Home inspection - is a structural engineer worth it? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 07-02-2012, 05:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We are in the process of buying a larger home and had the inspection this morning. Minor defects were found, with the exception of one major defect - mold in the attic (but that's a whole other post)!

 

Anyway, the inspection was performed by a well respected licensed home inspector. The foundation and supports we can see from the basement appear to be in great shape. However, when I walk around the first floor of the house, the floors feel slightly "wavy," with some very minor slants and dips. Upstairs, there are some more significant slants and dips. In one bedroom, for example, a dresser up against the wall is touching the wall at the bottom, but at the top of the dresser it's a few inches from the wall.

 

The inspector was not concerned about any of this and barely acknowledged that the slants were there at all. He wasn't concerned, but he said that if I was worried about it, I could hire a structural engineer for a second opinion. I'm not sure how much this would cost or if it would be worth it.

 

Has anyone paid for a second opinion like this?

 

Thanks!

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#2 of 12 Old 07-03-2012, 11:24 AM
 
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No experience with a structural engineer but I have a wavy house... It's structurally sound (home inspector when we bought it said that it was built way better structurally than most houses he's seen). The crookedness has been annoying when remodeling -- for example, we had to do some crazy cuts and calculations when putting in new kitchen cabinets, and with the walls not being square we've had to accommodate for it and it looks a bit wonky in a few places (though not noticeable to others). And it does annoy me that furniture doesn't sit properly, the gap at the top between the dresser & the wall tends to drive me nuts! Also, the house has further settled since we bought it (I don't know if it was the minor earthquake aftershock or what) and that caused a lot of our floor tiles to crack. So, just some things to be aware of with buying a wavy house, not a deal-breaker for me & I feel pretty confident that the structural integrity of my house is sound but if it is concerning to you it might be good for peace of mind to get a second opinion.

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#3 of 12 Old 07-03-2012, 12:36 PM
 
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It depends how old your house is.

 

Houses do 'settle' over time and this makes their walls/floors less than straight from when they were first built.  Another  thing I'd check is subsidence in the earth. 

 

We had a structural engineer check over our house but that's because we had some water ingress into the outside stairwell and the steel was very rusty.  He gave it a clean bill of health which was huge piece of mind.

 

IMO, if you're a worrier like me (ha) I'd get the second opinion. 

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#4 of 12 Old 07-03-2012, 01:06 PM
 
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A bad foundation is a serious problem so I would pay for the extra inspection, for assurance.

 

When I bought my first house, I did have to get a structural engineer inspection...what ever the red flag was (it wasn't wavy floors, something was seen in the actual foundation), the 2nd opinion turned out fine. I believe I paid 250. (7 yrs ago.)


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#5 of 12 Old 07-03-2012, 01:18 PM
 
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Stuff like you're describing about the dresser - I wouldn't think anything of.  If you are able to see visually clues about the dips that you feel in the floor (like it also looks uneven in the room when you look at the floor/ceiling) -- I'd get the structural engineer for sure.  If you can barely feel it and can't see anything, it might not be something you really *need* to do (unless you'll end up worrying about it too much, then - you should just try it out anyway).  

 

When we were house-hunting recently, those instances where something is visually uneven were when our realtor regularly mentioned getting a structural engineer in would be important.  They'd be able to tell you whether it something that needs fixing, that would need just minor adjustments, and how big a problem it is.  In a few cases, we could see something had been done (supports added in basement, stuff like that) so if you're seeing anything like that, I'd probably feel less worried over it as someone else had tried to do something about the problem at some point.

 

I think an inspection with a structural engineer would not be likely to be more than your home inspection, and there's likely to be other things they'll be able to mention or price for you regarding the house you might not think of and may like to know.  I'd probably do it.  

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#6 of 12 Old 07-03-2012, 01:23 PM
 
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It definitely depends how old the house is. If this is a newer house, say 30 years old or less, I would be concerned. My house is over 90 years old so sloping floors are par for the course. Older homes in particular tend to lean inward to center or toward the chimney. You get used to it. orngbiggrin.gif Our licensed home inspector also told us the floors weren't something to worry about in context of its age. I would tend to trust your inspector also.

But if knowing it's normal doesn't relieve your worries, the second opinion may be worth it. Not sure what the cost would be but assuming under $1,000 that's pennies compared to the cost of the house or potential repairs IF there is a problem. Depending on your purchase agreement, the findings from the SE might not be covered under the inspection contingency so talk to your agent for details before you sink the money.

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#7 of 12 Old 07-03-2012, 01:26 PM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Tapioca View Post

It depends how old your house is.

 

Houses do 'settle' over time and this makes their walls/floors less than straight from when they were first built.  Another  thing I'd check is subsidence in the earth. 

 

We had a structural engineer check over our house but that's because we had some water ingress into the outside stairwell and the steel was very rusty.  He gave it a clean bill of health which was huge piece of mind.

 

IMO, if you're a worrier like me (ha) I'd get the second opinion. 

yeahthat.gif Our house is 200+yrs old so the floors are wavy, but structurally I'd take my house over some of the newer construction junk I've seen. If it's worrying you get the engineer though. If you are worried now it will probably always be nagging at the back of your mind. Even if there's nothing wrong the peace of mind will be worth the price.


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#8 of 12 Old 07-03-2012, 08:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The house is only 25 years old! (Our current house is more than 50 years old and the floors are nearly level.) The walls, ceilings, etc. all seem to be fine. The foundation looks great (poured concrete with virtually no cracks). 

 

Since our inspector did not list the wavy floors as a major defect, my concerns are being dismissed. I am afraid if we push for the engineer, the sellers will back out of the deal. (They already will have to pay for mold remediation in the attic, which will run well over $2K.)

 

I feel the issue here is not with the wooden joists/supports, but with the cheap composite subfloors they started using in the 70s.

 

Should I push for the engineer just for peace of mind?

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#9 of 12 Old 07-04-2012, 06:37 AM
 
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Yikes, 25 years old, that might concern me. I would consider the engineer... but like a pp said, make sure the contingency would cover this new inspection, otherwise there isn't any point to it.

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#10 of 12 Old 07-18-2012, 01:35 PM
 
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We looked at a house like that. We walked away. My husband draws the plans for sky scrapers so i figured he knew what he was talking about;)


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#11 of 12 Old 07-19-2012, 06:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, we forked over the $325 for a structural engineer. He was not worried about the house. He thinks the second story floor joists may have been installed improperly (with the crown on the bottoms of some of the pieces). He doesn't think it will get worse than it is now. He described the floors as "inconvenient" but not a problem. So I guess we're going through with the purchase. The floors still bother me, but there are many good things about the house, like the strong foundation and the very level floor joists on the first floor.

 

Thanks for everyone's opinions!

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#12 of 12 Old 07-20-2012, 08:32 AM
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Houses are like relationships:  Anything that bothers you a little at first will bother you more as time goes on.


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