This week’s featured Home Inspection is a home in the Queensborough neighbourhood of New Westminster.
Stories: 2 (Plus finished attic)
A quick look at the front and one side of the home showed no real concern – a young (less than 5 years) roof and some newer windows.
However, the south side of the home revealed a catastrophic foundation/wall framing problem. The wall was bowed considerably, and the poured concrete foundation was in pieces. The amount of lean on this wall is evident in the photo below:
This part of New Westminster is situated on the Eastern tip of Lulu Island, which is also home to Richmond. The whole area is a flood plain, and the water table is extremely high. New Construction homes in this area are now built on pile foundations due to the poor soil conditions, however, due to the age of this home, it was a typical Slab on Grade foundation. Coupled with poor drainage and surface water management, and over time the home began to sink and lean.
Here we see one of the bathrooms, where the extent of the structure damage was visible. The bathtub was pulling away from the wall. There were also gaps where the wall was breaking away at the corners…
…The tile shower enclosure was badly damaged – here’s a moisture meter reading showing complete water saturation behind the tiles.
Another problem with older homes is electrical wiring. In the basement and attic, old knob and tube wiring was present. Knob and tube wiring is an obsolete wiring material which is considered potentially dangerous, and needs to be evaluated by an electrician, particularly to keep the insurance company happy. (They are extremely careful about it)
A ceramic knob and the associated wiring is visible in the above photo. Coupled with the structural issues, this home requires some fairly major work. I recommended they contact a structural engineer, and an electrician to review the home. Safety is the top priority!
We inspected this home in Port Moody, BC recently. It was a 30 year-old home with a split crawlspace / basement configuration. The lot was sloped considerably, and a prior rain (the day before) provided ideal conditions for a Home Inspection.
Entering the crawlspace, there was considerable water damage and rot to the floor structure, below the base of the chimney.
Several joists were deteriorated, and heavy mold growth was found in the area. Here we can see the moisture levels showing complete saturation:
Everyone (including some contractors) initially suspected poor lot grading to be the cause, however, a close look at the area (and water testing) showed no water pooling issues in the area.
Water testing of the chimney finally revealed the culprit – a failed chimney flashing that was allowing water to enter behind the vinyl siding and ultimately winding up in the crawlspace. The water traveled two stories down, and pooled at the base. It can be seen at the top right of the below photo:
The repairs were completed by Ken Hunter from HunterStruct, an experienced general contractor who specializes in structural repairs.
The buyers were thrilled to have the work completed prior to their possession date, and recently moved in.
This house in Langley was inspected about a week after a huge rain storm.
Around the exterior I found a number of downspouts that were either broken or directing water against the side of the foundation.
This condition seems minor, but it can be the difference between a wet and dry basement. I recommended the owner extend the above downspout away from the home by six feet, or install a splash-block to divert water away from the foundation.
When we entered the crawlspace, there was a some insulation lying on the ground that was wet – a big red flag.
The crawlspace opened up to a nearly seven-foot “basement”. However, note the high water mark and standing water around the deep end:
Even seven days after the last rainfall, there were still several inches of standing water. I also found a large (1/4″) crack in the concrete foundation wall which appeared to be moving, probably due to the water ingress issues.
Wet basements can be caused by poor drainage, bad grading (slope of ground above), underground streams or high water tables. In this case, we discovered that the home originally was designed to have a full basement, but was changed to a half-crawlspace due to city restrictions. However the buried perimeter drains in the basement area were kept at the crawlspace depth, well above the footings. Water was seeping in below the drain tile.
The client saved a considerable amount of money by having a quality home inspection performed, prior to purchase.
This week’s featured inspection is from an older home in the Sapperton area of New Westminster. The home was built in the 1930-40’s.
The siding showed extensive repair/alteration. At first we thought the house had been raised, however upon inspecting the basement it turned out not to be the case.
The grading of the lot (sloping) was extremely poor and in many areas, water was splashing against the base of the wall framing. Whenever soil is stacked against the base of the wall (or higher), seepage and rot can occur and cause huge damage to the structure of the home.
Measurement from inside showed the base of the wood wall framing to be right behind the flashing. We probed the wood and found serious rot in multiple areas. The worst-hit areas were those right beside downspouts (where splashing/overflow can occur).
One trick for determining the height of wall framing, is to find a reference point (a window works well) at the interior of the home, and to measure the height to the top of the concrete foundation wall. Then perform the same measurement outside.
We believe the homeowner had added flashing to the base of the stucco in an attempt to promote water drainage away from the sill plate (bottom plate of wall).
The downspout connection in the previous photo was covered, however we observed it to be overflowing against the home during the inspection. The drain tiles were likely blocked.
Due to the poor design of the wall, and deterioration suspected, we recommended further review by a structural contractor. They came and gave a quote for almost $40,000 for structural repair/rebuilding of the affected walls.
