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Old 03-01-2014, 10:22 AM   #1
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Fire Restoration/County Inspectors


Hi, I have a 150+ year old house. I had a fire which was contained to one room and there was no structural damage. However there is smoke and water damage to most of the house. My problem is a county inspector. As I said there was no structural damage. The scope of work being done is pretty much limited to replacing the windows the fire department broke, replacing 80 percent of the sheet rock in the house, replacing the insulation and replacing the electric on the second floor. The contractor had an inspector in the house this week to ask about replacing the windows because there are no headers and the openings need to be re sized to meet egress code. While there the inspector started taking note of exposed joists in my living room. An area not involved in any way with the fire or the restoration work. The inspector told my contractor he would fail the house if the joists were not "taken care of".

First does the inspector have general license to inspect the whole house? Things beyond the scope of work?

Second, I "see" what the inspector is seeing but believe his conclusions to be wrong. What the inspector sees are exposed joists in my living room. They are true 2x6's that were the bottom cord of the old trusses from when the house was a single story. About 1920 a second story was added. The trusses were cut leaving only the lower cord. On top of the lower cord 3/4 tongue and groove pine was placed creating the living room ceiling. In line with the left in lower cords and on top of the 3/4 tng 4x6's were placed. On top of the 4x6's the second floor flooring was placed-- also 3/4 tng. What the inspector is seeing is sag in the older 2x6's. About 1.5" at the center of the span-- that sag has been there the 16 years I have owned the house. However there is no corresponding sag in the the floor above because it is on the 4x6's. The inspector says the 2x6's are structural, does not care that the 2nd floor is supported by the 4x6's and I contend the 2x6's are not truly structural and if they were the floor above would sag . The span of the room is 18', I know that exceeds modern standards but it has been there for 100 years. There is no bounce to the second floor and no sag.

I have been renovating and fixing structural issues in this house for a decade. There is nothing wrong with it that I don't know about and there are no repairs for the fire restoration or structurally that I can not do. My understanding is I need an occupancy inspection by the county to reoccupy the house. Any one have any insight about that? I am thinking of firing the contractor and doing the repairs my self to get the inspector out of the loop. Because if he keeps looking there are real issues to find well beyond saggy cosmetic joists. So is that an option? If I take "pros" out of the loop will the county leave me alone? Outside of the windows all the work is inside.

If it matters I am in Baltimore County MD. And my insurance company says structural issues found by the county not caused by the fire are not covered.

As said above the house is very old. It appears to have been built in at least 5 stages from two single room buildings. Those two original buildings are the living room and dining room of the house as of today. There are 4 different foundations under the house. There is a lot of unorthodox construction due to being built in stages over the course of 75-100 years. But most of the major issues I have taken care of-- I had to replace 30' of exterior wall framing about 8 years ago after removing sheet rock to renovate the kitchen. So I have been taking care of the issues as I see them but really do not need the county snooping aound.


Last edited by sjbode; 03-01-2014 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:15 PM   #2
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Fire Restoration/County Inspectors


There is no easy answer to your question. Generally an existing structure is "grandfathered". But when the structure is bared such as you did, then some areas feel that the grandfather clause is voided.

Some photographs would be nice.

You may need an engineer to get the inspector off your neck. You also need to figure out where the entire department stands on existing structures, and where that legal justification comes from.

And you also want to investigate what the responsibility of the insurance company is. Of course their first response will be to deny further claims, but that might not be the actual case.

Do you have a contract with the GC? Firing him because he called for a needed inspection is not justified, and a court may hold you responsible for his lost profit.

Straight out of your wallet.

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Old 03-01-2014, 04:17 PM   #3
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Fire Restoration/County Inspectors


Quote:
My understanding is I need an occupancy inspection by the county to reoccupy the house. Any one have any insight about that? I am thinking of firing the contractor and doing the repairs my self to get the inspector out of the loop.
If they "red tagged" the house because of the fire, yes you will need the occupancy inspection before you move back in. Guess who is going to do it ?

Calling for the building permit inspections is part of the job. Getting rid of the contractor does not solve that problem. If you skip inspections, the county can make you open walls or whatever they need to do those inspections. Then you get to redo what you opened for them.
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Old 03-02-2014, 05:33 PM   #4
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Fire Restoration/County Inspectors


Every state needs a rehabilitation subcode like New Jersey's. Issues like this would be far simpler for people to deal with. A repair is a repair in New Jersey. There are instances where you have to redo everything, but that would not be the case in this instance.
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