Friday, August 10, 2007

Comments on the Inspection

(c) 2007 Ms. Huis Herself at

Here's what Mr. Kluges has to say about the house inspection yesterday evening. Anything in square brackets is from me.

We had our house inspection yesterday and it pretty much confirmed what I thought. The house is very solidly built with a lot of great, unique features, and a lot of problems. The problems could have been avoided by doing two very simple things. Grading the soil to slope away from the house and keeping the gutters clean. That's it. Those two items have caused 90% of the problems in the house directly or indirectly. It's a shame really and a testament to the strength and quality of the building. It has held up remarkably well in spite of years of neglect. Two years of sitting empty has been hard on the house, especially in regards to the gutters.

First the good. The external walls are built of structural terra cotta blocks. They look like terra cotta chimney flue tiles, but are a slightly different shape. I asked the inspector point blank "What are the pros and cons of this type of building material," and his response was "Nothing but pros. They are incredibly strong." The brick on the outside is only a veneer, which is good because I was very concerned about structural integrity where the mortar is failing. If the brick mortar fails, just the veneer will fall down and not the whole house. :) The basement foundation is built of large, cement blocks. Again, these are very strong and durable.

The house has a primitive, but functional air circulation system. At the time it was built, it was thought that stale air was the cause of TB, so some houses had ductwork to help promote the movement of inside air to the outside and vice versa. I'd heard of this practice years ago when we went on a tour of the J.J. Hill house in St. Paul, Minnesota. That house sits on a cliff and they dug shafts down and then out into the cliff face to promote air flow. I'm not sure how useful it is in this house, but from a historical perspective it's pretty cool. Our inspector said that in the 20 years he's been inspecting houses, this is only the second one he's ever seen.

The roof is in pretty good shape, which was surprising, considering it is 86 years old. There are a few missing shingles, replaced with tin and the flashings need some attention, but overall it's in good shape. I'd still get a proper roofing company to come and do some maintenance on it.

The foundation, while it had some issues in the past appears fine, provided that the water issues are taken care of. The attic supports and construction are extremely well done and in very good shape.

Then some of the not so good. The gutters have not been properly maintained in 18+ months. They are leaking and this has caused problems with the soffits (due to improper drainage). The brick work needs to be repointed (due to improper drainage). The back porch needs to be jacked up and the support pillar re-leveled (because improper drainage washed dirt from under the support). Two of the basement windows have rotten sills (due to improper drainage). Some of the first floor joists in the basement need to be sistered because the ends are rotting (because of improper drainage). Did you happen to notice any common themes to the issues noted? Please, please, please clean your gutters and make sure you are directing water away from your house.

There are of course some other things - railings missing, overgrown vegetation, no GFCI recepticles [the kind with test/reset], etc., but these are all relatively minor and can either be addressed directly by ourselves or as part of an overall larger fix (like replacing the electrical). ['Cuz technically the knob-and-tube wiring isn't a defect, just outdated and in need of replacement/modernization. - MHH]

I did ask the inspector off the record how much he would budget to get the property functional and structurally sound. I won't quote him as it was "off the record", but it was good to hear a number that was exactly on the low end of what I was thinking. The bad thing was that I was hoping to spread the costs over five to ten years. He suggested that all the fixes get done as soon as possible, as in one to two years. Youch. [Yeah, I had sticker shock, but I hadn't been doing the research on this that Mr. Kluges has been doing. Double youch from me! Also, that big number doesn't include adding in another bath/half bath. - MHH]

So, we've presented a list of defects to the seller and will wait to see what his reply is. Either he comes down to a magical number and/or he offers to fix the issues. Otherwise we walk and hope that our second choice is still available. We love this house, but not at any price.


Happy Veggie said...

Wow. Nice to know that you now know what you know, not knowing what you don't know. (Thank you Donald Rumsfeld)

kittenpie said...

I always feel that if you know what you're getting into, then nothing is a problem, because you've made the decision to take it on. Our house is a mess, and over the next 5-10 years, will be a total gut job, but we knw that and paid accordingly. We got the deal of the century, actually, it will just take work. And really, know and tube is no big deal as long as you can find an insurer willing to take it on.

Mr. Kluges said...

Words of encouragement are always appreciated. And I couldn't agree more. Doing something crazy isn't really crazy if you have weighed the pros and cons and come to a rational decision - No matter what the rest of your family says :)

Syl said...

I don't think this is crazy at all - you are clearly going in with your eyes open and you're being very realistic about it all.

Best of luck with the new negotiation.

ewe are here said...

Oh the joys of surveys, searches and counter-offer hell.

We just got our survey and search results.... search results, not so good.... we may be pulling out ourselves. Which means more house hunting. SIGH.