Structural Issues – Don’t waive your NJ home inspection part 2
Let’s start with the overarching purpose of the home inspection in the great, Garden State. Identifying “Material Defects”. By law here in NJ a material defect is defined (Paraphrasing for brevity) as a condition of a structural system or component that’s, “Readily ascertainable” (aka visible) and, “Substantially effects” the value, habitability or safety.
In my experience, most of the material defects are for safety reasons and most (I haven’t actually counted) are electrical in nature. And the majority of the electrical issues are relatively easy for a licensed electrician to fix. They may include a GFCI outlet in a bathroom that doesn’t work, an incorrectly wired outlet, loose wires, etc. Some are very serious but most are not.
This piece however is intended to look at some structural issues that are often, material defects as well. That could be due to the fact that the structural matter jeopardizes the structural integrity of the home or because it also effects the value requiring significant cost to repair to restore the intended structural integrity. As with all material defects, the inspector’s job is to A) Identify the problem. B) Tell you why it’s important and C) Give you a recommendation of what needs to be done next to address the matter.
Here are a few structural matters seen recently in different home inspections.
Horizontal cracks and foundation wall issues. Vertical cracks may or may not be a structural issue. Horizontal cracks are usually of significance. Horizontal cracks seen from inside a basement are almost always caused by an exterior force pushing against the foundation wall. It could be a tree root, water pressure, frozen soil and is occasionally due to the force of landscaping installed outside.
A buttress is an integral part of a foundation wall and is often there to provide additional, structural support against lateral (aka side-ways) movement. When the buttress is cracked or the foundation wall’s movement shifts the buttress, those are some significant forces at play.
This next problem is all too frequent. Other trades people, in this case a plumber, needs to place a pipe exactly where there’s a joist. Joists are important because the joists hold the floor up (And the ceiling but we’re talking about floor joists here). Joists usually rest on the perimeter foundation wall at one end and often a beam in the middle of the floor.
Occasionally, the joists are run from foundation wall to foundation wall
without a beam in the middle. The structural issue seen here is that a plumber cut a joist in half to place their pipe. Now, not only is this joist NOT supporting the floor above, it’s actually the floor above that’s holding the joist up! Another joist issue is termite damage that has eaten the joist rendering this, structural element, irrelevant.
In the interest of brevity, the next issue, all too often found in older homes and in crawl spaces are poorly constructed columns. The columns support beams and the beams support the joists, etc. If one domino fails, the others that are relying on the 1st one also, may fail.
One of the difficult parts of this job is going through crawl spaces. They are usually very dirty, filled with cob webs and other insects, often wet and occasionally they’re filled with mold. But it’s part of the inspection job. NJ home inspection law does not require inspectors go into spaces that in the opinion of the inspector may jeopardize their safety. Also, NJ home inspection laws don’t require inspectors to climb through hatches that are too small. It’s important to make the effort but safety, my safety is paramount. On that note, as important as it is that the inspector do what the law requires, it’s equally important the inspector tell you what they’re supposed to do but couldn’t do and why. Safety is a justifiable reason not to climb on a roof, open an electrical panel (If there’s a puddle of water on the floor in front of the pane for example) or go into a crawl space that, in the inspector’s opinion jeopardizes their safety.
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It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!
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