These are pictures of our house. This house was built in 1998 by Dennis Godshall of Harleysville, PA. The house was not quite 7 years old when these were taken. We started to suspect we had a problem because the rooms inside developed a musty smell - we traced the smell to around the electrical outlets, so we knew it was something inside the walls. We could not see any leaks, but a moisture meter did detect moisture in the walls at multiple spots. You can see that due to multiple construction defects (including defective stucco, incorrect window installation, and improper grading), the house was literally rotting to pieces beneath an exterior that appeared to be fine. Not even our contractor expected the damage to be as extensive as what they found.
This photo album will document the before, during, and after pictures of the repair process. Note that we start the story with lots of background - if you're just after the gory details, skip to picture 15. You can page through the pictures using the "Next" or "Show All" links on the left side below this message.
Please feel free to sign the guestbook or add comments to the pictures. If you'd like to email me privately, you may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org
Date(s): September 30, 2005. 1 - 410 of 410 Total. 13830 Visits.
1 Our House - Summer 2005 This is our house. It was built in November 1998, but we bought it from the first owner in July 2002. The previous owner was selling because her husband had passed away and she didn't want to stay there without him.
The house was designed to look like a 200 year old stucco over stone farmhouse. It has a true 3-coat stucco exterior and a cedar roof. We added the screen porch on the right side of the house a year ago. "This house looks much older. It really looks like it ..." "I read a comment made to hire a structural engineer, ..." View Comments...
2 Left Side We bought the house at the height of a hot market, and in order to compete, we waived the home inspection (thinking the house was only 3 years old - what could be wrong?) We did have an inspection a few months after moving in because we were concerned about a few things, including cracks and stains in the stucco. The home inspector found nothing major wrong and passed the house with flying colors.
This is the left side of the house. The bottom right window is our dining room. The top right window is the master bedroom. The "addition" on the back (with the tall brick chimney) is the family room. The brick chimney vents our family room fireplace.
3 Back Of House This is the back of the house.
4 Right Side The 2nd story windows are my kids' bedrooms. The one on the left is my son's, and the right one is my daughter's. The small windows up top are to the attic. This chimney vents the 2 furnaces and the living room fireplace.
5 This is the left bottom window on the front of the house. Shortly after we bought the house, we noticed that some of the windows had window trim that seemed to be slightly rotted, and some of the windows had water stains. Our home inspector told us this was normal, and that we needed to caulk the trim - a simple maintenance procedure. "The staining on lime finish stucco is VERY common.The..." View Comments...
6 This is the worst staining It's on the dining room window above the bilco doors on the Left Side of the house. As you'll see shortly, the wall behind this window was essentially falling apart from moisture intrusion and rot, yet our inspector pronounced this kind of stain "normal" and said we needed to caulk.
Incidentally, we can't sue the inspector because our contract with him says all suits must be filed within a year after the inspection. It took us 2 years to find this. Bummer, huh?
So in spring 2005, we started smelling a musty smell (like wet dirt) in several rooms. The master bedroom, our son's room, the laundry room, and the family room were the worst, but we could smell it in just about every room. We traced the smell to the electrical outlets - if we took the plates off, we could smell it coming out of the walls. The screws inside the outlet boxes (that held the outlet to the box) were all rusty as well. "California home inspectors are actually bond by state..." "I'm a Level II Thermographer, a certified ASHI Home I..." View Comments...
7 Drip Cap We had a mold inspector out who confirmed that the smell indicated that there was moisture and mold in the wall cavities. We contacted a moisture intrusion specialist who came out and immediately pointed the finger at our stucco.
He said that stucco over wood framing was vulnerable to cracking and moisture intrusion, and that OSB, the sheathing they used behind our stucco, is very susceptible to rot and mold. He said that even the tiny "superficial" cracks in our stucco can wick in huge amounts of water, and that since we have no weep screed, there is no way for water to drain out once it gets in.
He also noted details like the drip caps over our windows - note that there's no metal flashing, so only a layer of caulk keeps the water out. This cap should also be sloped to drain water - it's not. Water collects on the surface and drips into the wall through any gap in the caulk.
8 Cracked Caulk Here is what happens when the caulk fails above the drip caps. We had had the trim painted in May 2004, but the painters missed caulking the top of this window. This crack was wide open, letting water pour onto the OSB behind the stucco. If there was metal flashing either on top of or behind this drip cap, the water would have stayed out.
9 Exploratory Surgery To confirm our suspicions that the lack of head flashing over the windows was the problem, we pulled off the wood trim around the window with the worst staining (the one you see in picture 6). Here's what we found. The OSB was completely shot - I could stick my finger through it. The black is rotten wood, the white is mold. Yum.
At this point, we decided the best course of action was to remove the stucco, repair the damage, and reside the house in Hardieplank fiber-cement siding. We hoped this would keep the historical look (it looks like wood clapboard) but eliminate the moisture intrusion problems with the stucco.
We got a bunch of quotes and ended up going with a builder who was going to charge $30K for removing the stucco, installing the Hardieplank, and replacing all the wood window trim with Azek (a PVC composite material that looks like wood but doesn't rot). Any sheathing or structural repairs would be done at additional cost for time and materials. "You can also see that the window opening was not wrap..." View Comments...
10 Where's the plaster stop? Up close, you can see that the wood trim was installed completely wrong. The window was nailed to the sheathing, a layer of 30-lb felt was placed over the nail fin, the wood trim was not backprimed and was nailed directly over the felt. Then the stucco was brought up to the wood trim, touching it. There should be a metal stop bead between the stucco and the wood - otherwise the porous stucco just dumps moisture into the wood. Once the wood trim got wet enough (remember, it wasn't backprimed, so it soaked up the water like a sponge), it just held the water against the felt paper until it degraded the felt and rotted the OSB. "On much older houses,the stucco always butted up to t..." View Comments...
11 Porch Roof Flashing At this point, we also decided to repair some other issues during the reside. All of our copper porch roof flashings were done incorrectly and had leaked at one point or another - we had fixed them with caulk, but they really needed to be torn off and redone. Note how the window over the porch is installed touching the roof - there is no way to properly flash an installation like this, and so we decided to replace all the windows that touched a porch roof with shorter windows, adding another $3K to the bill. The flashing around the brick chimney and parts of the cedar roof over the family room were also bad, and during heavy rains, we would have to put buckets in our fireplace to catch the water. So we're replacing the roof and flashing on that section. What the heck - it's only money, right?
12 Typical porch roof flashing Note the sheer amount of caulk it took to make this stop leaking. Also note how nicely they NAILED through the flashing, then covered it up with gutter seal caulk. Very professional, no?
13 Another view of the porch roof The tops of the standing seams are not folded over and covered with flashing. And they aren't soldered....they're held together with more gutter caulk.
14 Family Room Roof Intersection This is how the roof of the family room meets the wall of the main house. Note that the stucco comes all the way down and touches the cedar shake shingles - there is no plaster stop. Bad bad bad....
15 Let the Fun Begin....September 2005 Now it's time to tear off the stucco and see what really lies beneath. We're starting on the left side of the house (see picture 2 above).
OK, so when the tearoff began, we expected to find areas of rot below every window (thanks to the lack of head flashing and j-bead around the trim). We thought there might be a little bit of rot under some of the bigger cracks. We were not prepared for the whole wall to be rotten, but that is what we found. This is the area below the 2nd story window to the left of the porch on the left side of the house. We expected the line of rot directly under the edge of the top window, but we have no idea why the corner is rotted so badly.
16 Further down the wall This is the area next to and below the lower window in the previous picture. The further down the wall, the more rot. Here the OSB just flaked off if you touched it. As the contractor was using a prybar on the stucco, it was sinking through the OSB.
Oh, and did I mention that the grading was done wrong as well? Because the stucco continued directly down from the framing over the foundation with no weep screed, it was impossible to tell from the exterior where the foundation stopped and framing began. When they did the final grading, they buried the rim joist partially in the dirt. This is what happens when you bury a rim joist.
17 Another view of that corner Here's another view of the corner you saw in the previous picture. Note the difference in color in the OSB that was protected by the porch overhang vs. the areas that weren't. While the OSB to the right of the window is not rotted through, it has definitely been exposed to moisture - it's puffy and discolored. We're not sure if it will stay or go yet.
18 Rake Wall - Where's the kickout flashing? This is the wall immediately to the left around the corner of the wall you just saw. This wall is a rake wall - it has the gable of the adjoining family room addition meeting it. Where the roofline meets the wall, there is supposed to be a kickout flashing that diverts the water coming down that joint out and away from the wall - we had none. Therefore, all the water running off the roof where it was flashed into the wall was channeled behind the stucco. Behind the plywood are some lovely gaping holes, so what you are seeing is actually the GOOD part of this wall.
19 Better View of the Rake Wall Here you can see how the rot starts a little above the roofline and continues down that whole wall and around the corner. A 10-cent piece of metal flashing and 2 seconds to install it could have prevented this. The square of new tarpaper is up there to keep water that runs off the roof now from gushing into the gaping holes in the wall.
20 Oh Wait - THERE'S the kickout flashing My contractor put it in ... 7 years too late.
This is only temporary - that whole roof is getting replaced, with all new flashings into the gable wall.
21 Entire Rake Wall - Another Mystery Here is anothe view of the rake wall. The rot in the previous picture is mostly hidden behind the bush at the bottom of the window. But why all that discoloration in the peak? Note that the discoloration is present everywhere except very close under the eaves - again indicating that the stucco exposed to any kind of rain was just leaking like heck. Was it cracked? Just too porous? Your guess is as good as mine!
