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  • Barry Stone

How should a garage door be tested for child safety?

Q. The buyer's home inspector was testing my automatic garage door closer to see if it would reverse for child safety. He placed a cardboard box in the door's path, and results were not pretty. The top panel of the door folded up under the pressure, bringing down a shower of broken glass. The inspector said this happened because the door closer was defective, and he assumed no financial responsibility for the damage that he caused. He said this was a normal testing procedure for a home inspection. Is this true?

A. Compliance with child-safety standards for garage doors is an important consideration during a home inspection. However, methods for testing garage door closer's have been a subject of debate among home inspectors for many years. Disagreement is based on two opposing considerations:

• Inspectors need to determine whether the safety-reverse feature of the door closer is functional.

• Inspectors hope to avoid liability for property damage when the safety reverse feature is not functional.

home inspectorsBecause of damage liability, many will only test door closer's that are equipped with photo sensors. In those cases, safety compliance can be tested without touching the door. Other inspectors prefer a more hands-on testing procedure, assuming the risk of possible damage. Among those inspectors, testing methods vary, and this is where common sense is essential.

Placing a solid object in the door's path is the most risky method because it almost guarantees that damage will occur if the door closer does not reverse direction. A more cautious and practical method is to place one's hands under the edge of the door and apply limited resistance. If slight resistance fails to activate the reverse function, the inspector should let go of the door and report that adjustment or repair is needed.

Regardless of the testing method, if the inspection procedure causes physical damage, the inspector should accept financial responsibility. Regardless of whether the inspector has a plausible excuse, the way the story will be told is, "That inspector broke my garage door and refused to pay for it!" Better to have them say, "The inspector broke my garage door but had the integrity to accept responsibility and pay for repairs."

Q. The home we're buying has new vinyl siding. We're worried this may have been installed to cover damaged or deteriorated wood siding. Do you think a home inspector can answer this question?

A. If you can hire Superman as your home inspector, you may learn what is under the vinyl. Nothing short of X-ray vision can reveal what has been covered by the new siding. If you buy the property, that aspect of the home's condition will have to be taken on faith.

The main concern is possible termite or fungus infestation. That kind of damage can gradually worsen without being seen. Hopefully, a termite inspector can determine whether that kind of problem is occurring. Other types of deterioration, such as advanced weathering and wear, are usually significant, having been cosmetically encapsulated.


*Originally posted in the Daily Herald


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