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  1. #1
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Default Front Porch Roof Support

    I inspected a house a couple of weeks ago. Got a call this evening from the builder. I called out the front support (see pics) column was not in contact with the structure and had moved. Don't remember the exact wording off hand, but that not the point. The builder called me every name in the book because he told the buyers that the column was not support and that the roof structure needed no support and "furthermore, it's only cosmetic and you as an inspector are not supposed to be pointing out cosmetic issues". The client requested he give them a letter stating that it is not structural and the columns are only cosmetic in nature. Of course he refused to "entertain the inspector by waisting his time writing a letter."

    What do you think? Do these appear structural or cosmetic?

    BTW... I couldn't decide whether to put this under structural or patios... so I flipped a coin and patios won. Sorry if it's under the wrong heading.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    K,

    From my point of view, it is not always possible to determine if a member provides support through an inspection. This would be indicated in the plans. It does not seem unreasonable to make a note given the structure above. A letter from the builder does not seem unreasonable.

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  3. #3
    Tim Moreira's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Cosmetic vs Structural.

    As Guannar stated it is on the plans.

    I wonder if you told the builder to remove them, all 5, and see if the top floor stayed in place???

    Seriously though, that would most likely be structural, if not, there is a big cantilever going on there with a lot of weight from above.

    I suspect that the builder knows a lot more then he is saying about this and does not want to put it in writing.

    Furthermore, he does not want to have to make the necessary repair to the column to provide the support it most likely was designed to do.

    I wonder what the builder would say if you told him your were going to email the AHJ in your area with the pictures and ask him to *take a look at it*?


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    K,

    You live and work in Texas. The SOP says nothing about commenting on cosmetic or not commenting on cosmetic issues. The SOP states what you must inspect at a minimum standard. It then states that you may comment on anything you feel qualified to comment on.

    So tell Mr. Builder to also show you where you are not supposed to comment on cosmetics.

    BTW, were those true columns or were there posts inside and what we're looking at are decorative columns?

    The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
    - Paul Fix

  5. #5
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    What I told the builder is simply if the plans call for that to be cosmetic, then provide a copy of the plans or write a letter to the client stating such. Not that big of deal. And that from a "visual inspection" viewpoint, it would "appear" that cantilever joist would be insufficient to support the entire weight of that structure. I also told him "I'm not a structural engineer and neither are you or neither one of us would be doing these jobs which is why I suggested to have it evaluated by a structural engineer."

    As far as if they were true columns or posts in side, they appeared to be solid columns, but it was difficult to say for sure. It also might be worthy to note that one of the columns (the one just to the left of the far right one which had moved) appeared to be slightly higher than the one that moved. I'm embarrassed to say, I didn't take my tape measure out and actually measure them like I probably should have.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Most likely ... (jeez, here we go again )

    "Most likely" that column you see "is not" structural support, however, "most likely" *inside* that column there "is" a structural column.

    Now, *IF* there is a structural column "inside" that column, what does it make that column?

    Cosmetic?

    Cosmetic, as has been said before, is not even the paint itself, it is "the color of" the paint.

    Cosmetic is not the caulk, it is the color of the caulk.

    Cosmetic is not the tiles on a 30/90 hot mopped roof which is water tight in and of itself without the tiles, the "color, texture and profile" of the tile is cosmetic.

    That column? It is, in varies ways, protecting the structural column "inside it". The shape and color of that column is "cosmetic", the column is not. It is not "structural" either (most likely not). Just because something "is not structural" does not mean "it is cosmetic".

    It could be a weather surface, weather protecting surface, providing protection from physical damage, etc.

    My guess is that if those columns were removed, the structure would still stand - a bit ugly perhaps (because there would be square steel columns showing), but there would not be any problem with removing them, other than ... how do I now protect the exposed structural columns from the weather?

    The builder chose to install those 'purty' columns with that shape for the look he wanted, the buyer liked those columns, so just removing them now may cause the deal to fall apart anyway - the builder changes the house, the buyer walks ... crap happens.

    However, *now that the builder has installed those columns* ... he needs to do it correctly. And seal the top correctly. And make sure the bottom non-PT wood is not in contact with masonry, concrete, etc., or it will rot.

    *IF* those columns were rotted, would the columns be considered cosmetic, thus the rot 'does not matter'? I doubt it.

    If you have a house with gingerbread trim and it is rotted, is it cosmetic? Or do you write it up? The gingerbread trim is there for "cosmetic purposes", right? But you still write it up.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  7. #7
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Thanks Jerry.

    So you are in agreement that it should be called out, structural or not?

    If I understand you correctly, if it is not structural, it does have structural significance in that it protects the columns that are structural inside them and it should not be installed so that it can move. Do I have that right?

