As Americans tighten their belts with respect to their own disposable income, you can be sure more property owners will move to repairing and renovating their existing properties instead of trying to upgrade to new digs. As a result, more home owners are bound to find themselves face-to-face with the reality that their existing property may have (existing) defects that need to be corrected. It's also likely that these same property owners will also encounter a contractor that may (or may not) actually complete the renovation work correctly.
Coincidentally, as I listened to the rebroadcast of Tavis Smiley's, the State of the Black Union (2008) on C-Span, a displaced New Orleans resident spoke about her experience with contractors who promised to do repair work to her New Orleans home, took her money, but never showed up to finish/complete the work. I have said (even here) many times, that that is not a problem unique to the victims of Katrina. [ See my post on Mike Holmes, Contractor.]
So when I stumbled on (yet again) Home Inspection Nightmare examples on the This Old House website, courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) , it reminded me that I need to post examples from right here in Chicago. The "Home Inspection Nightmares" section on the TOH web site is their MOST visited section. Most visited! Amazing. On a positive note, it does point out that anyone who owns or is looking to own property, should learn how to avoid (financial) disaster by learning from the mistakes of others.
There were a few patterns that appeared as a result of this "worst of" American homes...
1. That the states with the most lenient Home Inspection (HI) laws (i.e. laws regulating the selling of property), tended to have a significant number of dangerous construction problems. The states having more lenient HI laws included California, many southern states, and yes, my beloved Illinois. (Illinois came in the lower 35% percentile. Calf. was one of the worst in the nation, followed by many southern states.)
2. Communities with more relaxed building codes, tended to have high incidences of shoddy construction, and a high percentage of homes with dangerous existing conditions. [Makes sense, doesn't it?]
Unfortunately, there were fewer correlations between location and the number (or severity) of construction. Shoddy construction seems to know no real demographic. (Even well prepared property owners experience fraud.) While it is true poorer households do suffer a high rate of contractor fraud, middle and upper income households experience a significant rate of contractor fraud as well. In fact, some of the most egregious construction practices occurred in homes valued over $750K. (The primary difference between the rich and the less rich, has more to do with resources available to the household to later seek out a remedy-- to sue the contractor. Of course, suing a contractor usually comes well after a breach of contract or trust, when the damage is already done.)
Let's dispense with the chit chat, and get to the examples..
This contractor seemed to think no joists and no sub-floor were required under the bathroom. They just went ahead and installed new drywall over a wall that had no joist and no sub-floor supporting it. The GC is being rightly sued. Unfortunately, in the 4+ years when this work originally was done, this group of Contractors have worked on many other homes and will probably continue to work on other homes in the Chicago area. What is so sickening about this is, none of the trades involved in the job (the plumber, the dry waller, painter, etc.) did anything about trying to get this situation corrected. How do they sleep at night?
Photo of this same area from below.
Notice how the floor joist was totally cut away by the moron that is the plumber. (Actually two floor joists were completely cut out, but it's hard to see that in this picture.) The white dashed lines show where the joist material SHOULD have been. This contractor later came back and instead of correcting the problem, covered it up with a mudset coat, and literally painted the area (to disguise water damage, the old areas from the new, and the fresh cut wood. )
From the same moron Contractor..
This same house (photo below) was suppose to be undergoing repairs as of a result of damage sustained by a fire. The General Contractor didn't think anyone would notice that the sub-floor should have been replaced--even though it was in his written contract that the sub-floor be replaced. (Uumm, how do you replace a sub-floor AFTER all the new drywall and walls have been installed? This GC repeatedly ignored directives to install materials in the proper sequence.)
In the photo below, why remove, clean & reinstall the radiator, when your position [as the GC] is that the home owner is too stupid to care about the details of how things get installed ? Just cut out the new wood floor AROUND the radiator leg. This "method" saved some dumbass floor contractor the hassle of having the GC's HVAC contractor move the radiators. Notice how that wretched sub-floor (above) shows through under the "new" wood floor. Almost too stupid for words.. Disgusting work, yet typical.
I hope the rest of these photos speak for themselves...
Electrical outlets and switches in wet areas (including showers) are abundant.
And just in case you new homeowners are feeling secure... It appears that a large share of these kinds of mistakes are present in a considerable portion of NEW HOME CONSTRUCTION as well.
So, those of you buying a NEW HOME should ALSO hire a licensed Home Inspector (and/or hire an architect) to help you during the buying process.
I am starting a public FLickr pool of Home Inspection Nightmare shots. I'll post a link to the FLickr pool later. We can share photos and learn from one another. (Or send me your shots. Photos need to be UNDER 1 MB in size if you email them to me.)
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