What I'm Seeing Now

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Dangerously Racking (Tilting) Beams And Insufficient Support

When an older house is remodeled and shored up, you don't want to see dangerously racking (tilting) beams and insufficient support as the result.  This house is so old it's considered to be an "historic" home.

Unknown when this racking happened (perhaps during the earthquake) this built-up beam has dangerously moved.

It is also merely resting on top of a support column.

It is similarly unknown how deep the column is sunk for support, or what the column is resting on.

But this is not good support.

Right above this location is a load-bearing wall separating the dining room from the hallway.

The floor there looks like it is sinking, and dramatically, towards the wall.

The beam to the right is resting on a column simply formed of stone and mortar.  That beam is leaning as well, as the top stone, not properly sized, is sitting an an angle.

Further, other beams are seamed like the one on the right.  The three beams merely abut.  The should instead interlock.

At least they set the seam onto a support column!

But, that is not a permanent support column and the two things are not connected in any way.

The column should be attached to the beam and the beam should be resting on something that is very permanent.

If not the house will sink.  AND THIS HOUSE WAS SINKING IN SPOTS ALL OVER!

My client had restored other old houses and was as frightened as I.  These were not the only deficiencies!

The sellers and agent were similarly shocked as they got my report.  Seldom do I grade a foundation as "Poor."  This house "racked up" as poor!

Why were they shocked?  Because two years ago, when they bought this house, in the same condition it is in now, the home inspection said everything was in "perfect" shape.  Alrighty then!

My recommendation:  have a long look at historic properties.  They have always been changed, restored, shored up, or whatever.  And what was done is essential to how much longer they will last and remain historic!  Historic homes have to be treated with care and by professionals.  If not, more issues will follow than likely were "fixed" by the remodeling.

 

 

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 29 commentsJay Markanich • February 02 2014 04:20AM

Comments

That would get me so angry at the first inspector the words I would use I can't write or say in this forum. 

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

Not my issue James, but the seller's agent did call me to ask for my engineer recommendations.

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

Certainly concerning. I do not like to grade deficiencies or use terms like good, poor or satisfactory in my reports. I feel that is sort of an easy way of "describing" the issue. It also makes me think I'm writing a checklist, and I really dislike checklist reports. I typically detail the issue with photos, explain the concern and make a recommendation. 

If like you said, and it certainly seems very plausible, that the earthquake moved the supports around; would that have been before or after the other inspection? 

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

That is sure a scary looking situation and does not look like things are going to end well for that home owner!

Posted by Jim Palmer, Washington County, Florida (Chipola Realty - Chipley Office (850) 638-2777) almost 5 years ago

Outstanding post!  I so enjoyed the read and a little understanding of "historic" home remodel concerns.  There are more historic homes along the eastern part of the US than in McCurtain county, although we do have some on the Historic Rebister.  

Posted by 1 ~Judi & Don Barrett & Chassy Eastep - Integrity, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) almost 5 years ago

Hi Jay,

Like James Q. Says I don't grade anything. Only when the buyers ask then and only then I will say something is in poor shape. I leave all thi for the report. But there are issues in thise crawl spaces of these older homes. Reminds me of the homes I was inspecting back in Michigan. Only about 20% of the homes here even have a crawl space.

Have a great Super Bowl Sunday in Bristow.

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

Good morning Jay,

And you are not even in the capitol of sink holes! (Florida)

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

Thanks, Jay, for sharing your photographs and your experience. We always recommend a professional home inspection.

Have an outstanding week.

Posted by Roy Kelley, Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs (Realty Group Referrals) almost 5 years ago

It's amazing how a home inspector could miss that! I feel bad for those homeowners. Dealing with a house that's that old, I would want the best of the best...Jay Markanich!

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

Right, too often the 'fix' can cause worse damage than the defect. Amateurs make the mistake that just because it hasn't happened while they are looking at it, it won't happen later.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 5 years ago

Time to break out the beam straigteners---Billy Jay rents them I hear.

