Concerned about Structural Damage

 Structural DamageQuestions and Answers

Structural Damage questions

Hello Tony,

We finally got a house in a very good location, but I am concerned about possible structural damage.
Most (10 double hung + 1 Casement) windows are rotten . This per se is not a big problem but I am wondering if there is possible rot beyond that (Inspector does not think so but cannot promise)
A few of the wood shingle sidings are rotted (just a layer touching ground on one side) — again , not a big problem but is there something hidden?

There are other problems like the HVAC ducts are routed through concrete floor. These need to be routed through wall or ceiling.  Also there is no landscaping, faded paint , old carpet (with hardwood under) etc. .

I know we will need to spend some money and we are ready for it. We are even planning for an addition (bumping out living room adding about 100 sft and adding a bath in lower level laundry room). I am budgeting about 80 – 90 K for all work including addition .. wondering if it is too low.

What is bugging me most is possible structural damage around the rotted windows …. I am wondering how much the bad rot might have spread inside and trying to assess worst case scenario . Any help is very appreciated.

If it helps, the house has wood shingles siding and siding are mostly good except for a layer where it is touching ground. The paint has faded but not something like blistering or peeling.

We are in Boston suburb


Structural Damage answer

Hi Patrick,

Congratulations on your new home purchase. As I have obviously not inspected the home and being unfamiliar with construction costs in your area I am unable to advise you on any financial considerations. Of the construction related issues you outlined the two that raise concern with me are the windows and the ground contacting siding.

If the window jambs were wrapped and flashed properly during installation the underlying substrate should be fine. If they were not wrapped properly structural damage may have occurred. It is difficult to know with certainty, the extent of any possible damage, without removing either the windows, some siding or drywall to expose the framing for direct inspection.

It is unlikely however, that substantial structural damaged has occurred without leaving some outward sings of the damage. You can make a noninvasive inspection of the windows that should determine if any damage is severe enough to compromise the structural integrity of the house.

Noninvasive indicators of structural damage include water stains or defective areas of drywall or plaster under or around the windows especially if moisture is still evident. Water stains, discoloration, swelling and/or moisture on the base board or floor in the vicinity of the windows may also be an indicator. On the outside,indicators include, decayed or deformed siding along with moisture or signs of moisture.

A direct test for structural damage may be performed by placing both hands on the window casing just above the sill and giving a brisk shove. Start out with a lighter touch and increase the force with each subsequent shove. A window with sound framing should feel very rigid with barley discernible flexing of the wall. If significant structural damage has occurred, a hard shove should result in noticeable deflection and a much more flimsy feeling wall.

Siding should not be in contact with the ground and ideally should be a minimum of six inches above grade. The yard should be landscaped to provide drainage away from the foundation and maintain the six inch margin. No flower beds, mulch, soil, landscaping timbers, fire wood, loose brick, block, or edging should be in contact with the siding. Even if the siding is above grade any thing that forms a shaded crack or crevice may allow termites to build mud tunnels to access the house. Siding or framing that is in contact or in near contact with the ground is not only venerable to decay but to termite infestation. Any area of siding or framing that has been in contact with the ground should be thoroughly inspected for termite infestation or past termite damage even if they are no longer active.

I hope you have good fortune renovating your new home and that I have been of some service to that end.


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About Tony Wood

Tony is a life time resident of North Carolina with over 40 years experience in multiple facets of the industrial, commercial and residential construction industry. For the past 33 years he has owned and operated Wood's Home Maintenance Service, providing services primarily in Johnston, Wake and Sampson Counties of North Carolina. ______________ ______________________________________________________ The information contained in this Blog is opinion derived, from hands on experience of over 40 years in the construction industry and by extensive research by the author. All postulations are referenced to the geographic location in which this experience was gained.
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