“That’s The Way We Always Do It.” = Building Damage = Hidden Defect

“That’s The Way We Always Do It.” = Building Damage = Hidden Defect

The following is excerpts from a letter written for my client as court evidence because the decking contractor damaged the building structure by cutting (off) 6 posts that he was warned not to cut as they were structural. As a result he’s created building fault condition that unless declared by future vendors, will create a ‘hidden defect’. The cut line is hidden by the decking.


June 22,2011

To whom it may concern;

 On April 22nd, 2009 I was engaged to consult on the condition of the structure of the garage wall and balcony of the residence at  “1212 some street, town nearby”.  This was to inspect the condition of the wall beam and balcony supports prior to corrective renovations.  The lower wall beam had been displaced and needed repositioning and straightening.

The balcony supports were connected (bolted) to traverse joists that rested on this beam. The balcony support posts were structural and carried the balcony railings as well as the weight of the roof over the balcony.

 On the morning of May 7th I was there again consulting for the contractor that the homeowner had hired to do the beam correction. The walls were open, as well as the roof sheathing and decking of the balcony. This gave full access and allowed the structuring of the framing to be clearly seen.

 I was told that the decking contractor, an installer for the fiberglass decking product, planned to cut the balcony support posts and so install his product as one single piece with no seams.  I understand why he did not want to cut his fiberglass decking, as a solid single piece will not let any water in.

 But that could not be done here as the columns on this balcony were structural and were not to be cut under any circumstances. To do so would seriously damage the structure of this building. I explained this to the framing contractor and to the homeowner. They advised the decking contractor of this requirement.

 The decking contractors answer was that it (cutting and lifting the posts) was the way they always do theses installations. They were clearly told not to do it that way.  They are used to replacing balcony decks on building where the iron railing can be unscrewed and removed and replaced after the deck is installed.  This cannot be done here.

They were instructed to cut notchs in the decking panel to fit around the posts, so the column posts could not be compromised

 I have now been advised that the posts were cut. The roof (balcony) was jacked up to install the fiberglass decking. No matter how well this was done (or not), the structure of the balcony and the overhead roof have been damaged and compromised.

The balcony railings now have less than half the retaining strength they originally had. The balcony roof can no longer withstand the wind shear forces it used to and was framed to resist. And the framing where the balcony roof meets the main roof is now lose and sloppy, and may be leaking if the shingling has not been redone there.

I have never known another situation where an installer knowingly cut the structural elements of a building just to make their job easier.

 The best way to restore this building to its original strength is to demolish the balcony area and rebuild it.  Failing that, you need a structural engineer to design or specify the steel bracketing (type, size, placement and attachments) to restore the integrity of this building.

You may require architectural services to integrate this hardware into the buildings appearance.

 Now this building is in no danger of falling down or anything as dramatic as that, but is certainly is much less than it was. It has in fact been devalued.

 This is in fact a classic example of a ‘hidden defect’, were this condition of the cut structure not declared to future buyers.




Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post


It Was, And There Was, Everywhere But That Was Not The Problem.

Tt Was, And There Was, Everywhere But That Was Not The Problem.

Yes, It was mid winter, it was a condo, and there was snow and ice everywhere but that was not the problem they’d brought me in for.

No their problem was quite obvious and visible, so they thought, but they didn’t understand why.

That’s why I was there.

They had water damage on the ceiling and sidewall of an archway, two distinct areas and a significant amount of water.

 The year before they had had water damage on the ceiling of the floor above and had the roof patched and the ceiling repaired and repainted. They couldn’t understand where the water came from. How it could be there while the floor above was dry.

There was no plumbing in that part of the house to leak.


This shows the arch between the dining area and the sunroom addition. The water, and therefore the damage, is concentrated to the left corner of the arch and to the right end wall. You can see this in the 2 following photos.

 In the photo above please take note of the position of the patio doors that can be see on the second floor (through the sunroom glazing.).

 water damage water damage 2

The room above (2nd floor, where the previous years damage had been) was in good shape. The ceiling was intact and unmarked except for one spot that looked like water at a seam/ joint in the gyproc. And there was some faint discoloration along the ceiling molding of the exterior wall.

