The Home Inspection Professionals in Binghamton, New York

Members of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Proudly serving the Southern Tier of NY and Northern Tier of PA since 1989.

Contact Information:




1278 Vestal Avenue
Binghamton, New York   13903

Visit us on Facebook

Serving Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Cortland, Tompkins, Susquehanna and Bradford Counties

A Mystery

by Keith Oberg

The call came from a local plumber. We have some sort of weird environmental problem, some sort of residue on this distraught little old lady's walls. Can we meet at the house? We stepped in the door and were treated to a half hour tale of woe, 3 1/2 years of periodic recurrence of this dark gray stuff on the walls and ceilings. Each time one or more of various environmental investigators, numerous heating contractors, gas company experts, painters and chimney experts all tried to solve the problem.

They tore out all the insulation in the attic (it was upside down) and replaced it all. They fumigated the place. They replaced the gas appliance vent connectors. They added make-up air to the utility area. They cleaned and checked the gas fireplace and chimney. They analyzed the residue; dust, soot, and man made fibers. They noticed that the plastic spacers on the baseboard hot water radiators were deteriorating and since the soot was on the walls above, they took them all the radiators apart and completely cleaned them, removing all the plastic. They even replaced the gas boiler. Well, it was an old inefficient model any way. Each time they tried something different and the problem went away for awhile. Things had been good for almost a year this time, but all of a sudden it was back! The lady was at her wits end.

We finally got our chance to look around. Sure enough, sooty deposits on the walls and ceilings above the baseboard heaters, on the windows and sills, on the curtains. The stuff was almost greasy, sooty. And then we saw them....candles. Seven in the living room, four in the dining room, three in the kitchen, two in the bedroom, and one in the bath. The plumber spoke first. Ma'am, did you burn these candles for the holidays? Well, yes! They're very lovely decorative candles. We nod our heads. Case solved. Don't burn those candles ma'am and your problems will be over.

It only took us another half hour to convince her, reviewing all the other untried theories that were still cluttering her mind. How could everyone else have missed this? We can't really explain that, but experience is the key. Better to curse the darkness than light another candle.