Sinking In

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

A lean in the porch post on this Connecticut houseWater, it's as vital to life as oxygen. It is also one of the most destructive compounds on earth. As every homeowner knows, water is the adversary. Construction and maintenance are centered around managing waters effects on building materials. When maintenance is deferred, the effects can be unsettling.

During a recent home inspection of an older home with a covered wrap around porch, one of the first things that caught my attention was the outside corner of the porch. It didn't look quite plumb. Actually it didn't look plumb at all. The corner support post for the roof and a second smaller porch above was leaning like a sailor on a long awaited shore leave. The side wall looked like his buddy.

The gravity of the problem becomes apparent Stepping around to the side for a different look, the gravity of the problem came into focus, like a ship cresting the horizon. This boat. . uh.. porch was sinking like the Titanic.

Under the leaning post is another post separated by the porch floor decking. The small post sits on a footing, which finishes the load path to earth. The porch flooring where the big posts rests is spectacularly compressed. The little post below, when probe, was as a soft as a stick of butter.

Walking around examining the porch, the wood decay was everywhere I looked as was the compression of the decking and railings. Clearly water management and general maintenance have not been kept up for a very long time.


This porch and the roof are coming down, albeit very slowly, but they are falling. What this demonstrates is that buildings and structures fail slowly, often predictably. When this porch or actually which part of the structure will finally reach a tipping point is anyone's guess.

Make no mistake though, it will fall.

Like a ship taking on water, it is a question of can it make it to port and be repaired or sink to bottom, lost forever.


Posted by

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

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

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Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


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Shane Barker
Amerifirst Financial, INC. - Salt Lake City, UT

Thanks for the great info and heads up on this, definitely not something you want to mess around with and run into trouble with.

Nov 21, 2012 03:29 AM #11
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, Water and Ice can destroy mountain ranges a little ol home has not chance unless we intervene.

Happy T-day ; )

Nov 21, 2012 09:05 AM #12
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Charlie, Interestingly that down spout was brand new, it still had the sticker on it :)

Vince, I find that true in many, not all cases.

Clint, As its said, you have to nip it in the bud.

Jay, Yes I do strongly believe the seller was, is aware. See my comment to Charlie.

Lenn, And many more like it I'm sure.

Andrew, Ignoring is never the solution.

Charlie, That is universally applicable.

Olga, I like to think I'm no one's enemy. Nothing adversarial about inspecting :)

Richie, That's what we call a rude awaking :)

Pat & Steve, That's great to know. I think most inspectors are trying to teach by writing and displaying videos. 

Shane, Water will get ya every time :)

Don, In reality we are simply postponing the inevitable. Thanks, you too.

Nov 21, 2012 11:16 PM #13
Dagny Eason
Dagny's Real Estate - Wilton, CT
Fairfield County CT, CDPE Homes For Sale and Condo

And a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Jim!   See you next week - this looks like a house we saw a few months ago!

Nov 22, 2012 12:55 AM #14
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Thanks Dagny, same to you. I'll see you sooner than next week. 

Nov 22, 2012 08:18 PM #15
Rafi Footerman
Mid Jersey Inspections - Edison, NJ
Home Inspector, Mold Inspector, Radon and More!

But all old houses lean... not.  As you pointed out, there's "normal" settlement and there's damaged/deteriorated framing.

Nov 22, 2012 10:17 PM #16
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi James, we see this often.  It seems porches and sheds were not build to the same code foundation standards as the main homes.

Nov 22, 2012 10:34 PM #17
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

Double porch like that is a heavy load. I guess people just don't ever really 'look' at their house to see if this stuff happens?

Nov 22, 2012 11:19 PM #18
Pat & Wayne Harriman
Harriman Real Estate, LLC (203) 672-4499 - Wallingford, CT
Broker/Owners, Wallingford CT Real Estate

Makes you wonder if they thought about that when they built it. Probably not...doesn't matter now anyway, the only question is: will the seller fix it? Probably not...

Nov 22, 2012 11:41 PM #19
Hella Mitschke Rothwell
(831) 626-4000 - Honolulu, HI
Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker
James: I've seen this and it's pretty scary walking on that deck. Because it dips in that corner.
Nov 23, 2012 01:29 AM #20
Suzi Sandore
RealtyONEGroup - San Diego, CA
North County San Diego Homes

James, do you supposed they thought that if they replaced the downspout no one would notice that the ship  house was sinking?

Nov 23, 2012 01:54 AM #21
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

So, what was the outcome of this inspection? Was the condition fixed or house taken off the market, what happened to the rest of your story? What would the estimated cost of repairs been to fix the problem? 

Nov 23, 2012 02:57 AM #22
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Like Kimo, I'd love to hear "the rest of the story." Poor house - needs someone to give it TLC.

Nov 23, 2012 06:37 AM #23
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Rafi, Yep some settlement with age is to be expected, even in us :)

Bob, That may be true, but this is more to do with a lack of maintenance.

Lyn, This jumps right out at you. Really hard to miss, but....

Wayne, I guarantee not. This was one of two major structural concerns with this house. 

Hella, It was a scary on that upper deck, I can tell you that!

Suzi, Funny, I was wondering something similar :)

Kimo, The out come? Do you mean did the buyer opt out of the sale? I do not know. As for what happened I have no way of knowing, which is often the case. I do the inspection and write the report, I usually do not hear anything after that. 

Marte, I just do not know what has happened. 

Nov 23, 2012 08:01 PM #24
Rob Renk
Center Street Lending - McKinney, TX
AE | Fast Fix/Flip Loans for Residential Investors

Water gives life, but is also very destructive as you have shown us.

Nov 23, 2012 10:59 PM #25
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Rob, It has a unique duality. 

Nov 24, 2012 09:17 PM #26
Brian Kuhns
Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber - Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne Real Estate by Brian Kuhns

amazing that something so vital to life has such destructive potential. Preventative maintenance all too often turns into deferred maintenance unfortunately and we end up with something like this porch

Nov 24, 2012 11:53 PM #27
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Brian, I'm sure you see the deferred maintenance as much as I do. 

Nov 25, 2012 09:45 PM #28
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


I wonder why a property owner would think that water constantly falling on a wooden structure would not eventually cause the structure to fail.  I was taught in my chemistry class that water was the universal solvent.


Nov 26, 2012 06:29 AM #29
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Evelyn, Yes! I have heard the same. As I remember water is one of the most corrosive substances on earth. 

Nov 30, 2012 08:00 PM #30
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