Home inspectors can’t see inside walls, but sometimes we do see things on the surface where “predicting” what will behind those surfaces is actually possible to some degree. Whether hidden damage is moderate or extensive might even be able to be predicted based on the location in the structure and whether structural elements are involved.
Damage to a non bearing wall can be quite extensive and not give itself away, while less extensive damage to key supports might prevent doors from closing, break glass in windows or cause floors to slope.
At an inspection a few months back I found a small slot in the trim around a window (the black mark on the trim near the center of the picture).
There was some decay/rot present at the exterior window sill and the wallpaper was delaminating, consistent with past moisture intrusion in the area.
I knew the slot in the trim was mining from Carpenter Ants and therefor “predicting” some amount of hidden damage was not a stretch. As inspectors, we do not very often get a chance to know how accurate our predictions are, so when I was invited back to see the damage I was delighted. The ants had indeed done quite a bit of mining in the area as can be seen in the following picture.
Several wall cavities were filled with frass as well.
In their own way they were “insulating” the walls where there previously was none.
This approach to insulating your house should probably be avoided however.
The ants had worked across the bottom of the window framing and up the right side of the window and across the header and then up the diagonal brace above the header and into the double top plate.
That was the extent of visible damage—but most likely other damage should be anticipated.
It would seem that the predictions never end.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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