One of the most important things to look for in a pre-drywall inspection is improperly distributed weight.
But the same is true of new work done on older homes!
Beautifully constructed, this apparent, turn-of-the-last-century Victorian Sears Catalog home has a signature wrap around front porch. Porches were essential to get out of the house during hot summer evenings, hoping the cooling evening air would clear some of the day's heat build up from indoors.
Necessarily, to support the load, there are numerous columns. Decoratively "DORIC," they are also essential, and distanced to hold their calculated load.
However, while the columns themselves look original, each of them has a newer, square wood base and four aluminum feet, ostensibly to separate them from the decking and keep them from rotting. I suspect that at some point the previous, if not original, base on each column had been replaced in favor of this system. Someone had understood that modern deck columns should be separated from their concrete bases with some kind of metal foot, so why wouldn't it work here?
See the stress?
QUESTION: each aluminum foot has four points, which makes 16 load points per column. How much of the load above does each of those 16 points carry? When you are standing on a scale, or your dog is standing on the scale at the vet's office, how much of the weight is handled by each foot?
ANSWER: ALL OF IT!
Properly supported underneath by brick structures, each column's load is eventually transferred to the ground. Ultimately, there is plenty of support. But the columns are separated from that support by wood - decking, trim and joist. You can see that at some previous time the attempt was made to shore things up with pressure-treated wood. But not all. And therefore the stress!
As the load is carried onto 16 VERY SMALL points, each will push in as the wood underneath softens with time. Why does it soften? Water! Little of the wood under the columns is pressure treated. The points push into it. And it is rotting.
Virtually every column showed some stress, but those on the side that gets the most direct weather were the worst. Of course!
My recommendation: what I do is observe and report. I don't evaluate, determine courses of action, or even, in my report, offer my conclusion as to what I think is going on here. THE BEST I CAN DO FOR MY CLIENT AT THIS POINT IS REFER THIS FOR OTHER PROFESSIONAL OPINION, AND THEREFORE TO A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER'S EVALUATION. And certainly throw in a couple of photographs of what I am referring to in the report! From here decisions need to be made and a course of action decided upon.
Note: everyone knows that there are no guard/handrails on either staircase and that the deck is high off the ground so guardrails are really needed there too. The one end of the porch is about 5' high! That's a good fall for anybody. This post is not to make that point.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560