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Missed a deck attachment issue


Inspectorjoe
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Yesterday I got an email from the call center about a buyer who called saying water is leaking through a window and it needs to be replaced at a cost of $5,000. Also, her contractor said the deck is "warped" and needs to be replaced. I did the inspection on the 9 year old house last July. The buyers were in Canada and didn't attend the inspection. The sellers were not home. I was alone at the inspection, so I wasn't distracted by anyone.

I went over yesterday evening to take a look at things. The exterior is masonry stucco with EIFS accents. Here's what I wrote in the report. which also included 16 pictures of related problems.

There are various cracks with staining, along with some installation issues at the stucco and the EIFS accents. The masonry stucco is a layer of protection against the elements for the building structure. There is a possibility of hidden damage, which may not be readily visible and is not possible to determine during this visual inspection. Further evaluation should be done by a qualified stucco inspection specialist. See Article 2C.12 for more information.

Here is a picture of the exterior of the window taken at the inspection and an interior shot taken last night. At the inspection, I did put a ladder up to the window at the exterior, but didn't see any problems at that particular location.

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The window is about 12 feet above the foyer floor. Not seeing any issues with it at the exterior, I didn't put a ladder up to it at the interior. The seller admitted right away that there were objects on the ledge that probably blocked my view. She also offered that the stucco inspector, the builder and Pella are going together to pay for the replacement cost, with the seller kicking in some money (she didn't say how much).

I think I'm justified in disclaiming any responsibility for this. Does anyone else have a differing opinion?

The real reason I'm posting is a deck stair attachment issue. I clearly missed it. I can't understand how. It really has me rattled. In well over 2,000 inspections, this is the first time I've had a callback over something I missed that was clearly visible and present during the inspection. Obviously, I want to take care of it.

It's hard to get from the buyer just what her contractor recommended as a fix. The warping issue turned out to be several slightly warped pickets, the worst one creating a 4 3/8 space between the adjoining one. OK, I'll pay for a new picket.

On the stair attachment issue, she was wavering between the contractor saying the stairs need to be replaced to the whole deck needing replacement. Clearly, the attachment is wrong. The stair unit itself, as well at the deck itself are OK. The problem is the header at the top of the stringers doesn't butt fully against the rim joist of the deck. Part of it is unsupported and is rotating away from the stringers. The top tread is one riser height below the deck surface. Again, I have no idea how I missed something so obvious.

I don't have any real world experience with framing decks. Does anyone see a way to salvage the stairs? I have no problem at all paying back the cost of the inspection, but this would be a bad time to have to come up with the cash for a total stair replacement.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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I think you are right on about the window. Honestly I don't think it's what is leaking, rather it's a convenient hole in the envelope for water from much higher up the wall to make it to the interior. I correctly guessed the location of the water damage just looking at the first thumbnail image. That gable to the right will really need to be well detailed to keep that window dry. Replacing that window will likely only make things worse, unless they plan on cutting back the stucco to detail it correctly. Your wise to keep your name off of that mess.

As far as the stairs go, that board isn't doing a damn thing. Never was. Some clamps, construction adhesive and big screws should pull it back in line, and some bracing behind it will keep it there. It might be just as easy to remove it and put in a new one. A couple of hours for a good carpenter, and that includes clean up. Pick your own guy if you want to fix it for your client, I think her's is looking for a bigger job.

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Assuming it's just an anchoring issue to the deck, the stairs could be supported from beneath with 4 x 4 posts near the top of the stringers. The stairs could be re-fastened to the deck ledger to give stability but not support. An AHJ might go for that.

I'd go for that.

Are the stairs on a footing? Attaching the stair base to a footing so that the stairs can't walk out would go a long way toward solving the issue. If the stairs are on grade or on a slab, they're going up and down with the frost and the rest of the deck isn't. They're swinging like they're on a hinge.

Either way, they can be fixed for less than what you charged for the inspection.

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I think you are right on about the window. Honestly I don't think it's what is leaking, rather it's a convenient hole in the envelope for water from much higher up the wall to make it to the interior. I correctly guessed the location of the water damage just looking at the first thumbnail image. That gable to the right will really need to be well detailed to keep that window dry. Replacing that window will likely only make things worse, unless they plan on cutting back the stucco to detail it correctly. Your wise to keep your name off of that mess.

Here's what I mentioned about that in the report.