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

Jim - my criteria are good, fairly good, fair and poor.  They are described in my report as to what they mean.  And the earthquake was a year before the other inspection.  A lot of what I found had nothing to do with the racking.

They were upset but grateful to me for what I alerted them to Jim P.  Yes, I felt badly for them too.

Thank you Judi.  Here in Manassas homes that are "Ante-bellum, i.e. before the Civil War, have plaques.

Clint - my grade comes on the report.  I have thought about the grade/no grade thing and think an opinion is fair to the clients.

Raymond - I have heard that is a big deal there!  That's what you get for living on sand and swamps!

 

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

Thanks Roy.  Haven't seen you in a while!  We need to have lunch again so you can snap my photo with a gallon of hamburger in my mouth!

Thank you Suzanne.  That is very nice to hear.

Hey Robert!  Yes, I agree.  I understand that stuff like this requires great knowledge and patience because the fixes don't happen except over time.

I didn't know Billy rented stuff, Charlie!  Well, if you can make a buck, make a buck!

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

Jay, that absolutely looks scary, and hope the house holds up without falling in!

Posted by Joan Cox, Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time (Metro Brokers - House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373) almost 5 years ago

There were many different structural issues with this house Joan.  I don't know what they will do, but an engineer will have some fun.

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

Jay, great post.  I learned a new word to add to my home knowledge vocabulary.

Other than the earthquake we had a few years ago here in Northern Virginia, what else could cause this "racking"?

Posted by Alicia Utz, REALTOR & Military Relocation Professional in NOVA (EXIT Realty Associates) almost 5 years ago

Thanks Alicia.  Happy to contribute to your vocab book!

It could also be caused by improper installation, and that is likely.

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

Clearly not all home inspectors come from the same cloth or have the same experience.  Glad you found this info out for your home buyer.

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) almost 5 years ago

Old doesn't mean good.  Old just means old.

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

The house is the house Debbie.  One has to see what one sees!

Lenn - some of the bad was old, but most of the bad was new!

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

We need more laly columns stat (finger snap) What you don't see and know in the cellar or attic. Head their first in the house hunt and to be in the know of where she is going to go, lean, and the ending of your home sweet home movie could be one of two endings.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) almost 5 years ago

There were many new things done here, and apparently without the advice of an engineer Andrew.

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

Jay, question for you. How do you write up the post "non-support" issue in your report. I see it on occasion and always recommend evaluation by an engineer and then repair by qualified foundation specialist, but sometimes it doesnt seem worded strong enough. just wondering. thnx

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) almost 5 years ago

Jay, time to bring in a structural engineer with some good recommendations.

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

Good question Scott.  One thing I did on the report was say what the support issues were, like racking, or too few columns, and couple those comments with photos.  The sellers were shocked to see my report, as I said, because it was descriptively clear.

How do you describe too few columns?  With the photo to the right that is pretty much answered - too much load carried by each one and the beams are crushing under the load spread too wide.

I don't diagnose, or offer recommendations, simply observe and report.

It was Mike and they actually called me for a recommendation.  That was after my client bugged out, so I did not mind offering one.  No collusion, in other words.

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

HI Jay,

This is one where you carefully back away from the scene and the contract, although fixing it is likely not all that complicated (but Expensive).

Posted by Peter Pfann @ eXp Realty Pfanntastic Properties in Victoria, Since 1986., Talk To or Text Peter 250-213-9490 (eXp Realty, Victoria BC www.pfanntastic.com) almost 5 years ago

Historically bad repairs is more like it. I had a house a couple weeks back where there was underfloor issues and some of the girders had fallen. Explained the bouncy floor.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) almost 5 years ago

Good for you for doing the necessary due diligence to uncover these defects.  I'd have a hard time understanding how all this passed a previous inspection.

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) almost 5 years ago

Peter - I have no idea as to cost or ease, but you are probably right!

Rob - trampoline!  They can be fun!

We crawled around under there for a long time Jan.  The client was there with me!

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

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