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  1. #1
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    Default The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    This deck pulled away from the house last weekend here in my town. Typical scenario, rental unit....college kids having graduation party....loud crack... deck collapses...21 people hurt and off to the hospital, worst injury is a compound fracture of one ankle.

    The article in the paper quoted the local building inspector as saying the deck was built under permit 13 years ago and did have ledger bolts. The article also said the house was sold 3 years ago and was inspected at that time by a local home inspector. Whatever that inspector documented in his report, he has to have had a nervous week. The graduates on that deck were all from W&L which is a very expensive law school....lots of parents who are lawyers send their kids there. Yikes.

    The building inspector commented that initial discovery shows the ledger bolts were not sufficiently installed into structural timber. I did not see any signs of flashing when I went buy for a look. Whether the bolts were installed correctly or not...13 years of water intrusion and the associated deterioration will leave those bolts with not much to hold onto.

    So who's got the best narrative for informing clients in a non alarming way, that the ledger bolts on the perfect house you're inspecting for them, look a little suspicious?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post

    So who's got the best narrative for informing clients in a non alarming way, that the ledger bolts on this perfect house that they are already emotionally invested in, look a little suspicious?
    Looking at the Photos/ end result, do you really want to report an item like this in a "non alarming way" ?

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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    My question was not referring to the disaster in the pictures, obviously that failure is self expanatory.

    I was pondering a situation we have all been in. Your under a deck were the bolts are there but don't look installed properly. Do you choose to comment on what experience tells you is not a suitable install or do you fall back on "it's a visual only inspection" and I can't see in the wall ?

    Put another way...What specific criteria do each of us use in regards to properly fastening a deck to the building?

    Last edited by Robert Foster; 05-22-2010 at 11:21 AM.

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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    My question was not referring to the disaster in the pictures, obviously that failure is self expanatory.

    I was pondering a situation we have all been in. Your under a deck were the bolts are there but don't look installed properly. Do you choose to comment on what experience tells you is not a suitable install or do you fall back on "it's a visual only inspection" and I can't see in the wall ?
    If I saw any sign that the bolts were not installed properly, or any signs of moisture due to lack of flashing, I would raise a BIG flag, and recommend correction before using.
    I suspect a lawyers big gun would consider me missing this, and would indicate that I failed to properly report what I should have seen, or should of detected by probing the wood that the deck was connected to.

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  5. #5
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    Unhappy Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Looks like a pretty good size wrap around deck. From the photos it appears to be supported by 4x4s and I do not see a whole lot of them. Be nice to see a before picture. The ledger bolting is the easiest thing to get right in building a deck,including proper flashing, so I am wondering how many and how installed posts. Besides, twenty-one people hurt, but how many people were actually on the deck. I can see legislation in some body's mind as to require loading limitations on all decks on the second story or above.


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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    I can see legislation in some body's mind as to require loading limitations on all decks on the second story or above.
    How would that be enforced?

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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    So who's got the best narrative for informing clients in a non alarming way, that the ledger bolts on the perfect house you're inspecting for them, look a little suspicious?
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Harris View Post
    Looking at the Photos/ end result, do you really want to report an item like this in a "non alarming way" ?
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    I was pondering a situation we have all been in. Your under a deck were the bolts are there but don't look installed properly. Do you choose to comment on what experience tells you is not a suitable install or do you fall back on "it's a visual only inspection" and I can't see in the wall ?
    So ... where does the "non alarming way" come in and why do you as the home inspector care?

    Would you rather "non alarm" them and be the home inspector who inspected that deck, or "alarm" them and not have that happen?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    If you see something hazardous as such I say "alarm" the hell out of them. I could care less who's gets upset about it.

    rick


  9. #9
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    the lack of lateral bracing seems to me the primary culprit of this deck collapse.
    looks like a crappy design and real bad inspections.


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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Pultar View Post
    the lack of lateral bracing seems to me the primary culprit of this deck collapse.
    Your eyes are better than mine. I can't tell from the wreckage whether or not lateral bracing was installed at the posts or on the underside of the deck.

    From the photos (as that is all I have to go on) it appears to me the primary culprit of this deck collapse is improper attachment to the structure of the house. For one thing, it appears the ledger was installed over the siding. (That is a no-no.). And, as was noted earlier, the ledger was not properly flashed which caused decay of the ledger and the wood it was attached to.

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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Whether I'm wearing the hat of a home inspector, a husband, a father or a friend, experience has taught me that a well thought out "non alarming" delivery is always better for one simple reason....it yields better results, because it's more likely to result in positive action instead of a negative emotional reflex that shuts the process down.


