Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2001 11:18 AM
Observing a sagging floor in a home built in 1920 is not unusual and although an issue, doesn't really start red flags waving in my face. When I walk through a home built in 1978 and the floor is sagging in the kitchen, master bedroom, hall and master bathroom red flags are flying all over. There are numerous reasons for floors sagging, from over spanned joist, moisture and/or insect damage, settlement and improper framing to name a few. These issues are unusual in a house this young although they are sometimes observed. This particular home had sagging which appeared to be concentrated near the center floor support girder and at the toilets. When I crawled through the crawl space (one of my most favorite parts of a humid 90 degree day) the cause of the sagging was clearly evident. The original framing contractor didn't like to use nails and the plumbing contractor loved using his saw.
This crawl space visit was made more morbid by the fact that this home was part of an estate and the former 81 year old owners beloved cat, which has been missing for some time, was discovered in a corner of the crawl space. All that was left was a bundle of fir and ears. I felt the builder deserved to join the cat.
The toilets in the bathrooms were back to back centered on the same floor joist, which was cut completely through in four locations. The floor joist may as well have been left out. The plumber cut two sections 6 plus inches wide out of this one joist, and no effort had ever been made to repair this damage. The toilet in the hall bathroom was literally leaning to one side and no effort had been made over 23 years to repair this problem.
The other sags, which were causing some doors to be tight at the top and a distinctive sag at the kitchen table, were caused by inadequate nailing of the center girder ledger. A ledger is a 2" x 2" wood member nailed to the side of a support girder, along the bottom edge, on which the floor joist bear. Most center girders are similar to this one, three 2" x 10" members, on edge, nailed together with a 2" x 2" ledger nailed at the bottom on each side. Hopefully you have seen enough of these over basements to know what I am talking about. If not, go look at one so that you understand. These ledgers were sagging between the block support piers and pulling away from the girder at the areas where the floors were sagging. Why? Few nails had been installed. Three per joist are required for adequate support. I don't believe this house even had one per joist and hardly any were near the joist. Proper nailing of a girder support ledger requires one nail centered below each joist and one on each side. This requires either laying the joist spacing out or installing the ledger nails after the joist are in place. This framer did neither. This was not an issue only where the floor was sagging, but for the full length of the house on both sides of the girder. My concern was not as much with the fact that the floor had sagged, but when the balance will sag and if it might fall.
Repair will involve jacking up the cut floor joist and sagging ledgers installing headers below the toilets and properly nailing the ledgers. All of this must take place in a two foot high humid crawl space in the summer and may cause cracks in the drywall, and gaps in the wood trim above. Do you think it will cost very much?
This home was constructed by a prominent local builder for a member of his family who has lived in it since completion without these issues being addressed. How many homes do you think this builder has constructed since then? Do you think he did a better job on speculative homes or homes for non-family members?
How many white roofs have you observed with stains? This same house with the sagging floors above also had a white roof. It was not the original roof, but a replacement roof so it could not have been very old. It had stains, some raised shingles and one area where the roofing was noticeably wearing faster than the balance of the roofing, all common observations. But this roof had something special. It had been treated with a magic solution to clean and stop staining and a magic metal strip at the ridge to prevent future staining. This 2 inch wide metal strip appeared to be aluminum and was neatly surface nailed on top of the shingles about one foot below and on each side of the ridge cap. The nails, about two every eight inches were not sealed and had been pulled up by heat. The former owner's daughter reported when questioned about this strip that she thought her mother had paid about $1,000.00 for this special treatment. When the daughter had questioned her mother about this work she told her daughter that she was an old lady and knew what she was doing and did not need her advice or involvement.
What the little lady had purchased for her money was what may be damage to a portion of the roof from the cleaning process and hundreds of potential leaks from unsealed exposed nails. If you think this work did anything to cure the staining, I have a great deal for you on some land in Florida which only floods when it rains. The slime that took this old ladies money needs to be deposited along side the pile of cat fur and the builder in the corner of the crawl space. Roof staining is usually caused by a fungus which is best controlled by installing anti-fungal shingles which are a little more expensive.
I hope you have enjoyed these little tales, I wish they weren't true. Just a few more reasons why you should discourage your clients from having a home inspection. Tell them it was built by the little widows son-in-law, you know he did it right and that she couldn't have possibly caused much damage. See you in court!
Tip, Finding a Home Inspector:
Would you be interested in an easy may to know who the local home inspectors are? Check out two web sites which have locators:
http://ashi.com/ This is the web site for the "American Society of Home Inspectors." You can go to the "Find an Inspector" page and actually download a link to your desk top. You can click on this link at any time you are connected to the internet and get a list of local inspectors. There is much more information at the site about Home Inspection services.
http://www.nclhia.com/ This is the web site for the "North Carolina Licensed Home Inspectors Association." You can enter the zip code of the home and get a list of local home inspectors.
Give this information to your clients and let them find and schedule their own inspection, which keeps you at a safer distance for the selection process.
Thought for the week
"One man with courage makes a majority."