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  1. #1
    Amyann Perez's Avatar
    Amyann Perez Guest

    Default roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    I am new to this site am desperately looking for information / opinions. I am currently in contract to buy a 1926 bungalow in Chicago, IL. The inspection uncovered the roof rafters are separating from the ridge board in the attic. The seller has brought out 3 different contracts and states that the separation was done on purpose in a process called "hinging" where the roof is lifted at the edges to increase the height of the side
    walls. Then a technique called "scissoring" was used to save the roof and
    add sufficient support. They have stated that this seems to have been a common practice when the dormer was built (we believe it to be done in the 50s or 60s) and some still use it today.
    One of the contractors suggested reinforcing it by using "collar ties".

    We have asked that a structural engineer evaluate the situation before we proceed but, I am questioning the statement that "the separation was done on purpose". Is this normal practice? It is hard for me to believe (and trust a contractor vs a SE) that this is a valid way to install a dormer.

    I have attached pictures; any advice / comments is greatly appreciated!


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  2. #2
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    You are correct to be suspicious, from the look of the first pic. It is not common practice anywhere to leave rafters hanging like that.
    The correct way to install a dormer with a lower sloped roof would be to remove the old rafters and install new ones which fit properly up to the ridge.
    The braces in the other pics may be ok, not enough info. It was important to rest the support braces on walls below, so that is why you often see braces at odd angles and such.
    Odd supports and braces may be OK, but rafters, we expect to see uniform and well connected at both ends. Good luck with it.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  3. #3
    chris mcintyre's Avatar
    chris mcintyre Guest

    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amyann Perez View Post
    The inspection uncovered the roof rafters are separating from the ridge board in the attic. The seller has brought out 3 different contracts and states that the separation was done on purpose in a process called "hinging" where the roof is lifted at the edges to increase the height of the side
    walls. Then a technique called "scissoring" was used to save the roof and
    add sufficient support. They have stated that this seems to have been a common practice when the dormer was built (we believe it to be done in the 50s or 60s) and some still use it today.
    This is the biggest bunch of BS I have ever heard.

    If these 3 contractor think this acceptable they should have their license taken. Even if it was done on purpose and is common practice, it is still wrong, wrong, wrong!


  4. #4
    Tom Roon's Avatar
    Tom Roon Guest

    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    "Hinged roof" eh? Unless I saw some pretty big hinges, I don't think so. That is a practice often seen with dormers and hip roofs. It's called shoddy workmanship by useless people with a heartbeat and a hammer. After thousands of HI's in this age group, never saw it quite this bad and NEVER had anyone look me in the eye and try to justify it.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    If that was done on purpose ... someone needs a serious whippin' put on them, then take their license to do construction, and maybe even their .... okay I was going to say 'lives', as in 'get them before they get someone else, but ... that was because it is contractors who are that stupid who end up either killing people with their faulty construction.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  6. #6
    Amyann Perez's Avatar
    Amyann Perez Guest

    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Thank you for the feedback/opinions - it definitely validates my suspicions! I am interested to see what the Structural Engineer says.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Amyann,

    Certainly this first picture is odd. But none of the photos show the entire framing system. Are the photos from your inspector and what did he write in his report? If in fact the seller did bring in 3 contractors I'd be surprised if all 3 were wrong - even by Illinois' goofiness. I'm wondering if there's something we're not seeing in the photos. I could be wrong in not joining right in with the previous comments but I don't like to jump the gun when not all the information is available.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  8. #8
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    The method you describe has been common practice in Chicago throughout the past. It was often used when someone wanted to build a small dormer in an attic for a bathroom or increase the headroom at the top of the stairs. The method can be used for a full room dormer but its' use is somewhat restricted by size and weight. It isn't the best option but is safe and functional when properly done. This method is typically used mostly to save money or avoid municipal detection.
    Having used the aforementioned method many times over the last 30 years, I can tell you what those pictures show is not the traditional or correct procedure. Those pictures show a D&H condition that may not make the house safe for occupancy. Since the pictures are so small it isn't possible to know what else is going on. Either way, rafters hanging in air don't cut it.
    The pics also don't show any 'dormer' so the issue seems a bit confusing. You should consider having your attorney do a permit, violation and lien search on the property.
    In Chicago, violations run with the building, NOT the owner. (Unless there is a specific court order). You should verify the building hasn't been tagged by the DOB. If it has, there may be substantial costs at some point.
    Depending on various conditions and measurements, sistering SAE rafters to the existing to tie into the ridge beam may not be sufficient. The now shallower slope of the rafters may change the load calc enough so that the existing joists aren't large enough.
    If this repair is done complaint (with plans and permits) the DOB will likely require larger rafters. You Arch should be very careful how the plans are drawn to avoid higher costs. These bungalows typically have 2x6 and sometimes 2x8 1st floor ceiling joists. These are NOT sufficient for occupancy load. If you plan on rehabbing the attic into occupancy space, you will need to take this into consideration. Costs will be high.
    One of the common problems in such cases with older brick bungalows is the top of the walls get pushed out from incorrect load they were never meant to handle. Did you check the brick wall, sill plate and space between face and common walls in the attic? This will let you know if the roof load has caused damage to the exterior walls.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  9. #9
    Amyann Perez's Avatar
    Amyann Perez Guest

