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  1. #1
    Ryan Mentele's Avatar
    Ryan Mentele Guest

    Default bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    The house was completed in July of 2007. This winter the home owner noticed that all of the walls along the exterior of the house were bowing out ward. There is about a 3/8 inch gap between their cabnets and the wall. Upon further inspection every exterior wall is about 3/8 to 1/2 inch bowed outward. The interior walls are all plum. Approx. half of the corners are cracking and cracks are happening along ceiling. I have never heard of this and have talked to other inspectors in the area and they have no idea either. Has anyone seen this? Is their a cause to this problem? Builder says it is normal for studs to swell as they dry. But why is it only the exterior walls? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. #2
    Lee Nettnin's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Hi Ryan,
    First thing, never believe the builder. Wood studs will SHRINK when they dry out, and swell when they get wet.
    Is there enough/any insulation in the walls? Is there a vapor barrier in the walls? It is possible the studs are getting wet. Or the studs may not have been rated for for load bearing application and are bowing from the weight of the upper floor/roof.
    Studs and trusses will tend to do this in winter because the inside of the stud is warm (expands) and the outside of the stud is cold (contracts), something has to give, but I don't recall ever seeing a 1/2" bow.

    Last edited by Lee Nettnin; 03-15-2008 at 09:13 AM. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    A few questions:

    What is the cladding on the home?

    Conventional foundation, Basement or Slab?

    How many levels does the home have?

    What type of roof structure?

    Truss or conventional framing?

    Could you see any stressing (pulling, tearing, movement) of the shingles on the roof?

    What do the miter joints at the fascia boards, windows, etc., look like?

    Any pictures would be great.

    Also have the walls just started to bow or has it always been like this and the owner just never noticed?

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

  4. #4
    Edward Arsenault Sr.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Does the trusses have ties, sounds like they don't or are in the wrong place.
    let me know how it turns out, you got me interested


  5. #5
    MaMa Mount's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Ryan stated that the "Builder says it is normal for studs to swell as they dry."
    Studs don't swell when they dry; they shrink. They (studs) swell when they are wet.
    If you see a builder and his lips are moving he is more than likely lying.


  6. #6
    Ryan Mentele's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    The house is 2x4 construction. Ranch home with poured basement. Gable roof. insulated walls, partical board, don't know how thick, then tyvek with vinyl siding. shingles are looking fine, windows and doors are looking fine. Truss framing. the bowing was not there when first constructed. you can tell around the cabinets, they did some caulking and the caulking is not close to touching the cabinets now.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Ryan,

    Are the basement walls bowing also?

    Sounds like the backfill on the basement walls was not compacted correctly.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Could it be that the cabinets are too heavy and/or not mounted properly for a 2x4 exterior wall?

    The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    I know this contradicts some of your earlier information, but from the pictures, I have some questions.

    How do you know the walls are bowing outward?
    Think about this for a moment, If cabinets are on exterior walls which are hung from the ceiling and there is truss uplift, that could have the effect of pulling the bottoms of upper cabinets away from the wall.
    Not saying this is the answer, but I would go back over all of the clues and reconsider each one based on the assumption of truss uplift which would raise the center of the ceiling enough to cause cracks at several joints.
    Keep us posted, this is interesting.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  10. #10
    Ryan Mentele's Avatar
    Ryan Mentele Guest

    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Thank you to everyone who has responded thus far.
    I don't know if the basement walls are bowed or not, the basement has insulation on the walls and i did not want to tear that down but may have to. The hanging cabinets are secured to the wall, they are fine, out of plum, but fine. The cabinets sitting on the floor are the one's with the issue. The cabinets are plum and tight to the wall near the floor, my first thought was the floor was sagging but floors are all level. Floor joist in the basement are all level aswell. Also it is not just the walls with cabinets on them, it is every single wall touching the outside of the house.

    If anyone could give me an easy answer for this I would be greatly thankful, cause this issue is killing me.


  11. #11
    Brandon Chew's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Ryan,

    You say that every exterior wall is bowing outward. Does that include the gable end walls?

    You say that "every exterior wall is about 3/8 to 1/2 inch bowed outward" and "windows and doors are looking fine". Depending on the size, location, and type of window I think that could be possible for the windows but I don't see how that can be the case with the exterior doors, unless the jambs have pulled away from the framing.

    My advice: document your observations and punt the entire thing to a structural engineer.

    Let's look at two "worst case" scenarios if you screw up and happen to make the wrong call. No harm, no foul if you make the right call.

    Case 1: You call for an engineer and the engineer comes out and says there is nothing wrong. Buyer gets pissed at you and wants you to pay for the engineer's fee.

