When the inspector says “monitor” what is he actually saying?
An inspector friend of mine used to say, “Never use the word ‘monitor’—–it doesn’t mean anything.” His criticism of the use of the word had more to do with the “standard boiler-plate” types of info that is built into most report writing software. In that regard it is quite meaningless.
I am not quite so dead set against the use of the word “monitor”—although I do agree that it is pretty useless without giving the term some reference in real “time.” It could also mean different things depending on what the defect is.
It would be silly to recommendation monitoring a foundation crack and for that to mean to just sit there 24-7 and watch the crack.
We want to tell our clients what the word means in relation to that particular defect. This could mean installing “crack monitors,” or check annually, or check monthly, or check after earthquakes, or fill the cracks with expansive concrete and then check periodically for signs of continued cracking. Monitoring is always a “process” and requires a time frame. Nobody likes to sit and watch mud dry.
Another example might be the kinds of plumbing leaks that come and go. These kinds of leaks are common with galvanized pipes—both drainage and supply. Through a process called “auto-genic healing,” these pipes—are famous for developing pin-hole leaks that then rust and seal themselves shut—“healing themselves.” This process keeps repeating itself until the pipes completely fail. So in the mean time, the inspector might say “monitor.” How often? On this type of situation—depending on where it is—-I would likely say at least every couple of months and if it is under the bathroom sink—-perhaps every time you get out another roll of toilet paper. Actually I am being a little tongue in cheek here because attaching a realistic monitoring timeline to these types of leaks is very difficult. This type of leaking can be very spontaneous—but hopefully not catestrophic.
The monitoring of these types of pipes should be overshadowed by the recommendation to factor replacement of the pipes in the near future. Here is a picture of a leak, under a bathroom sink, that has sealed itself and was not leaking at the time of inspection.
Of course another solution is to hire a “leak monitor.”
This handy service, an off-shoot of Blinks Security, places a watchman right at the leak—-and they will watch it 24-7—-for an amazingly low cost!
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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