Category Archives: Exterior

READY FOR THE ‘BIG ONE’ TO HIT? THIS HOME IS—FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

You know that big earthquake we are supposed to have? Unfortunately, many homes will probably not fare too well during the big shake. 

However, I recently came across a home in Whatcom County that should do all right because of its unique, industrial-grade structural elements. The home featured steel truss construction and steel framing in the attic, which I don’t see very often in residential buildings.

Down below, the crawl space also featured steel framing for the floor joists and steel support columns. As I say in the video, the house is “built like a tank.”

If you have questions or comments about home inspections in general, tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

THE AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING BRICK GOES TO…

I see lots of old houses with lots of handyman repairs when I’m on the job. While these repairs may not be up to code, I have to applaud ingenuity when I see it. 

For example, I recently noted handyman construction practices at an exterior deck stoop in Mount Vernon, where a brick was strategically placed to prop up a deck support column. Well-played, homeowner. Well-played…

If you have questions or comments about home inspections in general, tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

PRESSURE WASHING YOUR ROOF: JUST A REALLY BAD IDEA

Roof coverings need love. For roof coverings, love means maintenance, such as clearing roof planes of debris or treating roofs on a semi-annual basis to prevent moss growth.

Love does not mean pressure washing a roof, however. Don’t believe me? Roofing experts will tell you the same thing.

Pressure washing can cut the life expectancy of a roof dramatically, and lead to mechanical damage—such as granular loss and exposed fiberglass underlayment at roof shingles. Exposed shingles with granular loss are vulnerable to reduced life expectancy. I discovered this very scenario during a recent inspection in Coupeville.

Do you have questions or comments about roofing? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

3 QUESTIONS: STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS WITH BIGFOOT BUILDERS, LLC

Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them.

This month, we talk structural elements with Cameron Sides, owner of Bigfoot Builders, LLC in Bow.

1. Do you have a rule-of-thumb for replacing historically insect-damaged structural elements in older homes? 

When we are remodeling a client’s home and encounter structural elements that have been historically insect- (or otherwise-) damaged, our rule of thumb is to replace as much as possible. If this is outside the scope of work for our project, we will evaluate the best course of action for the client and determine the method and cost to “make it right.” If we found a floor joist that had sustained termite damage, we would replace it completely. We would then thoroughly inspect adjoining elements: the beam it is resting on, the blocking between it and the next joist, and the post below the beam. In general, there is no benefit to waiting to replace damaged elements as the voids and powder left from insect damage only promote further damage from moisture. 

2. Can you explain, in general terms, what kinds of costs clients might expect in replacing insect damaged structural elements?  For instance, replacing a typical floor beam might cost, on average, about “x” dollars per beam?

Replacing damaged structural elements, like most remodeling and restoration work, is highly specific to the home, extent of damage, and accessibility. Checking with a reputable pest control company to ensure that the problem will not continue into newly installed lumber would be step one. Once the extent of damage has been established, a good contractor will provide a detailed scope of work that explains which members will be replaced and how they will be supported. In older homes, the footings (or lack thereof) used for typical post-and-pier floor construction are often inadequate. If the damage in your home is restricted to the crawlspace, several excellent companies exist to clean and seal the crawlspace, as well as repair damage under your home. Costs can vary widely depending on the amount of replacement necessary and could be as low as $5,000 if the damage is limited to a smaller area. A more complex project could exceed $30,000. I know, quite a range! That is why it is important to have an experienced contractor (and possibly a structural engineer) look at the job and determine what needs to be done in your situation.

3. What do you do if a crawl space doesn’t have proper access to repair insect damaged structural elements?  Excavate?  Work from outside? 

If a crawlspace does not have proper access, meaning there is no room to work, repairing damaged elements becomes more involved. When the house is that close to the ground, there is rarely a vapor barrier (polyethylene sheeting), and there is often moisture damage to beams and posts that are either in close proximity to ground moisture or, in some cases, in full contact with the ground. This is obviously a bigger problem which involves excavation of the area before work can begin. Manual labor is the most common method, sometimes with the help of conveyor belts to move material out faster. Occasionally, a Vac-trailer can be used if the soil is very soft and free of rocks and debris. Once room to work has been created, an experienced contractor can determine how much structural damage exists. 

BONUS: What’s your favorite structural repair story?

It is hard to name a favorite structural repair story and bringing up the issue to clients after we have uncovered unknown damage is never fun. When we can quickly and cost-effectively fix the problem and get back on schedule knowing the house is in much better structural shape than when we started—that is always a win. During our numerous remodels on older homes, we have run into many issues with structural members. These include water damage, dry rot, undersized and sagging beams, and occasionally, insect damage. 

