What I'm Seeing Now

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Can I Tell From Outside The House That There Is A Structural Problem?

I have had clients over the phone ask me if this:  can I tell from outside a house that there is a structural problem?

The answer is yes, sometimes.

From the deck I noticed that the window looks to be sinking on the left side.

Definitely sinking.

Hard to tell from this photo, but up close it is really dramatic.

Notice that the framing of the window is not lining up with the brick, which is basically level.

The window is resting on the wood framing that is inside the wall, hidden by drywall.

Why would it be moving?

Certainly because of what is happening inside the wall underneath that window, and all the way to the basement floor below.  That, too, is all hidden by drywall. 

So while we have a bit of a mystery here, we know that there is something going on.

 

 

 

 

Visible here, it is also beginning to affect the brick. 

In addition, notice how the window is somewhat level and plumb still, but the sill is sinking.

Looking at the drywall inside there is no indication of a problem.

What does the home inspector do?

He simply discusses what he observes with the buyer, notes it on the report, and suggests that the buyer get a structural specialist to determine what might be the cause.  That is the home inspector Best Practice.

This house is an REO, so it is unlikely that the bank will consent to allow an engineer to cut into the drywall to evaluate what's going on.  But that is what it would take.

My recommendation:  every house needs to be evaluated as completely as possible.  And sometimes it is not in the cards for a total evaluation to take place.  But, if a buyer is circumspect, something like this could cancel a deal if the buyer cannot feel comfortable with a purchase before understanding what a seen defect might entail or cost.  Particularly when it is a structural defect.

 

 

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 21 commentsJay Markanich • December 20 2013 03:28AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay....that buyer must have been very thankful for hiring you to inspect the home....let's hope every future buyer has an inspection...

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) almost 5 years ago

He and the realtor both said they had been on that deck a dozen times and had not noticed anything Barbara.  It's the first thing I saw when I looked at the chimney!

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

Wise inspector who suggests a specialist and neither assumes or quotes prices for fixes, repair

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 5 years ago

And people ask me all the time to do just that S&D!

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

Interesting I've noticed some of what you just pointed out around here. Don't recall any inspector calling it someones attention.  However, I'll need to go back and take a look at the reports. 

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

I'm notsure I understand your comment James, but was there an inspection you attended where this was or was not pointed out?

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

Strange goings on for sure. I would venture a guess that the brick veneer is moving, not the house. 

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

But the window frame is inside the brick Jim.  Would love to venture inside the wall!

I didn't have my thermal camera but using it might determine if there is moisture inside the basement wall!

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

You certainly have a trained eye for these things Jay. People are wise to hire you!

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) almost 5 years ago

Hi Jay,

All that weight and no where to go but down. How thick are the exterior walls 2x6 probably. I always call for a structural engineer when I come across these shifting brick exteriors.

Have a great Christmas 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) almost 5 years ago

With walls covered etc, these things can be very difficult to assess.  But when they get a little worse--not so much

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

As an inspector you get to disclose your findings and let the readers determine what they are going to do with the results. Thanks Jay.

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) almost 5 years ago

Can you tell if there is a structural problem from outside the house? Sometimes...

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

Good morning Jay,

Just too many things to observe and why to hire a home inspector worth his weight in gold.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 5 years ago

Yes just by taking a close look from outside you can figure out that there is a structural problem but if doing this is quite hard for you then call an expert home inspector to do the evaluation for you.  This evaluation is very important when buying a house.

Posted by Eric Galuppo (Real Estate Rev - More Leads Means More Revenue) almost 5 years ago

Suzanne - that is why you hire experience!  By the way, I grew up in Montgomery County MD!

Clint - not many older houses have 2x6 studs, and from the thickness of the wall this one doesn't.  I think the problem is originating in the basement wall, maybe rotting.

Charlie - I assessed as far as I was able.  Not too far, actually!

Tom - that is the best course of action for all parties.

Fred - I think you may be faked out by the shadows.

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

Raymond - and the home inspector's visit takes a minute or two!

Eric - and not all home inspections, or home inspectors, are created equal!

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

Jay, and this one isn't even a hundred years old and in Georgetown!  

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

Yeah, Pat, a day in the life of an abandoned bungalow in Great Falls, selling at a foreclosed price of only $1.3M.

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

Building structure is an interesting topic.  This past year in MA there were a few motor vehicles that collided with a home.  It was interesting to note that there was significant visual damage, yet the local building inspector evaluated the home as structurally sound.

To the best of my knowledge, window openings are not part of the load path.  A sagging window is a concern, yet it might be a stretch to designate as a structural problem.

I am also interested in the recommendation for a structural engineer.  I would assume there is a stamped plan for the house on file with the local building inspector.  Wouldn't you be interested in conformance/non-conformance to the existing plan before calling for another engineer?

 

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) almost 5 years ago

Jim - a car crashed into a house at the bottom of our street in my neighborhood growing up.  It was built in 1951.  It too was said to be "sound," by the Local Jurisdictional Authorities, yet leaked water into the basement every rain!

If a sagging window frame, with windows that are still level to reveal a gap on the sagging side is considered "conformance" I would be interested!  When large window frames come out of the factory out of level then we all have a problem!  But it isn't my purview to investigate that.  My purview is to consider my clients' desires, which was to feel comfortable with the problem and a possible solution.  An engineer selected by my client is their best approach.  I never recommend THE engineer, just an engineer.

The window is sagging.  Something is causing it.  That is my observation.  That is what I reported.

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

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