Sunday, February 24, 2008

Construction & Home Inspection Nightmares

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 remo
ve, 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 photo
s speak for themselves...

trical 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.)
- © 2008,


Anonymous said...

Hi Shanty, glad to see someone is focusing the construction nightmare topic on a local level. I'm in the home inspection business in Houston and we recently started posting videos to our website about home defects in existing as well as newly constructed homes. We have a large population of people who are convinced by the new home builder that if it's new it can't have any problems.

We just picked up the domain name " and will either make a special page on our site or launch a new site. I was plesently surprised by your comment that the "Construction Nightmare section of TOH is the most popular.


Shanty Minister said...

Hey Jim... I always wonder if anyone will stumble upon these photos.. I have many more to post in the coming weeks.. Let us know when your site is fully up and running.. Feel free to consider posting to the Flickr group too. Tell your colleagues! Thanks !

Anonymous said...


I hate to say this but a lot of this stupid mistakes are started by home owners who want to do thing super cheap and quick.Most of the time whom they really hired are not licensed professional contractors. What they hired are " Scammer" pretending to be contractors. A lot those quick fix home flipping TV shows also gave inexperience home owners false ideas that they can do thing really fast...for very little money.


Jon Boyd said...


Some of those are just amazing. My favorite is the little chimney next to the big addition.

Also waiting for the Flickr group.


Jon Boyd Ann Arbor real estate buyer's agent

Shanty Minister said...

Thanks for visiting. The "Construction Nightmares" group is already open and running.
Feel free to contribute photos of Bad construction at

Unknown said...

Interestingly, the design of an HVAC system has major impacts on productivity and energy savings. If you don't have good controls on your HVAC, then you are wasting tons of money. It could be that you are simultaneously heating and cooling different parts of the building at the same time.

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Anonymous said...

this is a world-class write-up which I think should be read by every citizen of the world. I am happy that at least somebody gave this subject an attention. People should understand its importance as well…

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Home Inspector Websites said...

I don't agree to pay in advance,when the repair is not yet started, reason for this is they won't be doing their job well. Whatever the work done that's the time they will pay partial to be fair for us.

Chad Sample said...

why do people still make this kind of mistakes? When doing home inspection, always leave it to the professionals.

Anonymous said...

Home Inspection is very necessary for old and new home.
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