Home Inspection Services vs. Engineering Services

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Here at CBS, we are often times called in to find deficiencies in the building performance of townhomes, condos, and single family dwellings.  The items including ice dams, heaving concrete, rot behind siding and moisture intrusion, just to name a few.

Today, most real estate transactions are based on contingencies subject to inspection of these dwellings.  Frequently, at Complete Building Solutions we are asked, “Why didn’t my home inspector find these issues?”

As I answer this question for people, I tell them that there is a notable difference between a home inspection and an engineering-consulting service such as CBS.  The bottom line is this: A home inspection service will typically be used to look over a home in its entirety to see if there are any obvious warning signs for buyers and sellers alike, and are typically done so in a noninvasive fashion.  These items include but are not limited to the installation of appliances such as the furnace and water heater to notable issues with the exterior such as the roof.  With this in mind, the home inspector may not find issues that are hidden.

So, when problems such as moisture intrusion, structural issues, ice dams, heaving concrete, etc. occur and manifest themselves, we at CBS as a construction engineering-consulting firm are called to perform a deeper level invasive investigation.  Complete Building Solutions will dismantle certain areas of homes to determine what is causing the issues, finding the root cause. Inversely, home inspectors do not invasively inspect for such issues that are a lot of time hidden from the naked eye. CBS finds the anomalies with an assessment, document and report our findings, and provide engineering based solutions to improve the dwelling’s overall performance.

Now, do not take this blog out of context.  There is a definite need and market for home inspection services and we at CBS have very positive relationships with many of the best in their field within the state of Minnesota.  As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago we had the honor of being invited to speak in front of 35 home inspectors that belong to the MSHI (Minnesota Society of Housing Inspectors) and are all ASHI Certified.  As I talked through all the issues that we find everyday on structures, I was beyond captivated by my audience of inspectors.  I found in the room a great deal of knowledge, attention to detail, and the overall sincere concern they hold in regards to their clients and the evaluations they provide for their homes.  This should come as no surprise however, because at the head of this organization sits Reuben Saltzman, of Structure Tech Home Inspections.  I have worked alongside of Reuben for many years and am thoroughly impressed with his detailed reports. We work hand in hand when Reuben finds issues that go beyond the home inspection realm and into the need for engineering.  He, along with other members of the MSHI, are very accredited individuals within the home inspection industry.

Here at Complete Building Solutions, we strive to make buildings perform the way they were intended to by presenting a realistic route to resolution, including estimates to have the necessary repairs made, so the home buyer knows exactly what the cure is for the home.  Knowledge is money, especially on the biggest investments we usually make in our lives: our homes.  So if you have building performance issues requiring detailed attention, no matter where you are in the home ownership process, please don’t hesitate to give us a call as we would be happy to assist you in any way we can.  For those of you in need of an accredited home inspector to perform that service specifically, please visit the ASHI website at http://www.ashi.org and search under the “Find a Home Inspector” tab.

And, as always, please check out our website at http://www.cbsmn.com  for continuing information on what we do in the home performance and engineering part of the construction industry.

Stay warm out there

Patio Door Malfunctions

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This time of year we tend to receive a lot of calls from homeowner associations regarding operational issues and failures related to patio door assemblies.  These include inoperable doors, locking devices not joining properly, weather stripping issues, cracked drywall finishes around door assemblies, etc.

In January, I spent a great deal of time with a 100 unit association on the east side of the Twin Cities and a 40 unit association on the south side.  CBS was called out to investigate failures in both sliding and French patio doors, finding that the bulk of them were inoperable.  While we found the doors themselves to have little to do with the problems, unit owners were less than thrilled because they bought into homes that contained quality name brand doors.

In the case of the 100 unit association on the east side of the Twin Cities, the patio doors were skirted by a concrete slab belonging to individual patios on the outside of the structure.  During the original build, the grade on the concrete slabs was improperly set and did not shed water away from the doors.  Instead, the grade actually invited water back under the doors.  On a molecular level, concrete has porous properties and because of that will absorb some amount of moisture.  During the winter months the concrete will freeze and thaw with the seasonal changes and the concrete and exterior building components that are now saturated will take on a new demeanor.  As the water turns into a solid state, the concrete slabs as well as framing members beneath the door begin to expand.  This expansion in materials causes the door itself to rise up.  Many of the doors cannot handle the increased expansion from the water turning to ice.  Sometimes the door itself will change enough to where the locking mechanism will not work, and often times the sheetrock finishes inside the home will crack above the door assembly as the entire frame moves up.  The natural warming of the spring weather turns the ice back into water and then allows the door to settle back into its original location.  Not only is this entire seasonal process a nuisance but the integrity of the building materials around the door are being jeopardized.

This situation can be corrected in one of two ways: the annual arrival of spring or by lasting, engineered solutions from CBS.

In the case of the 40 unit association on the south side of the Twin Cities, there are no elevated patios or decks.  Instead, there are walkout ground level concrete patios beneath the doors.  The failure in patio doors at this complex comes under the guise of unsuitable soils beneath the patio slabs with the absence of water management leading to the patio doors.  Many of the issues and damages are similar to the ones described above.  Water turning to ice in this case stems beneath ground level with water being invited back to the foundation by faulty soils at the concrete patios.  Expansion of the soils during the colder months pushes the concrete slab up against the door sill thus raising the entire frame of the door assembly.  The door frame and surrounding framing is no match for Mother Nature and the pushing forces that are instilled upon this component of the home.

Again, there are two ways to correct this situation: that annual arrival of spring or by lasting, engineered solutions by CBS.

A previous blog by another member of the CBS Team talks more in depth about negative grade, water management, and its lasting effects on your home.  If anything in this blog is a problem you are experiencing please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and end your patio door problems once and for all.