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  1. #1
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    Default This house was on fire!

    This is the first time I have ever seen a house that had burned. The buyer still wants to buy the house and not sure all what he needs to know other than what we can see. It appears to be an old fire as the roof deck would be plywood or OSB if this was less than 20 years or so I would think. They left the burned rafters in place and installed new material next to the burned as you can see. The insulation and ventilation is inadequate. I am not sure of the extent of the fire and how much water and smoke damage there was. Any thoughts on what my client needs to know due to this fire damage.

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    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  2. #2
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Some of that charring looks fairly deep in the rafters. I'm surprised they left so much of that framing in place. If the framing is stable, it should at the very least be sealed to help keep the burnt wood smell from leaching off in the heat that builds up in attics.

    Did you probe any of the rafters or roof deck boards to see how deep the fire damage goes?

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  3. #3
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Thanks Nick, yes I did probe several rafters and roof deck and it is not deep and still solid. Good ideas!

    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  4. #4
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    tell them to run

    cvf


  5. #5
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Fire damage can be all over the home and you might never see or know it. Depending on the amount of heat and location you can have damage to the thermal window seals; electrical wiring(think melted insulation); Not to mention the reduction of the woods flashpoint from it being heated (think charcoal briquets!), this is called pyrosis (sp).

    Tell them they need to get their insurance to pull a CLUE report before the buy it.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    ask city inhabitant permit after fire


  7. #7
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    They should consider the repercussions of trying to sell that place someday.

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

  8. #8
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Really great information all you guys. Thanks I appreciate it, I will advise him tomorrow on the CLUE report from the insurance company and call for permit information, when the fire occured and talk to him about the resale issue. I think he wants to check out all his options before he walks.

    Thanks again.

    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  9. #9
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    what did the disclosure report say--did the seller agent mention fire or boom did you just find it--that should have been disclosed--clue report can only be pulled by seller agent as far as i know

    cvf


  10. #10
    William Richardson's Avatar
    William Richardson Guest

    Cool Re: This house was on fire!

    Heck, that's a good one. I live in Florida. If your customer wants a seasonal place, I have some great swamp land I could sell them. Lol


  11. #11
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Nick is right. The burned wood should be sealed to lock out the smell. I had a garage fire back in 1997 that charred some of the rafters over my adjacent living room and the remediation contractor sealed all of the wood in the attic to lock out the smell. Even wood that is not charred will have been infiltrated with smoke.
    As far as resale goes, I think a lot of people would be turned off to see such extensive charring.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    I've inspected 4 or 5 houses that have had past fires but none were as bad as this one seems to be. I would obviously take lots of pictures, explain it to them and also mention the resale thing which I always do when there is major stuff the client seems to be OK with. I would also put "unable to determine the condition of underlying or hidden materials" in the report at the end of your explanation of the problem.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    I think comments so far are excellent. It will at least be interesting if a history of ownership at time of fire and since, might be discovered. I bet it might have sold successfully more than once, and this buyer's attitude is not unusual. Other factors weigh more.

    The buyer might find comfort in my story of a very similar fire survivor:


    If there is a contractor like me in your city, the attic can be restored to an asset. I don't think covering things up adds value. The gable end wall looks worst, where involved roof sheathing was totally replaced, and there might be excuse to dress that wall cosmetically in adding a window or other feature for better attic ventilation. Roof vents seem absent, and the buyer might follow my druthers for my example: louver-protected gable windows generally carrying ambient air through the attic in warmer weather. Add a solar-powered fan for good air flow in peak heat, and static rise too, at night.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Back in the day (in Dallas), I repaired several burnouts. The city guidelines were straight forward. If there was any alligator scale, that wood had to be removed and replaced. Even shallow char can make an alligator scale. Any melted wire insulation, even miniscule melt; that wire had to be replaced. All affected insulation had to be removed and replaced. Scorched areas had to be sealed with stain killer primer (Kilz for us). We always sealed all drywall surfaces too. Smoke goes everywhere.

    That house screams "Run Away!" (Not that you should say that) When you see fire damage that is unresolved and improperly repaired, you definitely have to wonder about what you can't see and communicate that concern to your client. The CLUE report is a great idea. The buyer's insurance agent can easily pull that. Also, the city should have an incident report unless the fire was many years ago. Frequently very old records are gone. However, imo, that isn't your job. Just advise the buyer and their agent to check those things.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    What's really odd is how deep the charring looks on the sides of the rafters but the undersides on many were not even touched.

