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  1. #1
    Marie Stout's Avatar
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    Default Rafter separation - should we walk?

    As home buyers should we walk from this purchase? The attached photos show rafter separation and broken collar ties. The inspector recommends a structural engineer to determine cause. I'm no engineer, but it seems like this is due to settlement - but how bad? The sellers (investors who are flipping a foreclosure) have upgraded the floors that cover potential slab cracks. The house is 51 years old - one story - slab.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    You really can't be sure until a professional looks at the whole picture, in person.

    No one here can tell you to walk or not walk away. This may be easily correctable, but there are too many unknowns to say one way or another without on-site evaluations.


  3. #3

    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    I am in agreement with Dom and your inspector on this one.
    • None of us should tell you to walk or not walk, that is your decision to make based upon the information available to you.
    • Your inspector is correct in suggesting that you should have it reviewed by a structural engineer. To have that inspection done is your decision to make.
    • Once you have the report from the engineer then you will have the best information available to make the best decision for you.
    I wish only the best for you and your decisions.

    Last edited by Charles Wilson; 01-09-2013 at 03:03 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    I have to agree with Dom and Charles on this. It is just not possible for anyone to give you good information on a discussion board for this type of issue.

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

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marie Stout View Post
    The inspector recommends a structural engineer to determine cause.
    That is the correct recommendation.

    I'm no engineer, but it seems like this is due to settlement ...
    Might not be settlement, especially at the ridge, could have been constructed that way - home inspectors find that same condition on new houses all the time.

    The collar ties look to be splitting at knots, collar ties are stressed, and when wood splits it typically splits at knots.

    51 year old home with yellow colored NM cable - that has either been re-wired or has had a lot of wiring added, check for permits at your local building department.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  6. #6
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marie Stout View Post
    As home buyers should we walk from this purchase? The attached photos show rafter separation and broken collar ties. The inspector recommends a structural engineer to determine cause. I'm no engineer, but it seems like this is due to settlement - but how bad? The sellers (investors who are flipping a foreclosure) have upgraded the floors that cover potential slab cracks. The house is 51 years old - one story - slab.
    Well

    You put us in the awkward position of "does the inspector you hired know what he is talking about.
    I would have to upfront side with him as I expect all inspectors to know what they are talking about.

    You have new framing lumber. The home has been sitting there for half a century. All that you showed us is really no big deal in and of itself and as Jerry said we find this on brand new homes. No big deal as in easily corrected. No big deal as in a 50 year old home that has had work done to it and maybe not the greatest but why walk if you like the home. Have it checked out. Most say an engineer but I don't see what is going on in the rest of the home. If nothing or just minor items in the movement department then that will be fairly typical and easily corrected as said. I say if nothing is going on in the rest of the home get a Known good contractor to look at it. The fee will be minimal. And engineer will be hundreds. Any known good contractor with a great history should be able to determine fixes needed. And for that matter what the cause is.

    Cracked slab? Well yeah. I can guarantee you that there are cracks in the slab from a 50 year old home. Shoot, there are cracks in the slabs of brand new homes until the tension cables are tightened.

    Have it another look as in engineer and contractor. You have gone this far you must like the home and neighborhood.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Cracked slab? Well yeah. I can guarantee you that there are cracks in the slab from a 50 year old home. Shoot, there are cracks in the slabs of brand new homes until the tension cables are tightened.
    Cracks in concrete? Concrete does two things: 1) it gets hard; 2) it cracks (all kidding aside - that IS what concrete does)

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Doesn't mean that repairs aren't needed, but that looks like the result of lumber drying and shrinking over time. Built in 1960, it may not have been kiln dried. Even now, some of the lumber isn't. A 12 foot rafter could easily shrink 1/2 inch. A rafter will pull away from the ridge board where it is not as well secured. A well nailed collar tie could easily crack at a grain imperfection.
    Get a second opinion. Try a good contractor if you don't want to spend the money on an engineer.

    END GLOBAL WHINING

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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin Thompson View Post
    Try a good contractor if you don't want to spend the money on an engineer.
    Some here are recommending a contractor to "save money" ... do you REALLY want to "save money" on something which is likely your most expensive purchase, or would you rather go with someone who can design the repair and "sign and seal" the ENGINEERED corrections?

    Talk about foolish ideas ... thinking that not hiring the engineer actually "saves" anything, let alone "money".

    Ted always seems to take this 'for the sake of "saving money' thing' to the point of not recommending a structural engineer who can design and "sign and seal" the ENGINEERED corrections, Ben has also taken that path, there are no "savings" in CUTTING CORNERS on things like that.

    If you want to "save money" ... find a different way to "save money", not on something as important as that and knowing that when you sell you now already have that issue covered for your buyer - pull out that signed and sealed engineering letter which says two things: a) this-is-what-needs-to-be-done; and b) it-was-done-in-accordance-with-the-engineered-design ... b) is the most important part - your buyer should not care 'how the engineer said to repair it', you buyer should need only be concerned with the fact that 'the corrections were done in accordance with the engineered design'.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  10. #10
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    I just think the term "Hire an engineer" :get it signed stamped, sealed rubbed and dubbed by an engineer is so over blown for most of the things I see or others show me on inspections they have done.

