I get calls from people all over the country. They have found my website and call with questions or for my advice with projects. It happens a lot. Sometimes they tell me where they are calling from, but I can see from the numbers on my phone that they are not local and I don't recognize the area code.
Oftentimes too, I get emails from people with similar needs. But again, I don't know where they are contacting me from. I do my best to answer their questions. Often, too, I send their photos and questions to various home inspector message boards for input.
I received a photo similar to this one from a couple who noticed a melted scorch mark near their front light while gardening one day.
The proximity to the light made it suspicious.
But I saw no evidence of a scorch at the fixture.
From a photo it is hard to determine what caused it! So I sent it around. From other home inspectors I got speculation that it was a hot cable buried inside the wall, from a former Christmas light short, wayward kids in the neighborhood with a lighter and even sunlight refracting off the light fixture glass!
But it was all speculation.
The people were concerned and I learned that they were not far away. They asked me to stop by to see what I could. I offered to do a thermal image examination to see if the wiring in the light fixture was warm, or if there was a warm cable behind the siding.
This is the thermal image of the scorch.
And a close up of the scorch digitally.
Heat from a bad cable behind that spot would appear as a bright yellow or white area in the crevasse.
The yellow you see is the wood trim, which is the ambient air temperature and not really that warm.
I could confidently say there was no electrical anomaly which caused the scorch.
So what did?
The homeowner recalled that on July 4th the neighborhood had a fireworks display with assorted sparking and shooting fireworks. They had left for the night to see another display, but when they got home found the casing of a bottle rocket on the front porch. At that time they thought little of it. I looked and there is a direct line of sight from the cul de sac to that spot on the siding by the front door. Could a bottle rocket have caused the scorch? Seems likely!
Could it be that they had not noticed that scorch until now? Yes. It is not so obvious unless you are up close and looking. This family does not use the front door that often, favoring the garage entrance.
If you look at the scorch, it seems to have started on the bottom and briefly burned upward, actually onto another course of siding, and then flamed out. Since there is nothing else so obvious, that firework must have been the source of the problem!
My recommendation: If you have a question on something around the house, contact your friendly neighborhood home inspector. We are usually very happy to help! And sometimes you might find an answer to your question!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560