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I am curious how different inspectors state the issue and suggested repair when the inspector finds an attic pull-down stairs installed in a manner that had the installer cut through the bottom of the roof trusses (typically two truss bottoms cut) instead of installing the stairs between two trusses. Obviously, I'm talking of an amateur installation with no additional truss reinforcements. Do you make a big deal of it or just a mention? Do you recommend repair by a qualified person or tell the client to hire a structural engineer to inspect? Just curious what others do as some of the local inspectors I have talked with here (Maryland) are on both ends of the scale with this issue.

Thanks, Charlie

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Hi Chad;

My question is not about if the trusses should be cut or not. My question is, if other inspectors do note this condition do they note it as a simple FYI or do the they scream "OMG, get a structural engineering firm ASAP!" I just don't want the thread to become an argument about trusses, I'm asking how other inspectors word their report on this particular issue. I apologize if I wasn't clear.

Thanks, Charlie

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Hey Charlie,

If I see that a truss has been modified, that's what I state in a little canned sentence. If it doesn't look like all the tension or compression has been properly transferred, then I might say a bit more. In a case such as the one you describe, where a portion of a truss was cut away, I'd probably call for it to be repaired. I've seen quite a few "What the heck" modifications, but I don't think I've ever actually seen an obvious "Oh my God" modification. Usually, after I imagine all the possible stresses, I come to the conclusion, "well, alright, it'll work". I guess trusses have a pretty easy life and if one is screwed up the others just work a bit harder...

For instance, I saw one recently where I assume the metal gusset plate at the top had either come loose or was damaged, so they fashioned and applied their own OSB gusset plate. In my mind it was no big deal, the added gusset plate offered an attachment surface of maybe 14" in all directions.

When I was a kid, it was actually permissible to make your own trusses and one merely had to get the design approved by the building department. I've actually watched them made in the field, but somewhere along the way that was stopped. They always used plywood gusset plates, which made them look very much like a steel bridge truss - a beautiful thing...

I do always write a "yeah, I saw it" statement, but it seems to me that in most instances, with things such as modified trusses, we are more calling out an obvious variation from a standard trade practice that has a rather remote possibility of being or becoming a real structure threatening condition.

One of my BIG pet peeves, is seeing inspectors call for an engineer to get involved over just about everything, which to me is ridiculous and can become a real pain in the ass. For instance, I was called out by a listing agent once to throw water on a fire: The floor system was OSB engineered floor trusses. Lengths of cut truss had been used as blocking between the trusses along the length of the beam. A plumber had knocked one of them askew to accommodate his pipe. A local fellow home inspector had called for the buyers to consult with an engineer to prescribe a remedy. I mean, c'mon now... use your head... when the blocking was in place, it was approved, notch the damn thing and put it back in place. Why in the world involve an engineer? In my mind that was just plain stupid and created a @hitload of unnecessary strife. The seller didn't want to pay for an engineer and the buyer was insisting on it. The inspector should have just put on some "big boy" pants and made a decision rather than farm out the obvious to an engineer.

It's best for all concerned to avoid calling for an engineer unless an engineer's mind and calculations are actually needed.

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I agree with Mike. I won't mention in a report that an engineer's attention is needed unless I see the beginnings of, or what I think is impending, significant failure of the roof/ceiling assembly resulting from 'field modifications' to trusses. The more that I work with engineers, the less that I trust them to come through for the client.

'Field modification' of trusses is very common in my area and my years of working with them points towards one simple truth: The entire roof must be either engineered trusses or compliant with an approved prescriptive method, period.

Filling in a roof with bits and pieces of field cut rafter, etc where trusses couldn't be fitted is not proper at all. I write that up every time.

Marc

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My question is not about if the trusses should be cut or not. My question is, if other inspectors do note this condition do they note it as a simple FYI or do the they scream "OMG, get a structural engineering firm ASAP!" I just don't want the thread to become an argument about trusses, I'm asking how other inspectors word their report on this particular issue. I apologize if I wasn't clear.

I was suggesting you point out the down side of cutting trusses and depending on how egregious the violation is you should recommend either a contractor repair the issue or that an engineer design a repair. I share Michael's view that most times a recommendation for an engineer is over the top but one must remember that many of the issues we report were caused by contractors... so suggesting that a contractor design and implement repairs to two violated trusses may, or may not be the best advice one could offer. There are too many variables to your question; it's not like asking us about what we say regarding a receptacle with reversed polarity.

Here's my best advice: you know what your skill set is, use that knowledge to give your client the best information and direction possible and while you're writing that down don't, even for a second, worry about what the realtors will think. That's my formula for reporting and thus far it's worked well for me.

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I have to admit that when I read Chad's initial response, I paused for a second on "tilt" thinking, "Hmm. Chad must not be feeling well... or.. Maybe it's turning 50?" [:-party]

Though often misunderstood, subtlety and subtext make life interesting.

I'm sure plenty of folks saw my post in Chad's birthday thread and thought, "Man, this Bain guy must hate this Fabry guy's guts . . . "

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Interesting thread.......

My take is always specific to the situation. Sometimes it's an engineer, sometime's it's a contractor, and sometimes it's "this is stupid, but it's doing anything and never will".

Depends on how badly they whacked up structural assembly more than what they did to a truss or two.

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IRC R802.10.4 Alterations to trusses.

Truss members shall not be cut, notched, drilled, spliced or otherwise altered in any way without the approval of a registered design professional.

Why would you recommend anything different?

I believe the original question was what to report when the damage is already done.

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IRC R802.10.4 Alterations to trusses.

Truss members shall not be cut, notched, drilled, spliced or otherwise altered in any way without the approval of a registered design professional.

Why would you recommend anything different?

It's a personal choice, but if the house hasn't displayed any adverse reaction to a DIY alteration, it seems silly to me to have a client spend four hundred bucks on an engineer who may or may not have a clue about what he's looking at.

Every case is different, but if a couple of chords were cut for access into an attic, I'm happy to explain to someone how some galvanized hangers and maybe some perpendicular blocking can make certain the assembly maintains stasis.

Whenever I have a client who's an engineer, I make a point of--politely--asking how much they know about building codes, framing, and foundational issues. Civil engineers by far are the most knowledgable. But the ones who are comfortable in their own skin freely admit they pretty much know nothing about residential construction.

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Every case is different, but if a couple of chords were cut for access into an attic, I'm happy to explain to someone how some galvanized hangers and maybe some perpendicular blocking can make certain the assembly maintains stasis.

John,

Do you explain that in the report, or verbally?

Here's what I found on a quick Google search:

Can trusses be modified at the jobsite?

NO, unless approved in advance. Superior Truss is legally responsible for the engineering integrity of the light gauge steel truss system. Only Superior Truss can authorize field repairs in writing in advance. The required modifications or repairs are required to be documented by engineered, stamped truss modification drawings designed specifically for the modification or repair. If modifications or repairs are completed without approved stamped truss modification drawings, all truss warranties and support will be null and void and the party making such modifications or repairs will take full legal responsibility for the structural performance of the roof system.

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Every case is different, but if a couple of chords were cut for access into an attic, I'm happy to explain to someone how some galvanized hangers and maybe some perpendicular blocking can make certain the assembly maintains stasis.

John,

Do you explain that in the report, or verbally?

Here's what I found on a quick Google search:

Can trusses be modified at the jobsite?

NO, unless approved in advance. Superior Truss is legally responsible for the engineering integrity of the light gauge steel truss system. Only Superior Truss can authorize field repairs in writing in advance. The required modifications or repairs are required to be documented by engineered, stamped truss modification drawings designed specifically for the modification or repair. If modifications or repairs are completed without approved stamped truss modification drawings, all truss warranties and support will be null and void and the party making such modifications or repairs will take full legal responsibility for the structural performance of the roof system.

A fair question, and also a deserved one. I realize it sounds namby-pamby to say it depends on the circumstances, the age of the house, and how long the stairs have been in place, but it’s the truth.

I verbally explain that someone has done something inane and it needs to be repaired. As for the report, though, I normally write something like, “The lower chords of two roof trusses were completely severed to accommodate the attic staircase. I didn’t observe any adverse consequences, but structural trusses aren’t permitted to be cut or altered in any way. It would be prudent to have an experienced carpenter reinforce the affected truss-chords to mitigate this condition.â€

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Charlie,

How many times have you been doing an inspection and you're talking to your client about a problem you found and you hear the seller chime in "My inspector never told me about that!"

Do you want to be THAT inspector? Do you want to spend money later on to fix something or hire someone to say it's cut but it's OK.

Tell them the manufacture and current codes prohibit modification to trusses without a design by the manufacture or engineer.

Detect- Evaluated- Direct.

Inform the buyer of everything, then it's up to them to decide the next move.

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Thanks John,

I just like to know what others do-- nothing more.

Taking it a step further, what’s the only legitimate repair? The stairs would have to be removed and the chords would have to be spliced. I hope I’m not wrong and don’t have to chew on my own words one day, but that seems a little over the top to me.

I typically copy and paste the exact wording from the code for CYA purposes-- dang litigious society. Depending on the modification, I'll often tell my clients that it will most likely never be an issue, buttttt............... When they go to sell the house, they may have a request to hire a PE, "properly" repair the truss, etc.

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"Civil engineers by far are the most knowledgable. But the ones who are comfortable in their own skin freely admit they pretty much know nothing about residential construction."

That's funny. When I built log homes the boss was a civil engineer who pretty much knew nothing about residential construction. His drawings were pretty horrendous too.

Tom

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"Civil engineers by far are the most knowledgable. But the ones who are comfortable in their own skin freely admit they pretty much know nothing about residential construction."

That's funny. When I built log homes the boss was a civil engineer who pretty much knew nothing about residential construction. His drawings were pretty horrendous too.

Tom

I don't want to paint with strokes that are too broad. There's a structural engineering group here that's excellent, but there are also some hacks. I think the engineers who are on top of their games when it comes to residential are autodidacts who learn codes and best practices post-college to supplement their wider knowledge base.

I have a friend who's a mechanical engineer. He designs cranes and it's fascinating how much thought and planning goes into the minutest of details. But when his dog chewed through his backdoor? He called me to show him how to hang the replacement door.

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Please correct me if I am wrong (don't tell my wife I said that), but I'm under the impression that there is another option besides prescribing an engineer for evaluation.

Although I haven't called myself, I thought that the truss manufacturer could be contacted for detailed repair information which could then be implemented by a qualified contractor.

In the case of the misdirected pull down stairs, I would think it's happened before and the detailed fix is readily available by the manufacturer. Am I just dreaming?

Wayne G

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Too many engineering hopefuls check their common sense at the door when they enter college. A few keep it with them.

Marc

It's funny, you just never know what to expect from the engineering gang. I have a geo-technical engineer that I refer out that is awesome - always seems to hit the nail on the head and is both informative and reasonable. He's hilarious - looks like an old gold prospector complete with a handlebar mustache, denims and suspenders. He never supposes anything - he gets out his shovel and finds out! I love that about him.

Now on the other hand, there's a structural engineer in the next town that is a favorite of the Realtors that candy coats just about every foundation. I've called for an engineer on foundations with cracks big enough to put a finger in and learned later that he was the engineer and "all is fine". I always wonder how he's able to keep insurance...

But, then, I guess it's no different than our own clan. I just did an inspection today on a foreclosure behind another inspector, whose client's financing fell apart, and apparently since October the circulator pump on the AquaTherm heating system died???? (At least I hope that's why it wasn't in the last request for repairs adendum. Fortunately, since the deal fell apart, he won't ever feel it, which is a blessing). To mis-quote Forrest Gump, "Home inpectors and Engineers are like a box of chocolates..."

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Although I haven't called myself, I thought that the truss manufacturer could be contacted for detailed repair information which could then be implemented by a qualified contractor.

In the case of the misdirected pull down stairs, I would think it's happened before and the detailed fix is readily available by the manufacturer. Am I just dreaming?

Hi Wayne,

Welcome to Newberg[:-slaphap

The truss manufacturer's often have a design professional on staff, but may hire out. From what I've seen, they do have ready made drawings for common field repairs. That's the first place I tell my clients look to for repair options.

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It's a personal choice, but if the house hasn't displayed any adverse reaction to a DIY alteration, it seems silly to me to have a client spend four hundred bucks on an engineer who may or may not have a clue about what he's looking at.

Well, the key is to find an engineer who actually DOES know what he's looking at! Engineering covers a very broad range.

Just because a cut truss hasn't displayed any adverse reactions really doesn't mean much. Trusses are designed for extreme conditions, and may not show any adverse signs until a high wind event or heavy snowfall. Seven years ago my area had a 3 foot snowstorm - more than we had ever recorded since this area was settled. A lot of people were unpleasantly surprised.

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