What I'm Seeing Now

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Sister, Sister

Nothing but wood talk here when I says sister, sister.

A technique for strengthening or shoring up wood framing is to "sister" another board beside the one you wish to strengthen.

However, it pays to attach the two firmly and permanently with some form of bolt.  Nailing the two together is temporary at best.

One problem very common to old construction is structural damage, particuarly from termites.  This house is 127 years old, and there have been many years, and many owners, where diligence needed to be applied to insure protection against termite infestation.

The wood floor in the lower level of this row house was extremely wavy. 

It was soft and smooshy as we walked around.

Even before going into the cellar I knew we were in for a mish mash of structural "repairs" from racking and termite-infested joists.

Many of the joists were indeed riddled with termites, but not recently.

And they were sistered with repairs.

This repair is very homeownerish.

It is a board merely nailed to a failed board, and coming loose.

It barely extends beyond the termite-damaged wood.

And the other end was worse!

Looking at it from the other end it is obvious why this is such an inadequate repair! 

There are only two nails into the end of the original joist where it is damaged the most!

And look at how the end is resting on the beam.

Barely touching!  Notice how the sub floor is missing above that joist.  You are looking directly at the underside of the hardwood flooring above.

The engineer came after I had been down there pointing things out to the clients.  I am matter of fact, not alarmist with my information when things like this crop up.  They did not like what I had to say!  They were hoping the engineer had better news!

Alas, he did not.  But he was not unusually excited either!  He said, "This is what you get down here!"  And he went about making a plan, which was to virtually replace the lower level structure and flooring.  Well, I knew that was coming.

Overall the repairs were not as expensive as the buyers imagined!  And it was fun to see that the engineer said pretty much what I had.

My recommendation:  everything can be expected in older homes.  There is typically a mish mash of everything - electrical, plumbing, structure - you name it.  But, can it be lived with?  And that's where the decisions are made!

 

 

 

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 37 commentsJay Markanich • January 21 2013 03:12AM

Comments

It beats not having one at all but I do see your point.  Have a great week and be safe

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 5 years ago

Not having one would have collapsed the floor entirely in that spot James.  But this "repair" is stop gap.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

That is sad, but it's good that you guys are giving consistent opinions.  Yes, sometimes there really is a wrong way to fix things.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 5 years ago

Debbie - sometimes people think they are doing well when in fact they are not.  We don't know what we don't know...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Seeing a home with those home owner "repairs" would just make me want to see all of the property with a more careful eye. 

One thing a buyer has to determine early on is, even if the sellers agree to repairs, can I trust them to do the best job?

In my experience, when you see one area of poor maintenance or repair, that's just going to be the top of the list of defects.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Yes a couple pair of eyes is good.  Even better when they agree.  Had a problem recently where a major structural issue was found in basement that caused roof to crack several joists.  Owner and his agent denied any problem.

Posted by John F Muscarella, Broker/Owner, Venice, FL, Florida's Suncoast (RIVER FARM PROPERTIES, LLC) over 5 years ago

A lobby firm is buying this house Lenn.  It's one block from the Capitol Building, just off South Capitol.  They considered the price "below" market, I guess because of the needed repairs.  And there is a lot to do!  This is only one thing.  All of the staircases need to be worked on too!  They all list away from the wall!  But there is more too, plumbing, electrical and HVAC.  But, like I said, lobby firm...

The worst thing about the job was finding parking!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

And in this case those eyes agreed John, so the buyers were doubly impressed and confident.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Like always deferred maintenance will cost you more in the long run if not do on time and correctly.

Posted by Chuck Mixon, Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR (The Keyes Company) over 5 years ago

And there was a lot of that here Chuck!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

I do advise my clients that most things can be fixed...it just depends on how much money you are willing to spend to address it.  (Is "smooshy" a technical term?)

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 5 years ago

An architect friend of mine says the same thing Kathryn, and it sounds like a flip answer but is not.

And yes, that is in the Official Glossary of Technical Terms.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay, I guess you can expect just about anything in an older home. The buyers were smart to bring in a structural engineer to get the repair done right.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 5 years ago

Hi Jay,

I think the seller was relying on you not even going the the crawl space. Just like the competition here n Carlsbad. OOOps did I say that?

