What I'm Seeing Now

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Beam Me Down, Scottie

While in a crawl space recently I couldn't help but notice a poorly-founded beam.  This is the main support beam under the center of the original portion of a country home with numerous additions.

The beam has moved as the makeshift columns underneath have moved.  This is very poorly done.  This has likely been shifting downward from day one.

Beam support is crucial to the entire structure of any house.  This is a "built-up beam," composed of three 2x10" planks that are only nailed together.

Not only is the beam not supported well, but it is also not sufficiently sized for what it is asked to do.  And the planks are merely nailed together, with no support under the splices.

This beam should have been larger and made more solid with numerous through bolts in addition to properly-spaced and founded columns underneath.

How do I know it has moved?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are just two of many photos I could have taken of the wall above that beam.  The gap of the settling kitchen floor on the left is 1 1/2" and the gap of the living room floor on the right is 1".  That gap varied all along that same contiguous wall.  And walking along the wall created quite a bounce!

My recommendation:  Transference of load onto proper support is what makes a house stand for a long time.  Start at the bottom and work upward to see if support is large enough and properly positioned.

You can beam me UP now, Scottie.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 49 commentsJay Markanich • May 19 2010 06:00AM

Comments

WOW . .  talk about being swept under your feet . .I would not want to be showing this house to a client that maybe a perfect candidate to Jenny Craig

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) about 10 years ago

THAT's MY PROBLEM!  * Not SUFFICIENTLY SIZED for what I have been ASKED to DO!!!  Most homeowners and agents would NOT see the problem!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) about 10 years ago

My Recommendation.

Kill that contract and find another house. 

If I'm a listing agent, kill the listing and get as far away from that house as possible.

If I'm an owner, get that money pit off the market until it is structurally sound.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 10 years ago

Jay, it looks like it wouldn't be long until the cinder blocks would give out. Didn't the sellers think there was something odd about their floor dropping?

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 10 years ago

Something to be said for a "pre-inspection"...there are some sellers who buy the "house is just settling" thing and never look into the causes for the slope...the crack....and what a gret place to play marbles !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 10 years ago

Fernando - it is a regular dance upstairs as you walk around!

Wallace - apparently not.  This house has been on the market for over a year and the price has dropped from $650K to under $200K, with my client not even putting in an offer but wanting an inspection before doing so!

Lenn - there was so much wrong with this house that the client, who arrived 1/2 hour after me, decided he did not even want a report!  He just walked away...  The original house has three interesting additions, none with a permit, obviously!  It was a mess.

Michael - the more that beam is walked beside the more it will move, and the concrete blocks will move too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

S&D - it would be hard to play marbles!  Maybe you could have marble races instead.  This was a true pre-inspection, before my client was to put in an offer.  He didn't get that far.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

I always love photos from inspections and I learn a lot from them. Thanks for the post!

Posted by Sam White, Integrated Marketing - Bryan College Station, about 10 years ago

All of a sudden I have this strange desire to play a game of Jenga!

It's good that the clients didn't have rose colored glasses on. 

Posted by Richard Strahm, Lansdale and North Penn Real Estate (American Foursquare Realty) about 10 years ago

Wow...I guess the sloping floor should be a clue. Solid...like a rock!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) about 10 years ago

Sam - you are welcome!  The photos do say a lot, don't they.

Richard - that about says it all!  I wonder why people play games with their structure?

Gary - sloping and sinking too.  And bouncy, bouncy.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

Jay:

This buyer should run, not walk away from this house. It is good that you not only uncovered the problem but also documented it in photos.  Seeing is believing.

 

Posted by Claudette Millette, Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass (The Buyers' Counsel) about 10 years ago

Jay - It's hard to imagine a "legitimate" contractor doing such work; wonder how it came about.  While the beam problem wouldn't be an impossible fix, I'd be more concerned about the things that are not visible.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) about 10 years ago

Hello Jay - I don't see many Pier and Beam homes in my business but when I do, I see this problem a lot.  Most folks have their cousins and uncles fix it when these problems appear. 

Posted by Andy Chaudoir, Your Home Inspection Connection in Central Texas (Professional Inspection Services - Georgetown, Texas) about 10 years ago

I imagine finding something like that isn't your favorite thing considering you were IN the crawlspace at the time :-)

Posted by Rick Phillips, I care about you and your transaction. (Frankly Realty - Old Town) about 10 years ago

That's scary!  It doesn't take an engineer to see the problem there.  Here on the gulf coast we have to watch for foundations that crack and cause problems like doors that won't close and cracks in the walls.  But honestly, this poorly supported beam is far more threatening.  As a buyer I would walk away from a home like that.

Posted by Kate McQueen, Tailored service for your real estate needs! (CB&A Realtors) about 10 years ago

Claudette - he did!  I had 6 pages of notes before I went INTO the house!  That beam was just one problem.

John - isn't that always true?  I think I may have said that to the buyer a few times during the inspection and phraseology like that, while true and honest, is a buyer scarer-offer.

Andy - I call it Uncle Bob work.  He gets around.  I have seen him show up all over the country!

Rick - that's what I was thinking while down there!  At least there weren't any black widows.  They got me once in the past.

Kate - he called me a couple of days later (after he walked away) and had looked into what it would cost to replace that beam with steel and over the phone they said $40-50K.  As the wavy house settled onto that straight steel beam, I bet a lot inside was going to crack.  It was a wavy house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

Great photo in that crawl space. I got a funky feeling just looking at it. We don't have many homes on crawls here, so I guess I wouldn't have thought to look in a crawl space during a showings, but how could the agent and buyer missed the floor gap?

