“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

A Pretty Face Or A Dark Heart, A Buyers Tale

Here is a beautifully written blog about the value in having a home inspection. The experience described is a process I often see buyers go through. This is written by a colleague in Connecticut, James Quarello.

New loveBeauty is said to be only skin deep. A pretty face can conceal a dark heart. And so it can be with houses. Buyers are wooed by the charms of granite counter tops and gleaming hardwood floors. The luxurious tile shower with multiple spray heads and the verdant greenery of the yard. They sign the sales contractor, doe eyed and smitten by their new love.

They then reluctantly call a home inspector, their real estate agent said they should, but they are doubtful their sweetheart is in need of an examination. Such beauty and charm can surely have no flaws. Grudgingly the call is made, the appointment is set.

Ain't she sweet?The day of the inspection comes, the buyers arrive with unconstrained excitement anticipating spending time with their new darling. They meet and greet the inspector. Someone says to the inspector “the house looks great, but you’ll tell us if there is really anything wrong”. The tone of their voice says they don’t actually believe there is a flaw anywhere to be found.

The exterior is examined, it all looks good. Just a few minor issues, you can almost hear the sighs of relief floating on the cool spring breeze. The giddiness of new infatuation is crank up a further notch on the good news.

Old and uglyNow everyone enters the charmer, it is stunning, clean and almost without flaw. The inspector seems detached and unimpressed. The buyers wonder, can he not see the allure.

The inspector enters the attic, the news is not all good. Something to do with the insulation or did he say a lack of. No matter, it’s something they can fix. A mote of doubt slips into their minds.

The bedrooms are examined more bad news, there is a problem with the plugs. The inspector said something about the wiring. The buyers think, that sounds more serious.

Does all the luster now have a vague tarnish?

Next down into the basement, where the inner workings of the abode reside. It’s not all pretty, but there are some finished rooms. Oh my, a problem with the bedroom down here, where will we put Aunt Edna when she comes to visit? The plumbing has problems too! And there’s a sump pump we never saw.

Go to the lightThe make up has run like cheap paint in the rain, revealing an aged beauty. Still there is charm, but the buyers see the home in a more realistic light. They still love the home, their infatuation now tempered by reality.

They are hopeful they can work out the fixes with the seller. Boy, are they ever glad they chose to hire an inspector. Just like going on a few dates, an inspection can reveal all that glitters is not gold.

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
2010 – 2011 SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

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Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

Perspicacity and the ‘hidden defect’.

“Visual”, “non invasive” and “not technically exhaustive”  are terms used to describe our inspections. They can be found in various forms or versions in our contract wording or standards of practice. As you use more and more testing and sensing equipment, the less visual your inspections become.

The inspections done here are visual building and home inspections for pre-listing and pre-purchase requirements. They are not technically exhaustive and rely on very few indirect sensing devices.

We use our knowledge of building construction technology and systems in buildings* to guide us to look for evidence and then interpret that information to assess risks or weak areas in the building. (*And the history and chronology of the technologies and those systems.)

Very few inspectors here carry anything more than a GFCI plug in tester. Some have moisture meters and fewer have infrared cameras. (Cameras, lights, tools to open panels, and ladders are commonly used.)

plug in testers

If we find problems, or indications of problems we say so and recommend the qualified specialists and appropriate tradesmen be brought in to investigate further. Our recommendation gives the client the right to have that specialists’ evaluation (if the agents have written the offer terms correctly).

Our inspections provide our clients the due diligence the courts require to conserve their right to seek redress via the courts should the need arise.

Unless an inspector has been negligent and missed a major defect (This has to be proven legally.), anything discovered or that manifests later is a ‘hidden defect’. It is hidden in that a qualified inspector was not able to detect it during a 2 to 3 hour visual inspection of the property.

That a buyer might not see something is to be expected. An inspector is valued as a professional in the field and is held to a high standard of knowledge and perspicacity. But he is not as specialist.

Inspectors are not expected to find absolutely everything. We cannot! Clients who expect this have been miss-informed. The vision of an inspector as Mr Gadget is a miss-conception that industry insiders treat as the cartoonish image that it is.

Invasive testing is best left to engineers and the ‘Mike Holmes’ contractors who are prepared to take it all apart and then rebuild it. That’s not inspection it’s renovation and is not part of the process of buy or selling property. 

Hidden defects, when present are just that, i.e. hidden. They are behind walls, floors or ceilings. They can’t be seen. Inspectors look for indicators, evidence or clues to underlying conditions.

When there are none no conclusions can be drawn.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post