Note too the line of rot running horizontally to the left of the window, right behind the scaffolding. Again, why there? It seems to begin at the gap in the OSB sheets and run downwards. There is a master bedroom shower a few feet to the left of the window and the vent fan runs horizonatally through the ceiling above the window - perhaps this is some kind of condensation thing from the attic if the vent duct is leaking? But the damage seems to originate from the outside in. Who knows?? Suggestions are welcome - add your comments below! "This is most likely caused by the tar paper or draina..." View Comments...
22 Family Room East Wall Moving around the corner from the rake wall, we come to the family room wall on the left side of the house. This wall is actually semi-ok - the OSB is discolored, but solid, at least til you get to the lower part of the wall. The part behind the bush is kind of trashed. Note that the eaves protected the OSB at the top - it is only the lower part where the rain would have hit it more that is discolored. "You would be surprised how many houses we do that the..." "I was going to say looks like it got wet during const..." View Comments...
23 On the other hand... Moving to the other side of the left side porch, things aren't so pretty. This is the window from picture #6 - the one we did the exploratory surgery on. Things are bad here -- so bad that the window started falling out of the wall as they were pulling sheathing. The studs behind it are gone gone gone...
24 Where's the stud? See, I told you they were gone.
25 Northeast corner - master bedroom subfloor This is the area above and to the right of the window from the last picture. The corner is very rotten - 2nd floor ribbon board is gone and the subfloor is rotten - we're hoping it's just the bit under the sill and we won't need to pull up the hardwood floors in the bedroom. The stud in the corner of the house needs to be replaced as well. We're going to try to save the other studs, but they may need to be sistered (the outside inch or so is so rotten I don't think it would hold the nails for the new sheathing. All the insulation you see here is soaked - this is the first spot where the insulation is wet (amazingly, despite all the rot in the other pics, the insulation was dry as a bone).
Incidentally, the musty smell was the worst here in the master bedroom, along this wall. So based on my not-exactly-scientifically-proven "stink scale", this should be as bad as it gets. We hope.
26 A Distance Shot Here's a distance shot of the area to the left of the left side porch. You can see that the whole wall is basically gone, except for the area protected by the eaves.
27 How bout some closeups? This is a closeup of the 2nd story ribbon board. That big hole right in the middle? My contractor hollowed that out WITH HIS HAND. You can reach right through it into the floor joist cavity.
I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that this house is NOT EVEN 7 YEARS OLD!!! "All along, I've noticed that your windows, at the sil..." View Comments...
28 This is the rim joist in the bottom right corner All rotten. Once again, the combination of bad grading (look how close the dirt is to the framing) and the lack of weep screeds in the stucco (thus, no way for water that gets behind the stucco to get out) has done in the rim joist and sill plate.
29 Let's pause and review This is what the left side of my house looked like on Tuesday....
30 Pause & Review part 2 ...and this is what it looks like on Friday.
But wait...there's more! Follow the "Next 30" link below.
31 Rim Joist From Basement This is a random shot of the rim joist taken from the basement. This was covered by batt insulation, which we pulled down. You can see some staining and mildew. This is not in one of the corners that is the most rotten - actually, this is near the front porch on a side of the house we haven't even started yet. Joy.
32 Typical Window Installation Here is a shot showing you how the windows were "flashed" with 30lb felt. The top trim board on this window was all rotten - it's no wonder. All of the water that was absorbed by the stucco just dumped right down into it. Where's the j-bead/plaster stop? Where's the head flashing? Again, a couple cents worth of metal could have prevented this disaster...
33 Or could it? All this rot can't be pinned only on the windows, though. On all the walls we opened up, there is more rot at the corners of the wall than there is under the windows. Why? Well, maybe all these cracks have something to do with it. We caulked these cracks in June, just to keep the water out while we waited for our contractor to come. Until then, they had been wide open. (Remember, our home inspector said the cracks were superficial and nothing to worry about...)
A construction defects engineer (Hi Glenn!) told us that even a very minute crack can suck in amazing amounts of water. And we had LOTS of cracks...especially in the corners. See? "Wet, swollen OSB will cause more stucco cracks, worse..." View Comments...
34 More cracks This is the kind of cracking evident in all the corners. This isn't even in one of the "smelly" rooms. Hopefully, because this is the southwest exposure, the sun will have helped to dry things out and it won't be as rotten as the others.
35 One more crack shot This is the window next to the corner in the last 2 pictures. Again, note the astonishing number of cracks. Perhaps the cement in the stucco was mixed or applied wrong, or not given long enough to cure? Note that there are no expansion joints to allow for stucco movement, so some cracking was inevitable. There's no weep screed either - so no way for water to drain once it gets trapped back there.
On a happier note, the window at the bottom is level with the foundation and those vents are coming through the rim joist. Finally, a spot with proper grading. Let's hope this rim joist is in slightly better shape!
36 Monday 10/3/05 - A New Week Begins... And lots is happening. We've repaired some of the worst rot (rim joists, corner studs). We've removed wet/damaged insulation. And we've wiped down the studs with bleach and cleaner to kill the mold.
37 Laundry Room Window Repairs On the left side of the porch, things are looking better. Thanks to Dave, Ken, Ray and their trusty sawzalls, we have new corner studs, rim joists, and sills in the original rotten corner from picture # 16.
38 Another view of our new corner... All that and only one nail pop inside. Thank goodness for 2x6 studs.
39 Dining Room Window Studs Here's the window from pictures 23 & 24. These are the studs after scrubbing them with bleach. The studs around the window will be replaced. We had to order 2 new window frames from Andersen today (at a cost of $550!) because this one and the one around the corner (yet to be revealed in an upcoming picture) are too far gone to save.
40 Northeast Corner The new wood is on the left, in case you couldn't tell (ha ha). We will be replacing the other one tomorrow.
41 Behind the 2nd story ribbon board ... ...lies a whole bunch of nasty subfloor. (See picture 25 for the "Before" picture.) This would be a royal pain to get out of there, and it seems more or less structurally ok, so we're gonna hit it with the bleach bucket and carry on our merry way.
Oh, and the subfloor is the first sign of plywood we've seen so far. It didn't fare any better than the OSB. Hey, never let it be said that we aren't equal opportunity rotters around here.
42 Moving around the corner... ...to the front of the house, we have more rotten sheathing. And, as an extra bonus, more rotten studs. And 2 rotten rim joists...and a rotten window frame...
This photo album is going to get real repetitive, real fast.
43 First floor front corner window Note the spongified trim. This can't be good.... "No flshing above the trim or window." View Comments...
44 ...And it isn't.... Doesn't look any better than the side window.
I'm sensing a theorem here: Spongy trim = No studs + rotten frame = $$$$$ "Wood trim should be considered "sacrificial"..." View Comments...
45 Front corner rim joist Looks...well...the same as the other rim joist around the corner. Rotten.
Oh, and it's buried but good in the dirt too.
46 Under the front window I had to crawl behind the bushes like some sort of nature photographer to get this shot. Note - the OSB immediately under the window is in perfect shape. The rest of it is disintegrated. What that means? I have no idea. "No moisture barrier under the bottom nail fin nor a s..." "The less rotted OSB can be due to extra drying from m..." "There was, acutally, a moisture barrier--but it was i..." View Comments...
47 Rake Wall Mystery - Another clue? Remember the mysterious line of rot behind the scaffolding. Well, behind the line of rot was.... "Could it be the tarpaper had holes in it due to the B..." View Comments...
48 Our first bit of moldy drywall Now...immediately on the other side of this wall is the tile master bedroom shower. Note that they tiled over regular drywall - this is not green board or cement board. The tile covers the floor, walls, and ceiling of the shower and appears to be in fine shape. Note that the mold is only at the top (ceiling of the shower) and works its way down the wall a little bit.
Any ideas where this water is coming from? The OSB here was too far gone to tell whether the rot came from the inside or the outside, but I have to wonder if the shower doesn't have something to do with this, since it's the only moldy drywall we've found so far. Could water be escaping through the tile into the drywall (and then all the way out through the insulation and OSB)? Or did the moisture that entered the wall cavity from the outside simly condense more on the tile wall (perhaps because it because it couldn't dry to the inside due to the tile?) Anybody want to venture a guess? "Tiles are a vapor barrier. Wet stucco will try to dry..." "Grout lines are permeable. So is mortar bed or thin s..." View Comments...
49 Cross Section of the Stucco I thought I'd post some pictures of the stucco. This is the stucco in the front NE corner of the house, under the dining room window. I don't see 3 distinct coats. There is 15 lb felt and wire lath. The stucco is about 1/2" thick, as you can see by the ruler. Shouldn't it be thicker?
(UPDATE - Spring 2009 - I have since learned that according to the building code that was in effect when the house was built (CABO), 3-coat stucco must be a minimum of 3/4" thick. Oops.) "Not according to the onecoat er reports!! If the use..." "Actually, this photo does not show stucco 1/2-inch th..." View Comments...
50 Another view of the same section of stucco You can sort of see the layers here, I guess....
51 Another stucco cross section This is a cross section of the stucco on the wall next to the outside shower. Again, looks kind of thin to me, but I am no stucco expert.
52 It's Wednesday, 10/5, and we're making progress It's supposed to pour later this week, so the contractors are trying to get stuff weatherproofed beforehand. Here we've got new sheathing up on the rake wall peak and on the family room east wall. Those 2 holes up there are going to vent the master bathroom fans - they were randomly shoved into the soffit at the right side of this picture. Now they'll have proper vents.