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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Whether I'm wearing the hat of a home inspector, a husband, a father or a friend, experience has taught me that a well thought out "non alarming" delivery is always better for one simple reason....it yields better results, because it's more likely to result in positive action instead of a negative emotional reflex that shuts the process down.
    I've been seeing a number of recent posts asking about 'non alarming' wording, not saying you are the only one as I don't keep track, BUT ... "experience has taught me that ... "

    ... saying 'It is starting to get warm in here, and you should expect it to continue to get warmer.' ... DOES NOT ... and I repeat ... DOES NOT "yield better results" than simply saying "FIRE!".

    IT IS NOT ... I repeat .. NOT ... the home inspectors job to be non-alarming. IT IS ... I repeat ... IS ... the home inspectors job to truthfully and fully educate their client as to the house AND ITS DANGERS ... and it that requires saying "THE DECK IS ABOUT TO FALL FROM THE HOUSE." then it is YOUR JOB to say that.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    For a deck that high off the ground I always recommend separate supports be installed so the house side of the deck is not supported just by the bolts. Here is the NC code for deck attachment.

    RS02.2.2 Decks. Where supported by attachment to an exterior
    wall, decks shall be positively anchored to the primary
    structure and designed for both vertical and lateral loads as
    applicable. Such attachment shall not be accomplished by the
    use of toenails or nails subject to withdrawal. Where positive
    connection to the primary building structure cannot be verified
    during inspection, decks shall be self- supporting. For
    decks with cantilevered framing members, connections to
    exterior walls or other framing members, shall be designed
    and constructed to resist uplift resulting from the full live load
    specified in Table R301.5 acting on the cantilevered portion
    of the deck. Exterior decks shall he permitted to he constructed

    in accordance with Appendix M



  14. #14
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Breedlove View Post
    How would that be enforced?
    Why, by the Deck Police, of course. Maybe make it a Federal Offense, take officers off the border and reassign them.
    One more case of a man who knows how to shoot in screws, but no knowledge of building.
    Let this be a lesson to all of us. DECKS CAN KILL.


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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    If the flashing is missing or not right, I report the problem and attach this example photo. Looks like a flashing problem in the photos.

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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Knauff View Post
    If the flashing is missing or not right, I report the problem and attach this example photo. Looks like a flashing problem in the photos.
    That's a nice flashing illustration, I'd like to have a copy if that's okay... but the image is poor quality...can you
    clean it up/upload it larger in another format or something?

    Thanks.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    In my humble opinion, failure of the deck is a result of poor installation practices and design. As a home inspector a cursory investigation of apparent RED FLAG conditions may or should have given weight to a cautious non - alarming statement such as ......It is recommended that a structural engineer be consulted in regards to the soundness of the deck components and or its systems of attachment may have been appropriate 3 years hence.

    Possible Flags might have been: Evidence of no flashing, a connector hammer test, size of the deck posts, adequate bracing in relation to the size of the deck and its height, and of course - adequate loading concerns - (not a uniform live load) I know that when I personally see an Flag issue with a deck, I report the finding and make the reference for further evaluation by a licensed professional. I do not try to make statements other than what can be observed and reported.


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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    I had a hard time with the original deck flashing example image as a bitmap so converted it to a .jpg. We'll see if that's better.

    I also added another, simpler, cut away of a proper ledger flashing detail.

    The bolt pattern schedule from the IRC is also a handy reference.

    Of the thousands of decks I have inspected not one had proper flashing. At the very best the flashing was installed correct to the point of missing the bottom portion that leads moisture over the top of the siding below the ledger board. Oh, well. Write 'em up as a risk of an end result like that shown in the original post!

    I believe we need to report findings just like Joe Friday on Dragnet used to say dryly, "Just the facts Ma'am". Report what you see regardless of how ugly it has to get but resist embellishment or conjecture. Then reference the example diagrams(s) in your report as being a correct installation. That will go a long ways toward answering client/agent questions in a succinct manner.

    Feel free to use any or all!

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    I will call it as I see it.That is what a home Inspection is all about.
    If I feel that something is unsafe I will absolutely Inform my client about it.
    Being a contractor for many years I have seen my share of carelessness, cutting corners,
    Safety is a big concern.That Deck is Proof of that.




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  20. #20
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Thank you for the diagrams. Bob


  21. #21
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Your welcome Andrew. I might add that Simpson Strongtie and others have come out with acceptable bolts for use in deck ledgers so the IRC chart is in need of modification by them. I recommend boning up on the latest type of bolts for this application as well.

