I had a pre-drywall inspection a few weeks ago in Maryland. It was disappointing in many respects. The builder's agent was supposed to meet me at the site. I called her five minutes before I got there and she was to be there, but never showed up. The house was quite unkempt, with debris everywhere. Trip hazards abounded. The stair cases had no protective safety guardrails, especially on the upper level. It would be easy for anybody to fall to the next level below. They apparently didn't care who walked through.
And there were many bay windows which were not strapped. Strapping looks like this:
This is the left and right sides of a bay window on a recent pre-drywall inspection in Virginia. Looking closely, you can see straps which are nailed high at the top plate, in the middle and low at the bottom plate, and on each of the mitered joints. My understanding from engineers is that these windows have a tendency to bow outward, even when located on top of foundation walls. The straps help them to hold their shape and maintain their integrity. They are utilized by builders in all of the counties in Northern Virginia.
The agent representing the buyers of the Maryland house called me during their walk through with the builder. He asked me about the straps, which I explained. He said the supervisor and the architect had never heard of such straps. While this baffled me all I could say was, "Well, then they have never heard of them!"
My question to Realtors and other inspectors is this: Do you see straps in your area? Are they required? Or is Northern Virginia just ahead of this loop?
My recommendation: I often see builders who put straps not only on box and bay window penetrations, but also any high wall corners and even the exterior corners of the house. Even if straps are not required by the code, there is nothing to prevent anyone from exceeding that code. Remember, the code is the minimum standard required by local authorities - it is the floor from which construction begins. The best builders use the code as the starting point, not simply to get by.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560