What I'm Seeing Now

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Rounding Up Or Rounding Down, An Accounting Still Needs To Be Made

All of the houses on this block have the same situation at the rear door - it is about 4' high from the ground.  So something needs to be done - stairs of some kind, small deck, maybe a patio.

When buyers want to do their own thing the builder will leave some form of barrier so the rear door cannot be used until the rear exit is accommodated by the homeowner.

Coming around to the back yard, what did I spy with my little eye?

What I call the "ice cream cone" staircase!

My first problem with this kind of thing is that it represents a permanent  termite invitation.  Maybe not now, but soon to come.

The stairs extend over the siding to right under the door.  This means that they rise over the sill plate, rim joist and they cover the already-rotting wood trim under the door.

Obviously all that is a problem.

But this staircase is a major safety hazard as well!

People exit that door on the left side!

That means they step down onto LESS than 12" of step surface!  Doors should open to a platform of 36" or more, for safety of standing and moving.

How fun is that!

This is the makings of an immediate tumble!

Even coming up it is a danger because

1.  there is no handrail
2.  there is a 3" lip entering the house.  We call that a trip hazard!

The stairs are rounded, so coming up or going down anyone, young and old, is in danger of missing the stair and slipping and falling.  Wet or dry, ice or no ice!

Rounding up or rounding down, an accounting needs to be made!

One more thing!

See the candle lamp on the right side of the staircase?  It is a candle lamp.  But it is also hiding something.

Some kind of a screened hole.

I have no idea as to the purpose of this hole - venting perhaps?  Who knows what people are thinking.

Glued into place with attractive and decorative poly foam (one of mankind's many wonders) perhaps the worse thing is that this opening will let in lots of moisture, even rain water, next to the house.

Why is that bad?

Because it further exacerbates the possibility of termites!

This staircase certainly provides the dark, climate-controlled, wet space termites so love!

And it covers wood inside the house wonderfully!

It is adding wet too!  Through this hole and as the staircase settles and pulls away from the house, as it is already doing.

Inside and under this location is a finished bathroom (see the vent beside the staircase?), so if there is termite activity it is hidden by framing and drywall.

I should say more termite food and drywall.

My recommendation:  almost certainly this staircase did not have a permit prior to installation.  So my clients inherit that fact!  Sometimes things look good and provide an immediate appeal to the eye.  In fact, sometimes, despite all that eye candy, they are dangers waiting to announce themselves.  Have a home inspector check these things out, and make sure there are permits when permanent structures are put in place.  Your client is buying that permanent structure!

 

 

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 19 commentsJay Markanich • July 21 2012 03:32AM

Comments

The steps looked nice but oh the problems that are not seen at first.

Good to know that all that looks good may not be. 

Posted by Richard Burge Realty/ Burge Homes, Broker in Charge/Owner (Richard Burge Realty/Burge Homes) almost 7 years ago

That's it Richard.  Often times people buy things without realizing what they are buying!

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

Good morning Jay,

Excellent information! The stairs do look awkward to step put on and with no railing this is an accident waiting to happen. We have lots of Termites in Austin so I completely get what you are saying..it would certainly apply here. 

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) almost 7 years ago

Dorie - warm and wet are great termite invites!  They are always looking to find a buffet.  And this staircase is an accident waiting to happen.

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

A handrail would be required by the local code Valerie.  But still they have to deal with the fact that the end of the step is shorter than most feet!  The local code also provides for a stable surface of 36" when one exits the door.

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

Jay, That lack of level landing surface on the top layer is what caught my eye the most.  You need enough room to stand and pull/push the door without wiping out.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) almost 7 years ago

The good thing about our change of seasons is that there is no season for termites...tripping down stairs and no handrail will not pass an FHA inspection in any season.   Have a great weekend !

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

Morning Jay people with the best intentions just sometimes do have not a clue on what they are doing.  This sounds like one example.  Maybe Uncle Bob struck again

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) almost 7 years ago

That's a huge part of this Bliz.  And necessarily.  Safety is paramount and usually the reason for many codes.

S&D - it shouldn't pass any inspection!

James - this project may be above Uncle Bob, but I have seen this kind of work before and it may be the consistency of that particular company!

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

Hi Jay,

There are a few of these around here. I even stopped at a home they were forming the "CONE steps" I told them they needed a landing at least three feet to dtep out on. They just laughed at me and did it any way. i did mention "don't forget the handrail". Their response was "it would just get in the way".

So I just shook my head and went about my business.

These will not pass inspection or code. But that's for another day and inspection on that home.

Have a goodd ay in Virginia.

Best, Clint mcKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 7 years ago

Ooh I hope those owners had a huge umbrella policy because that is a trip that no one wants to take.

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) almost 7 years ago

As many of the people noted on your blog, the first thing I noticed was the lack of landing area as well. Hard to believe that someone could not see that just by forming out the structure. it would have been easy to do too... amazing.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 7 years ago

Definitely to each his own, but that's just odd looking.  I'm sure I'd be tearing that off as soons as I bought the house.  Yeow!

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- when you mentioned the screened vent hole -- I immediately thought it might be the dryer vent.  Bathroom vent does the same thing.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Clint - I find that people who don't know really know everything!

Kathryn - that staircase is an umbrella shape!  Does that eliminate the need for a policy in addition?

Fred - can you believe that?  And the people probably thought it is a nice, cute little step at the top...

Mike - which is what the buyer said.  I hope he isn't tearing off a can of worms.

Steven - that's the first thing I thought!  "Oh crap, tell me that isn't the dryer vent!"  Then I found the dryer vent on the other side of the house!

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

I have seen this round stairways inside houses as well. There is just so much wrong with them. 

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

I think it's a broken bone or worse just waiting to happen Jim.  But people are people and often don't think in advance as we inspectors try to.

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

At least they could have put a handrail in so you would have something to hold onto when you fall off the first step.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) almost 7 years ago

That would spoil the ambience Rob, and the ice cream cone appearance!

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

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