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  22. #22
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Will Do.
    Thanks again





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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    ... saying 'It is starting to get warm in here, and you should expect it to continue to get warmer.' ... DOES NOT ... and I repeat ... DOES NOT "yield better results" than simply saying "FIRE!".
    I would respectfully disagree with the above opinion.

    Imagine a public auditorium filled to capacity with a very diverse group of people from the elderly using walkers to young testosterone filled adolescence males. You detect some smoke and yell "in an alarming way" FIRE. Good chance this may not yield the best possible results for all parties in the room. Better to calmly inform everyone that there is a small fire and educate the young men that it's their job to help the elderly out of the room.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck:131799
    ...IT IS NOT ... I repeat .. NOT ... the home inspectors job to be non-alarming. IT IS ... I repeat ... IS ... the home inspectors job to truthfully and fully educate their client as to the house AND ITS DANGERS ... and it that requires saying "THE DECK IS ABOUT TO FALL FROM THE HOUSE." then it is YOUR JOB to say that.
    I would again respectfully disagree.

    In my opinion...choosing to communicate in a non-alarming manner does not hinder an inspector's ability to perform an accurate building analysis and provide the best possible service to their client.

    Actually, I think there is a pretty convincing argument that any alarming communication is a disservice to the client. All Realtors know that the purchase of a particular house is more an emotional choice than a logical one. When we enter the transaction emotions are running very high and the client wants to purchase the house. We are hired to provide our client with information which should help them make a more informed decision about whether to proceed with the purchase of the property. If we are to successfully convey our accurate building analysis, to the emotionally charged client, it's beneficial to be cognizant of their emotions and adjust our delivery accordingly. Notice I said delivery....not the content...observe, document and report. All I'm suggesting is a tweaking in the manner we deliver that verbal report. We all regularly do this very thing with our spouse, perhaps a little carry over to our clients would benefit our profession.


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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    What Andrew said....thanks for taking the time to post the diagrams Bob...


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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    I would respectfully disagree with the above opinion.

    Imagine a public auditorium filled to capacity with a very diverse group of people from the elderly using walkers to young testosterone filled adolescence males. You detect some smoke and yell "in an alarming way" FIRE. Good chance this may not yield the best possible results for all parties in the room. Better to calmly inform everyone that there is a small fire and educate the young men that it's their job to help the elderly out of the room.



    I would again respectfully disagree.

    In my opinion...choosing to communicate in a non-alarming manner does not hinder an inspector's ability to perform an accurate building analysis and provide the best possible service to their client.

    Actually, I think there is a pretty convincing argument that any alarming communication is a disservice to the client. All Realtors know that the purchase of a particular house is more an emotional choice than a logical one. When we enter the transaction emotions are running very high and the client wants to purchase the house. We are hired to provide our client with information which should help them make a more informed decision about whether to proceed with the purchase of the property. If we are to successfully convey our accurate building analysis, to the emotionally charged client, it's beneficial to be cognizant of their emotions and adjust our delivery accordingly. Notice I said delivery....not the content...observe, document and report. All I'm suggesting is a tweaking in the manner we deliver that verbal report. We all regularly do this very thing with our spouse, perhaps a little carry over to our clients would benefit our profession.
    Robert,
    While I agree with the basic's of what you have typed above, IMO, if it is safety related, I say alarm them as much as possible. Our clients are in love with the home, that's the reason they put an offer on it. I have found that they tend to think that they can just fix whatever it is when they get around to it. When I run into a deck that is an obvious safety concern, I tell my clients to stay off the deck until it is either repaired or re-built. I will normally tell them more than once during the inspection. What I have found over the years, is if you don't verbally bring the concern up this way, then the realtor is going to try and "smooth" it over to get that deal done. I would much rather have a client nervous about a safety issue, than to be talked into calmness by the realtor. Now, I am referring to the extreme safety issue here. Heavily rotted deck boards, joists, beams, posts etc... I will bring my client over to the issue, show them the problem, explain what need's to be done to remedy it, and tell them "you really shouldn't be on it until it's fixed". Same basic wording on the report. Non alarming is more catered to the real estate agent IMO. Kinda like the phrase "recommend further review by a ...". That is what we are hired to do for our client. Why punt? Ok, I am drifting.

    Rob Jones
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Robert, If you see that the bolts are wrong for whatever reason, just tell them. Something like this, "The ledger board bolts are ________________ (whatever reason, spacing, size, placement etc). Review and repairs are necessary by a qualified contractor". Simple, to the point and don't dwell on it.