53 Sheathing near laundry room window This is the original corner that began this photo album. Notice the attractive patchwork quilt effect. It just adds to the historic look of the house, right? (And that musty smell? hey, might as well have the old-house smell to go along with the old-house look!)
Here we left the bottom part of the wall open for a bit longer, to dry out the rim joist. We'll be putting pressure treated plywood back on the bottom 2 feet all the way around the house.
54 By the end of the day We had felt paper on the peak.
It's all good....
55 Family Room West Wall They did tear off the family room west wall today. It was discolored, but not rotten.
Looks like our theory is going to hold - where the sun exposure is better, the damage will be less. We hope.
56 Family Room West Wall Closeup You can see the discoloration here. Inside the house, directly below that light fixture is an electrical outlet that really smells musty. I'm a little worried because there doesn't appear to be that much damage to the sheathing, so where is the odor coming from? They'll be pulling the bottom couple feet of sheathing to replace it with PT plywood, so we'll get to check out the rim joist - maybe there's problems inside that aren't apparent from here. "it went up wet" View Comments...
57 Since there's not too much new... to show you, I thought I'd post some random pictures for your perusal. Remember the bit about the stucco thickness yesterday? Well up at the top of this wall (where the good sheathing is) the stucco is at least 1/4" thicker than lower down the wall (where the rot is). Coincidence?
58 Closeup of Thicker Stucco Don't know if you can really tell from the picture, but from the ground, you can look up and see that it is much thicker at the top, and slopes in getting thinner as it goes down toward the rotten wood. "I would be willing to be the paper had holes in it du..." "Thicker stucco may be only one part of the equation. ..." View Comments...
59 More cracks This is the front NE corner. Note the amount of cracking above the rot. I really do think that the water was coming in the cracks and just couldn't find its way back out.
I don't think I mentioned yet that this stucco was painted when the house was built. The building specs say "vinyl paint" but the builder told me it was regular latex paint. At any rate, people in the know have told me that painting stucco does not allow it to breathe, so water that comes in can't evaporate back out. "Between the top trim by the soffit and the stucco. If..." View Comments...
60 More cracks This is the front NE corner wall. I'd be willing to bet all the sheathing underneath this will be a wreck. We'll find out soon enough....
Don't stop now - there's lots more if you just click the "Next 30" button below.
61 Uncaulked Crack While photographing all the cracking, I found one that we missed. Here is what the cracks looked like pre-caulking. Not very big, but apparently big enough....
62 More screwed up copperwork I thought I'd add some more pictures of our fine copperwork. Here is the roof of our bay window - note all the nails through the top and front.
Although I've grown somewhat fond of the attractive polka-dot effect, we are having the whole roof replaced. Note all the cracks above the window as well.
63 Porch Roof Flashing Another example of the poor copper flashing work on the porch roofs. Note how the counterflashing slopes TOWARDS the house here, promoting great drainage - right into the wall!
All the roofs were flashed like this, and two of them leaked. Our temporary solution was to put a monster gob of caulk on top of the flashing, sloping it to drain forwards instead of back. This one never leaked, so we never gobbed it up with caulk.
64 Front Porch Stoop Here is the front porch. (Sorry about all the moss - guess I'll have to hit the porch with the bleach bucket too!). Guess where the rim joist is here? Behind the stonework.
Now, you'd think it would be pretty protected by the porch overhang (look how the back part of the porch is all dry while the front is all wet), but remember that random rim joist shot from the basement (picture #31)? Yup - right behind this stonework. If it's in bad shape, I guess we'll have to rip up the porch....that would pretty much suck.
65 Back of the stucco Carl (webmaster of the wonderful website www.badstucco.com - if you've enjoyed my site, you'll love his) wanted me to post a picture of the back of the stucco. Here you go Carl! "Metal lath should be attached at 6-inch centers. Lath..." View Comments...
66 By the end of Thursday, 10/6 We had buttoned up the back of the house, in preparation for the deluge this weekend.
67 Hey Look - Window Wrap! What a novelty.... "What a neat idea no tape over the bottom nail fin to ..." View Comments...
68 Alas...a setback Unfortunately, after the house was all closed up, the musty smell came back full force in the laundry room (shown here) and east wall of the family room (to the left of this picture). I guess we either didn't leave it dry long enough or didn't remove enough insulation. Dave's going to kill me when I tell him we have to rip it all off. "Not comments, yet about condition of interior drywall..." "The drywall was not moldy, except in the few places I..." View Comments...
69 Moving around to the west side There's a little rot in the corner where the family room meets the back porch. "looks like the grade was a little high!" "Why is there no moisture barrier under the bottom nai..." View Comments...
70 Family Room West Wall grading issues Can you even see the foundation way down there? It's a good 6" down in the dirt. Time to bring in the bulldozer....
At least I don't have to worry about destrying the landscaping - as you can see here, it's already toast.
71 Living Room South Window Here's the corner from pictures 33-35. Note the rot in the corners, right where all the cracks were.
72 Closeup Here's a closeup of the rotten trim from the previous picture. It's not super-spongy here - you have to use a screwdriver to get it to do this, not just your finger. So hopefully, the studs will be hanging tough back there and we won't need another $250 window frame.
73 Friday 10/7 - Demo Day Today was a big day. Because of the rain, Dave was able to get a crew of immigrant roofers to come in and demo the stucco. These guys were GOOD! They worked fast and without any breaks, and when they saw us taking pictures, they started working double-time, like we were spying on them or something. I felt so bad, but since I unwisely chose to take German in high school instead of Spanish, I didn't know how to tell them that I was not photographing them, only documenting the rot for my legions of internet fans.
Speaking of that, we've got lots of new rot to show you, so lets get started....
74 Front Master Bedroom windows This is the NE corner (front left) of the house. You can see that there's plenty of rot between the 2 windows. Remember, those upper windows are the master bedroom, which smelled the worst. Again, the corner is very rotten all the way up to where it was protected by the eaves.
75 Moving over to the front door Things aren't so bad here. The sheathing is discolored, but solid. None of these rooms had any kind of odor, so it seems that my "stink scale" is still on target. I'm still a little worried about how the rim joist goes behind the porch - in fact, I'm more worried due to something I'll show you later (I saw it, but didn't take a picture, and now it's all tarped up...).
76 Moving to the right... We have my son's room on top and the living room on the bottom. Lots of rot in the corner. My son's room had a bad musty odor but the living room didn't. The've both got lots of rot, though - there will be some work to do here.
77 Closeup of the rot in the NW corner This is a the bottom corner from the previous picture.
78 Moving around to the side You can see how the rot starts at the top and works its way down around this side of the house as well. It's going to be a bitch getting this out around the screen porch - I hope we don't have to take the porch apart.
79 Inside the porch You can see that the rot from the corner extends in pretty far. My contractor thinks he can dig the sheathing out from behind the porch post, but if he finds studs or something that needs fixed back there, we're going to be in trouble.
80 Under the Screen Porch Further down inside the porch, you can see discoloration but no rot. This is the center of the west wall of the house, and until we put the porch on 2 years ago, it was completely exposed to the weather. There were some cracks in the stucco here that were already caulked when we moved in - perhaps that's why the sheathing isn't so bad here.
81 The other end of the screen porch is the SW corner of the house. Remember that there was lots of rot around the corner from this (the windows next to the back porch). There's a little bit here, but it's not too bad.
82 West Gable Peak Here's the gable peak on the west side of the house. Discolored, but not too bad up top. We didn't get a good look at the bottom yet, and now it's all covered by a tarp. You'll have to stay tuned to see if this is a mess or not. If it is, we'll probably have to dismantle the screen porch roof to get to it.
83 Back Porch This is around the corner from the last screen porch picture you saw. You can see that the rot in this corner is pretty bad. The outlets under these windows had an odor, but only if you really sniffed the outlet. The room never smelled musty.
84 Another mystery This is the sheathing under the back porch roof. As you can see, it is well protected from the weather - there is NO WAY rain could have ever gotten to this. So why is it all rotten? Can't say for sure, but I'm figuring it's due to the leaky porch roof (during heavy rains, before we added our great gobs of gutter-seal, we would sometimes get water dripping into the house on the other side of these windows). Since we're having all the copper porch roofs reflashed, that should take care of this. I will have the copper guy inspect the standing seams above this roof just to be sure that it's not coming in somewhere else though... "Is this a valley or a rake wall above?
Looks like ..." View Comments...
85 Family Room West Wall Remember how I said the musty smell was coming back in the east family room wall after we felt-papered it up? Well, we decided to experiment with the west wall. We took all the insulation out and all the sheathing off (wet or not). Had it not been about to pour, we would have left it open, but as is, we nailed plywood back over it (without insulation) and tarped it. When it clears up again, we'll take the plywood off, treat the studs (there's no mold or rot on them anywhere but we'll treat them anyhow), put NEW insulation in, and the plywood back on. Hopefully the odor was just trapped in the old sheathing/insulation and this will take care of it. Course, it's adding significantly to the expense...but hey, we don't really NEED to buy food anyhow...I could stand to lose a few pounds.
86 Here's what happens when you don't have kickout flashing My contractor took his kickout flashing out when he was felting the house and didn't put it back. Note the stream of water gushing out of the roof/wall intersection and straight down the wall. Now picture that going behind my stucco every time it rained for 7 years....
We put the kickout flashing back in preparation for the 5 (yes, 5) inches of rain we are supposed to get this weekend. We've been in major drought conditions for 2 months now, but as soon as they start working on my house, the skies decide to open up. Maybe I can build an ark with some of that demo-ed sheathing....