    Like John said earlier, I will often tell my clients they might be fine accepting a condition and living with it. But when they go to sell the house down the road, they need to hope that future buyers will be OK with it as well. If the buyers are not, cost of repairs/replacement will be on you as the owner. This always gets them thinking.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  16. #16
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    re:""What's really odd is how deep the charring looks on the sides of the rafters but the undersides on many were not even touched. "

    I think what we are seeing there is a charred rafter with a doubled new rafter on the other side. You see the bottom of the new wood, and it looks like the bottom of the charred one. Easy to do because the charred rafter does not have nice sharp edges anymore.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Quote Originally Posted by gary carroll View Post
    re:""What's really odd is how deep the charring looks on the sides of the rafters but the undersides on many were not even touched. "

    I think what we are seeing there is a charred rafter with a doubled new rafter on the other side. You see the bottom of the new wood, and it looks like the bottom of the charred one. Easy to do because the charred rafter does not have nice sharp edges anymore.

    You're right. I breezed right past where Dan mentioned in his original post that new rafters had been installed next to the burned rafters.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  18. #18
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Dan,

    I've seen a lot of house that had fires and were repaired or covered over.

    This is what I tell my clients and include in my reports:

    1. Structures that have had fires require notification and approval by town officials for re occupancy.
    2. Fires usually warrant replacement of most all electrical branch wiring and outlets.
    3. Wood damaged by fire requires repair or replacement, especially structurally members.
    3. Charred wood will give off an odor for years, and typically requires sealing.
    4. Fire suppressant usually involve water which result in significant water damage to interiors, finishes, etc and require major repairs.

    Recommendation:

    1. Check with the local town officials and Fire department for any records, permits and approvals.
    2. Ask owner about the history of the fire, when, where and repairs made.
    3. If unknown or no records available, Recommend further investigating by a licensed "fire restoration or contractor" or simliar - now and prior to purchase.

    Ken Amelin
    Cape Cod's Best Inspection Services
    www.midcapehomeinspection.com

  19. #19
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    All you guys are very helpful to me and I appreciate it. A structural engineer was recommended before closing and the clue report will be done by his insurance company, not even sure if they will insure this house. I will let you know what he does as I know you might be courious of the finding. Its always great to get feedback on what to do or say. Thanks

    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  20. #20
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
    Garry Blankenship Guest

    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    I am wondering what service you can be. I believe all components need inspection and reports from licensed professionals, ( structural / engineer in this case, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, exterior, interior & roofing ). At a minimum all systems should be deferred to licensed pros.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Might want to pull that pic down Dan. I was able to look up the listing on line using the house number and your area. The house by the way looks very clean and bright inside in the listings as opposed to the black charred attic pics.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  22. #22
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    WOW! It's almost like we looked at the same house. I was in one last Friday that looked like your pictures. The home I looked at was built in the 40's and the couple living there had been there for 43 years. The fire was before their time and they weren't sure how much damage there was. All the charred wood had "new" wood framed next to it and everything seemed to be holding. Before I even made it to the attic, I noticed that the kitchen had been updated (around 1970).

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  23. #23
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Thanks Nick, good idea!

    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  24. #24
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Update!!!
    The structural engineer said that as long as the burned charred part (alligatoring) is no more than 1/4" deep then the structure is acceptable and is OK. If it is more than 1/4" deep then the wood needs to be replaced or new wood installed along side of the existing fire damaged wood. He said the integrity of the rafters and roof deck, gable ends that were not replaced were all less than 1/4" deep and is OK, wrote a letter and signed off on it.

    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  25. #25
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Hagman View Post
    Update!!!
    The structural engineer said that as long as the burned charred part (alligatoring) is no more than 1/4" deep then the structure is acceptable and is OK. If it is more than 1/4" deep then the wood needs to be replaced or new wood installed along side of the existing fire damaged wood. He said the integrity of the rafters and roof deck, gable ends that were not replaced were all less than 1/4" deep and is OK, wrote a letter and signed off on it.
    Hey, if the PE signed off on it then it is their problem now!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  26. #26
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Thoughts. Even if the structural engineer says "it's safe to proceed", I'm thinking an insurance company would never insure this home. Also, all systems need to be evaluated by certified or licensed professionals. Lastly, it's possible an insurance claim was paid out on this incident, but the homeowner just cashed the check...??