    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for your reply. The pictures are from the home inspection report and unfortunately, I don't have any pictures that show the entire framing system. The inspector wrote the following:

    "The roof rafters are separating from their connection to the ridge board in the attic. This condition can exert lateral pressure to the outside walls causing the top of the walls to bow outward and the ridge of the roof to drop. Shoring has been installed to help control the movement. This is a serious issue that should be evaluated by a structural engineer and a repair procedure developed or through the employment of a qualified carpentry contractor."

    He didn't mention anything about the dormer; that is what the seller is saying caused the rafters to separate.

    Amyann


  10. #10
    Amyann Perez's Avatar
    Amyann Perez Guest

    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Hi Markus –
    Thanks for your reply – your comments were very helpful and informative. I have attached a picture of the front of the house to display the dormer that was added (2 of the front of the house and 2 of the back of the house). Actually, now that I look at the picture more closely I understand what the seller was referring to when she stated “hinging” – where the roof is lifted at the edges to increase the height of the side walls. It almost looks like a whole addition was added (the non-brick part of the wall).

    We have asked the seller to bring in a structural engineer and haven’t heard but, if we do move forward with this property (pending the SE) – I will DEFINITELY have our lawyer do a permit, violation and lien search on the property as you suggested. Also, we did not check the brick wall, sill plate and space between face and common walls in the attic – I will definitely have this checked out too (hoping maybe the SE can determine?).

    Thanks for your feedback!
    Amyann


  11. #11
    Amyann Perez's Avatar
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Pictures attached

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  12. #12
    George Russell's Avatar
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    I'd love to hear what an engineer has to say about this. I was a framing carpenter for many years and this is crap.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    So they built a couple of crappy shed dormers. Based on the info so far, I would be very suspicious that they actually upgraded the floor joists. That bungalow probably has 2x6 floor joists in the attic originally. Depending on span, you may get by with 2x10 but 2x12 is typically the minimum standard these days.
    If they didn't pull permits and you ever get tagged for it by the City. Just to deal with a violation complaint costs can run 5-10K plus repairs or de-conversion.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  14. #14
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    One can review the Assessor's page/description and recorder of deeds information as well. Before inquiring with city offices you'll need to locate your ward information and verify which regional office site handles the location the home is situated in. I see no double trimmer rafters (minimum), and the shed dormer appears to extend beyond the front (street side) wall.That is what is known (politely) as "midnight construction". There is no way that "conversion construction" has passed an inspection (city). Temporary supports directly on single ceiling joists aren't right either.Of course the insulation (and assorted cigarette butts) aren't right either.M.K. is spot on, while the present owner/seller might have skated by, the purchaser will be "nailed"; presuming the roof "structure" doesn't collapse upon you first.


  15. #15
    Rich Treglia's Avatar
    Rich Treglia Guest

    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    wow this dosen't look safe to me.


  16. #16
    Ken Bates's Avatar
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Even if it is structurally ok, which it is not (lots of problems when shed dormers are added), someone has converted what was a reasonably attractive house into a tacky, butt ugly architectural abomination.

    Don't buy it.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Bates View Post
    Even if it is structurally ok, which it is not (lots of problems when shed dormers are added), someone has converted what was a reasonably attractive house into a tacky, butt ugly architectural abomination.

    Don't buy it.

    You tell people NOT to buy because YOU don't like the architectural look of a house?

    Seems to me that it THEY put in an offer that THEY like the looks of it.

    I guess we now have a new category to mark off: Home Inspector thinks house is: a) cute - buy it; b) okie dokie - buy it if you want to; c) butt ugly - don't buy it.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  18. #18
    Joao Vieira's Avatar
    Joao Vieira Guest

    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    yeah, seems pretty odd...inspectors and realtors should kind of impartial ???

    This is a future project for the attic of our house. Good value metal strapping could have avoided this easily.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: roof rafters pulling away as a result of dormer?

    Those rafters in picture #1 is not supporting anything and that is the purpose of "rafters" is to support sheathing and carry the roof load. That is not a good answer to say that they was left like that on purpose.

    Fred Sweezer Sr
    Home Inspections in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Surrounding Areas | Sweezer’s Inspection Service


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