Screen Doors and Submarines

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

What's wrong in this picture?Utilitarian, a fancy and I might add a little hard to pronounce word that means useful, practical, handy. The opposite of which is useless, worthless and unhandy. Is unhandy a word? Any how, in my eventful explorations of houses, I find all manner of attempts at reinventing the wheel. Some people put forth great effort merely to accomplish failure. Leaving behind monuments to their creativity and misguided endeavor.

So it was recently while traversing a roof top. A high roof with a low pitch. If I'm going to be that high, I'd rather be on a gentle slope. Not to pick on any of my fellow inspectors, but this was an instance where being up close and personal was very revealing and somewhat amusing.

Before I step onto any roof I scan the field, just to see if anything jumps out at me. I look at the shingles close to me, the gutter, the penetrations and step on to the roof. On this low pitched roof things were leaping out at me.

Fire caulk used to "seal" worn flashing boot.

One of the most frequent issues I find with low sloped roofs is penetrations that have been incorrectly flashed. Almost every time the plumbing vents have a typical sloped roof flashing collar installed on the pipe that has been slathered with tar and or caulk to "seal" it.

Through this particular roof were several pipes which drew me like a tractor beam. The first one I examined had some wonderful variations on the caulking theme, one that was new to me. I love finding new tricks to tell my clients NOT to do.

The rubber collar was very loosey goosey, not even closely sealing off the pipe from rain and the elements. Since this sloped roof vent had been installed under the rolled asphalt covering, it could not be easily replaced with another wrong one. This problem screamed for a solution outside the box.

Pipe inside a pipe or up periscope Way out. 

The person who found this solution is a creative thinker. Instead of the usual and ugly black roof tar or sticky old caulk, expandable fire caulk was sprayed in from below. No leaks and its fire safe!

Then there was the pipe in the pipe. Um, how exactly is that water proof? Oh right, more fire caulk. You have to love expandable foam.

I have saved the best for last.

The vent opening faces UP the roof slopeThe roof vent installed near the lower part of the slope. Wait that's not the best part. Can you see the problem here? I would bet most people can, with the exception of the person who installed the vent.

It's backwards! The screened opening faces up the slope in the direction the water flows.

I think this problem needs another solution from a spray can.


Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

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Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 11/30/2012 09:39 PM
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Frank Laisch
Orlando, FL
"The Insurance Guy"

OMG, I makes me wonder what these people were doing when they did these things....

Nov 30, 2012 10:35 PM #4
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

There are people who know how to flash correctly and you pay them and that is the end of it. Then the ones who dabble or are in a hurry are out there too and sooner or later, their troubled work screams out....before its time. Good post

Nov 30, 2012 10:45 PM #5
Vince Chinell
VICO Home Inspection - Branson, MO

Looks like Uncle Bob was at it again!  You often get what you pay for.

Nov 30, 2012 10:59 PM #6
Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

Really? I bet the workers were really thinking on this one. No advice form anyone how to do anything at all.

I had to laugh when I saw the pictures but in reality it's not funny at all. I know it's not Uncle Bob. He's been really busy here. It's probably Uncle Henry his brother.

It's a shame the way that some things are done and with PRIDE TOO.

Have a great day in Connecticut.

Best, Clint McKie

Nov 30, 2012 11:42 PM #7
Nan Jester
Exit Real Estate Gallery Jacksonville Beach, FL - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Realtor, Exit Real Estate Gallery

I think your job has some amazing discoveries. I am always amazed at some of the "solutions" you find.

Nov 30, 2012 11:53 PM #8
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, I gotta make me one of those screen door fishing boats!

Dec 01, 2012 12:15 AM #9
Hella Mitschke Rothwell
(831) 626-4000 - Honolulu, HI
Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker

Jim: I bet few homeowners get on their roof to take a look for themselves, or their attic, etc. They should. You don't have to be a contractor to see the problems...even from a ladder.

Dec 01, 2012 12:44 AM #10
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
RE/MAX Northwest. - Tacoma, WA
Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority!

As a person who served on a submarine, I get your point =]

Dec 01, 2012 01:24 AM #11
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I saw that upside down vent in the first photo and had to blink to make sure what I was seeing!  Cool!

Billy Jays is drooling over some of these crafty installations!

Dec 01, 2012 02:59 AM #12
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Well funny you should mention that! "I think this problem needs another solution from a spray can."

That's exactly the stuff I was thinking of as wev'e been blitzed with advertising for it here. Haven't yet seen it during inspections but I sure I will.

Dec 01, 2012 03:31 AM #13
Jim Patton
Aspire Home Real Estate 209-404-0816 - Modesto, CA
Realtor - Stanislaus ,Merced, San Joaquin Counties

James - I think whoever did this roof job was "high" too but not in the same way you described yourself.   That last one defies all logic and common sense. 

Dec 01, 2012 04:45 AM #14
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

So let me get this right James.... Fire caulking works?

Thanks for the informative post today my friend.

Dec 01, 2012 06:39 AM #15
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, this is the only kind of spray I need

Monster Spray

Dec 01, 2012 08:33 AM #16
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Your post is very informative and it is important to have a good home inspector. Roofs are a very important part of the home inspection.

Dec 01, 2012 12:15 PM #17
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Jim -- but the pipes didn't come in the collar size, and it would be too expensive to go find the right ones after all.   LOL   -- wonder how long til the dryer catches fire from the water coming down the outlet pipe?

Dec 01, 2012 05:21 PM #18
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Wallace, Yes it is an easy repair. Thanks for the re-blog.

Gary, It kind of does :)

Chuck, Actually no I wouldn't walk or run from this house. This was the worst thing wrong. 

Frank, Not thinking :)

Richie, The dabbler's are usually the problem. 

Vince, I don't believe this work was done by a homeowner, but an unskilled or shady contractor.

Clint, So true about the "with pride". I've seen that on more than one occasion. 

Nan, I'm amazed too! Part of what makes the job fun and interesting. 

Charlie, Let me know how it works ;)

Hella, That is excellent advice. I think most people are intelligent enough to see problems themselves.

Paul, :)

Jay, Yep, I bet you spotted that right away. Are we going to see Billy hawking a new product soon?

Robert, Me too. I'm waiting to see it as a "repair". 

Jim, I have to say that thought crosses my mind often :)

Tom, Yes, yes I believe it does :)

Charlie, Good stuff.

Joan, Yes they are very important. 

Steven, Do it then or do it later, you have to wonder about the logic. 

Dec 01, 2012 11:28 PM #19
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC


 This is why walking the roof is so important. I try when ever I can to fully walk a roof. Love the vent though that is special ;)

Dec 02, 2012 10:34 PM #20
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Don, Yep, no substitute for a nice walk. I thought the vent pipe was special too :)

Dec 04, 2012 08:36 PM #21
Chuck Mixon
The Keyes Company - Cutler Bay, FL
Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR

James I agree that more effore should be invested in who did the work and did this person work on anything else that maynot be visable ie. behind walls or under 6" of concrete.  Mostly it was all roof work done by one person.


Dec 29, 2012 01:59 AM #22
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Chuck, It is always good policy to think beyond what is visible in situations like this one. 

Dec 29, 2012 03:38 AM #23
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