87 We no longer have a house.... ...we have a giant black tarp with a front door.
88 More tarp I have no idea how much rain we've gotten so far, but I just drove home and had to go 10 miles out of my way because every road leading toward my house was flooded. Not a good sign. Hope they did a real good job on these tarps!
89 Monday 10/10/05 - A new, wet week After the deluge this weekend (5.28" of rain was the official measurement at the local middle school), the weather folks predicted more rain EVERY FREAKIN DAY THIS WEEK. So we're not going to get very far. Today, Dave is repairing the wall around the really bad window (above the bilco doors). Here you can see the rot in the header above the window.
90 Second story subfloor above the window Note that the subfloor in the master bedroom is damaged even on the left side of the window (which seemed to be in much better shape than the right).
91 New studs Dave has painstakingly removed the window as well all of the studs around it in the whole wall, and he's replacing them with nice new ones. Unfortunately, the drywall got a little damaged in the process, so there will be some interior repairs to do, especially below the window.
92 Here is what the view looks like from inside There's no window behind that tarp. Good thing it's not too cold out.
If you look closely, you can see all the drywall screws attaching the new studs to the right of the window. Looks like I've got some spackling to do.
93 Tuesday 10/11 - more rain Actually, they're just calling for more rain today - nothing has actually fallen yet despite flood warnings galore. They've removed the stucco from the back wall of the family room. You can see the two lines of rot lining up with the leaky chimney. This wall wasn't too bad up top - Dave said the stucco was very thick on this wall - almost an inch. At the bottom of the wall, though, things aren't so pretty....
94 See? That's NASTY! Some kind of nasty yellow fungal growth is making itself at home in the area where the wood framing meets the masonry block wall that backs the fireplace. The sill plates above the block were not pressure treated.
95 Thought you might want a closer look at this one.... Ugly, ain't it?
We sprayed it with bleach, but there's probably more behind the sheathing. We're eventually going to take the whole wall apart but not today (just in case it does start pouring). We're just tarping it up for now.
96 Now that the stucco is off... ...we can get a closer look at the fine job they did flashing the porch roofs. This is the first place where we've actually removed the stucco from over a porch roof. Note that the copper flashing is only bent 1.5" up the wall - a little on the short side. You can see a bit of rot above the flashing.
97 Whoops - we didn't need flashing there, right? This is the most blatant error yet. Note that big gap where the flashing stops to the left of the window. They must have installed the wood trim first, then they ran the copper flashing up to the trim and stopped. (The flashing should have continued behind the wood trim and under the window.)
All of the water that traveled along the incorrectly sloped counterflashing (remember picture 63? That's this roof.) was channeled right into this gap and down the wall. If the other porch roofs are also done this way, that explains the persistent leaks and why it took several tubes of caulk to fix them. This one has probably been leaking too - we just didn't notice it since it covers the outdoor shower, which we never use.
98 They also stripped the stucco over the back porch And wouldn't you know it - the flashings are done the same way. The sheathing is all discolored, except for where it was tucked under the eaves. There were some pretty bad cracks in the stucco corresponding with the dark areas of rotten sheathing between the windows. And the SW corner (at the left) is a wreck as far up as we stripped the stucco.
99 Really bad flashing See? They cut the stepflashing at the edge of the wood trim. There was nothing to keep water from running down the crack between the flashing and the window trim - you can even see some exposed wood there. No wonder this porch roof leaked into the kitchen....
100 More really bad flashing Note how the flashing is OVER the felt paper.
This is the corner from picture 12. You might not recognize it without the 15 lbs of caulk.
101 Stains on Felt Paper This is an odd pattern of staining on the original felt paper that was under the stucco lathe. This part of the wall was in the where the porch meets the side wall of the house. It was fairly protected and the sheathing underneath it was in great shape. I don't know what that kind of stain pattern means, but I assume it was somehow caused by water getting through the stucco and trapped on the paper. We haven't seen it anywhere else because the other felt paper was too far gone - it shredded as the stucco came off. "Termite mud tunnels?" "Wrinkled paper, result of aborbing some moisture from..." View Comments...
102 Closeup of the Back Corner You can see the rot extends as far up as they stripped the stucco.
103 Wednesday, 10/12 - Top of SW Corner Today they stripped the top of the corner from the previous pictures. As with the other corners, it wasn't too bad here as we got closer to the eaves. Except -- note that discolored streak right above the ladder. Sure looks like it could have been caused by one of those cracks from picture # 34.
104 Moving back to the left side of the house... ...they finally stripped the rest of the stucco above the copper porch roof. The wood is in very poor shape, again matching up to my "stink scale". The stucco here was really thin - less than 1/2" almost everywhere. I saved a few pieces in case we end up in court.
Note the lines of discoloration/rot all the way up to the peak. Sure look like they could be caused by cracks, but we are also wondering if it could have something to do with the chimney. The chimney you see is a fake chimney, meant to make the front of the house more symmetrical. As far as we can tell, the chimney is simply a wooden box covered with stucco and attached to the roof. If the chimney turns out to be the problem, we will simply cut it off and reroof over it.
105 Here's a shot of the fake chimney from the front Note the big brown water stain down the front right corner. You can see a big crack in the stucco at the top.
106 Here's a shot from the side Note all the mildew/mold. Also note that the ridge of the roof has no cap shingle on this side of the chimney (it has them everywhere else - don't know why it's not here). Despite the lack of cap shingle, there is really no evidence of any kind of roof leak either via damage to the eaves/soffits or inside the attic.
107 We aren't sure if the chimney was framed simply by extending the wall upwards or if it is a discrete box set back from the side wall. In this picture, it looks like it may be set back a few inches, and therefore not attached to the wall assembly (in which case, it probably isn't the problem).
108 Here's another side shot Note that the lines of discoloration sort of correspond to the edges of the chimney, so at first, you might think water is coming in at the lower edges of the chimney and running down the wall.
But then, note the undamaged circle right in the center. That was where there was a medallion made by attaching a plywood circle to the wall then stuccoing over it (see picture #2). Because the circle seems to have protected the sheathing behind it, I think I am back to simply suspecting the stucco here - I think if it was the chimney, it would have been just as wet and rotten behind the medallion as everywhere else. And the pattern of those dark streaks does resemble the pattern of cracks we've seen all over the stucco (I don't know specficially if there were cracks here because we didn't have a ladder long enough to get up this high when we were caulking cracks.)
109 Closeup This is a closeup of the rot between the windows at the right edge of the porch. The wood is really bad here. I would not be surpised if the window frame needed replacement.
110 More bad flashing The flashing here was done the same as on the other porches - it stops at the wood trim, leaving an unflashed area behind the trim. The flashing on the left side of the window over the porch is also low like the others - maybe 1.5" high. But....
111 Flashing to right of window ....the flashing to the right of the window is taller - probably about 4". Why the difference? Who knows. It still stops at the edge of the trim - you can see what's left of the trim at the bottom of this picture (the picture was taken while leaning out the window).
112 Valley Our contractor also told us that this valley was incorrectly done. Apparently it was cut too short and doesn't reach all the way to the bottom of the roof. He has promised to get a better picture for me, but this was the best I could do with the zoom lens - I don't do scaffolding very well. Hopefully, the copper flashing guy can fix this as well.
113 All tarped up for more rain tonight. Our house is now completely stucco-free (well, except for a few spots behind light fixtures and such). The sad thing is that it is probably more weathertight under all this jerryrigged tarping than it was with the original stucco.
114 Friday 10/14 - MORE RAIN! Yesterday was a washout, and today looked like it might clear but ended up raining from lunchtime on. So there's not much new to show you. Here's a piece of the stucco that came off the left side of the house between the middle and rightmost windows. Note that it is only 1/4" thick. The damage was pretty bad there - see picture # 109.
115 Studs around MBR window These are the studs around the master bedroom window (the second story window above the bilco doors). They aren't as bad as we expected - only the studs directly against the window and the one to the right of them will be replaced. The rest can just be wiped down (some may need sistering). The window frame itself looks ok.
116 Top Corner - more rot and another mystery These is the wood at the top right corner from picture # 113. Note that the OSB is rotten right up under the soffit. My contractor tells me that the return and crown molding you see here is pretty rotten, and that all the wood is kind of punky. He thinks that water is sitting on these returns (they are pretty flat) and perhaps working its way back to the sheathing. He thought we should consider wrapping the returns in copper flashing or perhaps replacing all the gable fascia and soffits with azek ($$$$).
This is obviously something we need to fix, since we don't want our new sheathing and hardie getting wet. Any suggestions as to the likely point of intrusion or best way to solve this would be greatly appreciated. "Cornice returns should either be rebuilt with a slope..." View Comments...
117 Another view of that trim There is a seam right in the face board of the trim (I'm sure there's a term for this, but I don't know it) and you can see the paint peeling all around it. This paint is only a year old and should not be peeeling this badly. This is the gable where the cap shingle is missing from the top - I wonder if water is getting in there and working its way down the inside of the trim. There's also no drip edge at the edge of the roof, so perhaps water is working its way back through the shingles? At any rate, there are no clues in the attic - everything looks (and moisture-meters) perfectly dry.
Our contractor also said it could just be crappy pine that wasn't backprimed, but I suspect there's more to it than that. Again, any suggestions are welcome! "I suppose you are referring to either the butt joint ..." View Comments...
118 Saturday 10/15 - getting our hands dirty The sun actually came out today, so we took advantage of it by taking off some of the tarps to let the studs dry out. We're also treating the wood with Boracare, a wood preservative that will prevent any further rot as well as prevent termite and other insect infestations. We figure the more we get done this weekend, the less we have to pay Dave and crew to do for us. We're having the inlaws out to babysit tomorrow - hopefully with 2 of us, we can make some headway.
