Space is something most of us are looking for more of in our homes. One of the best aspects of owning a house is turning it into your home. New homeowners usually begin with paint and other finishes moving onto bigger projects, with additions and major remodels made in order to add that desired extra space. Being a home inspector in Connecticut, I have seen once teeny houses turned into little houses, even big-ish houses.
Recently I was asked to inspect a small house for a first time buyer. The age and style, cape cod, told me it started out as a tiny house. Many of these older capes were constructed as one floor houses with an unfinished second floor. This particular house by my estimate started out with no more than 700 square feet of finished space. In fact that might even be generous.
The buyer loved the house, but had noted some concerns. The most obvious to her was a noticeable dip in the floor at the front of the house. It was most pronounced at the front main entry. I had notice early after arriving an uneven front roof. Walking around the house I also saw that a small addition had been added to the left side. The clues told me it had been added a long time ago, probably in the 1960s. Inside the house things got strange.
Through the main entry was a single large living room, to the left was a large eat in kitchen. The little addition had been done to extend the kitchen. The stairs, which in every older cape I can recall, are usually right in front of the main entry. These were instead at the back of the living room running up along the exterior wall. Since the stairs had been moved, it followed that the structure had been significantly altered.
The now large living room had been at least two smaller rooms. Along the living room ceiling was a beam. A perceptibly sagging structural beam added to support the ceiling after removing the wall and stairs. The columns holding up this beam were immediately suspect.
Heading to the basement I found confirmation of my conclusion regarding the main stairs. The floor had been cut through to put the basement stairs in their new place. When I say cut through, that includes several floor joists. The same joists that are supporting the floor where it slopes. Above these sagging, under supported joists, the exterior wall was found to be out of plumb, tilting towards the exterior. This is the same spot where the roof was the most uneven.
The ceiling in the basement was finished, so getting a look at the framing was very difficult, but not impossible. As far as I was able to tell, the house no longer had a main structural support beam. None, nada, not a hint. My theory was the little cape had under gone a major reconstruction, during which the majority of the interior framing had been removed, along with the main structural beam and rearranged to its present state.
The structural issues with this house are among the most numerous I have ever found. The house is failing structurally. When it will all come tumbling down is anyone's guess. One thing is for certain, it won't be happening on this first time home buyer.