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  1. #1
    Jenna McBride's Avatar
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    Default Front of house bowing

    Hello - my fiance and I are looking to buy a house. We found one that we really like yesterday, but noticed right away that the front of the house is bowing (http://thumbs.trulia-cdn.com/picture...a-PA-19130.jpg) You can kind of see it in that photo. There is an extra support already in place at the bottom between the basement windows, so that is concerning. Would this be a terribly expensive fix? Or should we run far, far away from this house?

    Thanks!

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  2. #2
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    The tie rods and spreader plates were indeed installed by someone in an attempt to correct the wall bowing situation. The multiple rods between floors are doing the most good, compared to just the one at ground level. It shows a previous owner cared enough about the place and took steps to correct a deficiency. You could do a little more investigating, to see if someone (preferably, an engineer) analyzed and designed the tension system, or if it was just done by a previous owner having no structural background. There should be some plans and design calculations available, possibly on file at the local building department where a permit would have been issued from. If the system is adequate and working properly, no additional funds should have to be spent.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    I would want to see behind the dirt in those window boxes. If those plants are in individual pots, ok.

    You have other things to be concerned about, such as the sewer, drainage for the basement, the roof and chimney, old wiring. There are plenty of good home inspectors in PA.

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

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    As Bridgeman said, it is possible that this has already been addressed and all is 'okay' (meaning it will not get worse).

    It is also possible that it has already been addressed and all is 'not okay' (meaning it may be continuing).

    It looks like the brick veneer (if the brick is veneer and not the structural wall) is taking the structural load from above when brick veneer should not be taking any structural load. This may be caused by a variety of reasons of which there are too many to list here.

    I recommend finding out when the previous work was done, by whom, and is it supported and backed up with signed and sealed engineering, if so, then have that engineering issue an updated engineering letter stating that the condition existing on such-and-such-date, and as shown in the attached photos and diagrams, is per the previous design and now additional work needs to be done. If the engineer come out and say 'Holy Crap ... what is going on here ... ', you will know that the bowing is continuing and was not fully addressed previously.

    At which time you will need new engineering, additional work, and maybe even contact the previous engineer's bonding/insurance company for compensation for corrections which may be needed.

    In other words - all we can do is "guess" from here, you need someone who can get up close and personal with it, touch it, look at it in person, etc.

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

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenna McBride View Post
    Hello - my fiance and I are looking to buy a house. We found one that we really like yesterday, but noticed right away that the front of the house is bowing (http://thumbs.trulia-cdn.com/picture...a-PA-19130.jpg) You can kind of see it in that photo. There is an extra support already in place at the bottom between the basement windows, so that is concerning. Would this be a terribly expensive fix? Or should we run far, far away from this house?

    Thanks!
    That is a very common condition for rowhouses in Philadelphia. The fix is usually fine, especially for two-story rows and if the bowing is not excessive. I would be more concerned about the ones that have not been fixed-there are plenty of them.


  6. #6
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    Western Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    I'm concerned about that crack running from the bottom, left corner of the upper window to the top, right corner of the bottom window - did it occur before or after the tie rods were installed?
    Also the tree in front of the house has done a number on the sidewalk; has it had an adverse impact on the foundation as well?


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    It appears that the front of the house has had considerable work. The brick above windows does not look original compared to other solid window headers for the period, not only that the brick above the window is not arched as typical for the period.

    Window frames have been replaced too.

    Also what was the foundation wall like as viewed from inside? Looks to be bowing inward at grade level.

    Brick is too red for circa of house.

    Sure looks like brick veneer on balloon framing.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Wood View Post
    I agree Raymond and I would never tell a client to by a house that had a tree that close to the foundation.
    My Sister had the same issue with the Home she purchased so I have personal Knowledge on this.
    Here is a little knowledge from InterNachi on that issue.
    Tree Dangers - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)



    Frame with brick veneer would be very unusual for a house like that in Philadelphia. It is quite possible that the front was replaced. That is also common in Philadelphia. Everybody can guess at what may or may not be wrong. Bottom line is that a Structural Engineer should look at it.

    As far as the tree being an issue, that is seldom the case. Your sister may have had a problem, but that experience does not extend to all other houses. I did not read what InterNACHI has to say, but without knowing the experience of who wrote the information, I would not rely on it.

    BTW, I am a Structural Engineer and have probably inspected at least 500 similar properties.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Wood View Post
    I agree Raymond and I would never tell a client to by a house that had a tree that close to the foundation.
    My Sister had the same issue with the Home she purchased so I have personal Knowledge on this.
    Here is a little knowledge from InterNachi on that issue.
    Tree Dangers - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)



    Frame with brick veneer would be very unusual for a house like that in Philadelphia. It is quite possible that the front was replaced. That is also common in Philadelphia. Everybody can guess at what may or may not be wrong. Bottom line is that a Structural Engineer should look at it.

    As far as the tree being an issue, that is seldom the case. Your sister may have had a problem, but that experience does not extend to all other houses. I did not read what InterNACHI has to say, but without knowing the experience of who wrote the information, I would not rely on it.

    BTW, I am a Structural Engineer and have probably inspected at least 500 similar properties.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Summerville, South Carolina
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    110

    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    There are a lot of those earthquake rods in old houses around here in the Charleston area. They were put in after an earthquake in the 1800's..... All the houses are still there..... From what I understand they extend clean through the building......


  10. #10
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    Dec 2008
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    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    Mark,
    This is basically what innach had what it is worth.

    "...


    • Roots can sometimes penetrate a building's foundation through pre-existing cracks.
    • Large root systems that extend beneath a house can cause foundation uplift.
    • Roots can leech water from the soil beneath foundations, causing the structures to settle and sink unevenly. ..." by Nick Gromicko



    Kevin,
    Phili like Baltimore Maryland and many older towns (houses built 1850s will have narrow walks and a tree within 10 ft of a house. Like most things it is not a problem until it becomes a problem. Like the street being close to the house. A car can and do, run into it due to street proximity. Most of the old east cost (USA) cities started planting trees in the early 1900s. Some of the species turned out to be a problem others not. There has been a ongoing movement to replace the trees over the years. The biggest problem is with sidewalk heaving up from roots.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Hercules, CA
    Posts
    158

    Default Re: Front of house bowing

    I am not familiar with construction in Philadelphia, but that type of rod and plate bracing in California denotes a non-reinforced brick building (URM; un-reinforced masonry).

    Older URM buildings do not have good connections between the roof\floor framing and the unreinforced brick walls, so in an earthquake there is a separation between them that often causes them to collapse. These rods help to hold these elements together to prevent this sudden collapse. There will still be damage, but sudden collapse is (hopefully) prevented.

    Additionally, modern brick wall construction includes the use of reinforcing steel to tie the brick together. The presence of the tie rods (and the stair step cracks at the lower right window) suggests that the walls of this building do not contain reinforcement. The lack of rebar does not mean the building is "unsafe", but it will sustain more damage in a eq or under severe wind than a reinforced building. Steps can be taken to make it safe for human occupancy, however damage is still likely to occur.

    You should definitely follow the advice above to investigate the permit records and have a licensed structural engineer evaluate the building before making an offer.


    Thom Huggett, PE, SE, CBO

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