Just A Handful Of Nails? On A Million Dollar House? Are You Kidding?


Just A Handful Of Nails?   On A Million Dollar House?

Yup! A handful of nail is the answer to “what’s holding the deck on?”

That’s pretty shocking on a building valued at a million plus. The nails are Ramset type, a heavy duty concrete nail that is shot into place with a 22 cartridge. They are thick and hardened to do this but they are not for permanent use out doors. The will and are rusting.

They are not made to transfer weight, and certainly not live loads like people walking on decks. They are made to attach wood framing to concrete but the framing (vertical) parts are supposed to carry the weight.


In the photo above the ledger is ‘shot’ on to the brick. This is not a brick wall. It’s a wood framed wall with a single facing layer of brick (called veneer) on the outside. So if lateral (sideways) forces move this building (earthquake) there is a real risk the ledger will be pulled from the wall, collapsing the deck. (The bricks will just come with it.)

The 2×4 support blocking show above that has been placed to stiffen and support the deck ledger. It has only 2 nails in the concrete. The difference between that an a pair of cinch anchors or through blots is huge and they can be had galvanized or in non-rusting alloys.

The other thing to take note of here is that it’s only the edge/end of 2×4 pieces (several along the length) that reinforce the the ledger. Lateral movement of only 1.5 inches means the deck will fall.


The photo below is the doubled beam the supports the outer half of this deck. Structurally for weight transfer everything is good but there are some issues.

In this part of the continent we are averaging earthquake shock roughly every five years. This can’t be predicted of course and they aren’t major, usually less than 5.0 on the Richter scale.

That’s nothing like what the west coast experiences and most people don’t even notice. But your house does.


So the issues are;

A The bracket on the concrete support is small and hasn’t much grip on the beam. There are 4 small screws holding it and they are less than an inch from the edges of the wood beam. Gravity is doing the rest. There is some surface rust to be taken care of (rust paint).

B There is no blocking or bracing to prevent this beam from rolling over. This can easily be done with wood or metal parts. A few years ago here in Quebec a roof collapsed on a commercial building and employees were killed. Investigators found that the trusses did not fail or break, they just rolled over and collapsed. Bracing was mostly absent.

C The deck joists have no blocking or x-bracing (at the mid span) so they will be a bit bouncy under live load (people) and also risk rolling over.

Just picture a bunch of partying friends line dancing to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and all ‘jumping to the left’ in unison. Not the ‘smashing‘ party you want to envision.

Now this is not an emergency. Things will hold together for a while but it needs to be corrected and it wont cost a lot, but on a million dollar house, it should be there.


So when you need a full inspection………………….




Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post


(AP) The apartment was dirty with mold. Insurance wouldn’t settle. An OMG File.

 The apartment was dirty with mold. Insurance wouldn’t settle.    It was A.P.          An OMG File.

girl wearing mask

I was calling to investigate a ‘mold’ problem that turned out to be dirt, soot in fact.

I asked my client why she thought there was mold. She brought out the air quality test report.

As I was reading it, her daughter came in from the other room. She was home sick from school and wearing a face mask.

She had respiratory problems. My hair stood on end.

“When is her medical appointment?” I asked. “Tomorrow” was the answer.

“So when you go see the doctors bring this air quality report and show them theses two words that I’ve underlined here.” So they did.

I called to follow up a week later and asked how the appointment went. Both the mother and daughter, as well as everyone else who lives in that building (8 people), are being sent to see specialists.

Oh yeah the two words; aspegillius penicillii ………(AP)

This is the plural form of aspergillus penicillium. This is a seriously severe group of molds that are toxic to humans and animals.

So if you have any reports or documents that read as if they were latin, have them explained to you.  A lab technicians report is only data.  It won’t tell you if a condition is serious or what to do about it.

Report interpretation and remedial consulting is a part of our service in the Montreal area.



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