When mortar joints in patio stone become dangerous mortar joints.
Stone patios can be a very nice feature to a house. The look is natural and the material is very long lasting.
This will loosen the stone's grip on the underside and at the edges, and the mortar can disintegrate.
The loose stones at the edges of this patio could easily be lifted up. They also lean easily toward the edge.
The problem here was that the edge was about 24" high.
Now that is not high enough for the guardrail "code" to kick in. So none was ever placed here.
And along the edge of this wall was a boxwood hedge.
Here you can see the top of the hedge as it abuts the stonework.
The family buying this house has small children. Where do children go at the edge of wall? To the edge!
Standing at the edge at the top of this wall the stones easily come loose and would fall down toward the hedge with not much weight.
Now, just because the code says a guardrail isn't needed until the infall becomes 30" doesn't mean that 24" is safe. The code gurus pick a distance and decide that is where it will be, and of course no rail was placed at this edge - by code.
Codes are minimum standards, and just because the code says a guardrail isn't necessary here, common sense might think otherwise.
When I do inspections on the outside of houses I try to consider what something might mean to a handicapped child or elderly adult. For that individual, this edge is unsafe. If an elderly person was to errantly place weight on the edge here, for whatever the reason, and topple over, a 24" fall would not be safe.
Just because man-decided codes are not in force here, Mother Nature has her own codes and will enforce them with impunity.
Go ahead. Contest her! See what you get!
My recommendation: of course these stones would need to be reattached securely to the base, and new mortar needs to replace the older, cracked mortar where needed. But in addition, a guardrail might be considered here. Home inspectors have no code juice, but Mother Nature does! Why let mortar joints in patio stone, especially at the top of a wall, become dangerous mortar joints?
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560