Particle Board as Litmus Paper | Halfmoon Bay

Photo: Note the water stain on the particle board to the left side of the electrical panel. 

Abstract: Halfmoon Bay Home Inspector note on water water stains. Are they serious or not? 

Litmus Testing with Particle Board

Particle board is essentially sawdust mixed with epoxy, then compressed under an industrial hot press. It is used in furniture and cabinets because of its dimensional stability. But it always has to be covered by a water resistant film, membrane or rigid waterproof skin. 

When particle board is us used by itself for a structural purpose, it breaks easily and if exposed to water, behaves like a sponge… bloats and softens. Just as litmus paper tests for pH, particle board can be a marker for water leaks in a house.

Suspicious Water Stain

On this inspection, when the closet door was opened to access the electrical panel, we noticed water stains on the particle board, adjacent to the panel. The material was puffed out and the surface could be flaked-off easily. All indications that the board had been exposed to a substantial amout of water. Our moisture meter identified that the stain was dry.  

Follow-up by Buyer Required

We had heavy rainfall for several days in a row, so it did not appear to be an active leak. It may have been repaired in the past. Nonethelast, water leakage next to an electrical panel is a concern. Fortunately, our buyers were with use for the inspection and the issue was pointed to them. Our recommendation in the report was to ask the seller about it. In this case, we considered the stain to be a big deal because water and electricity do not mix.

It is important to know if the leak was discovered and repaired in the past, then all is well. Or, if the seller was not aware of it, then immediate action is required to fix the unsafe condition.