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Past is Prologue or Heeding the Advice of Your Home Inspector

by Jay Markanich

I often do inspections on houses and make comments as to conditions that exist at that time. Some things need to be taken care of immediately and others can wait. But, if nothing is done, some things can get worse very quickly.

Avoid Home Maintenance MistakesMy comment at the time of a previous inspection on a then two-year-old house was that it had a lot of wood rot developing in only two years, and that it would get worse. I also suggested that since this rot was on nearly every window’s trim that the problem was likely due to improper installation. At that time I was unable to see what could have caused it, but thought it to be the usual suspects.

Recently I did an inspection nearby and thought I would take a peek. It has been two years since my previous inspection. I was not surprised to find that the wood rot had gotten substantially worse.

What made it get so bad so fast? What are some common characteristics to look for when wood rot is developing on window and door trim?

  1. Caulking is not meant to be wider than about 1/4". The caulking on this house is much wider than that!
  2. Interior nails (or brads) were used to nail on the trim! As they rust, they rot the wood with them!
  3. The wood was not primed. Even if it was primed on the outside facing the weather, wood has 6 sides! All six sides need to be primed PRIOR to installation or it will not last.
  4. The trim was just jammed into place, with large gaps. The miters and joints are not tight and merely filled with caulking.

Avoid Home Maintenance MistakesANYTHING NEW HERE? No, not at all. I see this every day. It is, what I call, 7-11 construction at its worst (or best, depending on your angle...). It is a slap-up job by inexperienced people, working with little oversight.

Here's the big issue! ALL of the houses nearby are experiencing the exact same problem. I had noticed that two years ago, but the other houses weren't my focus then. Now we have a demonstrable pattern throughout the neighborhood.

The pattern, in my opinion? Improper product, improper installation. Of course, if contacted, the builder would claim lax homeowner maintenance.

But everyone has let this go and now the rot is migrating into the framing structure around the windows. This was something my client was told two years ago that he needed to handle immediately. It has been let go. And by everyone in the neighborhood. Now it has gotten dramatically worse. I don't know where it will go from here. But they need to get started replacing the wood!

My recommendation: Sometimes home inspectors will point out conditions and suggest repairs that prevent future, more difficult, repairs. It is best to pay attention.

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC. Jay Markanich is a certified home inspector, a thermal infrared image inspector, home and commercial energy auditor, and is certified in environmental assessments, such as radon and mold. For more information, visit his website:


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