Rearranging

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

A little, one tiny Connecticut cape codSpace 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.

Sagging structural support beam

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.

Basement stairway cut through the existing floor joistsHeading 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.

Posted by

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

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Tags:
structurally altered connecticut houses
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Rainmaker
486,542
Daniel J. Brudnok, REALTOR
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach, REALTORS - Exton - PA License #RS-225179-L / Delaware License #RS-0025038 - Downingtown, PA
SRES, e-PRO,ABR,GREEN,CSP

Hi James,

WOW.....someone either go some bad advice on their remodel......OR.....a very bad DIY'er

Nov 07, 2012 09:22 PM #1
Rainmaker
694,615
Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

We never know what we might find. Even with the best of intentions by the home owner when remodeling. Some times it's best to leave it to the pro's.

Have a good day inspecting in Connecticut.

Best, Clint McKie

Nov 07, 2012 09:23 PM #2
Rainer
278,100
Kathryn Maguire
GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

I am just floored by your findings!  Obviously, none of this work was permitted.  That buyer dodged a bullet.

Nov 07, 2012 10:15 PM #3
Rainmaker
1,843,340
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

It won't be happening to this first-time buyer because she is a little lady and not very heavy?  Good for her!

Oh, you probably meant something else.  That she's a good listener?

I wish I had been a fly on the wall during that inspection, said he, with a gleem in his eye!

Nov 07, 2012 10:33 PM #4
Rainer
284,418
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James -- it is interesting that your client (the buyer) already had some concerns when you showed up, so your inspection just verified what they felt already.

Nov 08, 2012 03:27 AM #5
Rainmaker
684,009
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Dan, Hard to know, it was done a very long time ago.

Clint, Hard to know who did this a bad pro or a home owner. 

Kathryn, I can't believe any work, including some other gems I found was ever permitted. 

Jay, This one was real interesting. Quite the puzzle. 

Steven, Yes, but much more than she had expected. 

Nov 09, 2012 06:02 AM #6
Rainmaker
490,607
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim. Great story. Good to have you come along and inform them. They could have a cape code albatross.

Nov 09, 2012 09:57 AM #7
Rainmaker
684,009
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Don, It was nothing short of interesting. She is on the house hunt again, a bit wiser. 

Nov 09, 2012 08:20 PM #8
Ambassador
1,333,850
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, a clear case of "beam me out of here Scotty"

Nov 10, 2012 08:22 AM #9
Rainmaker
684,009
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Charlie, As light and clear as it gets :)

Nov 10, 2012 08:13 PM #10
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Rainmaker
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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