Anyhow, now that we've gotten up on the ladders, here's an up close and personal shot of the master bedroom subfloor from that rotted out corner.
119 More moldy drywall Here's a shot of a bit of moldy drywall we found today. This is to the right of the exterior door on the family room west wall, down near the ground. In fact, I can't figure out why there's drywall here, since this actually seems to be below the floor level. And since this is where the foundation is actually a slab, I think this drywall is sitting on the slab and on the other side is the stone and mortar hearth, so there's masonry on 2 sides of this. I have no clue if Dave can get this out of here - we bleached it for now.
120 Family Room West Wall Grading Here you can see the stone riser for that door (directly under the threshhold). The moldy drywall is at the left side of that threshhold. I think that the water is wicking through the stone and getting trapped in there - there is no metal flashing between the framing and cement or stone porches. This is why I fear for the rim joist behind the front porch (and the rim joist behind the side porch, though that is at least sheltered by a porch overhang.)
Also note the grade level here. I talked to the builder who accused me of creating the grading issues by adding mulch and flowerbeds. But if you look at the level of the foundation vs. the level of the ladder, you can see that it's not just the flowerbeds that are too high - it's the whole area. The flowerbeds might have added a few inches, but there is NO clearance between the foundation and the earth even subtracting the flowerbeds.
121 sm CornerByGrill-FlashingLeak
122 This is a view through the side of the side porch We had to remove the side to get some of the wall sheathing off. Note the water stains - there are UNDERNEATH the copper porch roof in an area totally protected from the weather. The stains line up with the window above - where the flashing didn't extend behind the window trim. This roof did have a leak (water was coming out where the porch light fixture was attached) that we fixed with our "great gobs of caulk" method.
123 Another shot of the water stains This shows that the water made it all the way down onto the backside of the porch ceiling, where it's growing some lovely mildew. If we were really ambitious, we'd crawl in there, scrub the mildew and backprime the ceiling. But I don't think we're that ambitious.
124 We're also questioning the design of the soffits and eaves As we sprayed boracare, we had plenty of time to ponder the studs, and we noticed some new things today that are causing us to suspect a flaw in the way the roof and soffits were designed. Remember the soffit issue from pics 116-117? Well, we noticed some other odd stuff.
The next 12 or so pics will discuss the soffits and their construction and will probably be very boring unless you are a building science geek. Feel free to skip on by (but if you ARE a building science geek, PLEASE offer your thoughts/opinions, since obviously, if the soffits are leaking too, they'll have to be fixed before proceeding with new sheathing and siding.)
125 Water stains on family room west wall window header This is a closeup of the window header from the previous picture. That area should be totally protected from rainwater by the eaves. So how are these stains getting here? We also took a moisture meter to the white wooden trim where the gutter is hanging (see previous picture). The 6" or so to each side of almost every gutter hanger were registering an extremely high moisture content. Why? The hangers seem to tuck up under the cedar shakes of the roof. This particularly part of the roof (family room) is being replaced, but we weren't planning to do the main roof. Maybe we'll have to?
126 Looking up at the gutter hanger Here's a shot looking up into the gap between the soffit and the gutter (gutter is on top, soffit is on the bottom). You can see one of the gutter hangers going right up under the cedar.
We've never noticed any problems with gutter overflow or backup, have never had any signs of leaks, and haven't even had ice dams (which is unusual for this region). However, we are noticing that on almost all the soffits, our year-old paint job is really peeling, which to me indicates that moisture is getting in somewhere.
127 More evidence of moisture in the soffits Here's some staining and discoloration on the underside of the porch roof in the soffit area - you can see the topside of the porch ceiling at the bottom of the picture). Now we do get some snow that slides off the copper roof and into this gutter - I suppose this could just be moisture from that wicking up? Like I said, we've never had any overflow or other noticable gutter problems here. "This looks like it could very well be damage from an ..." View Comments...
128 Soffit/eave/fascia construction So ok, let's talk about the soffit and eave construction. They seem to be built out of pine wood and are constructed like a box, extending out about 6" from the sheathing. Behind the low ends, the soffits are left open for vents. The returns (where the soffits meet the gable trim) are trimmed out with crown molding that is flat on the top (not sloped to drain water). The gable trim has a trim piece that is maybe an inch or two off the wall, to allow the stucco to run up behind it.
129 Here's a closeup You can see how the gable trim comes down and hits the ledge formed by the soffit box. You can also see how the soffit is open at the bottom for a vent. "When they are putting on the new moisture barrier it ..." View Comments...
130 Another closeup This is a corner on the main house - only difference seems to be the fancier crown molding on the return. There is a big crack in the bottom of the soffit here - I don't know if it's wet or not.
Note that there's no metal drip edge or any kind of metal coming down the roof on the gable peak. I'm not sure if there's supposed to be though....
131 Another closeup Here you can see how the cedar roof overhangs to the gutter. There's no metal drip edge or any kind of metal flashing visible anywhere. I assume there would be nothing to stop water from backing up under the cedar and getting into the soffits, though we've never seen any evidence of that happening - from the attic, the sheathing looks fine.
132 Looking right up into an open soffit This is the way the open soffits look from the bottom. None of them have any sign of moisture (water staining, etc.) at least as far as we can see (it's hard to see up there).
133 Digging this picture out of the archives To show you something I photographed this summer (hey look, it's our stucco again!). I did notice water streaks in the dirt near the soffits on the front of the house. Over the summer, the streaks did not appear to change and no new ones appeared. I checked several times during rainstorms and never saw any water coming down the wall. We also placed newspaper into the soffits above this staining and left it there through several heavy rains - it remained perfectly dry. After all that, I figured these stains were just leftover from when the painters cleaned the trim before painting it last year - we've never had the stucco powerwashed so the dirt (and any water streaks) could be pretty old.
But perhaps this really was caused by water running out of the soffits??? Could snow have clogged up the gutters, causing water to back up under the cedar and into the soffits, where it might have found its way out down the wall? If so, we'd better get it fixed before resheathing the house!
134 The troublesome corner Here's a shot of the corner where the family room west wall meets the back porch soffit. This corner has always been a pain - because there are a number of gutters and rooflines that come together here, this is the one spot where water will overflow the gutter in heavy rains. We tweaked the gutters a bit a few years ago (added a new downspout, angled another one for better flow) and never had a leak or anything, so we weren't too worried about this. Maybe we should have been - remember the rot above the windows under the porch roof in picture # 84? I wonder if that is from this gutter area...
135 Thought I'd put something nice in for a change Here's a picture of the view from our backyard. I carefully framed the picture to avoid including any of the ladders, dumpsters, or other crap that's laying all over the place. Purdy, ain't it?
136 Wednesday, 10/19/05 Yeah, I've been slacking on the updates a bit. But not a lot has been happening. We made the executive decision to take the whole house down to the studs and drywall - even the sheathing and insulation that look ok are going. We did this because the smell came back in some of the rooms we had closed up after removing only what appeared to be damaged. By removing all of the insulation and letting the studs air-dry for a few days, we hope to vanquish the musty smell forever..... "It has come to our attention that bleach is the wrong..." View Comments...
137 Here's the back wall of the family room While the walls are open, we are spraying them with boracare, a termite preventative and fungicide (that's the wet-looking staining you see here - it is oily and discolors the drywall). The boracare should prevent any rot from regrowing in the wood, and will ward off insect invasion as well. It's really really expensive ($90/gallon) and a pain in the butt - it has to be diluted with water but it is thick and oily, so the only way to get it to mix is with a kitchen mixer. So all day long I am mixing up batches of toxic pesticide on my kitchen counter. Yum. Guess I'll be buying a new mixer when this is all over with.
138 A shot of the front of the house Also down to the studs. Notice the rim joist height. By some miracle, the majority of the rim joist here is ok.
We're doing the bottom floor first, then the top floor. Dave doesn't want to take off too much sheathing because he's afraid the house will twist without the sheathing to brace it.
139 Front Left Corner This is a mess. Dave is going to erect a temporary wall inside the dining room here tomorrow, so he can remove all of these studs without the second floor falling down.
140 Closeup of Front Left Corner Like I said, it's a mess. This window is coming out and being replaced.
141 The rim joist below the window from the previous picture This is pretty bad here, but the rest of it (as you move toward the front door) is discolored, but ok.
142 Wouldn't be an update without a new mistake to show you Another day, another mistake by our builder. Check out how the rim joist and sheathing is buried by the concrete side porch. There's no flashing between the wood and the concrete, so any water absorbed by the concrete gets wicked right into the wood.
Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is to jackhammer up the porch, which is not in the budget right now. The wood and concrete are pretty protected here (big porch overhang) and really, the OSB isn't even rotted, just discolored. So we're going to try to seal up the seam between the concrete and siding really well (and maybe put masonry sealer on the concrete to keep it from absorbing water). This will eventually be a problem but it will likely last for years as is, so we're going to let it slide for now.
143 New insulation going into the walls We're retrofitting insulation from the outside, which means we can't staple it to the studs like it would normally be. This is kind of squished in here, and I hope it will be ok from an insulating and a vapor barrier standpoint. Dave says that if you fluff it out too much, it pulls away from the drywall because it's not stapled.
144 Finally got our new windows For the last several days, we've had no window above the bilco doors. Bugs and even the neighbor's cat were finding their way in (not to mention the freezing cold air at night!). Now we have a new window and I am happy.
145 New Window From Inside Just to give you an idea of the kind of drywall and trim damage. Dave's not done here yet, so I don't know how well he'll patch it back up. Hopefully he can save the existing trim and just reuse it.