  27. #27
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Hagman View Post
    Update!!!
    The structural engineer said that as long as the burned charred part (alligatoring) is no more than 1/4" deep then the structure is acceptable and is OK. If it is more than 1/4" deep then the wood needs to be replaced or new wood installed along side of the existing fire damaged wood. He said the integrity of the rafters and roof deck, gable ends that were not replaced were all less than 1/4" deep and is OK, wrote a letter and signed off on it.
    And Folks, that's it..............almost.

    In the future, I'd still write it up. Sheesh, 1/4" of char on both sides of a 1 1/2" thick board makes it a 1" board. Well, shucks, if 1" is plenty, then we can save a pile of money building homes.

    Be sure to pass this on. 1X3 1/2 is now plenty good for framing. Yee haw!


  28. #28
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Thanks for all your thoughts, just thought you all might want to know what the PE said. This was a 25-30 year old fire, we think, the house has new copper supply with 1" at the meter, newer water heater, 1 year old HVAC, newer 100 amp service, most of the systems were updated. house has sold a few times and the remediation company is unknown. As far as the insurance, it is up to the buyer to talk to his agent about that. I informed him of the possible resale issues in the future but he is OK with that. I think I wrote up everything I could think of and the PE signed off on it and the buyer is satisfied so I have done all I can do. SOLD! I am just happy the PE signed off on the structure even after my comments. You guys have alot of great thoughts amd wisdom!

    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  29. #29
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    I agree. You did your job, made your concerns known, recommended appropriate experts, and that is all any of us can do.


  30. #30
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    got mine beat..

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  31. #31
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Here is a good article on structural members damaged by fire

    http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pd...05_ross005.pdf

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  32. #32
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Thanks Don, good information.

    Dan Hagman
    ProSite Home Inspections
    Des Moines, Iowa

  33. #33
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    ]I have that beat, my living room floor is now in the basement suite. we had a fire nov 3, 2012. Still don't know the reason for the fire. electrical, gas fireplace, us , tenants, and arson all ruled out. Insurance is going to cover us but tenant didn't have insurance. No one was hurt as no one was home, but after the fire we had 2 break in's too. The stink from the fire is still evident from the street and the restoration company says that all drywall in the entire house will be removed in order to seal the joists, studs, etc. that were not burnt, but will smell of smoke.

    went here and tried posting pic's http://www.inspectionnews.net/home_i...-pictures.html and followed instuctions but still can't see pic's

    a further note to hi's have your customers read fine print on insurance policy. they will be surpized to find out bylaw coverage means any new bylaws concerning upgrades required by new bylaws ie for basement suites etc are not covered by insurance unless you have it in there. most basic coverages do not. we had 2 mil coverage and 453k of which is house, but still not covering upgrades for electrical and building code requirements in order to have basement suite.

    Last edited by Bill Hetner; 12-14-2012 at 06:02 PM.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    ok this is main floor of my house.

    thanks again Jim L. for the help

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  35. #35

    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    In our area City Building inspectors require all black smoke damage be replaced!!


  36. #36
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    Default Re: This house was on fire!

    Bill,

    One of things I learned was that there is "replacement insurance" and "replacement to code". My agent suggested I take the latter because I was purchasing a home built in 1955 and there had been quite a few code changes since then. It made perfect sense. 4 years into our ownership we had a supply hose on the dishwasher break when we were gone for the day. Claims adjuster drops the ball and never notifies the restoration company. We mop things up and two weeks later the soggy dog/ mold smell is getting bad. Call agent and he gets restoration company onsite who tells us we have mold growing in the walls and under cabinets. Contractors tells us its a tearout to the studs. Electrical service can't handle new circuits so not only do we need a new panel but they have to move the service to the side of the home. Quote is $4,500 - all covered under replacement to code, Plumbing doesn't meet code and needs new vent through roof line -$800 all covered under replacement to code. All toll there was probably $7,000 that were code upgrades that were picked up that we had to pay for if we had plain old replacement insurance.

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  37. #37
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    Default char removal

    Since the structural component is now on the P.E., the main remaining issue is odors. If this persist, they can get it media blasted with dry ice. This can strip away the char exposing the wood. The debris will need to be collected and removed but it works. The operator would need to wear SCBA since the attic would fill with CO2 which displaces oxygen.

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

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