History Repeats

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience." George Bernard Shaw 

Corrosion around water heater draft hood signifies back ventingIt is not uncommon for a home inspector to inspect the same property twice. Last year I inspected a house that I had looked at six or seven years previous. Interestingly I could have handed the new buyer my old report, it would have been just as accurate now as it was all those years ago, with very few exceptions. This disregard for defects identified in the home inspection report seems to be itself quite common.

Take for example this gas fired water heater. The ring of rust and corrosion below the vent hood signify the unit is back drafting. The combustion gases are hot, moist and slightly corrosive.

They also contain carbon monoxide.

Same problem of back venting in the same house with a new water heaterThis problem was found and identified for the homeowner during an energy audit I performed on the property about four years ago. They had been living in the house about a year at the time. And yes they did have a home inspection before purchasing the property.

Fast forward to 2013. The same homeowners are now looking to list their house this spring. I was contacted to perform a pre-sale inspection. One of the issues I discovered was back drafting on the new water heater. The unit has been installed now for about three months. The plastic rings around the water inlets and anode rod are melted from the heat of the misdirected exhaust gases spewing forth into the basement.

The fact that the new unit back vents like the old unit means that for one, the homeowners never had the issue addressed when made aware four years ago. And two, the plumber(?) didn't recognize the issue during replacement, nor checked that the unit was properly drafting during the installation.

The video shows the unit back venting while operating. Note the camera lens briefly fogs when brought in too close to the draft hood.


This brings to mind another well known quote by George Santayana ;

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 


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.


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James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Michael, As am I. 

Scott, I too wonder, hopefully it will be now.

Janis, I would think they assumed the issue was resolved and yet...

Tom, Yes, it is probably a simple fix and thanks. 

Olga, I would think the same. 

Jan 17, 2013 10:29 PM #9
Edward Gilmartin
CRE - Boston, MA

if it is not a leaky roof repairs are often put off and sometimes never caarried out.

Jan 17, 2013 10:30 PM #10
Lorraine or Loretta Kratz
Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions. - San Marcos, CA
Certified Negotiation Consultants

Isn't this a disclosure issue, and why if this  is an issue repeatedly does it not get rectified?

Jan 17, 2013 10:32 PM #11
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

I'm guilty of not taking care of a fairly important thing when we bought our house 8 years ago.  I know before we sell someday, I'll have to do it.  Maybe I'll do it right away . . .

Jan 17, 2013 10:43 PM #12
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Fascinating as I can recall over the years when managing property these type of water heaters and assuming they were just old. It never occurred to me that something else could be causing rust looking problems...good post

Jan 17, 2013 11:47 PM #13
David Popoff
DMK Real Estate - Darien, CT
Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct

James that is why we have professionals like you on the job. Recommended you for a Westport home inspection.

Jan 18, 2013 02:24 AM #14
Les & Sarah Oswald
Realty One Group - Eastvale, CA
Broker, Realtor and Investor

Deferred maintenance tends to cost even more in the long run. In this case it seems unsafe to have carbon dioxide back drafting. Very informative and helpful post. Heading out to check my water heater.

Jan 18, 2013 02:29 AM #15
Robert Rucker III
Fairbanks, AK

Hello James,

Congratulations on being featured.  I believe it was Martin Luther that once said How soon not now becomes never...Thanks for sharing.

Jan 18, 2013 02:32 AM #16
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Conbustion systems are complex and affected by air handeling from other systems in a home. What was OK 20 years ago often does not work well in air tight houses. What happens when the bahroon exhaust fan is on and the HWT fires up? 

Jan 18, 2013 04:31 AM #17
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James -- thank you for this informative post.  I need to go check my gas water heater now, and see if it has this problem.

Hope you have a fantastic weekend!

Jan 18, 2013 05:24 AM #18
Paige Walker
Paige Walker - Pineville, LA
Real Estate Guru - Alexandria Pineville LA

Great information, I have never heard of a hot water heater 'back-drafting' ! Great FP! - Paige

Jan 18, 2013 06:25 AM #19
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Interesting. I hope that folks do the reommended repairs on safety issues. Most often, the buyers will ask the seller to have inspection items repaired prior to closing.

Jan 18, 2013 11:10 AM #20
Kathryn Maguire
GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

It does make you wonder why they did not get this issue fixed when they found out about it. It is not like this sort of thing resolves on its own!

Jan 18, 2013 11:56 AM #21
Joel Weihe
Realty World Alliance - Wichita, KS
Helping you to use your VA home loan benefits

If you think hard enough it may just fix itself.

Jan 18, 2013 02:18 PM #22
Steve Warrene
Your Town Realty - Lower Burrell, PA
Pittsburgh Real Estate Investment Specialists

Most Realtors, once they go to the closing they do not keep up with the issues that need to be dealt with in the house.  They call every once in awhile to keep there future business and ask for referrals.  We always get a copy of the inspection reports and hold the new buyers (If they are our clients) to what we need to get fixed and we keep up with them to fix it.  Out of site, ot of mind, and that well not happen with us.

Jan 18, 2013 08:11 PM #23
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.  I learned that in history class, first day!  That's serious stuff!  What is causing the back drafting?  And don't you mean monoxide?

Jan 18, 2013 08:43 PM #24
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Edward, Many things get put off in my experience. 

Lorraine, Disclosure issue? First you have to know it's happening. In this instance, it hasn't been corrected. 

Margaret, I think its human nature, we all put things off :)

Richie, Hopefully you have some new info going forward.

David, Thanks. I did get that call.

Sarah & Les, Yes it is unsafe to have any combustion appliance back drafting. 

Jan 18, 2013 09:15 PM #25
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Robert R., That quote is even more appropriate.

Robert B., Really not an issue in this instance, but yes that can be a problem.

Steven, Thankfully most I check do not have this issue.

Paige, Really any combustion appliance that vents to the exterior could potentially back vent. 

Joan, This was a pre-sale inspection with the intent of fixing issues before listing. 

Kathryn, Self repair is not something I've seen :)

Joel, Or wish :)

Steve, I would also suppose it would be beneficial in the future when the property is sold. 

Jay, The irony! ;) Wasn't able to determine, but I  believe there has to be a blockage in the pipe. And yes, Monoxide, I hadn't noticed my error. Thanks bud. 

Jan 19, 2013 02:42 AM #26
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Jim, buyers just love to hear credit at closing for flaws found during an inspection and the thought is that they would want the repairs done so they would have a safer home. Then you come in years later and all they did was give themselves a slight discount that will have to be repaid when they sell.

Jan 19, 2013 05:34 AM #27
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Ed, Good point! While I feel letting the buyers take on the responsibility of repairs is a better idea, from what we both see, I guess that doesn't always work out well. 

Jan 19, 2013 10:41 PM #28
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