This post continues with What I'm Seeing Now and my list of typical pre-drywall problems. You will recall that I will list six in total. This post treats the second - weight transference and support.
Structurally, how weight is transferred and supported in a structure is critically important. Is the house balanced? For example, does the support under one side of a beam match the support under the other end? Are load-bearing walls on the upper level, resting on top of the load-bearing wall below and all that supported by foundation wall or steel beam in the basement? Load must transfer onto something that can properly support it.
Not too long ago houses were more simple. Rooms had four walls, a couple of windows and doors, and lots os places to hang pictures! Not so any more! Buyers today are demanding wide-open spaces, high walls, cathedral ceilings, rooms which open to other rooms (kitchen to eating area to family room), floating cat-walk hallways, tall stone fireplaces, and so forth. All this needs proper support. Materials have been created to accommodate this architecture - so called MicroLaminate beams and posts, huge I-beam floor joists, etc. Loads must be supported and structure balanced. This sounds like common sense and it is, but here is What I'm Seeing Now --
- The other day I saw two different load points rest onto two 2"x4"x14' studs nailed together. They were alread bowing and coming apart.
- A multiple stud array under steel beams that is not strapped together and separating.
- A load-bearing column intended to rest on a steel beam, but missed it by nearly two feet.
- A load-bearing wall similarly missing a steel beam underneath.
- Columns which rest on floor joists, without a supportive column below. Yes, the floor joist was bowing!
- Wide windows without proper headers, which are bowing, or soon will. Windows are NOT load support!
- Bay windows not strapped, which will encourage them to bow outward.
- Load-bearing walls constructed out of 2x4's, which should have more properly been 2x6's. I have seen all the studs in walls such as this bowing very shortly after they were built.
- Long, steep roof valleys which drain directly onto what will be a vinyl-sided wall above the corner.
This certainly isn't all, but will do for now. I can add to this post later, or create an addendum.
I said previously that the builders all have good specifications and that the supervisor on site and the subcontractors are all important in seeing that those specs are met. And that is true! These flaws above would not be designed by an architect. Often these houses have been built all over the country, and without the red flags above.
My recommendation: You can be the eyes looking for such things. Think common sensically. Tell your clients to look for things that don't feel right (they visit the house 5 times a week anyway...) and report them to the supervisor. The client is the boss of the project, though the builder doesn't want them to think so. Let them participate! But most important -- hire a competent home inspector for a pre-drywall inspection. It's some of the best money your clients can spend, except for, perhaps, YOUR fee!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560