    Don't say stuff like, "Damn! I don't know why this hasn't collapsed yet!" Or "Don't have more than 2 people on the deck at a time or it will collapse".

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  27. #27
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    or tell them it will be a great you tube video when it collapses and kills everyone and the dog under it.

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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Rowe View Post
    Robert, If you see that the bolts are wrong for whatever reason, just tell them. Something like this, "The ledger board bolts are ________________ (whatever reason, spacing, size, placement etc). Review and repairs are necessary by a qualified contractor". Simple, to the point and don't dwell on it.

    Don't say stuff like, "Damn! I don't know why this hasn't collapsed yet!" Or "Don't have more than 2 people on the deck at a time or it will collapse".
    I agree and your first example is similar to how I would say/write it. Thanks for the example.


  29. #29
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    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Jones View Post
    Robert,
    While I agree with the basic's of what you have typed above, IMO, if it is safety related, I say alarm them as much as possible. Our clients are in love with the home, that's the reason they put an offer on it. I have found that they tend to think that they can just fix whatever it is when they get around to it. When I run into a deck that is an obvious safety concern, I tell my clients to stay off the deck until it is either repaired or re-built. I will normally tell them more than once during the inspection. What I have found over the years, is if you don't verbally bring the concern up this way, then the realtor is going to try and "smooth" it over to get that deal done. I would much rather have a client nervous about a safety issue, than to be talked into calmness by the realtor. Now, I am referring to the extreme safety issue here. Heavily rotted deck boards, joists, beams, posts etc... I will bring my client over to the issue, show them the problem, explain what need's to be done to remedy it, and tell them "you really shouldn't be on it until it's fixed". Same basic wording on the report. Non alarming is more catered to the real estate agent IMO. Kinda like the phrase "recommend further review by a ...". That is what we are hired to do for our client. Why punt? Ok, I am drifting.
    Robert I think you've brought up a good related point. We can call out all the safety issues we want but that doesn't mean the issues will be repaired...and there are other forces at work trying to dilute our concerns.

    I did a maintenance inspection several months ago on a old house whose electrical service had been upgraded. This house has an attic with no ventilation and a metal roof painted black....think very hot and every piece of wood is as dry as tinder. Cellulose insulation laid in real thick....and active knob and tube embedded in that insulation. I called it out as a serious fire and safety defect that needed to be corrected by a licensed electrician.

    I know these people and see them around town. they are professors at the University here....smart people. Have they done anything about that knob and tube yet....No. They say they are but haven't gotten around to it yet. From their perspective they've lived in the house for 35 years and nothing has happened yet. Did I ask her about it last time I saw her....yes, I did.

    This house has made me adopt the practice of making a follow up call to the clients a few weeks after an inspection on any house that needs serious repairs. I make it sound social and routine "just calling to see if you have more questions about the house" but before I hang up I specifically ask how the repair on XYZ went or is going.


  30. #30
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    Smile Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Jones View Post
    Robert,
    While I agree with the basic's of what you have typed above, IMO, if it is safety related, I say alarm them as much as possible. Our clients are in love with the home, that's the reason they put an offer on it. I have found that they tend to think that they can just fix whatever it is when they get around to it. When I run into a deck that is an obvious safety concern, I tell my clients to stay off the deck until it is either repaired or re-built. I will normally tell them more than once during the inspection. What I have found over the years, is if you don't verbally bring the concern up this way, then the realtor is going to try and "smooth" it over to get that deal done. I would much rather have a client nervous about a safety issue, than to be talked into calmness by the realtor. Now, I am referring to the extreme safety issue here. Heavily rotted deck boards, joists, beams, posts etc... I will bring my client over to the issue, show them the problem, explain what need's to be done to remedy it, and tell them "you really shouldn't be on it until it's fixed". Same basic wording on the report. Non alarming is more catered to the real estate agent IMO. Kinda like the phrase "recommend further review by a ...". That is what we are hired to do for our client. Why punt? Ok, I am drifting.
    What happens when the contractor shows up to fix what you pointed out but does not want to fix it the way you explained it. You are a home inspector, not a building consultant. My answer to how would you do it is I am not going to second guess the man actually doing the repairs, just that the item needs repairing.


  31. #31

    Default Re: The deck ledger bolts appear to not be functioning as intended...

    It looks like (to me) the bolts were wrong size and just went into the siding and not the framing, as you can see in the pictures the siding came off??

    P.S. This is alarming don't powder puff it!




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