Wednesday, May 02, 2007

fiber-cement tiles yield big surprise

We're moving ahead with our home buying adventure. Yesterday we had the house inspection in the new place. Three guys came out to look for termites, and do the property and roof inspections. Termite guy found minor infestation, no big deal. property inspector had some issues with how some of the electrical installation was done (the breaker box looked pretty chaotic to me), "this needs a complete relabeling job". Some circuit breakers where off, or only connected to one (!) wire. Very odd. Throughout the house he found little odd-jobs with the wiring, missing junction boxes in various places, cables that were just tied together with insulation tape, ...

However, the roofer dropped the bomb. "The roof is made of a material which is known to be defective. your tiles are warping, and I won't even give you an expected remaining life for the roof in my report." Ouch! Big surprise for all of us.

The roof is made from fiber-cement tile panels, which 15 years ago was advertised as a very high-quality roof. The shingles are made from a mixture of cement and cellulose fiber (i.e. paper), and are then coated to make them waterproof. Turns out this is a really bad idea, as the sun will burn off the coating over time. This became a huge issue ~10 years ago, lots of companies that made this material went out of business or even went bankrupt over this. Class Action lawsuits, settlements, you name it. There is one company left that apparently still pays out settlement money, ~25 cent on the dollar. Brand name is "Cemwood".

We're getting estimates for how much a new roof is going to cost. Those guys will be able to tell us which brand-name material was used and whether there is any hope to get settlement money. Of course we will use this in our price negotiations... We were contemplating whether a new roof is needed, before we install the solar power system. That question is now resolved.

And we are getting an inspection of the chimneys. The house has one gas- and one wood-burning fireplace, so I want to be sure there are no surprises in the chimneys, too.

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