146 Friday, 10/21 - The Tarps Are Back Yes, it's raining. Today, tommorrow, Sunday, Monday, and maybe Tuesday. So much for letting the walls dry out.
We did get the front left corner fixed (new studs, rim joist, etc.) before the downpours started, but alas, I didn't get a picture before the tarps went up. I'll get one when it stops raining.
147 Tarps on Side The family room east wall (behind the blue tarp) all the way around to the side door is opened down to the studs and drywall, has been sprayed with boracare, and is supposed to be drying out. It's staying dry under the tarps, but I'm sure this weather isn't exactly condusive to reducing the moisture content in the studs.
Did I mention it's gotten somewhat chilly here, and that I haven't yet turned on the heat since we've got no insulation and oil is >$2/gallon? My house is a toasty 66 degrees right now. I'm thinking about baking some cookies in the hope that the oven will heat things up a bit. I'll probably end up caving and turning on the heat before the weekend is over....
148 Family Room West Wall The studs here were sprayed over the weekend and given until yesterday to dry. Now there's insulation, sheathing, and felt. No window wrap yet, but I guess you can't expect miracles. If only it would stop raining, maybe we'd get more done.
149 Speaking of the rain, check out our rainscreen The nice folks at Benjamin Obdyke paid us a visit on Tuesday. They manufacture HomeSlicker, a yellow brillo-pad-like rainscreen material that we were considering using. They have very kindly offered us some of their newest HomeSlicker product, which you see in the picture. It's still in the rollout stage and is not yet available nationwide. It's made out of hard but flexible black plastic (it reminds me of the spiral-binding stuff they use at kinkos) and has better compression resistance than the original Homeslicker product. They say it is better to use under Hardie, since it won't compress even if pneumatic nailers are used.
150 Another shot of the rainscreen This stuff rolls out over the felt paper on the whole house, with the drainage channels (see them here) going vertically. This creates an airspace and drainage plane behind the siding and on top of the felt paper, so that any wind driven rain that gets behind the siding can roll down and out. It also allows for air circulation behind the siding - we're hoping that that will help the studs to dry out over time (since, thanks to the miserable weather, it looks like they will not get to fully dry before we close up the walls).
Rainscreens aren't typically used under Hardie around here, but given the combination of fierce wind-driven rain up here on the hilltop and the fact that we are closing up the walls when some of the studs still have a relatively high moisture content, we've decided a rainscreen is worth the extra cost and effort.
151 Yet another shot of the rainscreen The name of this product is HSAT and you can learn more about it by calling Benjamin Obdyke at 800-523-5261.
152 Wednesday, 10/26 ... 5 days and several inches of rain later we can finally get back to work. Here you can see how the house was retarped on Friday in preparation for the rain. In anticipation of the 40+ mph winds we got, Dave used some plywood to hold the tarps down (they keep blowing off because the wood in that corner is pretty spongy and won't hold the staples).
153 Left Side of the house We're opening up the 2nd floor windows and removing all the insulation so the walls can air out (God willing, we're not supposed to get any rain for the rest of the week!). We're also reinsulating and closing up the area under the porch. The laundry room window (to the left of the porch) is closed up, as is the family room (not visible in this picture).
Everything under the black tarps on the right side of this picture is not done yet. In fact, the window above the bilco doors was leaking quite a bit during the last rain - my husband and I were out in the freezing cold pouring rain at 11pm (did I mention the 40-mph winds?) stapling felt paper up over the tarps in an attempt to stop the leak. We finally resorted to the "wrap the 2nd floor window sill in a plastic garbage bag technique," which worked great. You can see that it's still there. I can't wait til we have real flashing....
154 A view of the corner Here you can see the closed up family room. We're reopening the peak here to let the walls air out (this is the spot where the moldy drywall was). We're painting all of the discolored/moldy areas with boracare, a wood preservative that will prevent mold from ever growing back.
Note the ominous looking rain clouds - those weather guys better be right about this "no rain for the rest of the week" thing.
155 Back of the house You can see the open gable peak. We're going to strip the top of the peak too, but not yet. All the tar paper above the porch roof is coming off - that is just on there to keep the rain out til we get to that side of the house.
Again, the skies are looking ominous. Temps are also dipping to the low 30s tonight - the perfect time to have your walls hanging open. Brrrrr......
156 10/30 - 11/4 a whole week of nice weather! It's been a while since I've updated - we've had a week of no rain and temps in the 60s-70s, so we've been tooling merrily along. Let's start this update with pictures of the new problems we've discovered since the last update. There's no metal flashing on any of these cornice returns - note the peeling paint (paint job is less than a year old).
157 More peeling paint and again, no metal capping. We're going to have our copper guy cap every single one of these (there's about 15!) in copper.
158 Here's the cornice return that had all the rotten sheathing beneath it (picture #116). Note how the rake board is cut short on top of the crown molding. Compare it to the next picture.....
159 Correctly done cornice return Note how the rake board runs along the wall behind the crown molding. This one happens to be the other end of the gable from the previous picture. It had no rotten sheathing behind it. We're still going to cap it in copper though - it's just a bad idea to have a flat wood surface that catches water.
160 Moving on to the cedar roof Our contractor has been telling us that the roof is really beat up - it looks like a 50 year old cedar roof instead of a 7 year old one. We finally got up there to see for ourselves. Check out the greater than 1" gap between the shakes - this is typical over the whole roof.
161 Single sidelap The seams in the courses of shakes are supposed to be offset a minimum of 1.5". These are stacked almost on top of each other. Again, this is typical across the whole roof.
162 More shoddy flashing Here's a shot of the valley where the back copper porch roof meets the family room shake roof. Note the nails right through the valley and covered up with caulk.
163 Window issues While trying to solve the problem of why a few of our windows were very drafty, we discovered that none of our windows are even remotely plumb, level or square. This one is out of alignment - the level is hard against the bottom corner of the window, then we aligned it so it the bubble was centered. Note the 1/4" gap along the side between the level (which is plumb) and the window jamb (which is not). We have photos of about 5 more windows - all of them are off this much or even more.
164 Install Plumb, Level, Square Apparently, the window installers failed to read the nail fins before installing.
165 Progress - and more rot! We removed all the sheathing and insulation from the whole back side of the house. Here is the rim joist on the SW corner (picture #71) - it was replaced after this photo was taken.
166 Southwest Corner Stud The corner stud here was also rotten and was replaced.
167 While the sheathing was off we got a good look at the water staining on the header above the back door. We had several leaks here when we first moved in - water would drip out from the trim above the transom window. We fixed it by caulking the heck out of the porch roof flashing above. Now we can see the exact path the water took from the missing flashing (picture #99) to the door.
168 More progress After airing out for a few days, there's new insulation and plywood on the backside. The windows that touch the porch roof will be replaced with shorter ones within the next day or so to allow for proper flashing of the porch roof. Proper flashing -- now THERE'S a novelty!
169 Taking apart the family room south wall You can see the construction of the chimney and fireplace here. In order get nailing strips on the masonry by the roof for the Hardieplank, Dave has to build out this wall. He'll be removing the window and adding extension jambs to compensate.
170 Almost ready for siding.... Check it out - we've got aluminum flashing on the corners and a beautiful water table made from Azek and copper. We've got a few more decisions to make (add a 2nd layer of #15 felt or not? backprime the hardie or not?) and then the siding can go up. Hallelujah!
171 Testing the rainscreen The folks from Benjamin Obdyke were out yesterday and we dummied up a section of wall with the rainscreen and some Hardie over it to test the depth against the window trim and corner boards. This picture is taken looking up the rainscreen at the Hardieplank above it. Note the nice airspace behind the Hardie. This should keep the Hardie (and the wall) nice and dry no matter how much wind-blown rain we get.
172 11/5 - I think I forgot to tell you That a few days ago while plowing through old pictures, we proved our theory that the black discolored streaks directly correlate with cracks in the stucco. Take a look at the discolored streak directly above the light fixture in this picture.
173 The culprit Now take a look at the crack directly above the light fixture in this picture.
They match exactly.
Now think - if one little tiny crack can let in enough water to discolor the wall in a spot that is fairly well-protected by the eaves then all the rot we found makes perfect sense. Suddenly it is crystal clear why the corners (which had a lot of cracks and the most exposure to the weather) would be the worst as far as water damage.
174 11/5 - Weekend Homework Dave gave us some homework to do over the weekend. At the edge of the wood trim immediately below the back door here, there is some rotten OSB. Dave wants us to get it out of there by prying out the wood trim. The trim extends about an inch behind the stone step, so we might be able to slip it out of there or we might have to cut it. He thinks this will be time consuming and thought we'd be better off doing it ourselves than paying him to do it.
175 Oops! In the process of trying to pry the wood trim loose and slip it out from behind the stoop, we discovered that the stone stoop wasn't really attached to the wall...or the porch...or even to itself.
176 Double Oops! The mortar here was in such sorry shape that once we started prying (very gently, I might add - we had barely touched it) on the trim, the stoop just started crumbling along the mortar joints in numerous places. We moved the pieces back from the trim before the whole step had a chance to fall apart!
Anybody know a good stone mason in the suburban Philadelphia area?
177 At any rate With the stone stoop out of the way, we were able to pry out all the stucco behind the stoop and remove the sheathing in all of 15 minutes - and to think Dave said it would be time-consuming! He obviously underestimated our superior demolition skills (or, more likely, overestimated the quality of our house!).
Anyhow, you can see that there was water damage here to the rim joist. We painted it with boracare and will sheathe it with PT plywood and flash it with aluminum before rebuilding the stone step.