This weekend I was called out to Maple Ridge to inspect a foreclosure property that my client, a young man in his 20’s, was considering purchasing. He explained that his main concern was any major-cost items. He could do small repairs himself but any major work would cost him out-of-pocket and he would not be able to afford surprises.
Looking at the exterior of the home, we can already see major structural concerns. There’s been an addition added to the side of the house, right where the carport used to be. Due to the terrible workmanship, the side of the addition needed to be propped up by stacks of wood.
Here we can see the extent of the failure; the walkways have all cracked and are sinking under the weight of the structure. Those walkways are not designed to bear the weight of a house! We need a proper footing to bear load.
In this photo you can see the full extent of the leaning:
We went inside the home and found huge structural cracks through the drywall. The owner tried to patch the cracks, but they opened up shortly after. Cracks of this magnitude almost always signify a serious structural defect. (Note: The windows could not be opened in this room. The movement was so severe that the windows had been pinned in their frame).
I entered the crawlspace and inspected the floor structure from below. Immediately it became apparent that lateral movement was occurring in this home. The addition was pulling the house sideways, and several pony walls/supports were leaning significantly:
The owner had added supports to the floor, but the had also failed. At one end of the home, the sill plate had been replaced, probably due to the old one rotting away.
Not only did we find structural concerns, but the roof needed replacement, and most of the electrical in the home needed to be rewired. The owner wisely decided to look for another home in better condition.
Call us Before Purchasing a Foreclosure! 604 395-2795
Throughout my career inspecting buildings, I have never seen a parkade (parking garage) without at least one moisture stain, or active leak. It’s very common for parking garages to leak, and when they do, the stains left behind are often not removed. This may scare off a potential buyer, when in reality the leak may have been solved already.
Here is a list of what to look for when inspecting a parkade:
Efflorescence is a chemical salt that becomes drawn out of the concrete when moisture passes through it. It’s commonly described as a white, chalk- like substance. It stays behind, even after the leakage problem is solved. When inspecting these stains, look at the pattern of the staining. If you see small, perfect circles on a ceiling, you can bet that water has been dripping at some point. A pale, whispy stain with no soft edges is probably left over from construction, and is likely not a concern.
All concrete, during curing, will crack and shift slightly. New, small cracks may form as the live load of the building changes. These most commonly appear as vertical cracks on the exterior foundation walls, and are a common point of water entry. One or two of these can be normal, however, if a wall is cracked in multiple locations and all are leaking heavily, an expert should be called.
Some water ingress at side walls may be caused by improper or defective waterproofing at the exterior wall.
Leakage around drain lines is common, particularly below landscaping and patio decks on ground floor units. Some cast iron drain lines may corrode and leak in the slab, leading to cracks and staining around the connection in the garage. Repairs usually involve removal of the drain base, and part of the cast iron stack, and replacing and waterproofing as necessary.
Widespread leakage, or heavy staining around the parking garage may indicate a waterproofing membrane failure. This is a potentially expensive repair – a building with complete membrane failure may need to remove significant amounts of the landscaping above, and torch on a new membrane. Repairs sometimes involve destruction of landscaping, concrete walkways and patios. The photo above is from a building in Vancouver – they ultimately dug up the entire courtyard and re-waterproofed.
Perimeter Drain Failure
The image above is from a condo with a failed perimeter drain. We can see the rust colored sediment leaching through, as well as a water stain running along the base of the wall. Since the pipe was completely plugged, no water was being carried away from the base of the foundation, into the storm drain, and instead seeped into the basement. The rust color is due to the oxidization (rusting) of the iron in the soil.
Epoxy injections are a popular solution for concrete leaks. They can be identified by small injector plugs that follow a crack line, usually along the ceiling of a parkade. Epoxy repairs will remain forever and cannot be cleaned/removed to hide the repairs. When inspecting these areas, consider that they may have been done recently or long ago – it’s very difficult to determine.
Repairing heavy leaks using epoxy injections is not the best method – the source of the water should be eliminated before any action is taken.
As an alternative to Epoxy Injections, products such as the Kryton Krystol waterproofing compound, can be used with good long-term performance. One advantage to these products is that the finished result looks much more professional – with no visible epoxy residue, oil or injection plugs left over. The installation involves chipping or “routing” out the crack with a chipping gun and packing the product into the trench. The product expands and “follows” the water source, effectively stopping the ingress.
Garage leaks are common, and knowing what to look for can greatly help buyers differentiate between small repair jobs and larger issues. A certified home inspector can help you identify any issues in the building. And, of course, always read any strata documents provided by your seller.
Due to advances in waterproofing technology, we have added information regarding the Kryton waterproofing system (an alternative to epoxy injections), as well as improved the general readability of the article.