    Secondly, you said if you remove those columns it would still be ok, but ugly (summarizing). But what if you remove the steel columns that they are protecting as well as those "covers"? Would it still stand, or would the roof eventually collapse?


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    "So you are in agreement that it should be called out, structural or not?"

    Yes.

    "If I understand you correctly, if it is not structural, it does have structural significance in that it protects the columns that are structural inside them and it should not be installed so that it can move. Do I have that right?"

    Not only should it not move, it should be installed such that it keep rain water (blowing rain) out. Water inside will not only rot the wood, it will condense on the metal columns inside (assuming there are metal columns inside, and I suspect there are). The steel columns inside were (hopefully) primed for corrosion protection.

    "Secondly, you said if you remove those columns it would still be ok, but ugly (summarizing)."

    Only if some other protection was then provided for those columns. This could just be 'more painting'.

    "But what if you remove the steel columns that they are protecting as well as those "covers"? Would it still stand, or would the roof eventually collapse?"

    It 'might' ("might" stand long enough to remove the steel columns inside, but 'probably' would not.

    If there are (as I suspect) steel columns inside (may not be 4 of them, may only be 2, the other two could be fake just for looks) and you remove the steel columns, the upper section of the structure will likely come down with the columns ... if not supported by some other means before removing those columns.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  9. #9
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Korey,

    Doesen't matter what the builder says or not...

    Our SOP DOES state that this must be identified as "In Need of Repair":


    RULE ß535.228
    Standards of Practice: Inspection Guidelines for Structural Systems
    (j) Porches and decks. The inspector shall:
    (1) report as in need of repair structural deficiencies in porches, decks, steps, balconies and carports as to visible footings, joists, deckings, railings and attachment points, where applicable; and

    (2) report as in need of repair (except for decks which are not higher than 30 inches as measured from the adjacent grade) spacings between intermediate balusters, spindles or rails that permit passage of an object greater than four inches in diameter.


    (k) Specific limitations for porches and decks. The inspector is not required to inspect detached structures or waterfront structures and equipment, such as docks or piers.

    Better to call it out, as required, than not. Let the builder convince his buyer it is NOT required. The buyer is who has to be comfortable with end product.

    Rich


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    From Jerry:
    Now, *IF* there is a structural column "inside" that column, what does it make that column?

    It makes it a decorative column with, I think, a Roman Doric capital. And it makes it a decorative column that is installed incorrectly.

    That column? It is, in varies ways, protecting the structural column "inside it". The shape and color of that column is "cosmetic", the column is not. It is not "structural" either (most likely not). Just because something "is not structural" does not mean "it is cosmetic".

    And just because something is decorative does not mean that it does or does not serve a structural purpose. But builders and sales persons have a mind set that if it isn't holding something up or keeping something out, then it is cosmetic.

    If you have a house with gingerbread trim and it is rotted, is it cosmetic? Or do you write it up? The gingerbread trim is there for "cosmetic purposes", right? But you still write it up.[/quote]

    You honestly evaluated your work, K, and came to a valid conclusion that you might have been more thorough in determining if a significant structural isue relevant to the structural integrity of the porch and its cover was present. However, in terms of writing up the poor installation of the decorative column, that's your job and you did it. Using the builder's logic, if he had used all Roman Doric capitals, but had miscounted so he used one Empire capital that he happened to have in the truck, you should have ignored that, right?




    The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
    - Paul Fix

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Korey,

    Doesen't matter what the builder says or not...

    Our SOP DOES state that this must be identified as "In Need of Repair":




    RULE §535.228




    Standards of Practice: Inspection Guidelines for Structural Systems




    (j) Porches and decks. The inspector shall:
    (1) report as in need of repair structural deficiencies in porches, decks, steps, balconies and carports as to visible footings, joists, deckings, railings and attachment points, where applicable; and

    Rich
    Rich,

    Actually, your "SOP DOES" [NOT] "state that this must be identified as "In Need of Repair":", not if those are not "structural", and I doubt they are.

    The "structural" aspect (support, connection, etc.) IS INSIDE and not visible.

    Blanket statements like saying your "SOP DOES state that this must be identified as "In Need of Repair":" are not only incorrect, but often leads some to question other things said by that person.

    The entire discussion above your post was discussing, and pointing out, that those "are not likely" "structural".

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

  12. #12
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    Cool Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Iím sure we have all noted that crappy building contractors become very defensive when an HI calls out anything. Well, too bad because crap begets crap and what I see in K. Robertsonís photos plainly calls out for corrective work. Who knows whatís holding up the second story overhang; metal posts inside the spancy columns or a couple of 2x4s nailed together? It needs fixen plain and simple.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    It needs fixen plain and simple.
    So you are saying it is not cosmetic?



    (We knew that. )

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  14. #14
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    quote from Peck:
    Blanket statements like saying your "SOP DOES state that this must be identified as "In Need of Repair":" are not only incorrect, but often leads some to question other things said by that person.