Posted by Leslie Ebersole, I help brokers build businesses they love. (Swanepoel T3 Group) about 10 years ago

Don't know Leslie!  Notice too how there is no insulation under the floor or plastic vapor retarder over the soil!  This place was a mess from top to bottom.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

Jay, good article. Nice job spotting the problem.

Posted by Ted Tyndall, I will help You find the Home YOU want to Buy (Davidson Realty Inc.) about 10 years ago

Thanks, Ted, but that was only one of many, many!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

that's going above and "below" the call of duty... good save

Posted by Vince McEveety (Gilleran Griffin Realty) about 10 years ago

Hi Jay,  Pretty obvious situation here.  Curious as to why it was allowed to exist for any length of time.  The sagging floors should have been a hint for someone to look at the foundation.  Interesting post.

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) about 10 years ago

My recommendation:  Don't use cinder blocks for support on the structure! 

WOW -- what a scary thing for the homebuyer to consider on this place.  If corrected, it might not be too bad. 

They can fool some of the people, some of the time . . . but it looks as thought they can't fool you!!  Great call!

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) about 10 years ago

wow very scary.  Another reason to have a good inspector.

thanks for the post

tom

Posted by Tom Ramsey (Century 21 Northland) about 10 years ago

Good one Scottie.  The captain won't be happy when he sees the shoddy workmanship.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) about 10 years ago

Great line Vince!  Thanks for stopping by.

Bill - often structural issues give their own hints, and often not picked up by anybody!

Carla - that one wasn't too hard to pick out!  It was one of a gafillion things with this house.

Tom - on that house there were many reasons and a blind inspector could have gotten some of them!

Jack - hopefully its wasn't the captain who said, "Make it so," and that's what they got.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

Amazing shot.  Thanks for sharing it wth us and what you discover as an inspector. Beam on to the next house.

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) about 10 years ago

Thanks R&A!  Note the bricked-up opening to the crawl space on the left side...

I am beaming all over Northern Virginia!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

yikes! You could do some indoor curling and I like the idea of marble races! Thanks for the photos they always add that little bit extra to the story!

Posted by Duane Murphy, Broker- Owner-Real Estate - (Expert Real Estate Partners LLC) about 10 years ago

Looks like a space you'd want to get out of asap! And you mentioned getting bit by a black widow while in one - do you tie a rope and bell to your ankle when you go in those places?

Posted by Joetta Fort, Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder (The DiGiorgio Group) about 10 years ago

Hey, how did you get under my house?  Oh wait a minute, that looks too dry to be my house.  Shoring up foundations and beams is quite the lucrative business here in my area.  You would be amazed what can be fixed, jacked up slowly, and straightened.  to Lenn:  if we ran from listings like this one in my area, we would be left with very little to sell.  Crooked houses are a Maine specialty.

Posted by Kristen Wheatley, Supporting Success - Best Job in the World! (Better Homes & Gardens | The Masiello Group) about 10 years ago

Jay,

I wish I could say that those columns were unusual. They are not around here.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) about 10 years ago

Duane - the kitchen floor was a bit like a golf green, with hills and valleys!

Joetta - I leave bread crumbs behind me so I know how to get out...

Kristen - this was one of only about 2 million problems!  I hope all the houses in Maine are not like that one!

Erica - that is one special column arrangement.

Steve - nor around here, but boy they sure do make for interesting conversation!  Oh, does my $50 get a framed AND autographed picture?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

There surely are significant clues that the beam has moved. Thanks for sharing the story and the photos.

Posted by Vickie Nagy, Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen (Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate) about 10 years ago

Jay- that's a mess, we could use that house to teach home inspections classes!

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) about 10 years ago

Good thing you took a peek down below!  Good advice.

Posted by Rob Lang, Local Expert in Lawrence Kansas Real Estate Homes (At Home Kansas) about 10 years ago

And those weren't the only clues Vickie!

Eric - it was.  That was one of about a million things.  My buyer ran like Monty Python running away from the attack rabbit.

Rob - there was a lot under there to investigate!  That wasn't the only thing!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

Jay, I would have quickly took the pictures and got on my communicator & beamed outta there!

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) about 10 years ago

I did Lyn!  I hit my shirt symbol and said, "Make it so..."

And up I went!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

Wow that tops my story. My buyer wrote contract to buy a FSBO. The owner worked for Serv Pro. Inspection found mold in cabinets, garage, and closets. We run away.

Posted by Sherry Chastain, Realtor, Selling Homes, Lake Properties,Luxury Homes,Short Sales (Hendersonville, Nashville, Old Hickory, Lebanon Tennessee) about 10 years ago

Wow, Sherry, that's the cobbler's kids story!  If you can see that, what can't you see?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

Those "columns" are an absolute joke. Obviously no footings, dry stacked and shimmed. Surprised one hasn't completely fallen over.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 10 years ago

Great information Jay. Fortunately most all the houses here in the Phoenix area are on slabs so we don't have to contend with sagging support beams - only shifting soil.

Posted by Bill Travis, Broker/Owner (Captain Bill Realty, LLC) about 10 years ago

Jim - I think the bounce over the years, because there is serious bounce in there, has caused things to move.  They have been lucky!

Bill - hopefully the slab doesn't shift so much with the soil!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

LOL....Lenn, we just fix that stuff in SW VA!  Wouldn't take my contractor a day to fix that mess!  Now, I would not have listed it that way and I certainly would not have had my buyer buy it that way...that floor had to be obvious when looking at the house.

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) about 10 years ago

Damon - with all the subtle hints and wavy bounciness it was not very obvious at all!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

I don't see any seismic straps either! Wouldn't do well in earthquake country. LOL

Posted by Not a real person about 10 years ago

Interestingly, Russel, I have never seen a seismic strap on anything.  And that despite the fact that we live on the oldest and longest fault line in the country!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago

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