    Case 2: You continue to try to diagnose this yourself, including doing some invasive inspection such as pulling insulation off of walls. You miss something along the way, or draw incorrect conclusions. If every exterior wall is indeed bowing outward 3/8 to 1/2" there is most likely serious structural issues with this home which could cost many many thousands to repair.

    It sounds like a very interesting problem. I'd start by getting a copy of the house plans (built July 2007) and then doing a field visit to confirm your observations and what is on the plans.

    P.S. - if the builder did say that "it is normal for studs to swell as they dry" he's either lying or has a serious lack of understanding of one of the basic properties of wood, either of which does not instill a lot of confidence in his ability to deliver an acceptable product.

    Brandon W. Chew, P.E.

    P.P.S. - NAHB (read builder friendly) "Residential Construction Performance Guidelines" for wall framing allow for up to a 1/2" bow within an 8 foot vertical measurement or within a 32 inch horizontal measurement. I would not be worried if the bowing was just on a portion of a wall. But if it is along the entire wall and more than one wall is bowed, it's looking like a serious structural issue.

    Last edited by Brandon Chew; 03-16-2008 at 09:37 AM. Reason: add NAHB

  12. #12
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Mentele View Post
    partical board
    Ryan,

    First, though, you mean "OSB", not "particle board". You do not want the builder to call you on that, it would just make you look silly and ruin your entire position and argument.

    Second, from your photo, think about it in a different way ... the exterior walls are still plumb and straight, not bowing, however, *the floor* is bowing, causing the cabinets to rotate out at the top of the back splash (just like is shown in your photo). This would not cause the same effect at the interior walls (and you are not seeing that same effect at the interior walls).

    Did you put a level/laser/string on the walls to actually measure 'the bow'?

    What's on the floor? Roll a ball across the floor and see if it rolls straight, and all the way, and does not come back to some point.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Hi Ryan,
    I'm not sure if the photos of the Attic trusses I see are from the subject house or another; I was expecting to see wall photos. What you seem to be describing is all exterior studs bowed outward uniformly. If the attic pictures are correct for the subject house; I see a couple of appearent anomalies. First, I don't see any Eave ventilation provision at the ends of the roof trusses. The truss cavities appear to be closed 100% with OSB so how does the roof vent? Second, I don't see any Plastic Vapor barrier on top of the ceiling drywall. The lack of a vapor barrier in cold climates would allow the moisture generated within the house from normal living activities to move to and condense against the outside walls which would cause the studs to swell and bow outward. You can confirm the presence of a vapor barrier by looking behind a wall switch or outlet, by removing door or window interior trim or in the attic. If there is no vapor barrier and this region requires it; then the Builder is in substantial breach of IRC.


  14. #14
    Daniel Stone's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Everyone please take a look. I do not see ANY truss braces that are T-braces or at an angle. Basically, I'm not sure the attic is constructed right, and that 2x4's were skimped in the framing phase. My best guess is for the inspector to locate studs, and see if there is any post-through...in other words is there a stud underneath each and every truss, so that the load correctly carries through to the foundation. Most likely, this is due to poorly trained framers and a lousy city code inspector who passed the framing inspection without being strict. I doubt the house will bow any more, it just finally took the roof load and squashed a bit. If it were properly framed, it would have been thousands of an inch rather than 3/8 to 1/2 inch.
    Any takers?
    Thanks,
    Dan


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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Stone View Post
    Everyone please take a look. I do not see ANY truss braces that are T-braces or at an angle.
    "T" braces are not always required, depends on the engineering, the old way, which is STILL acceptable if so engineered, is to install the lateral braces *which are visible* between the diagonal webs.

    The reason for the "T" braces is to strengthen the webs to keep them from bowing / deflecting, and those lateral braces will do that.

    in other words is there a stud underneath each and every truss, so that the load correctly carries through to the foundation.
    Again, not required.

