The Home Inspector Logo


The Home Inspector

Like boot camp for homeowners.

Concealed damage: a home inspector's homeownership woes, part 1

You might think that as a home inspector I have some kind of special immunity to house problems and concealed damage, but I don't. I have my own share of homeownership woes and unexpected surprises. The ASHI Home Inspection Standard of Practice specifically excludes concealed damage, and I have a short story I'd like to share that helps to explain why. This story also allows me to explain how I recently found an old metal dryer duct used as pan flashing for my front door.

dryer duct used as flashing

When I bought my 1998-built home nearly six years ago, I remember finding a fair amount of rot around the front door. As you might imagine, this immediately caught my eye when I walked up to this house for the first time; quite welcoming, right?

front door rot More rot at the front door

The rot in this area was mostly the result of a couple of roof lines concentrating a lot of water to one area on the roof, and all of that water coming right down onto the front stoop. Every time it rained, water pounded the concrete in front of the door, causing water to splash up against it. As I've said many times before, water splashing up against a house is bad news. A previous owner tried to fix this by adding a plastic gutter to catch most of the rainwater. That surely helped, but a wide plastic gutter strap was positioned in just such a way that a lot of water could still run right over the gutter and splash onto the concrete.

I fixed the water management issue by having new aluminum gutters installed, and I replaced the rotted trim and brickmold around the front door. For the rotted areas on the door frame, I used Abatron's LiquidWood & WoodEpox Wood Restoration Kit. This is a two-part system that works very well for spot repairs. Once I had all of the rotted wood treated and filled, and the wood filler meticulously sanded to match the profile of the door and painted, you never would have known there was an issue. It remained that way for many years, but there were still other problems with this door that I wasn't aware of.

Just a couple of months ago, my wife and I decided to replace some of our flooring because it was looking pretty rough. After my wife removed the super-cheap hardwood flooring in our entryway, we discovered that the front door still had issues, as evidenced by a large area of water-stained subfloor, pictured below.

water stained subfloor

Just to make sure that this wasn't a flashing issue above the door, I sprayed a little bit of water against the door from outside. Water quickly leaked in from underneath the door threshold.

water leaking in at door threshold

Bummer, huh? I probably could have gone crazy with a bunch of caulking and hoped for the best, but there was surely a lot more concealed damage below the door, and I didn't want to just bury it. My solution was to remove the front door, replace part of the rotted rim joist, and install a new door. While removing the old door, I learned part of the reason that the old door had leaked so badly: there was no pan flashing of any sort installed. There was just a bunch of expanding foam and some pieces of bent-up dryer duct material, presumably to be used as flashing. This was someone's idea of how to prevent water leakage below the door. What could possibly go wrong?

concealed damage

For the new installation, I used flexible window flashing tape to create a waterproof barrier below the door, and lapped that over a piece of galvanized steel flashing that I left exposed below the door. If any water ever makes its way through the new door, it's going to have nowhere to go but back out. For information on how to properly flash a door, check out the instructions on the JLC website.

The new Masonite door from Pete's Prehungs & Millwork will never rot. The exterior trim and jamb is completely wrapped in aluminum, making for a residential door that rivals commercial durability.

In conclusion, this was concealed damage that had being happening for a long time. Even after I thought that I had fixed the problem, water kept coming in. If you're a homeowner, you will incur unexpected expenses. There is simply no getting around that. Tune in next week for more concealed damage and home inspector homeownership woes; my dad has a story to tell about a nasty odor in his basement and how he had to rip his wall apart to fix it.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections


Fall maintenance checklist for Minnesota homeowners

Fall is officially here, and that means it's time to get started on your fall maintenance list. It's much easier to get this stuff done while it's still pleasant outside, so don't put these projects off until we have more snow in the weather forecast.

This fall maintenance list was originally compiled by our very own Duane Erickson and has been added onto numerous times over the past several years. We post this same fall maintenance list every year, and we modify it just a bit every year with new and updated information.