    I have several engineer friends. Everyone of them will admit that most of what they do is common sense and they are not necessary at all for many of those items. A short rafter. A couple of broken collar ties. If that is all there is then that is all there is. If nothing else is going on in and around the home and it is 51 years old.....fix it. A few hundred or far more for an engineer for 150.00 worth of work?

    If one has been around this professional and the trades for years on end they better be able to call out most of what they see. If they cannot then "Call an Engineer"!!!!!

    I just think "call an engineer" is way over rated and not worth it in the slightest for a mass amount of findings.

    I also notice that folks have such a poor poor outlook on contractors when most of them are damn good. If a contractor has been around for years he has seen more than most engineers ever will or have. He can call it out as well. Electric contractors? Most are damn good. Plumbers? Most are damn good. Hell, even Home Inspectors,well, many are kinda damn good.


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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Apparently the engineers in your area are more contientious than I have run into. Last time I was on a job with an engineer, the concern was wood floor framing with flagstone flooring. The engineer jumped up and down on the floor and pronounced it "OK" and presented his bill for $500, didn't even bother to look at the framing underneath.
    A good framing contractor could tell you how to fix it and how much it would cost, probably for free. The contractors in your area aren't familiar with simple conventionally rafter framed gable roofs?

    END GLOBAL WHINING

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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    When a problem comes up in the future ... which do you think will provide the better 'protection' in court?

    Hands down - the "signed and sealed engineer's letter"

    Contractor's advise is worth, as you guys are saying - 'the paper it is written on' (and only then when written on toilet paper, otherwise it is not even worth that) and contractors are worth 'a dime a dozen' (after all, it is you guys who say to hire the contractor because they are 'cheaper'.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    When a problem comes up in the future ... which do you think will provide the better 'protection' in court?

    Hands down - the "signed and sealed engineer's letter"

    Contractor's advise is worth, as you guys are saying - 'the paper it is written on' (and only then when written on toilet paper, otherwise it is not even worth that) and contractors are worth 'a dime a dozen' (after all, it is you guys who say to hire the contractor because they are 'cheaper'.
    So, the question for the OP is who do you want? Somebody who can give you a solution or somebody you can sucessfuly sue?

    END GLOBAL WHINING

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    When a problem comes up in the future ... which do you think will provide the better 'protection' in court?

    Hands down - the "signed and sealed engineer's letter"

    Contractor's advise is worth, as you guys are saying - 'the paper it is written on' (and only then when written on toilet paper, otherwise it is not even worth that) and contractors are worth 'a dime a dozen' (after all, it is you guys who say to hire the contractor because they are 'cheaper'.
    Who cares. Court court court. If I lived my life in the construction business and the inspection business constantly worried about court more than I was concerned with helping my clients I would have been into court a very long time ago.Why does one live on the assumption that they are going to get sued.

    Home inspectors are a dime a dozen. Home inspectors that provide a service to their clients are not a dime a dozen. We are not for cheap. We are for why throw money down the drain. If you know you know. If you don't have them call an engineer. Would you really advise a client to get an engineer for a couple broken collar ties and a short rafter. If your answer is yes then you have not been supplying your clients with anything all these years. You are the one that continuously says Replace replace replace. Never a further evaluation. Why call an engineer in if there is nothing more than a couple collar ties and a new rafter someone cut to short. ( of course saying all that means I found nothing else major in and around the home.) Every time you see a crack in a slab or a foundation or a broken rafter in an attic or some washout next to the home or a retaining wall that is collapsing after 5, 6, 7 decades do you have the folks call an engineer. Do you really think you are supplying any kind of service to your clients by doing so. I mean other than them spending money on a home that is not even theirs.

    If that is all you found call out a framing contractor to come in and replace the damaged goods and be done with it.

    One more for you. All those proposals I put forth to folks over the decades, folks should have ignored everything I wrote up and call in an engineer or architect to make all those countless repairs I made. I am not talking about an addition or rebuild or full new build. I am talking about those broken collar ties and a rafter someone cut to short. I mean after all I was just a dime a dozen contractor that had been doing such things from my early teens. I only saw something like that 100 times. Come to think of it they should have ignored me. All those years really meant nothing. I was just a useless slab of meat.

    You pointed out "concrete gets hard, old and cracks"...yes? Call an engineer?????

    Just saying


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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    The inspector felt that there are signs of movement, enough to call for an engineer's inspection. He is right.

    Where the rafters are pulled away from the ridge, I see in the last pic, a dark area where the rafter end may have been. Yes. wood shrinks and splits, but one collar tie is broken in the middle as if something has moved, and that other tie end doesn't look like normal splitting. That looks like the wood was stressed around the nails. The roof structure is weakened and needs repair.