This step is under a wide overhang and never gets wet even during heavy windblown rain, so I'm not sure if this water damage is from water leaking in above the door (from the defective porch roof flashing - this is one of the doors that leaked) or from when we'd hose the porch off to remove the sand spilled from our kids' sandbox (which used to sit on the porch). Either way, it'll be dry now....
178 Monday 11/7 - work resumes on the front This is the front first floor leftmost window - the other one that had a rotten frame and needed to be replaced. The window frame and these studs were replaced immediately after this picture was taken (they had to take the outlet apart to get the studs out.)
179 Let the copper work begin! John, our coppersmith, is also starting this week, and we've already run into an unexpected snag. Seems the pan on our back porch roof was cut short of the sidewall. The only way to make this weathertight is to remove the pan and replace it with a full-size one that bends up the wall. Here, John is prying apart the standing seam roof.
180 John also ripped apart our cedar roof And lo and behold, there ARE lathe strips under there. (We had originally thought, based on the poor condition of the shakes, that they were nailed tight to the roof sheathing). The lathe is both a blessing and a curse - theoretically, our main roof should last longer with the airspace below it, but it also means that when we go to replace it, we will need to replywood the whole roof or redo all the soffit trim since if we remove the lathe to get to the solid surface, the edge of the roof won't line up with the fascia. Ugh.
For the copper roof over the family room, John is just going to install it right over the lathe strips.
181 First pan Here's the first pan of the copper roof going in. John has to get these pans in so Dave can side up the back wall.
John is going to wrap the plumbing vent in copper. The vent used to be taller - it had a boot and a big long extension on it (you can see it in picture # 136). John is removing the extension for aesthetic reasons. I can't help but think there had to be some reason for it (my most likely hypothesis is sewer gas smell drifting into the 2nd floor windows), but John swears the extended vent was probably just something the building inspector wanted and that there won't be any repercussions from shortening the vent. I hope he's right.... "In my opinion, who cares what the building inspector ..." View Comments...
182 On another happy note, more progress! Here's the rainscreen going up along the rake wall (the wall in pictures # 18 and 19). It rolls right out and staples up with a hammer tacker. Note that it does not run behind the corner boards - they are packed out with strips of Hardieplank in order to account for the extra depth of the rainscreen. According to the folks at Benjamin Obdyke, the reasoning behind this is to prevent windwash around the corners.
All the white trim you see in the pictures is Azek, a PVC composite that won't rot and holds paint for a long time.
183 No bugs allowed.... Here's a closeup of the bottom detail of the rainscreen. It gets wrapped with window screening to keep the bugs from crawling up behind the siding.
184 Speaking of siding.... There it is....at last!
We're using Hardieplank lap siding with a 4" exposure to give us a wooden clapboard farmhouse look. The Hardie we're using is preprimed but will need to be painted in the spring (by the time we finish, it will be too late to paint this fall). You can buy it prefinished, but I think it will look more old-fashioned to have it painted on site.
Hardie is a cementitious product that is resistant to rot and wood destroying insects and also holds paint for many years. Since we'll have the rainscreen to dry the backside, we should be in extra good shape on all those fronts.
185 More siding This is as far as we got with the siding. Dave was mainly trying to see how it would work with the rainscreen and the trim and take advantage of the onsite help from Benjamin Obdyke to learn how to properly install the rainscreen.
We're starting here because John needs the rake wall sided up to the roof line in order to set his pans and flash the roof/wall intersection.
For those of you who are wondering, there will be more window wrap, etc., before we side the rest of the wall - Dave just hasn't gotten there yet.
186 Closeup Here's a closeup of how the siding meets the copper water table. There's a 1/4" gap there for drainage and airflow.
Dave is cutting the rainscreen flush to the windows (over the nail fins). It will run behind the window trim, so there's no need to pack that out to account for the extra depth.
187 Another shot of the airspace It's really hard to get a good picture with the black rainscreen on black felt, but hopefully you can see how the rainscreen creates vertical drainage channels and an airspace behind the siding.
188 Monday, 11/14 - More Demo, More Problems Lest you think we are actually making some progress (what with the siding up and all), today we returned to more demo and more rot. We removed the sheathing from the NW corner (front right side). This corner is also in bad shape, and it's a bear working around the screen porch posts (remember, we added the porch 2 years ago).
189 Closeup Not too pretty. The worst part is that the 2nd floor rim joist is rotten all the way behind the porch roof...so it looks like we'll have to tear up the roof to get to it. More $$$$ down the drain.....
190 We pulled off the suspect cornice return This is the one from pictures 116 & 158 where the rake board was cut short and the OSB was rotten behind it.
191 This is what we found The backside of this whole corner is all water-stained, proving that water was definitely getting in here. We're going to rebuild this corner out of Azek and reinstall it with metal flashing to keep water from getting in at the top. Hopefully that IS where it's getting in (and not from somewhere up on the roof then traveling down).
192 No backpriming This is a closeup of the construction of that return. Note that while the drip cap is sloped (hey, there's a novelty!), it's still pretty flat on top - water could have been working its way behind the top of this drip cap. Also note that none of the crown molding or drip cap is backprimed, which probably explains why the paint isn't holding.
193 Even more fun Remember picture #64, where I said how much it would suck to have to rip up the front porch. This is (well, was) our front porch stoop. A small bit of mortar was loose and Dave peeked in and didn't like what he saw. We decided the whole section of the stoop had to come up so we could get to the rim joist.
194 Behind the Porch Note that behind this stoop is a trim board that extends about 2" below the top of the rocks. Behind that is the rim joist. Unlike the back porch step we demolished last weekend, this one had no sheathing or stucco behind it. Below the trim board, the concrete is directly against the rim joist.
Needless to say, the rim joist is rotten. Dave is amazed we didn't have termites, as this would have been the perfect place for them to get in completely unseen. "Could it be so bad even termites wouldn't enter?" View Comments...
195 Rotten Rim Joist behind Porch Here you can see just how much water damage was on the rim joist behind the porch. The good news is that now that it is open, we can fix it properly - we're going to replace it with pressure treated wood, install ice & water shield and a piece of metal flashing over it, then rebuild the porch (assuming we can figure out how these rocks go back in!).
As an added bonus, we now have the chance to fix an annoying problem - inside the front door, there was always a horrible draft coming from below the oak threshhold - we tried to stop it with weatherstripping every winter but never had much success. Now that the porch is off, we can see a huge gap between the threshhold and the rim joist. After replacing the joist, we'll fill that with foam. We figure with the current price of heating oil, it should only take 75,000 or so years before we save enough energy to recoup the cost of this rebuild!
196 One more annoying problem Dave keeps complaining that our window rough openings are all screwed up. Apparently, they're really really tight on the sides and way too big from top to bottom. Somehow, the fact that they are not sized correctly really screwed him up when he was replacing the upstairs windows that touched the porch roofs. I don't know what they're supposed to look like, but here you can see the really big gap at the top that, according to Dave, isn't supposed to be there.
197 A little more progress Dave replaced the corner stud in the front NE corner then treated the remaining wood. We're letting it dry out for a day or two then we'll button this back up and get the cornerboard on. Once that happens, Dave will be free to side the ENTIRE left side of the house. Woo-hoo!
198 A little more progress The copper guy has done a nice job interfacing the back porch roof with the new copper roof over the family room - this was the difficult corner from picture # 162. The valley looks a lot nicer without all those nails through it, no?
199 One last picture for the record Here's a shot showing how our cedar roof was installed. It's on lathe and there is a sheet of felt between each course of shakes. So except for the fact that some of the seams line up directly on top of each other, the cedar roof actually looks pretty good. Hopefully (unless we find something in the cornice returns that indicated otherwise) we won't have to replace the roof on the main part of the house for a few years.
200 Friday, 11/18 - It's been a crappy week This has been a bad, bad week. John, our copper guy, quit, taking half my money and leaving me with no one to install the roof.
It started when I noticed that the new copper pan didn't seem to fit right - it was sort of bubbling off the roof. When the sun hit it and the roof got hot, the bubble got worse. When these pictures were taken (about 3pm Monday afternoon), you could actually press down on the copper and see that it was lifted about 4" off the roof deck. You can see how the seam where the old pan joins the new one is arched like a rainbow....
201 Another shot of the arched seam Note how curvy the seam is where the old pan meets the new one. To me, it looked like the new pan was simply cut a little too wide and instead of rebending it, the copper guy just crammed it in to make it fit. I actually asked him about this when he first installed the pan and he told me it was fine and would settle in. On Monday, after everything was soldered in and John had left for the day, the sun hit it and really raised it up. None of my other copper pans had any kind of bubble, so I decided this was unacceptable and I wanted John to look at it.
Since Tuesday was a rain day, the first chance I had to mention this to John was Wednesday morning. He went ballistic. He refused to even look at it, saying "I don't need to look at it, I installed it and I know what it looks like." He told me there were cleats every 2 feet down the seam holding it to the roof deck (clearly not true, since the entire seam was arched off the deck several inches). "I guess we can't trust John afterall. Maybe I'll kee..." View Comments...
202 Another shot - it's hard to see the bubble from this angle John accused me of being "up his ass" and told me I should trust him since he has 35 years of experience. (I replied that the previous owners of this house trusted their supposedly experienced builder and look where it got me - I won't make the same mistake twice).
John just got angrier and angrier, and started bringing up weird things (he said I was horrible to work for because I never brought him any coffee, when in fact I had asked him that very morning if he wanted any coffee and he said no). After working himself up into a huge rage and leaving me in tears, John quit and took off, leaving me with a half-torn-off roof, a pile of copper pans in the garage, and no one to finish the roof or flashing.
