What I'm Seeing Now

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Not The Problem They Feared

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 24 commentsJay Markanich • October 02 2010 05:45AM

Comments

Luckily, it did not start a house fire. That is the main reason that many municipalities ban the public from discharging fireworks...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

There is no such ban here Michael, but I know that certain kinds of fireworks are banned.  Don't know what those might be though.  We don't do our own.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

No one will ever call you a defective detective. 

You are the Poirot of home inspectors.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Jay: Home owners in Northern Virginia are fortunate, have you tried cloning yourself? lol

Ty

Posted by Ty Lacroix (Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jay....you probably would have made a good detective or doctor trying to diagnose an illness.  You must get a lot of satisfaction when you are able to help people like this.

Posted by Lois Davies, Cape Coral & SW Florida (Century 21 Birchwood Realty, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

I am astounded at your powers of deduction.  Sherlock Holmes has nothing on you!

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) almost 10 years ago

Good detective work. I love Lenn's comment.  Good idea to come a home inspector when problems like these arise.  It doesn't just need to be around the time of buying a home.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 10 years ago

Good work. Now we will have to call you Inspector.  Uh, wait, you already ARE an inspector...but now with a capital "I"!!

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) almost 10 years ago

And then contact your neighbors and let them know that may not be the best place to be shooting bottle rockets.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 10 years ago

Very interesting cause and effect, thanks for sharing it.

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, CA (Dan Edward Phillips, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, CA) almost 10 years ago

Jay, any possibility of sun being manified through the glass fixture?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Hey Jay,

Great detective work and very resourceful use of your tools. Good advise for anyone having questions or concerns to hire a qualified home inspector...

Posted by Sergio DePinto (Royal LePage Maximum Realty.,Brokerage - Greater Toronto Area) almost 10 years ago

Thank you Lenn, but once she told me about the fireworks and the line of sight was there, that was my conclusion.

And my French really stinks.  I speak Spanish like a native though!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Thank you Ty, that is very nice to say, but I only go to Ontario when I visit Canadian Bacon!

And thank you too, Lois.  I do a lot of diagnosing when I am out with the Boy Scouts.

Kathryn - it is a process of elimination!  But the homeowner had the best clue!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Debbie - I agree!  I think people should have me over once a year or so!!  And just in time for dinner.

Thanks Susan.  This house wasn't far from you.

S&D - apparently it is an annual event in that neighborhood.  The homeowners go elsewhere, and one reason, she said, was to get the car out of the driveway!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Dan - cause and effect and determine!

Charlie - that was one of the theories proposed, and mentioned in the post.  But given the angle of the sun to that spot I didn't think so.  I have seen, as have you, the sun refract off windows and melt the siding on the house next door, but such refraction has never been accompanied by such scorching.

Sergio - I think a qualified home inspector is the best way to go!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay, it is nice of you to take the time to check this our for someone.  Most inspectors would not take the time without an inspection fee.  (Not that I really blame them)

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) almost 10 years ago

Well, Damon, I did have a few emails with the homeowner and put together a package of photos, which I posted on a couple of message boards for help.  I did all that happily, and no charge.  The homeowners then asked me to stop by, which I did for a fee, but actually half my normal fee.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay ~ Everyone loves a happy ending.  Really frightening to think how this could have ended.  You are the best, Ke-mo sah-bee!

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) almost 10 years ago

Thanks Tish!  It is a bit irresponsible to fire off rockets and such that aren't controlled and could go anywhere.  I am glad that the scorch is the only thing that came of it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Amazing, some of the things you find!

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) almost 10 years ago

Barbara-Jo - the homeowner gave me the biggest hint!  From there it was a deduction.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Have you ever done an inspection to figure out a weird smell?  That's the one 'single item inspection' that I just won't take on.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 10 years ago

Reuben - it wasn't a weird smell, but a lady could smell the neighbor's yard fertilizer while standing at her kitchen sink.  i figured out why --

http://activerain.com/blogsview/1348599/thermal-camera-the-new-smell-detector-

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

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