About Bigfoot Builders, LLC

Cameron Sides started the company four years ago to bring a quality customer experience to the custom home and remodel market in Skagit County. Bigfoot is a small company (lean and mean!) of just three employees besides Cameron. The company loves transforming client visions into reality with the aid of 3D modeling and online project management software.

For more information, visit https://www.bigfootbuilders.com.

A big “thanks” to Cameron for his responses!

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

ELEPHANT TRUNK IN THE ATTIC?  HMMMM…IT’S NOT THAT HARD TO EXTEND FAN DUCTING TO THE EXTERIOR; PLUS YOU’LL AVOID LIKELY MOLD!

If a bathroom vent fan funnels into your attic, moist air from your hot, damp bathroom can eventually (and likely) form mold and mildew on attic rafters and sheathing —and even your attic insulation.  A recent home inspection in Anacortes revealed this very issue.

Good news: There are a few different options for routing the venting to the outside of your home. A one-minute video by Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford does an excellent job of explaining why this is so important, and what your corrective options are.

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

SETTLEMENT MAY MAKE YOU A WORLD TRAVELER (BECAUSE YOU TRIP SO MUCH!)

Settlement issues at outlying walkways do not always equate to structural concerns for homes. In reality, most of the time they don’t. 

However, what settlement issues do often create are tripping hazards. I noticed an example of this during a recent inspection in Ferndale, where I found apparent settlement at an entryway concrete stoop.

I notified the homeowner that this issue could easily lead to an unwary passerby having an unfortunate incident. However, I also assured them that it didn’t appear to be of structural concern to the home itself. 

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

DOES YOUR WOOD STOVE NEED A CREOSOTE ANTIDOTE?

If you’re Dick Van Dyke as Bert in Mary Poppins, you might view this as job security. For the rest of us, it’s a hassle that needs to be cleaned up.

To what am I referring? 

A whole lot of creosote and tar glaze I noted at a wood stove flue pipe during a recent home inspection in Sedro-Woolley. I also pointed out the lack of a rain cap over the open flue pipe. As a result of my review, I recommended further evaluation and cleaning of the wood burning stove and flue by a qualified chimney sweep. 

“Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee…”

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

FEELING THE HEAT: CLEARANCE-FROM-COMBUSTIBLES REQUIREMENTS

For homes with fireplaces and stoves—which includes most homes in the Pacific Northwest—I encounter issues related to clearance-from-combustibles requirements regularly. What do I mean by “clearance-from-combustibles?”

I’m referring to the distance that’s deemed to be safe between a heat-producing appliance, chimney, chimney liner, vent pipe, vent connector or other hot surfaces, and combustible materials (such as a wall or ceiling).

Recently, during a home inspection in Oak Harbor, I came across a pellet stove metal flue pipe that was not professionally installed, unconventionally discharged underneath a deck, and didn’t appear to observe proper clearance-from-combustible requirements. 

As a result of these issues, I recommended further evaluation and cleaning of the pellet burning appliance and flue by a qualified chimney sweep. 

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

WHAT DO CELL PHONES, FOOTBALL DEFENSES & CRAWL SPACES HAVE IN COMMON?

Something is mesmerizing about watching a crawl space go through an encapsulation process. What do I mean by “encapsulation?” Basically, it means sealing a crawl space so that a house can avoid indoor moisture issues. 

Typically, a heavy-duty polyethylene barrier is added to completely cover the crawl space—usually the floors, and sometimes the foundation walls and even the ceiling.

The process is especially impressive when you start with a dirty, damp area and end with a bright, clean space (like the one featured in the video below).

While I don’t think every house needs or should be entirely encapsulated, I always recommend that homes in our area layer the crawl space ground with a plastic vapor barrier.

This was especially evident during a recent home inspection on Lopez Island, where I noticed apparent mold growth underneath the home in the crawl space at floor joists and pressboard floor sheathing elements. I recommended the installation of a vapor barrier, covering all exposed ground in the crawl space, to help prevent recurrence. 

Oh, and I should probably answer the question posed in the headline. The answer/punchline? They should all have good coverage! My wife is currently shaking her head as I write this. Regardless, feel free to use this material at your next cocktail party. You have my permission.

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

LOOSE SUPPORT COLUMNS NEED YOUR ATTENTION

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy lounging on decks that don’t collapse. 

If you are like me and also appreciate structural stability, you should really consider installing metal support hardware throughout your deck system.

For example, I recently came across a home in San Juan County with an exterior deck and stair system in need of metal post-to-base hardware installation for improved security. Some of the underlying support columns were very loose and, therefore, the deck was not necessarily considered stable.

Metal support hardware can help stabilize decks and stair systems and should always be used. The video below shows one example of how to install metal support hardware on a railing system while giving you an idea of why it’s so important. Thanks for watching!

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).