In military speak collateral damage is a euphemism for unintended damage and causalities. In the world of home inspection collateral damage does on occasion occur to the property during a home inspection. A conscientious home inspector is always careful while performing their duties, yet accidents do happen.
Testing components and systems is part of the routine of the home inspector. Most inspectors have several tools such as moisture meters, electrical testers and infrared thermometers for checking various conditions while inspecting a house. Some tools are specialized for checking specific equipment. One specialized, yet not terribly sophisticated tool that I use is a flow meter.
A flow meter is actually two gauges used to check well equipment. One gauge measures flow in gallons per minute, the second measures pressure. Water is run through the meter from an exterior hose spigot. A hose spigot is ideal because it has a high rate of flow. The water is sent away from the meter and house by an attached flexible tube.
When performing a flow test, setting up the meter is usually the first item on my inspection to do list. Most often the test is run for at least an hour with the meter checked several times and recording the readings.
While this tool is basically designed for checking water flow and well equipment function, I have found it has on occasion an unintended and fortuitous consequence.
During a recent home inspection after setting up the flow gauge at the front hose spigot, I began my tour of the exterior. Arriving at and rounding the first corner of the house I noted three pipes exiting the foundation wall. I was certain of their purpose, sump pump discharges. What I found quite odd looking at the three pipes was the down spout at the corner was set to pour water against the foundation. Talk about shooting ones self in the foot.
The three pipes for the sump pumps however were extended away from the foundation, though not very far. The good thing here was the grading was sloped away from the house. The water from my flow meter I noticed while looking things over at this busy corner, had begun to pool here after just a few minutes. With the favorable soil grade the water was at least six feet from the foundation I noted. This was a good thing to see in light of the three sump pumps.
Finishing up the exterior portion of the inspection including the flow test, I headed inside working my way through the house finally to the basement. It was obvious from the evidence on the exterior and other clues along the way, this house has had, does have water infiltration issues. During the course of the inspection I was informed that the sump pumps were part of a drainage system that had been installed to correct the infiltration.
Finding my way to the corner where I had originally discovered the sump pump pipes, I was a little surprised to find water seeping through the block foundation wall. The water had not been there earlier when I had made a quick stop to check on the well pressure tank while doing the well flow test. Looking further along the front wall, another area of seepage was occurring. Clearly the drainage and sump pumps were not addressing the entire water issue.
The water had come from the flow test completed earlier. The hose was, as I said, several feet away from the foundation. I mentioned this fact to my client, who fully understood the significance.
While the flow test was meant as a well equipment check, it had performed a second fortuitous collateral test that revealed a repair which was not at all functioning as intended.