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When Does Basement Wall Framing Demand Pressure-Treated Wood?

When does basement wall framing demand pressure-treated wood?

This subject house was built in 1956 and the basement was recently "finished."  At least that's what the house features list touted.

The "finished" basement had many things left unfinished.  Like wiring that wasn't hooked up, holes left in the walls where wiring was fished, no handrail or guardrail on the staircase, and various wood moldings not completed.

But there were various signs that the basement was not finished professionally, indicating, therefore, that there was never a permit pulled. 

One big sign was that none of the sill plates had used pressure-treated wood.

In new construction, or remodels, a pressure-treated sill plate is demanded.

The sill plate is the lowest point of the stud wall which is nailed to the concrete floor.

Concrete stays wetter than wood for over a century.

As such, its moisture will migrate to the wood.

Pressure-treated wood is not so susceptible to moisture damage, and therefore rot, or insect infestation, and so it is required at the bottoms of stud walls.

The sill plates in this location are indicated by the yellow arrows.  That pressure-treated wood was not used is an amateur mistake.  It also would have been required in this jurisdiction had a permit been pulled.

Regular wood is not acceptable, by the local code and by modern building best practices.

This regular wood was all over the basement where I could see behind the walls.  Therefore it was also likely used for the stud walls that were hidden by drywall and I could not see the sill plate.

My recommendation:  sellers often see home inspectors as Nazi figures with bad eyesight, mean faces and a little mustache, bedecked with brown shirts and tall boots, and running around with a book of minutia that they can point to and ding the seller's house and everything in it.  While not true, home inspectors are obligated to point out things that are dangerous or not properly done.  Pressure-treated sill plates are necessary now, and should be used in basements with any wood resting on a concrete floor. 

Doing so is both important and a construction Best Practice.


Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 10 commentsJay Markanich • September 21 2016 03:16AM


Good morning Jay.  Sounds like "best practices" were called for here! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) almost 4 years ago

In many more ways than one, Wayne.  The basement was a mess.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Heir Commandant: Obviously not permitted or done professionally!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 4 years ago

Fred - he had an ejector pump connected to the new "bathroom" and didn't attach the cover with caulking or seal the 4" hole in top where the wires enter.  I knew before getting into that room that there was an open ejector pump.

Gee, how did I know?

Not kommandant - fuhrer.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Jay Markanich This is an important reminder. I can remember with the many renovations I hve done over the years of the rotted, moldy plated I have removed and replaced. Good post!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) almost 4 years ago

Hi Jay - The thing that caught my eye in the photos was that those aren't floating walls, a necessity in our area where we have expansive soils and floating basement floors. And that's our usual tipoff of an unprofessional job.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) almost 4 years ago

We know you have changed the "uniform" in the minds of many buyers for a home inspector..more like the royal blue of a police uniform...hmmm ?

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 4 years ago

S&N - doing things the right way (and in this case more modern) can make a big difference, especially in terms of the rot you describe.  Behind the new bathroom in today's post, the plumbing had dripped and had begun to rot the new sill plate.

The flooring down there was carpet, and poorly done, Dick.  The basement was a mess.

S&D - many still see me as the Nazi fellow who posed for the photo above.  At least I put a flower in the barrel of my gun.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Jay, I just ran into an electrical client who wanted us to wire his basement. He didn't put down a pressure-treated sill. He wanted an inspection, which I'm happy to do, but I did tell him he would fail because of the framing. He was bumfuddled. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 4 years ago

Mike - this guy finished the basement, which included a new, all-electric kitchen, in addition to the all-electric kitchen upstairs and the rest of the all-electric house, and had added a 100amp breaker servicing a disastrous sub-panel in the garage all-electric work shop.  All this was added to the updated (with a permit) 1980, 200amp box.  A whole lot of the original 1956 wiring was still in the house.

What do you think??

The framing here wasn't the only thing that would have been failed by the county permit guys.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

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