What I'm Seeing Now

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What's Up With This Revisited...

My previous post pondered the reason for some sinking of a front porch stoop in front of a house.

Reading my previous post it says that the listing agent said this house was built this way, 30 years ago.

I also hinted that there is a new roof.

Not being right there it is hard, from photos, to be able to see everything going on here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This should help.  It is a crop of the center of the other photo.

What you can see:

1.  The wood surrounding the sinking stoop is painted completely.  Even underground.  I checked.  This was not done 30 years ago.
2.  The gap that developed between the sinking part and the higher front porch was recently covered over with mortar.  You can see the built-up area in the close up.
3.  An additional beam was placed around the higher porch, on each side.  It can be seen on the right.

I think this is the second (or third) porch arrangement.  With the last attempt, the upper porch was additionally supported with those beams on each side.  The sinking portion is happening because there are no gutters on the house and the rain is eroding the substructure under that heavy slab.  The sidewalk is settling also, being pulled down by the sinking slab.

This house was designed to be in a wooded setting, with wood siding and exposed beams.  It is called a "deck house."  Gutters would ruin the aesthetics attempted by the architect.  Even when they installed the new roof, less than one year ago, they elected not to add gutters, even knowing this slab is sinking.

Aesthetics trumped all!

My recommendation:  designs sometimes create inherent problems.  At times people try to maintain the aim of the design, even at the risk of causing other problems.  Sometimes these problems are evident, and sometimes they are not.  But home inspections can help sniff these things out! 

 

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 14 commentsJay Markanich • July 21 2011 08:23PM

Comments

So is this an easy fix?  If the new buyers put up new gutters would the sinking stop?  What do the buyers have to look forward to in the years ahead?

Posted by Elisha Grace, Bozeman Montana Loan Officer (Opportunity Mortgage) over 7 years ago

Jay,

It seem that this is a common issue where aesthetics and/or architectural design will be counter to good function of the home in its environment.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Aesthetic and correct construction....not always in the same sentence...house....

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

I'm trying to figure this out. 

Are you saying that the step sank and separated and THEN the morter was used to fill a gap between the step and the stopp?  AND that, after the step sank, the wooden border was added???

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Elisha - I don't think this would be an easy fix.  Gutters would discontinue the water and erosion.  That sinking slab needs to be completely refounded and repoured, with a different step arrangement at the sidewalk.  No, not easy!

Don - "We don't want gutters" is a nice thing aesthtically, but in this case it is problematic.

Sally and David - that's true.  And I see it all the time.  Because of the exposed beams that support the roof they wanted that design visible.  Gutters surely would ruin it.  But water is water!

Lenn - this is the second or third stoop, in the 30 years.  The last time they surrounded everything with wood to try to make it nice, and probably refounded that sinking stoop.  But in time it sank, of course.  And as it has it has pulled away from the upper porch section.  Just prior to listing they put mortar into that gap to fill it (more aesthetics!) and said it was built that way.

The moral of the story is that aesthetics are great, but not at the expense of something else.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Geez!  There must be a cave under that step.  Perhaps the house is built on a limestone cavern

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Lenn - there is a wood retaining wall right where I am taking that picture from.  It is a termite factory.  That is a whole lot of water over time!

Today's post is the same house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

We usually comment on conditions that we consider trip hazards around entrances and walkways, especially high heel trapping conditions. In the case of the outer step shown in you blog photo, we cold consider that a "tilt" hazard.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 7 years ago

Jay, I recently sold a home that had a detached garage at the back of the yard that had sunk about 18 inches over time...

My home inspector, after looking around and inside attributed the issue to them choosing to build a solid wood fence along the garage... we surmised that the flow of water from the room was forced back under the garage, and over time eroded the base, and sunk the garage...

It can be hard to see and predict unintended effects of an "improvement"...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 7 years ago

Yes, Robert, this sidewalk and stoop got a lot of comments!  And this problem will be ongoing unless something is done about that water!

Chris - often, often, often improvements cause other problems!  That is a lot of sinking to happen!  But water is water and erosion is just that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Aesthetics trumped all!

How many times have I said that myself. I actually don't know how many, but it has been a lot.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

It usually is the trump card Jim.  And this realtor said it was built that way...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, that's a lot of water and a lot of concrete and wood wasted.  Not to mention previous labor!

Gutters would be up in a heartbeat if I knew that was causing a problem at my house.

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, C.O.O., Winslow Homes (Winslow Homes) over 7 years ago

That's because you value common sense Jeremy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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