Fall maintenance - winterize faucets


Disconnect any garden hoses.

  • If the exterior faucets are not frost free, drain the water out. See How to Prevent Your Outside Faucets from Freezing. This post also shows how to determine if faucets are frost-free or not.
  • Remove any pond pumps and store the pump in your basement in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water. This will help to prevent the seals from drying out.
  • If you have a utility sink in your garage, drain the water out of the pipes and dump some RV anti-freeze into the drain.
  • If you have a lawn sprinkler system (aka "irrigation system") it needs to be drained and blown out with compressed air. Hire a pro to do this.
    • Side note: If you hire a pro and they tell you that your existing system also needs to have the backflow preventer tested, please check out what the real requirements are for yourself: New backflow preventer testing requirements for Minnesota. Only new installations must be tested annually.

fall maintenance - clean air intake


  • Clean the combustion air or makeup air intake vents.
  • If an air exchange system is present, such as a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV), clean it. Regular maintenance items for an HRV include cleaning the exterior intake, the filters, and the core. See HRV maintenance.
  • Clean the clothes dryer duct. The damper at the exterior should move freely and close properly. See dryer duct maintenance.
  • Check the bathroom and kitchen exhaust dampers for wasp nests. Nests in these terminals will prevent the dampers from openings.  See Bath Fan Terminal Inspections.



  • Clean the soffit vents.  These can get clogged up with lint, dust, insulation, and paint.  They’re located under the roof overhangs.
  • Check the roof vents for bird nests. They can typically be seen from the ground.
  • Clean the gutters after all the leaves have fallen.
  • If the downspouts or sump pumps drain into an underground system, re-direct them to drain to the ground surface when feasible. See Sump Pump Discharge.


Air Conditioner

  • Outdoor covers are NOT necessary. If a cover is used, it should be the type that only covers the top, not a full enclosure.
  • If the furnace or water heater vent blows exhaust gas onto the air conditioner, a plastic cover can be used to shield the air conditioner from the corrosive exhaust gases.
  • Don’t cover heat pumps. Heat pumps are not common in Minnesota.


General Exterior

  • Seal any gaps around the home 'envelope'; check for loose or dried out caulking around pipes, ducts, faucets, air conditioner refrigerant lines, etc. While this is the most generic piece of fall maintenance advice, it's still smart to do this before winter.
  • Replace any damaged or worn weatherstripping around windows and doors.


Smoke / CO Alarms

  • Smoke alarms should be located inside every bedroom, and one in a common area on every level.
  • If you don't have photoelectric smoke alarms in your home, add them.  This is a big deal.  If you don't know what type you have, you probably don't have photoelectric.
  • CO alarms should be located within ten feet of every sleeping room, but not in furnace rooms, kitchens, or garages.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms and test them using the built-in test buttons.
  • Check the age of your smoke and CO alarms; smoke alarms are good for up to ten years, CO alarms are good for between five and ten years.  If they’re any older, replace them.


Furnace / Boiler

  • Have a professional furnace or boiler tune-up performed annually.  See Are Annual Furnace Inspections Really Necessary?
  • Replace the batteries in your thermostat.  If your thermostat fails while you're on vacation, you might come home to a winter wonderland.
  • Clean or replace the furnace filter - this should usually be done every one to three months, depending on the type of filter.  The arrow on the filter should point toward the furnace.



  • Have the flues professionally cleaned on any wood burning fireplaces if they get used regularly; every 30 - 50 fires is a good rule of thumb.
  • Avoid burning any woods that are not hard and dry.
  • Clean the dust out of the bottoms of any gas fireplace inserts.
  • If you have a gas log installed in a wood burning fireplace with an adjustable damper, make sure there is a damper stop installed to prevent the damper from getting closed all the way.  See My Beef With Old Gas Log Fireplaces.

Last but not least, Duane says "Cuddle, stay warm, and safe sledding."

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections