Any time you have a home inspected, your inspector will look at the structures and systems that make the house what it is. Naturally, he’ll look at the wood structures, like floors, walls, doors and windows.
There are four things that can cause wood structure problems. They are: 1) Deflection and warping, 2) Fungal and insect attack, 3) Fire, and 4) Connection failure and improper alteration. In this article we’ll look at fire damage and improper alteration.
Accidents happen, as we all know. A cooking fire in the kitchen may damage the area by the stove, or an electrical short may cause a small fire confined to a specific area in a basement or other room. A lightning strike might char the walls where the TV, computer, or other electronics are kept. Damage from such contained fires may be repaired, but they can be cause for concern for a prospective home buyer. She wants assurance that repairs were done properly and won’t be the source of problems for her later.
When wood is exposed to fire, it first turns brown, then blackens, then chars at a steady rate. Wood damaged by fire should be carefully probed to determine how badly it is charred. The burned part of the wood loses its structural strength. Unburned wood beneath should be all right, unless it has been exposed to prolonged heat. Taking away the charred parts is needed to determine the strength of the unburned parts.
When a wood structure is damaged, it may be reinforced by bolting additional structural members in a configuration that will restore the original design strength. However, it’s best to consult a structural engineer before repairing major structural beams in a home.
What do we mean by improper alteration? In short, problems can develop as a result of remodeling projects, such as making a basement or attic livable or redoing a kitchen or bathroom. A previous home owner may have hired the work done or tackled the remodeling himself. Workarounds of one kind or other may have been improvised. For example, pipes and ducts may have been added, which made it necessary to cut holes through rafters, joists or beams.
Open-web wood trusses are used in some homes as roof and floor structures. Trusses with wood chords and wood webs usually use metal plate connectors. If there’s evidence of moisture, your home inspector will check connectors for corrosion and look to see if anything has come loose or disconnected. When there’s moisture, glue laminated timber beams may become delaminated.
Where possible, your home inspector will check truss, rafter, and joist hangers for corrosion and proper nailing. He’ll look at wood trusses to see if there are any cuts through chords and webs in open web trusses. He’ll examine webs and flanges of plywood trusses.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to a home’s wood structures. That’s why it’s so important to have a home inspection done before you buy or sell a home to determine the condition of those structures and point the way to correcting any problems that can be dealt with.