Most defects have a “language” that the home inspector can learn to read. Some defects speak clearly—-others keep things to themselves. Some speak in riddles, while others tell jokes and laugh at you behind their backs. Some speak in code and some are unintelligible while nonetheless obvious.
The following picture shows a defect that is “speaking in code.”
The problem with deciphering anything that is in code is to go through the process of eliminating the other possible causes and honing in on the true meaning of what is written. A simple reading of the rust stains on the floor might go something like: “There are rust stains on the floor behind the toilet,” or: “The toilet tank is leaking or has leaked.”
Other possibilities are that someone set something there that rusted, or from a previous toilet that leaked. The important thing is to notice the writing and then too see if it means anything or not.
What is called for next is actually getting down on one’s hands and knees to see what is going on. Sure enough, right above the staining we can see that water is dripping off the edge of the toilet near the bolt that holds the tank to the bowl.
On the other side of the tank there was a defect that was not speaking in code—the bowl flange is broken. This kind of damage always necessitates replacement of the toilet because this kind of damage can lead to total failure of the tank/bowl connection. Such failure could result in personal injury and/or lots of water all over the place.
It is important for the home inspector to be able to read the language of defects—they sometimes give away something that otherwise might be missed.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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