A recent inspection proved interesting. Aren't they all? This was a house purchased on auction and remodeled. I don't know if that qualifies as a flip, but probably.
The house was built in 1978, and that is significant. Why? Because of architecture.
The remodel job was beautiful at first glance. There were the usual things. A lot of electrical wiring problems hidden in the attic were the most prominent. And a gas furnace and water heater crammed into a small closet and unable to breath.
But there is more. As I said, the architecture is important.
One of the biggest differences between houses built in 1978 and now is that modern interiors have lots of open space. Big rooms, expansive openings between rooms, high ceilings, and so forth. To accommodate that new construction modern materials were invented and are used. And those involve new beams and supports not made in 1978 - I-beam floor joists and super-strong beams and posts made of micro-laminated materials.
In order to bring this house to a modern condition the re-modeler decided to open things up. This can be done, but it is important that the engineering of the original house be paid attention to and that loads are properly accounted for. Why would you want a remodel that compromises structural integrity? You wouldn't.
What is wrong with the work in the photo on the left? You can see above that this house is a ranch. It is located on a slope, with a full basement. In 1978 this structure was done with a center, load-bearing wall in the basement. The upper level was the same, with its center wall resting on the other. The roof trusses rested on the center wall that bisected the house. Loads transferred perfectly. In those days rooms were rectangular or square, with four walls and small door openings. The widest opening between rooms would have been about 6'.
On the photo on the left (and the work is beautiful) you can see that the center wall has been removed. This stresses the roof structure, as the joist rafters must now support a 32' span instead of 16'. They weren't made for that. Secondly, look into the dining room and notice that the new kitchen wall is no longer resting on the center support underneath. That offset is readily seen in the photo on the right.
Are those both problems? I think so, as the structure has been changed in ways 1978 materials were not designed to handle. Were accommodations made to account for the new load transfers? No.
Additionally, more load has been added.
Modern home buyers love granite in the kitchen. Granite is heavy. In the photo on the right above you can see how far the new counter top extends into the room. Additionally, we have new cabinets and hardwood flooring. What supports that below?
And they have added an island, though not too large, something seldom seen in 1978 construction.
This kitchen is beautiful. But those loads may be too heavy for what is supporting them. This is a new DEAD load.
When you have a get together, where does everyone end up?
In the kitchen! And if given purchase to hang around, like an island or long counter top, that is where people will go. That will add even more weight. And this is also where hosts will set the food to which people will gravitate. That introduces a new LIVE load. I thought that was a problem. There are stresses to the structure overhead and underneath. Call an engineer...
My recommendation: one thing I always look for in new construction and remodeling is load support and transfer. It MUST be accommodated for. Any time you walk through a house, watch your weight! You could be the live load that adds the straw to the structure's back!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560