The Great Karnak I'm Not

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Anyone over twenty, well maybe a little older, may remember the Great Karnak, a character portrayed by the legendary Johnny Carson. Karnak was a seer, a prognosticator of magnificent skill. By holding an envelope to his forehead, Karnak could recite the answer to the question on the card sealed inside the envelop. He would then tear open the envelop and read the question. His predictions were if nothing else, hilarious.

Improperly installed plumbing vent flashing on a low sloped roofAs a home inspector I am thought, at least I feel this way at times, to be able to predict the future. If this were so, I wouldn't be inspecting houses. However I can with reasonable surety in some instances predict how, for example, the installation of a component in a house will reach an inevitable conclusion based on what I find on the day of the inspection.

Recently I was able to see the result of a prediction I made from two years ago. The result was in no way a surprise.

A homeowner had contacted me, as I said two years ago, to inspect an addition being made to their home. They had gotten into a dispute with the contractor over several issues. They wanted an independent inspector to review and document the work thus far completed.

The addition was raising the roof at the back of the house to create a shed dormer, making more space in the attic, which would then be finished into bedrooms. The space would of course require a new roof and covering. Since a shed dormer has an almost flat to low slope roof (3 pitch or less) it should be covered in a roll type roofing material, not shingles. Ascending the roof, I found exactly that, roll asphalt.

Flashing detail for a plumbing waste vent on a low sloped roofSo far so good. Then I saw the two plumbing vents protruding through the roof. Actually I noticed the gobs of roofing tar around the incorrect type of flashings for these two vents. The roofing "professional" had installed a typical plumbing vent flashing for a moderate to steep pitched roof.

This kind of flashing is meant to be installed with shingles. The top is tucked under the shingle above, the bottom left exposed, thus matching the lapped pattern of the shingles. I believe it would seem obvious to even the most inexperienced person, this is not possible with a sheet form of roofing material. So the solution the roofing professional used in this instance was to slather the edges of the flashing with tar. Tar is not flashing. It is not a good, long term sealant. At best it is a temporary, stop gap measure that can be used until a proper and more permanent repair can be made.

The same flashing two years later.

As the diagram I have included shows, properly flashing a plumbing vent with this type of roofing material is a bit more involved, requiring different flashing materials and methods. In other words, it takes more time and care.

Now viewing these flashings two years later, I saw what I had predicted. The tar had dried and was beginning to flake and peel.

I warned the homeowner that when the snows come this winter, inevitably piling up on the roof, leaks are quite likely to begin.

This conclusion wasn't hard to predict.

 

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Topic:
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Rainmaker
616,060
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Barb, You're welcome. Tar is the other caulk ;)

Dana, Pictures are so valuable in making a clear point. I use many in my reports. Thanks.

Gary, I think we all have learned that lesson. I know I have :)

Nan, Thanks.

Ginger, Saving time, in the end doesn't save money or grief.

Adam, Thanks, my pleasure. 

Jim, Who could forget him. I haven't. 

Myrl, That's funny, especially since he was right.

Beth, I find a little levity helps in stressing the seriousness of an issue. I don't want to scare anyone, but impress the importance of the issue. 

Kathleen, Not exactly. The contractor was uncooperative, which was part of the dispute between the homeowner and him. 

September 26, 2012 05:15 AM
Rainmaker
112,957
Vince Chinell
CPI
VICO Home Inspection

James, I often ask my customers to keep me informed with any situation that I recommended repaired and they for some reasons can not fix now.  I almost always find out later that a larger repair was needed because they didn't listen to their friend, the home inspector.

September 26, 2012 06:18 AM
Rainmaker
308,714
David O'Doherty
Clayton NC Homes, Raleigh, NC
Hometowne Realty Clayton East

James, what a joke, it never ceases to amaze me how bad some contractors can be, it's a mine field out there folks!!!

September 26, 2012 06:40 AM
Rainmaker
341,693
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, And just to think those flashings are so relatively cheap. I do not understand this type of thinking. 

September 26, 2012 10:14 AM
Rainmaker
616,060
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Vince, It does seem from my experience as well, repairs get put off or not done at all. 

David, It certaiunly is.

Don, It is hard to fathom. 

September 28, 2012 05:15 AM
Anonymous
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Rainmaker
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James Quarello

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