Have a great day in Bristow my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 5 years ago

Some people like those older historical homes... I get it, but it's not for me, for just that very reason. I say tear it down and start over!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 5 years ago

Interesting. I think it would be neat just to see one of these old houses. You penned one sentence that should be in every inspector's repertoire "This repair is very homeownerish."

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 5 years ago

Even more fun when the city inspector comes in to check a remodel and makes the homeowner change part of the original structure that is no longer to code.

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) over 5 years ago

Hello Jay,

I love "smooshy" and "homeownerish" - perfect descriptions!  And you are right (as always), issues properly presented (not alarmist) are typically ones that are repairable / negotiable and all parties can move forward.

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) over 5 years ago

Homegrown repairs, are always an interesting topic of conversation.

Sometimes makes for a good laugh too.

Thanks for sharing it.

Posted by Anthony Daniels, SF Bay Area REO Specialist (Coldwell Banker) over 5 years ago

Older structures do have some interesting stories of termite, wood rot, and repairs Jay, thanks for sharing this one.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 5 years ago

I saw this sistering recently and it was done very well so it had the opposite effect on me. It said care and quality at work

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 5 years ago

Jay, what are you saying about my sister?  I'll meet you at the glove at noon!

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 5 years ago

UGH - I have a few places in the unfinshed part of my basement that look just like that!  I have a 1930's cape with prior termite damage that wasn't repaired properly.  There are sisters but they were not secured propertly - you can move 2 of them!!

Posted by Debbie Cook, Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) over 5 years ago
Charles has asked me to be his SECOND.....
Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 5 years ago

Every house has its own deferred maintenance. It is up to the new buyers how much they want to spend to bring the house to livable, safe condition. In this case, the buyers, most probably investors are mainly looking at the value of the location, being so close to Capitol building and downtown.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) over 5 years ago

Hey Jay -  It takes a little longer to inspect older houses as well. Did the house have any moisture or water leaks, since this is what termites need to survive?

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) over 5 years ago

Jay -- good explanation of "sistering" and how too many do it wrong, looking for an easy way out.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 5 years ago

Jay, Older home are fun but take so much time for the reasons you state. I have one this week that was about the same.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

The engineer, Mike,  was not impressed with the severity of all the problems there and just worked up a repair analysis, saying he sees this all the time!

Well, I did Clint!  Iff'n I fit'n.

Fred - you would have to tear down a city block - this is the second in a row of 10 houses!

Thanks Gary.  Should I suggest that for the Official Home Inspector Report Glossary?

Than - I doubt seriously there was ever a city inspector in this house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Lisa - things are as they are.  And photos help to document.

Anthony - we inspectors make our livings off of the more laughable stuff!

Tom - never a dull day, especially with older houses!

Richie - and that's great to see!  But not so great when it is beside wood so eaten by termites.

I might not be there by noon Charlie.  But, hopefully, sooner or later!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Debbie - you should have that looked at right away.  Sounds like it won't be getting better.

Richie - if you are there it would be just that much more fun!

S&L - the buyers are a lobbying firm wanting a home office base and a place for parties.

Eric - no, interestingly, each side of the house abutted another row house!

Steven - this photo wasn't the only weird one!  There were other fun jobs too.

Don - this took many, many hours.  Then I had to negotiate evening traffic from DC all the way to my house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

The silly thing is the difference between an extra 2 feet of 2 by and 2 or 3 bolts is less than $5 and 10 min to get it done right the first time.

Posted by Rafi Footerman, Home Inspector, Mold Inspector, Radon and More! (Mid Jersey Inspections) over 5 years ago

The first time Rafi?  They want to do it over and over!  Each time it gets a bit stronger, right?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay, what a great title!  And this is an old house, even by Washington, DC stamdards.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Thanks Pat.  It's been there a while!  Right on New Jersey Avenue.  Old section!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

See a lot of termite damage here, but rarely is it to this degree of damage. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 5 years ago

And it was all over Jim.  Some recent, some not so recent.  But the "repairs" were wonderful!  The engineer said what I said, that it was best to replace the entire lower level structure and floor.  They didn't believe me, hoping the engineer would have a better report.  I understand that, but the place was a mess.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

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