Is This New FRT Plywood Acting Like Old FRT Plywood?

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

When I saw this, all over the roof of this 32 year old townhouse, and knew that the shingles were 10 or 12 years old, I wondered, "Is this new FRT plywood acting like old FRT plywood?"

The famous FRT, required by fire-code law on townhouses, stands for Fire Retardant Treated plywood.  They began using it in the 80s when the masonry fire walls between units disappeared.

Firewalls between townhouse units are now composed of very thick, and fire-rated, drywall essentially.  And between roofs is a minimum of 4' of FRT plywood.  Combining that with fiberglass asphalt shingles, which do not burn, it is considered good enough fire protection to provide enough time for the fire department to extinguish any blaze.

When it first came out the fire-retardant chemicals caused problems.

The plys in the wood would separate, the wood peeled and "dripped," discolored, retained moisture, produced efflorescence from the salts, sagged, spit out nails, and generally did not respond well to the chemicals.

That has since been corrected.

However, FRT is stamped with the brand.  It is stamped so the local jurisdictional authority can look at it and determine that it is fire rated wood.


In this house there were no stamps and all over the wood looked like the photo above.  There was severe moisture retention and efflorescence.  It was peeling and "dripping."  It looked like the old FRT, but had been replaced!  I duly noted this on the report and suggested that a roofer come to determine a course of action.

A roofer the agent called came to say they probably "forgot" the stamps, that it is indeed FRT and what we are seeing is "common."

WELL, NOT FROM MY EXPERIENCE!  I haven't seen FRT do this in a couple of decades!  And how did the county approve it and close the permit, without stamps?

So I contacted the County and a couple of roofers I trust.  They said the same thing.  The county said that some of the very new FRT is painted red on the edges in lieu of the stamp, but that it's visible.  There is no red edge anywhere here.  This is older stuff than that.  The county called me, the inspector was very interested, but admits that this may be older than they are storing permits for.  They also both said this is NOT common.

I contacted the realtor and my client with the roofer's information.  I did not mention the county.

The realtor, who has known me a number of years, sent me a note saying that she realizes I have the client's best interests at heart, but I should NOT have "emailed [her] clients" with my findings, which "negated" what the roofer said. 

Um, her clients?  And my findings were no different than what I said on the report, I merely buttressed them.  It ended, "I hope you have concluded your investigation for my client."

Translation?  Don't throw any more wrenches into my deal.

My recommendation:  sometimes your home inspector might do "further investigation."  That's a home inspector Best Practice!  If it's different than what he originally said, he will probably let you know.  And he will probably let you know if it agrees with what he originally said, even if it "negates" what someone else says.  And this because he INDEED has the client's best interests at heart, and the realtor's!

Um, they "forgot" the stamps?  Really?


Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


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Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Jay, I agree with Barbara (#13). Agents should not get involved in the inspection process. Your job is to report your findings, which you did. It appears they had some old FRT plywood and used that on the roof.

Jan 23, 2014 10:19 PM #16
Juan Jimenez
A House on a Rock Home Inspections LLC - Richmond, VA
The Richmond Home Inspector

Great post Jay. I am glad you got to the bottom of this. I think the best part of our job is the investigations that benefit everyone...excpet maybe the listing agent ;)

Jan 23, 2014 10:57 PM #17
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

If the agent is representing the buyers then she should be looking at more than one opinion.  A roof is a pricey item to ignore.

Jan 23, 2014 11:54 PM #18
Raymond E. Camp
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Ontario, NY
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester

Good morning Jay,

I would want to know the truth as how it may effect my client in the future!

Make yourself a great day.

Jan 24, 2014 12:35 AM #19
Suzanne Otto
Six Twenty Designs - Lansdale, PA
Your Montgomery County PA home stager

You're just doing your job! Jeez! It sounds like if she didn't want any "wrenches" thrown in her deal then she shouldn't have hired such an experienced home inspector.