The walls and floors showed no signs of damage. The areas around the sliding doors were particularly closely examined but no damage observed.

The exterior flashing, cladding and caulking were all in good order, properly installed and keeping the water out.

Then I looked up.    Icicles

icicles icicles centericicles gutter

Yes icicles are not rare, but they always tell a story. The kernel of this one is this;

              soffit icicles

These icicles show that water is behind the shingles. So once I was in the attic I verified that the soffit venting had not been done right and the insulation fully blocked what there was.

This means the heat loss from the home warms up the roof (instead of venting harmlessly to the outside).

The warm roof melts snow. That water freezes at the edge and gutter. This builds up an ice dam.

That ice dam holds water behind it, which backs up under the shingles and gets inside. The snow cover on top (light and fluffy) acts as an insulation and keeps it all from freezing. So with these conditions water gets in significant amounts.


Last years leaking had been around the plumbing and exhaust vents, slightly higher up the roof. The damage was more into the room ceiling on the second floor.

 This years damage was different. The ice dam formed more typically right at the edge of the roof, built up from the frozen guttering at the edge. The snowfall this winter was also deep and early. So this dam reservoir was well insulated for a long time. That allowed a lot of water to get in.

 Why did it not show up on the second floor this year?  And why did it go down to the lower first floor?

It wasn’t exclusive but most of it went down the walls rather than onto the ceiling under the attic because the water entered right at the bottom edge of the roof and once inside it went down the walls rather than over the ceiling.

  Remember the first picture showing the sliding patio doors above the sunroom?  The water could not run down where the doors were, so it flowed down either side.

That’s why there are 2 distinct areas of damage on the lower level.




Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

One, Two, Three, You Can’t Hide From Me!

One, Two, Three, You Can’t Hide From Me!

Peeling Wall  The First Clue

Here the street face of the painted basement concrete wall is blistered.

The other adjacent units are not. They have smooth solid paint surfaces.

Blistering paint is caused by water escaping from underneath.

This means the walls are wet or are getting water from some where.

The most common sources are conditions found higher up the walls or from the roof.



water lines

  The Second Clue

This is over head on the same front wall. This is the roof soffit.

Now the dirt on the top of the siding is not surprising or rare.

However the streaks are caused by running water (there’s no other cause).

The water has to come from higher up. What’s higher up?  Nothin’ up there but the roof and sky. No not the sky, this is under the soffit.




roof view


This roof has a curb (parapet wall and party wall curb) on three sides.

When winter conditions have frozen the drain, the next route off this roof is over the front edge, because that becomes the lowest point till the drain unblocks (thaws).

So winter rains an snow melt aren’t going down the drain as planned.

Instead the water is finding other ways.

So now we know here the water in the front wall is coming from.



brick bulge

The Third Clue

The first two have already got us to the roof, but this clue means its on going over time.

Why? The metal brick ties have had time to rust out and let go (break).

As this takes a while it means the brick ties keep getting wet.

That means water is getting in this wall on a regular basis.






parapet wall vent


Parapet Wall Detail: This is the top of that wall with the bowed masonry.

That’s an unusual vent fitted into the parapet wall flashing. In the summer it probably works fine airing out the roof framing space.

Winter changes everything.

Add some snow, a layer of ice and a frozen or blocked drain and it wont take long to convert that vent into a drain.

Under those conditions it’s just a funnel to put water directly down into that wall.

So time and again this wall get wet inside. That brick ties rusted, not a surprise, right?


So what else is there to see on this roof:

open rusted flashing                    membrane bulge                  ridge

Open and Rusted Flashing                 Membrane Bulge/ Blister                    Membrane Ridging


This all adds up to a new roofing job being required immediately : Budget to replace roofing immediately. Provide scuppers and standard gooseneck roof vents.


N.B. Look for a following article on why some changes affect other building components and can disrupt their function. It will be titled;“Ch Ch Ch Changes”….Don’t Always Improve (Your Roof, Your House) IT.







Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post