Fido Doesn't Know He's Small

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Little dog, big appetite Have you every watched dogs establish who's the alpha. The contest has less to do with size and strength, than attitude. The tiny ankle biter has little clue the Rottweiler can gulp him down like a milk bone. The big dog is the one who makes the other blink first.

While attitude may work well for establishing who's the boss, it doesn't work well for construction. Knowledge and skill are two important qualities that get the job done right and safely.

And more than a bit of good sense.

When building a structure like say a deck, one should know the basics of that particular type of construction. Like any structure a deck starts with a foundation. The foundation for a deck is a footing. A solid concrete structure of a certain dimension set into the ground a specific depth. In Connecticut that depth is 42 inches.

Deck support column set onto a plastic gasket on top of a patio.Browsing the local big box home improvement store, one will see lots of stuff for building decks. The aisles are stocked with all manner of doodads and hooziwhatzits to help make constructing your deck quicker and yes, better.

The first rule of deck construction should be; just because they sell it in the home improvement store, doesn't mean its okay to use for building a deck.

Recently I was privileged to view a new deck purportedly constructed by a professional contractor. The first thing that caught my attention was one of the two main support columns was quite noticeably askew. Looking down I found this important piece of structural support was installed on top of the concrete patio. The builder had wisely placed this vital piece of support onto a plastic gasket. These plastic gaskets (sold in the home stores) are a innovation designed to stop decay to wooden posts by creating a gap between the concrete and wood.

Last time I checked the cure for this problem was called pressure treated wood. Needless to say the post has not been properly supported or secured.

Deck support column set onto a precast "footing"The other post was an improvement over the crooked column. For this second support the builder had chosen a pre-cast concrete "footing" made just for 4" x 4" columns. The pyramid shape of the footing is meant to prevent settling into to the soil. This product is another short cut to made to get that project done faster, not better.

The dog leash around the post made me think, how long will it take Fido to pull the post out of whack. By the looks of the other post, he has gotten a good start.


Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Wow, 42"?!  But I get it.  You think Fido (not that I've ever heard the name Fido for a dog) can pull that post out?  So, that pyramid extends down 42"?  Who knew!

Oct 12, 2012 11:01 PM #1
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Fido would pull much harder if Ms. Fido were to stroll by, say 4' beyond the outstretched leash! Is that mud at the base of those poles? You guys getting your share of precipitation? 

Oct 12, 2012 11:38 PM #2
Kathy Sheehan
Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021 - Atlanta, GA
Senior Loan Officer

I am sure Fido can pull that post down.  Dogs can have amazing strength!  Great article.

Oct 12, 2012 11:41 PM #3
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

My question is ... where is the local municipality when this is happening?  If not up to code ... or at minimum, poorly constructed ... do they not inspect or see the poor construction of the deck and installation of the decking columns?  That happens in our town and fines are meted and construction is stopped.  I agree that over time, the dog ... any dog ... will do its damage.  It's just a matter of time.  I'm curious ... was there a permit taken out on this project?


Oct 13, 2012 02:47 AM #4
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Looks like you need that plastic separator on the post with the leash. Any dog tied up here will be using that post when its time to go.

Oct 13, 2012 03:26 AM #5
Eric Middleton
Closer Look Property Inspections Inc. - Uniondale, NY
Professional Property Inspector

Hey James,

It's amazing, with all the information out there on how to build decks, people still get it wrong.

Oct 13, 2012 12:38 PM #6
Daniel J. Brudnok, REALTOR
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach, REALTORS - Exton - PA License #RS-225179-L / Delaware License #RS-0025038 - Downingtown, PA

Hi James,

Size does not matter, I agree.....the DIY wave is a good thing many times.....but as you stated you need to know your materials and their limitations to ensure proper construction

Oct 13, 2012 10:49 PM #7
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jay, I had a dog that broke her chains and cables regularly. Yes I believe a dog, albeit a larger one, could move that post. 

Fred, Yes lots of mud. It has been very rainy for the last month.

Kathy, I agree.

Gene, Those very questions were asked on the day of the inspection. As for the permit, not sure. 

Robert, Yep.

Eric, Yes it is. That is one point I make again and again. 

Dan, For sure. If you own a home, you should be able to do some repairs and maintenance yourself. The trick is to know your limits. 

Oct 15, 2012 09:01 PM #8
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James Quarello

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