    Frame the walls up, use double top plates, and that eliminates most, if not all, of those problems.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  16. #16
    Daniel Stone's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    No doubt, Jerry, but from a framer's frame of reference and not from an inspector's, not one of those braces is off-kilter --- they are all perpendicular to the board they are nailed on. Also, I was looking to the end (a little hard to see), and I beg to differ sir. There should be T-braces at the gable, I see none. You can quote code all day long but until you've seen 19 out of 23 trusses start to fall over like a horrible dominoe dream, (due to inexperience), it is a lesson that only needs to be learned once. I offer this as a plausible explanation to the problem from only the perspective that the attic pictures show. Just one thing to check, so to speak. Obviously, there could be a myriad of other reasons. As far as the double top plate, yes, but I guess it's just a quality choice. I've always posted through, or as close as possible. Especially around stairs.
    One more thing, as a former framer, I got into the habit of "crowning" my studs so when I laid out my walls, they were always "crown-up". Then, when the walls were lifted, the bow was to the outside. Of course, it always straightened out with the OSB nailed properly but the ever-so-slight bow of each individual stud was in the same direction - out. Is it then possible, with the shrinking/drying out of the lumber that the bow slightly increased and pulled away from the floor cabinets? I think so, but certainly not more than an unnoticeable 1/16" of an inch. 3/8" is a lot.
    Unfortunately, I wish I could go and look. I love the challenge.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Stone View Post
    There should be T-braces at the gable, I see none.
    Again, not required unless the loads and engineering calls for them.

    You can quote code all day long but until you've seen 19 out of 23 trusses start to fall over like a horrible dominoe dream,
    I've seen several houses with the entire sets of trusses fallen over, and most I watched them go from the ground.

    None of your "T" braces would stop that - that is not what "T" braces are for.

    If you think "T" braces will stop that from happening, you will see the trusses falling ... again ... and again ... and again ...

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    t braces are used typically on a gable end where the flat studs exceed 8' in height. it is used in areas with high wind speeds to strengthen the high gable walls it is pretty much a generic bracing detail that is applicable to any truss installation with the 8' plus studs. they may help prevent the domino effect but that is not the purpose of them.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Stone View Post
    .... is there a stud underneath each and every truss, so that the load correctly carries through to the foundation. Most likely, this is due to poorly trained framers and a lousy city code inspector who passed the framing inspection without being strict. ......
    Any takers?
    Thanks,
    Dan

    In general framing, studs are not required to be beneath each and every truss if a double top plate is used. When was the last time you saw single top plate?

    The purpose of the braces to provide lateral support (stiffen them up so to speak) to the longer web pieces of the truss when needed because of the loading on the truss after it is erected and roofing installed. The diagonal bracing you seem to be referring to and as seen on the truss installation drawings are temporary construction support braces used while the trusses being put into position and then squared up, then removed after the roof sheathing is installed.
    The gable end wall, as a whole, is not tall enough to need bracing. If you lighten up the picture and brighten it a bit, you can see the web members between the top and bottom cords. It looks like there may be a diagonal brace running from the peak of the gable end wall truss to a wall top plate or strong back.
    The purpose of any truss bracing is to keep the truss square and perpendicular, the only condition where it is strong. Any other position and its just so much kindling.

    Last edited by Inspector 3500; 03-21-2008 at 07:50 PM. Reason: spellin

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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Inspector 3500,

    We use real names here.

    Please click on the "Contact Us" button at the bottom of the page and ask Brian to change your name to your real name.

    Thanks

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  21. #21
    Patrici Blystone's Avatar
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    Question Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by MaMa Mount View Post
    Ryan stated that the "Builder says it is normal for studs to swell as they dry."
    Studs don't swell when they dry; they shrink. They (studs) swell when they are wet.
    If you see a builder and his lips are moving he is more than likely lying.

    I have a problem with my house the braces are bowed and i have a busted water pipe in my walls. Is there anything I can do to the person that sold me this house even though it has been 15 years ago. The foundation is cracked. I had to treat for termites within the first few months. I was unaware that the seller would have to pay for that at all. My house is slowly sinking. everybody tells me it is because the ground is dry. I always thought if something is wet it will sink.
    How do I fix a brace that is bowed? I know it is a major repair. I live by the gulf of mexico where we get hurricanes a lot. If the realtor failed to disclose the fact that my house was underwater during Hurricane Alica hit this area do I have a leg to stand on legally?

    Help in Texas and Ike on the way.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrici Blystone View Post

    I have a busted water pipe in my walls.

    The foundation is cracked. My house is slowly sinking.

    How do I fix a brace that is bowed?

    do I have a leg to stand on legally?

    Help in Texas .
    .
    Patrici,

    I would suggest.

    Contact a Plumber. ( busted water pipe in wall. )

    Contact a Structural Engineer. (Foundation Issues.)

    Contact an Attorney. ( Legal Issues. )

    Contact a Contractor. ( Other Building Issues. )

    In that order.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrici Blystone View Post
    I have a problem with my house the braces are bowed and i have a busted water pipe in my walls. Is there anything I can do to the person that sold me this house even though it has been 15 years ago.
    Unlikely. If it was something they were aware of, this would have likely occurred long before now.

