A home inspector needs to, consciously, look at upper wall and ceiling areas. Sometimes it seems like an inspector is so busy running around looking at things that are eye level and below, that one might forget to look up above. Ceilings are a primary place to find signs of past water damage. This is usually related to roof leaks or, sometimes, water from an upstairs bathroom or even a burst pipe. Water damage should be suspected, and looked for, especially if the roof has problems. I pay particular attention under flat and low-sloped roofs. One thing to remember is that, usually, just because a ceiling area (that is suspect) is dry that does not mean the problem is resolved. Especially in dry months, a roof leak might be dry because there is no rain or maybe a spot under the shower is dry because they have not used the shower lately. To avoid that kind of misinterpretation, an inspector tries to run showers, baths, sinks, toilets and then look under them at the ceiling. If the problem is the roof, sometimes there is not much one can do. Obviously the inspector is not going to get out the hose, in the dry season, and try to create a leak. Photos of a couple ceiling areas, under a leaky roof, are below. The problems are more obvious than is usually the case.
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Bellingham WA home inspector