    If we were there, we would check the ridge from the outside looking for a visible sag. Also we need to see if there is any bulging where the rafters meet the walls. Then we want to check the soffit areas to see if there are gaps where the rafters are pushing out. This is to determine how bad the situation is and how difficult the repair will be.

    The engineer in all likelihood will tell you that there is repair work needed. Save your money and find another house. JMO.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    In my opinion, the OP's photos provide insufficient evidence to attribute the effects observed to differential foundation movement. While it may be the case that the foundation has moved deferentially, it simply cannot be determined by this incomplete set of data.

    A competent home inspector would conduct further investigation to determine if floor slopes, masonry veneer cracking, out-of-square door and window openings, et al. are present. Determination of the performance of a foundation cannot be made without a taking a much broader view of the condition of the structure.

    Once the facts are assembled and a determination has been made that excessive differential movement has indeed occurred, it is prudent in any state to defer to a structural engineer for further investigation and remedial options.

    In the state of Texas the only person legally qualified to specify repairs to a slab-on-ground foundation is a structural engineer. So, in Texas, the need to defer to an engineer is a foregone conclusion.

    Last edited by Aaron Miller; 01-12-2013 at 11:02 AM.
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Aaron, I agree. However, that attic reminds me of a place, another place I inspected, where the roof was collapsing from inadequate framing. From the ceiling joists down, that house was fine. In that case, the young couple got an estimate from a contractor of $50,000 to tear off and replace the rafters.
    The house pictured here is not as bad as that one, but you are right, there is inadequate info.

    Last edited by John Kogel; 01-12-2013 at 01:05 PM.
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Cracks in concrete? Concrete does two things: 1) it gets hard; 2) it cracks (all kidding aside - that IS what concrete does)
    I say it does three things!
    1. Shrinks
    2. Gets hard
    3. Cracks

    Now, the order of which happens first might be up for debate!

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

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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Ted

    I am not going to reiterate what Ted said, but I couldn't agree more with his views.

    Just what are inspectors providing? Service, knowledge/experience or risk reduction techniques based on fear of being sued at every corner for being diligent and honest to their clients.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    Just what are inspectors providing? Service, knowledge/experience or risk reduction techniques based on fear of being sued at every corner for being diligent and honest to their clients.
    A bit of a blend of the two things, I would say. One can certainly not continue to provide service, knowledge, or the benefit of one's experience if constantly encumbered with litigation or the ill will of clients whose expectations have been improperly managed.

    Texas Inspector
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  21. #21
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron Miller View Post
    A bit of a blend of the two things, I would say. One can certainly not continue to provide service, knowledge, or the benefit of one's experience if constantly encumbered with litigation or the ill will of clients whose expectations have been improperly managed.
    Um

    I have never had the fear or actual litigation. Have I ever been contacted by someone that is out for me to pay for their ignorance. Absolutely. Has it ever been real? No. I never, how did you say, "constantly encumbered with litigation or the ill will of clients whose expectations have been improperly managed"

    I always properly managed my clients. As far as they are concerned I am an inteligent idiot. In other words do not put me on a pedastel, I am human, I do not and will never find everything. That is an impossible task. If you want to pay me for 8 hours in a 1500 square foot home you may hold my feet to the fire. I see, I write. In a few hours what could someone possibly expect in a few hours when the home was built years ago and half the goods I am looking for were covered up in one way or another.

    I have never been sued and no one has ever come close to being able to do so. Managing expectations? Yes!!!! This is the most important aspect of any home inspection. Long winded disclaimers covering everything in the home inspection.....never. That will get you sued faster than anything I can possibly come up with. You cover your ass for everything and everyone believes you are hiding behind those disclaimers for a poor job done in the home inspection. I tell everyone I used to be able to see through walls until my early forties when I started wearing glasses. They may laugh but they certainly get the point. They also do not believe in the slightest that I will lay down for stupidity (obviously stated very diplomatically) .

    Last edited by Ted Menelly; 01-12-2013 at 07:46 PM.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin Thompson View Post
    So, the question for the OP is who do you want? Somebody who can give you a solution or somebody you can sucessfuly sue?
    Wrong question.

    "So, the question for the OP is who do you want? Somebody who can give you a solution or somebody you can sucessfuly sue?"

    Or someone who can give you a solution (the engineer), and who can back up that solution (the engineer), and who can keep you from being sued (the engineer) because you have an engineering letter which said do-it-this-way and then another letter which said it-was-done-as-it-was-supposed-to-have-been-done.

    The contractor can only say 'this is how I would do it', not 'this is how it should be done', and then the contractor can only follow that with 'I did it the way I thought it should be done', not 'I did it the way it should be done'.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Rafter separation - should we walk?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    I say it does three things!
    1. Shrinks
    2. Gets hard
    3. Cracks

    Now, the order of which happens first might be up for debate!
    And you can't steal it.

    Galen L. Beasley
    Inspections Supervisor
    Housing Authority of Kansas City MO

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