Quote & Thought of the Day, 2010/10/18

[Quote remembered, hopefully not butchered too much.] “The real estate agent told us there were multiple buyers looking at this home, so if we wanted to get the house we needed to make an offer as-is with no pre-sale conditions and no home inspection.”

– A couple on Holmes on Homes, and I have no idea which episode. It aired this last Sunday on HGTV if that’s any help.


Recently my mom & I have started watching the show Holmes on Homes on the Home & Garden TV channel (HGTV). It follows the work of general contractor Mike Holmes as he goes into houses that have had substandard work done on them by other contractors.

Holmes will go in, talk to the homeowners and look at the work that has been done. Then he and various assistants and subcontractors will work to undo the damage and do the original project the right way — which is to say durable, usable, attractive, with proper permits and in accordance with all industry and local standards.

(Mom has been watching it longer than I have. She asked me to start watching it with because while she understood most of the problems with structure, HVAC and plumbing, she was not sure at times why the electrical was so screwed up and why Mike Holmes would look at certain wires and either close his eyes in pain or grit his jaw in anger.)

Some of the redo projects are simpler than others. And some turn into a never-ending supply of problems. At times it reminds me of one job I worked at where there were a number of older products that sold rarely, but were still in the catalog, and were not as well-documented regarding design theory, theory of operation, or manufacturing concerns as some of the newer products. When dealing with the older products, one of the engineers I worked with used a metaphor of bugs and rocks: you see a bug on a rock, you say “Ack! A bug!!” and then you squish the bug; looking at the rock suspiciously, you pick it up and find . . . another bug. While it’s tempting to keep squishing bugs and picking up rocks to make sure there’s no more bugs underneath, there comes a time you have to admit the limits of your own time and energy, notify someone else about the additional bugs you’ve unearthed, and move on.

One of the episodes I watched yesterday with Mom started out with a large house that had an upstairs laundry room moved downstairs to the basement, in a room adjacent to the furnace room. Upon doing laundry, the homeowners looked outside and saw suds on their lawn.

As Mike Holmes and his team looked more and more into the problem, they found more and more rocks and bugs. Yes, the plumbing was done improperly . . .

No, there were no permits . . .

Tearing out the sheetrock on one one wall, not only was the plumbing done improperly, so was the wiring . . .

And metal studs were used with copper piping, which is against code because the metal of the studs will interact with the copper water pipes and cause serious corrosion within a couple years . . .

And the metal studs weren’t even fastened to the floor or ceiling, the could be pulled out by hand . . .

And the walls of the new laundry room had been insulated, but not all the way and there was no vapor barrier, so the room was freezing cold and there was already mold from condensation . . .

But the point where Holmes just shook his head and said “this is a whole other huge project, I can’t even begin to work on it, I’ll just give them the names of some people to contact about this” was when they were up in the attic to run the vent for the plumbing in the laundry room out through the roof.

There was insulation in the attic, but it was not on the flat part that was the ceiling of the room below. The insulation was instead right up against the roof, which apparently is a bad thing because the attic is supposed to be a cold zone and the roof part is uninsulated. The floor of the attic, which is the ceiling of the room below, is supposed to be where the fiberglass insulation goes.

But even worse, the joists running across the attic were wooden 2×4‘s. When code says they should have been 2×6’s, minimum.

At this point, the cascading problems start to predate the work on the basement laundry room which Mike Holmes was fixing. They even predate the remodeling of the upstairs bedroom the current owners had done when they first moved in.

At this point, there are fundamental structural problems with at least one entire level of the house and the problems must go back to when the second floor of the house was put on, which might have been an add-on and might have been when the house was first built.

Which goes back to something the couple said when that episode first started — they had fallen in love with the house and been told by the real estate agent if they wanted to buy it, they’d have to bid quick and take it as-is, no presale conditions, no home inspection.

Now, there’s no guarantee that every home inspector on the market would have caught the insulation and ceiling joist problem (although one would think the competent and thorough ones certainly would have).

But when a sales person tells you “buy now and no you can’t have it checked out by any third parties”, that is probably a very bad sign. No matter how nice it looks on the outside.


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