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I am aware of the same issue in one area of Virginia. The stair stringer attachment detail puts the nails in "withdrawal." A smooth shank nail, exposed to weather, has 1/4 of the withdrawal strength of a nail connection installed in dry lumber and remains dry in-service.

Unrelated to this post, I just noticed that the new JLC book on decks and porches is 50% off:

https://m1.buysub.com/webapp/wcs/stores ... yId=278345

I purchased (too soon) two copies at $40 each as it contains most of our Virginia Tech research work on decks. The table of contents is attached for your convenience.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif Deck Book Table of Contents.pdf

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Something that hasn't been said, is we all miss things. Whether it's your phone ringing, the sun glinting at just the right angle, thinking about your gal for a second or two, or whatever, it's gonna happen. Regardless of how bright and conscientious you are, you aren't perfect.

I make three passes around the exterior of a house (along with unfinished basements) and sometimes on the third go-around, I'll notice some glaringly obvious flub that completely escaped me the first two circles.

When I first started doing this, I thought, "I'm so f**king smart, I don't miss a thing." Now . . . I know better. And overlooking the occasional defect actually humbles us and makes us better at our jobs.

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I know they aren't designed for that purpose, but I'd probably use either of the two brackets below in pairs along with threaded rod to secure that stairway to the deck.

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Where the hell are all of the accessory beads and expansion joints in that 3-coat? Are you sure it's 3-coat and not EIFS?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Re: the deck. I typically see plywood used to attach the stringers to the deck. Exterior grade plywood is very strong, does not split or warp, and allows the fasteners to penetrate deeper into the end grain of the stringers. As a few have said, it should be cheap to fix, and those stairs look to be fine otherwise.

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Assuming it's just an anchoring issue to the deck, the stairs could be supported from beneath with 4 x 4 posts near the top of the stringers. The stairs could be re-fastened to the deck ledger to give stability but not support. An AHJ might go for that.

I'd go for that.

Are the stairs on a footing? Attaching the stair base to a footing so that the stairs can't walk out would go a long way toward solving the issue. If the stairs are on grade or on a slab, they're going up and down with the frost and the rest of the deck isn't. They're swinging like they're on a hinge.

Either way, they can be fixed for less than what you charged for the inspection.

I agree with Mike and Chad. I think I would look at supporting the stairs with two 4x4 post.

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Are the stairs on a footing? Attaching the stair base to a footing so that the stairs can't walk out would go a long way toward solving the issue. If the stairs are on grade or on a slab, they're going up and down with the frost and the rest of the deck isn't. They're swinging like they're on a hinge.

I don’t recall from the original inspection and I didn’t check that when I went back. If it follows typical practice around here, odds are the stringers aren’t on a footing.

I know they aren't designed for that purpose, but I'd probably use either of the two brackets below in pairs along with threaded rod to secure that stairway to the deck.

That would probably work, but I’d think that you’d also need to add some reinforced blocking under the deck so the header can butt tightly against it.

I was looking through the Simpson strong-tie catalog the other night and found several hangers that might be adaptable.

I’m going back tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll hear that her contractor is proposing a reasonable fix such as support posts and/or reinforcement at the header.

On a side note, I just got a call from the seller an hour ago. She informed me that her bedroom ceiling is wet (we’ve had over 6 inches of rain over the past two days). I asked if she had the problems with the stack vent flashings were corrected. She didn’t know what I was talking about. Coincidentally, that section of the report is on the page that I posted above, in post #5. [:-banghea

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[quote name=hausdok

]Where the hell are all of the accessory beads and expansion joints in that 3-coat? Are you sure it's 3-coat and not EIFS?

The only EIFS is the trim around the windows and some doors. That's fairly common around here. Nice installation, eh?

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[quote name=hausdok

]Where the hell are all of the accessory beads and expansion joints in that 3-coat? Are you sure it's 3-coat and not EIFS?

The only EIFS is the trim around the windows and some doors. That's fairly common around here. Nice installation, eh?

Perhaps Joe is referring to XPS foam board trim but with a cementitious stucco finish over everything. No polymer finishes.

Marc

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Perhaps Joe is referring to XPS foam board trim but with a cementitious stucco finish over everything. No polymer finishes.

The underlying trim material is XPS, but it's covered with a synthetic stucco. The surface texture is different than that of the surrounding wall and when you press on it moves and then readily springs back.

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