Jan 24, 2014 12:44 AM #20
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Oh you've inspired my post today.  Thanks for that.  

Jan 24, 2014 12:50 AM #21
Than Maynard
Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma - Purcell, OK
Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862

LOL, her client is your boss.

Everything you find out should go to the buyer that is not heresy or rumor.

Don't know why it would screw up the deal if there are permits and if there aren't permits, but the inspectors say it is okay, then....


Jan 24, 2014 01:28 AM #22
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

wow, an old issue I have not heard about in a long time!  - as for the agents comments.... "Our client" no? 

Jan 24, 2014 03:26 AM #23
Jill Saddler
Draper, UT
Draper Utah Real Estate Professional - 25 years+!

Gosh - I would be happy to have you as an inspector.. I always want the best for my clients

Jan 24, 2014 05:18 AM #24
Bill Reddington
Re/max Southern Realty - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

Another example of why i read Active Rain Blogs. Don't sell many townhomes but this is certainly something I will remember.

Jan 24, 2014 07:25 AM #25
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Jay -- these buyers were lucky to have you as their inspector. I did not know about this at all.

Jan 24, 2014 10:10 AM #26
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

Hey Jay, can I borrow a wrench?

Jan 24, 2014 01:03 PM #27
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

I do remember FRT and the stamps on wood. Uh...guess they forgot the stamps on "her" client's property.

Jan 24, 2014 01:04 PM #28
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher
Maybe I'm not old enough to remember? Regardless, good luck! Love and light, Laura
Jan 24, 2014 01:16 PM #30
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029

Good morning, Jay. In this area they require 1 inch drywall between units. Wood is wood and it will burn.


Jan 24, 2014 06:50 PM #31
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Interesting Jay allthough I have not read all the comments I was under the belief we are to serve our clients regardless of the issues.  If the roof is an issue the agent is not doing their duty and thereefore violating the duty they swore to uphold.  Damn I would turn them in.

Jan 24, 2014 07:28 PM #32
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

It seems to me too Susan.  In my experience, seeing this much damage, most roofers would have jumped at the chance to correct it with a new roof!

Her coming at me was a day later after I had acquired more opinions and information Barbara.  And I think Susan is on to something.

That's funny Gary.  One of the home inspectors I contacted asked what FRT is too!

You are very kind Tom.

For sure Mike.  And if I go an extra mile or two, even if it flies in the face of what I thought was a stupid comment (forgeting the stamp, really?).

Jan 24, 2014 07:48 PM #33
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

This is my client's agent Juan.  The selling agent!  I did not hear from the listing agent, who was probably pleased to hear there is nothing to see here!

She already had my opinion, and questions, on the report Cindy.  I was really shocked to see that she did not like my buttressing my own thinking.  I have nothing to gain by saying the roof is not to code.  It makes me no extra money to do more work on the matter.

THAT is the bottom line Raymond!  I told her I am looking out for her too!

Suzanne - she has known me for many years!  She knows what I do.

Thank you Tammy.  That is nice to hear!

Jan 24, 2014 07:51 PM #34
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

It's fine if the roofer has an opinion Than.  But to say things that are odd, and not address the code is something again.  I suggested they look into the permit thing too.  I bet she will not.

I would think they are OUR clients too Robert.

Thanks Jill.  What I did is not over the top, from my angle.

Good to sock it away Bill!

I haven't seen it in so long that I wanted to post about it Joan.

Jan 24, 2014 07:54 PM #35
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

You probably have a few already in your bag that you like to throw around too, right Tom?

The stamps are not unusual Margaret.  Not seeing them is, along with these problems!

Laura - life begins when we are born!  But you get the history lesson, right?

I don't know what the thickness is here Michael.  I think they abut two 5/8s sheets, but don't quote me.

James - she has her "professional" opinion!  What's wrong with ignoring the diligent home inspector's additional information?  That would be her position, so turning her in might not get anywhere.

Jan 24, 2014 07:57 PM #36
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