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AllGoNoShow 12-23-2006 07:00 PM

Should my home inspector have caught this?
I bought a 1930 2-story colonial house with full walk down basement. The main beam, which extends 20 feet, is 3 2x8s nailed together, then there are 2x4s nailed to the main beam on both sides that the floor joists are notched to sit on. There are 3 7 foot long lally columns spaced over the main beam every 6 feet or so. My research has indicated this was common for houses of this time period.

The problem is, I have noticed that when the house was converted over to forced air some years ago, that the HVAC guy cut the main beam in 3 spots to get the ducting up the wall that the main beam sits under (this ducting then goes to the 2nd story). In 2 of the spots the main beam has been notched almost in half-the top 3 inches of all three 2x8s have been cut all the way through and about 7 inches across. In the other spot where the main beam has been notched, the deminsions of the cut are the same but the hole does not go all the way through the main beam.

The home inspector who I paid $300 for 1 hour of work did not mention any of this-while i did not see this when we went through the walk through, i did point out the fact there was 5 inches of wood shims in between the lally columns and main beam, but he just said while it was not ideal, it was an old house and not reason for concern.

Now should I be concerned? I would guess the house has existed like this for 20-30 years since the ducting was all put in, but could this cause a serious problem down the road? Something about my main beam only being a 6X3 in places scares me. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


redline 12-28-2006 06:57 AM

It should have been pointed out by the inspector.

747 12-28-2006 09:23 AM

The two trades who like to hack are plumbers and hvac. Definately should have been pointed out by inspector. You need to have a experience carpenter take a look and see if they have effected the support value of that beam.

AllGoNoShow 01-04-2007 08:58 AM

I took pics of what I am talking about:

Disregard the first six pics and look for the ones marked "mainbeam"-the first two show how the mainbeam/ledger/joist system was originally designed and the rest of the pics show the two (not three like i thought) problem areas.

What do you guys think?


concretemasonry 01-04-2007 10:42 AM

Were there any visual signs of a problem in the home above the "hacking"? - Cracks, settlement, excess deflection. etc.? What was there was obviously not to current code, but an inspection is for safety, major cost expenditures (2 to 5 years) and general conditions of the home and systems. The inspector is also obligated to pay particular attention to any area the purchaser feels are important within reason and scope of an inspection established by the code of ethics.

The inspection is limited to visual items. Items cannot be moved and many systems cannot be operated because of safety reasons, possible future effects, damage to the homes (operating old shutoff valves, etc.) or effect on other systems (shut off power to an operating computer, popping a GFCI that may have a oxygen generator wired downstream, etc.). Remember, you do not own the home yet, so you cannot act as if you do, unless you want to accept the liability of damage to the current owners home.

Your one hour inspection is certainly shorter than the average for a home of your size. That is a lot to look at.

If the inspector felt there was a problem, he should have pointed out the existance and made a recommendation to have an engineer look at the situation to determine if there was a real structural problem.

The home inspector is a generalist and is not qualified to make a structural analysis that would cost considerable more and take a thorough visit just for that. The same goes for furnaces (heat exchanger internals) and electrical (knob & tube, etc.). If there are potential problems beyond the scope of a normal inspection, the inspector should point these out for examination later by a specialist at a higher rate. The cost of having 4 or 5 specialists is far more expensive than a general visual inspection.

Before the inspection, a potential buyer should point out any areas of concern or specific details he is aware of for closer examination.

mighty anvil 01-04-2007 04:27 PM

The beam has not started to fail perhaps because the cuts might be near posts, the spans are very short, the loads above may be small or not at the mid spans, there may be some wood left at the top of the 2x8's, and the subfloor and flooring might be acting as a top chord for the beam at the cuts.

Stretch a string along the bottom of the beam and see if it is sagging. If so add another post.

jamesdart 01-04-2007 06:07 PM

that sounds too much like my 80 year old 2 story house with hacked tounge and groove flooring, hacked beam, and hacked floor joist on the 2nd floor. for toilet and hvac. the guy that did this stuff was a true butcher. when i put up my new cieling i had to runn furing strips to make it flat again, there was a 2" variation. most was due to sagging joist from notching and citting big ass holes. i had to re route all of the supply ducts and sister new joist. all of this from what iothought was just going to be demo, electrical, insulate and sheetrock.

redline 01-04-2007 07:09 PM

If what appears in the photos was as it was during the inspection then the inspector should have made you aware of the large cuts to the main beam. If there were items covering up the heat ducts or the area was not accessible then he may not have seen it.

Do the floors slope near where the cuts were made to the main beam?

How long has the forced air system been in operation?

AllGoNoShow 01-05-2007 08:32 AM

Had an engineer look at. He was surprised the inspector didn't mention it (and that he also didn't mention a duct which was wrapped in asbestos and in clear view)-told me to add one lally column in one spot(about 1 foot away from a current column but on the other side of one of the hack jobs) and said the other problem spot is in the middle of only like a 3-4 foot span from foundation wall to column and should not be a problem (he had all this engineer jargon to describe why). Said it has likely been this way for 50 years and there appears no big movement so no need to worry about it now. Will write up a report saying it is structurally sound so i don't have a problem selling it when time comes.

RippySkippy 02-09-2007 01:13 PM

If you now know you have asbestos, do you now have a new problem? In some states that have disclosures this is one of the items...

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