the wrong conclusions however. Sometimes our initial conclusions, while in the ball park, may be in another part of the park than initially thought.
Take for example this nice young Douglas Fir tree.
The first thing to notice is that it is standing all alone. Tall trees standing alone is not a good idea. They are vulnerable to lightning strikes and they take the full brunt of the wind. Trees in the forest grow to great heights because they are protected by the trees all around them. It is pretty informative to look at forests that run right up to the cliffs above the ocean. These trees take on a natural bonsai look as they become shaped, deformed and shortened by the wind. They create a natural barrier, protecting the trees behind them–allowing the protected ones to grow, undisturbed by the full force of the winds coming off the ocean.
But back to our yard tree.
Of course I am going to have conversations with the buyer about the vulnerability of such trees—especially when they are in the prevailing winds that might dump the tree right on top of the house, as could be possible with this tree.
The top of this tree is missing its top, and there was a healed split that ran from the top to the bottom of the tree consistent with a lightning strike. Of course splits like this weaken the tree making the tree more vulnerable to high winds.
It was not until I got in the attic that I got to thinking differently about this tree.
What after all could explain the tree branches and even the pine cones present at the end of the attic closest to the tree?
Add to that, evidence of extensive repairs to the roof framing and it was pretty easy to conclude that the top of that tree had perhaps blown off or was blasted off by lightning and then ended up going through the roof of the house.
While a perfectly logical deduction–it would be as they say–close but no cigar. In the ball park but on 3rd base instead of 1st base.
For sure a tree did in fact go through the roof–but it was from a sister tree that used to stand near this tree. The new fence and the retaining wall that had been pushed over during the life of the tree were the only evidence that remained of the real reason for the tree branches and pine cones present in the attic—and the extensive repairs.
All the puzzle pictures came together after a conversation with the neighbor over the fence as to what had happened. Neighbors can be a great source of history of any given adjacent property–and I use them whenever I get the chance.
In the end, either all the puzzle pieces fit together nicely or they don’t.
But certainly running around the bases in the correct direction is more productive.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email!