    The foundation is cracked.
    Concrete does two things:

    1) it gets hard

    2) it cracks

    Thus, it depends on the cracks, and for that you would need to have someone come out and inspect it.

    For structural cracking, you might as well get a structural engineer out, a home inspector would most likely refer structural cracking to a structural engineer anyway.

    My house is slowly sinking. everybody tells me it is because the ground is dry. I always thought if something is wet it will sink.
    A structural engineer may ('may') be able to help with that, but more likely you would need a soils engineer to determine the bearing capacity of the soil, the structural engineer would then use that bearing capacity of the soil and design repairs around it.

    How do I fix a brace that is bowed? I know it is a major repair.
    Back to the structural engineer.

    I live by the gulf of mexico where we get hurricanes a lot. If the realtor failed to disclose the fact that my house was underwater during Hurricane Alica hit this area do I have a leg to stand on legally?
    Legal advice would need to come from an attorney, but, more than likely, yes ... however, waiting 15 years to do anything about it ... probably puts you in a slim to none position of getting anything from them. Something like that should have been addressed as-soon-as you found out, and, if much time has passed, you would need to prove the agent knew.

    Help in Texas and Ike on the way.
    Yes, Hurricane Ike is on the way, and the latest projections (from tonight) make it a Cat 3 when it makes landfall somewhere between Corpus Christi and Houston. That's approximately 200 miles of coastline, and, if it hits dead center, it will be worst on the northern side.

    It seems that if it took 15 years for things to happen or get to the point that you are tired of them, then you likely waited 10-15 years too long to do much of anything. Just guessing here, but even at 5 years after you bought the house, if it was bad enough to have been known and not disclosed, it would likely have already happened. And you are 10 years past that point.

    At this time, I doubt your money would be well spent on an attorney. However, it sounds like your money would be well spent on a structural engineer before anyone else.

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 09-10-2008 at 05:40 AM. Reason: speelin'
    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  24. #24
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    The seller of a home does not have to pay for or fix anything at all. The home can be sold as it stands. Disclosure is another story. If the seller or the Realtor new the home was flooded at one time they should have disclosed it.

    This is one of those , I am only going to speculate as to the condition of the home and the reason for it.

    Don't think for any reason at all that anyone is responsible for anything or that the seller has to repair anything or treat for anything. That is simply not true. As mentioned above disclosure is the law. If something were done to the property before you bought it and it was not disclosed and was known by the seller and realtor then you have a case for something, who knows what.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Ryan, is there any chance the builder got a great deal on pressure treated lumber and used it on the exterior walls?


  26. #26
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    I'm with Daniel on this one. I believe the framer "crowned" all the studs causing a bow OR crowned 2 or 3 in a row one way the crowned 2 or 3 studs with the crown to the inside. That would give an appearance of being twice as bad as it actually is! (old framer here too!)

    I just can't see studs bowing that way unless there was one heck of a load that wasn't figured in at the time the structure was built!


  27. #27
    Patrici Blystone's Avatar
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    Question Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Stephens View Post
    .
    Patrici,

    I would suggest.

    Contact a Plumber. ( busted water pipe in wall. )

    Contact a Structural Engineer. (Foundation Issues.)

    Contact an Attorney. ( Legal Issues. )

    Contact a Contractor. ( Other Building Issues. )

    In that order.
    Billy,

    does it matter how long you have owned your house to contact an attorney? The foundation was cracked and I found out about that after I bought the house. In addition, I found out my house was under water in 1983. I purchased the house in 1992. boy did they drop a bomb in my hand. The day I purchased the house I had plumbing, air conditioning problems. I had to replace central air that cost me 7000.00 dollars. Plus, I had over $25,000 dollars in damage due to the fact the drip pain was all plugged up. I kept using this guy that my friend recommended all the time to fix my a/c. I could have bought 3 central units for the money i laid out to him. He just kept taking advantage of me all the time. I guess being a woman doesn't help and being disabled only compounds the problems.
    I have owned this house at least 15 years. I have documentation of all the money spent on the plumbing though.
    Will that help me?

    Help me in texas and Ike is coming straight for me now


  28. #28
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Patrici,

    I am but a lowly home Inspector not an Attorney.

    Much less a Texas Real Estate Attorney.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: bowed stud walls along exterior of house

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrici Blystone View Post
    Ike is coming straight for me now
    Then there is no need to worry ... just cross your fingers that it does not change course, hopefully your insurance is paid up, and wait for 'good things to happen'.

    Just make sure you keep your insurance papers and your insurance agent's phone number dry and close by.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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