    Fine... question all you want. So, you are saying that this is NOT suppose to be an attachment point. Now, keep in mind, no one has or is saying (as you have implied) that this is a structural item. No freaking where in the SOP does it state that this must be a structural component to be written as 'In need of repair'-- just ATTACHMENT POINT. dUH!!

    Geeze... I'll stick with reporting that sucker as In need of Repair and you can report however the hell you think otherwise.

    Rich


  15. #15
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    See... you did it J-Mc.

    No where did he state that it was cosmetic. You question (sarcastic as it was) Jerry Mc on a statement that was acknowledging the lack of detail on how the construction of the porch was. Why!?

    QUOTE: "but often leads some to question other things said by that person."
    On a new construction build, I would think that someone who would NOT write this up would have THAT decision questionable as well...

    RICHARD


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    "So, you are saying that this is NOT suppose to be an attachment point."

    No, I'm saying *it MIGHT NOT* be.

    "Now, keep in mind, no one has or is saying (as you have implied) that this is a structural item."

    You are.

    By saying that it must be reported, that means *it is* structural, as "structural" items must be reported.

    "No freaking where in the SOP does it state that this must be a structural component to be written as 'In need of repair'-- just ATTACHMENT POINT. dUH!!"

    Yeah, DUH!, if it is not structural, there is no structural attachment point - Yeah, well DUH!

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  17. #17
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    Cool Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Now I'm totally lost, but that's not new for me?

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  18. #18
    Frank Kunselman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Is the column structural? Examining the photos from different 'what ifs' perspectives, I would say they are structural.

    First, it would be difficult to install what appears to be a one piece fiberglass column around a structural post.

    Second, if the roof is a cantilevered truss, why would a builder install a header as deep as it appears...sure reduces the street appeal by nearly hiding the tops of the windows and door. If I were building it, I would want the column capitals directly under the dentals.

    Third, if the columns are non-structural, why so many? Is the builder totally oblivious to 'curb appeal'. The number of columns dwarfs the house...I would only install 4 at max (if non-structural).

    Fourth, are those false dormers, or bedrooms upstairs? Sure looks like the dormers extend to about the location of the header above the columns. If there is floor load in these dormers, then the columns would be structural.

    Fifth, need to know what the roof framing is. If 'stick', then most definitely the columns are structural regardless of what the dormers are.

    Personally, buyers should of a new house should be entitled to a set of plans. Makes me wonder what else the builder is trying to hide. By the way, building inspection records are public information.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    "First, it would be difficult to install what appears to be a one piece fiberglass column around a structural post."

    They make fiberglass structural columns? They are designed to resist uplift forces?

    "Second, if the roof is a cantilevered truss, why would a builder install a header as deep as it appears...sure reduces the street appeal by nearly hiding the tops of the windows and door. If I were building it, I would want the column capitals directly under the dentals."

    Guess that's 'style choice', I think it would look strange for those columns to go all the way up.

    "Third, if the columns are non-structural, why so many? Is the builder totally oblivious to 'curb appeal'. The number of columns dwarfs the house...I would only install 4 at max (if non-structural)."

    Because it looks good and the number of columns matches the layout along the front of the house? There is a column on each end and between each window/door.

    "Fourth, are those false dormers, or bedrooms upstairs? Sure looks like the dormers extend to about the location of the header above the columns. If there is floor load in these dormers, then the columns would be structural."

    Or the columns inside the outer columns could be structural. To me, what looks weird about that house is the dormers, they stick out too far forward.

    "Fifth, need to know what the roof framing is. If 'stick', then most definitely the columns are structural regardless of what the dormers are."

    You mean the columns inside those outer columns are structural?

    "Personally, buyers should of a new house should be entitled to a set of plans. Makes me wonder what else the builder is trying to hide. By the way, building inspection records are public information."

    So are the plans.

    They can even get a set of them.

    They just cannot, however, build another house with those plans.

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

  20. #20
    Frank Kunselman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Jerry,

    Do you always want the last word???...I believe you know where I was coming from with regard to whether the columns or what's inside them could be structural or not. My response was with respect to what was observed versus the builder's statement to Robinson.

    Whether the 'fiberglass' (?) columns are structural rated or not, all appearances lend to the side of structural columns needed.

    Cheers.


  21. #21
    imported_John Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Front Porch Roof Support

    Texas SOPs are the minimum requirements. You can certainly give your client a better inspection than the minimum requirements. SOPs were written to at least give the consumer the minimum requirements.

    Cosmetic or not, its not good workmanship. Even though the columns are somewhat covered by the porch roof, we all know that in Texas, rain sometimes blows sideways and will eventually work its way into that area. Sure, it will probably be more than 2 years before rot (and maybe even termites) show up. But you did the right thing pointing it out.


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