Did I mention that I paid him half his contract price up front and there's no way half the work is done? Like I said, it's been a bad bad week....
203 The Lord works in mysterious ways Before our big argument, John did flash the back shed roof over the outdoor shower and grill. Apparently, according to the new roofers I have had out here to quote me a price for finishing the copperwork, not only was the bubbled pan installed wrong but this porch flashing is wrong too (and all the other ones would have been done wrong if John had continued.) So I guess his quitting isn't such a bad thing, as long as I can find someone else to do the work.
Here's how the John flashed the roof: first, he banged over each seam, then he riveted in a cleat to hold the flashings. According to one of the potential replacemnt copper guys, the seams should have been flattened the other way, so that the foldover at the top of the seam faced down toward the roof, not up toward the sky. Also, pop-rivets should not have been used to attach the cleats.
204 Flashing going in John then laid the flashing down over the flattened seams and bent the cleats up to hold it in place. He told me he was going to put a bead of caulk on the roof at the bottom edge of the flashing to prevent rain from blowing up under it. I couldn't see the caulk, so I asked him if it was there. He freaked out, said "I told you I was going to put the caulk there, yes the caulk is there" and accused me of not trusting him and being "up his ass."
I mentioned this to Dave after John pitched his tantrum and quit, and he told me that John was actually showing him step by step how the flashing went on and he did NOT apply any caulk.
At any rate, the new copper guys who came out to quote the job told me that caulk isn't the right thing anyhow - the roof should either be cut shorter and crimped together in a seam with the flashing or the flashing should be soldered to the roof. So John not only lied about the caulk, the caulk was the wrong way to do it anyhow.
205 Speaking of lying.... Here's John's business card (if you're in the Philly area and you need copperwork done, now you know who NOT to hire!). Note how he claims to be a member of the Copper Development Association and the National Roofing Contractors Association? After he ran off with half my money, I made a few phone calls - neither organization has him listed as a member.
How, you might wonder, did I end up with such a nutjob? I wish I knew. I thought I did my homework - he came highly recommended and I called and spoke to several of his references - all were glowing. I think he just had a huge ego and took great offense to the fact that I was questioning the quality of his work. Never in a million years would I have guessed that he would storm off the job with a temper tantrum worthy of my 18-month-old. I guess it just goes to show that you never know.
And this whole experience just makes me extra super thankful for Dave - if it weren't for him, I'd have been off the deep end long ago.
206 In other discouraging news... We had a big storm Wednesday night, and water was coming in under the threshhold of the family room door. I think that this is because the gutters are off of the family room roof, so all the water was running straight down onto the step below this door and splashing up onto the stone riser (see picture #85 for an outside shot that will help you visualize this).
The stone riser is actually the stones you see here - they continue through to the outside. I think they were just getting so wet from the splash that they absorbed the water and caused the staining inside. Hopefully, this problem will go away once the gutters are back up (and the door is wrapped and the siding is on). For good measure, we'll probably seal the stone riser outside with masonry sealer, just to make sure it can't wick in rainwater.
207 On a happier note Dave is moving right along with the siding. Isn't it pretty? Dave is making really cool window drip caps out of Azek (and they're sloped! and they have metal flashing on top! imagine that!) I'll have to get a closeup for you.
208 Other side of the peak The siding is going up the other side of the peak. Once Dave gets the peak finished, the copper guy (whoever that may end up being) can finish the standing seam roof over the family room.
That reminds me: if anyone knows of any good copper guys in the Philly area, please email me!
209 Wednesday, 11/30 - Finally updating! Yeah, I've been slacking on the updates. But between Thanksgiving and the cruddy weather, there haven't been a whole lot of exciting new developments.
Let's start with the best news - look - a WHOLE WALL has siding!!!
210 Here it is again Same wall, different perspective.
There's also siding on the family room west wall, but it doesn't go all the way up. The reason for that is that Dave has to figure out what to do about the soffit vents - currently they're hidden behind the face trim board all along the bottom of the soffit - right where the rainscreen and siding would terminate. Ben Obdyke says that's a big no-no - the rainscreen cannot terminate right into the attic ventilation. So we've got to either design a trim detail that would terminate the siding lower than the soffit or install a different kind of soffit vent into the bottom of the soffit and close off the hidden ones where the siding will terminate. Decisions decisions....
211 More siding Sure looks a lot prettier than the "wind-shredded-tarps-held-up-with-scrap-plywood" thing we have going up in the gable, huh?
212 Drip Cap Here's one of the drip caps Dave is making out of Azek. Note that it is sloped, and that it has a little groove in the bottom to keep water from rolling around it and back down the face of the trim. You can buy premade drip cap from Azek, but Dave thought it would be easier to make his own.
Before installing the next piece of siding, the drip cap will be flashed with white aluminum that runs up the wall behind the felt/rainscreen to direct any water in the rainscreen out on top of the drip cap. "Not just behind the rainscreen, but behind the felt, ..." View Comments...
213 They also did some work on our stoop After digging out the rest of the mortar bed and down to the cement pad, Dave replaced the rim joist behind the stone front porch with pressure-treated wood, then added pressure treated plywood sheathing (there was no sheathing before).
214 Fixing the stoop part 2 Then he covered the whole thing with ice and water shield that wraps down onto the cement pad. This will help to keep any water from the masonry from coming in contact with the wood. In front of the ice & water shield, Dave will put a piece of Azek that goes all the way down to the cement pad (the pine wood that was there before didn't run all the way down to the pad, only a few inches below the stone stoop). Then we'll have masons come in and rebuild the stoop.
215 Front of House The first floor all along the front of the house is pretty much resheathed. They just started taking sheathing off the second floor today. We applied boracare to the studs (they were discolored, but not rotten except in the corners) and will give them a few days to air out before reinsulating and closing it back up. In the meantime, the bedrooms are freezing!
216 Last week's project was removing the sheathing underneath the screen porch (it rained and this was the only thing they could do in the rain). Here is the center wall between the french doors - the cinderblock is for the fireplace on the other side.
Incidentally, as they were pulling the sheathing off here, the french doors almost fell out - they were only held in by 2 shims. No wonder they never seemed to fit right and always had trouble opening/closing and getting a good seal. Hopefully Dave can fix this!
217 Note that the studs along here are waterstained but not rotten. I don't know if the staining was from the chimney flashing (which had been leaking but was repaired a few years ago) or from cracks in the stucco letting water in. We boracared them all, so they should be good to go.
218 Powdery stud Check out these weird studs - there's one on either side of the mansonry by each french door but they're cut off halfway up the wall and don't appear to be holding anything. We can't figure out why they're there. At any rate, this one is all powdery and brushes off if you touch it. It almost looks like powder post beetle damage, but there's no holes, and no other wood around it seems to be affected. We boracared the heck out of it (that stuff kills bugs AND mold) so no matter what it was, it won't come back.
219 We haven't stripped this part yet This is the sheathing above the french door towards the back of the house. It's the worst looking sheathing under the porch, and I'm dreading what we'll find under here. The really bad thing is that the second story rim joist is toast on the front corner and will probably be toast here...and it's behind the ledger board that's holding up the porch roof. We're still pondering the best way to approach this - we could be ripping the roof off the porch...
220 Or even worse.... ...we could be ripping down the whole porch. Hopefully I'm exaggerating. But this is damage to the subfloor as photographed from the basement. This damage is beneath the edges of the french door towards the front of the house (both sets of french doors had leaked in the past - that's part of the reason we built the porch). In order to repair this properly, we will probably have to pull up the porch floor...and if we're taking off the roof and ripping up the floor, we might as well tear down the whole porch and start again. Well - hopefully not. We're going to wait until we have all the sheathing under and above the porch torn off and assess everything, then decide if and how we can work around the porch.
221 More subfloor stains These are below the other set of french doors.
222 12/6/05 - We have windows!!! After a long dark spell, our windows have reemerged from beneath the black tarp. Well, almost all the windows - there's still those two in the bottom corner. So much for our plan to swap the black tarps out for festive red and green ones for the holidays. But boy, it sure is nice to be able to see out the windows again.
On an unhappier note, what's with all this white stuff? At the risk of sounding like a whiner to my loyal readers in Iowa, we NEVER, EVER have snow this early. NEVER! And if by some freak of nature it does snow in December, it always melts the next day. No such luck - gonna be colder than you-know-what all week and might snow again on Friday. I'm starting to think this house is cursed....
223 More exciting news! Let the copperwork resume! We have a new copper guy, Eric, who is starting to flash the porch roofs so Dave can proceed with the siding. Eric learned his craft at the hands of "old-school Italians" and is doing the flashing the old fashioned way - no solder, no caulk, no pop rivets. Unfortunately, the old-fashioned way has turned out to be about two thousand dollars more expensive than John's bid. I guess you get what you pay for.
These pictures were taken from the top down (hanging out the window). Here Eric has cut back the metal pans at the top. He has folded down the standing seams (note that they are folded with the seam part DOWN, not up, like John did) and has bent the top of the pan up.
224 Flashing step 2 Here Eric has removed the felt paper from beneath where the new flashing will go. Eric says that when copper is laid directly on felt paper (as all of our roofs were done), there is a chemical reaction between the asphalt and the copper that eventually eats holes in the copper. He will remove all the felt from beneath the stuff he is doing. That way, if our copper does develop holes in the future, we can replace the pans without disturbing the flashing and siding.
225 Flashing Step 3 As a final step, Eric has placed a piece of flashing extending up the wall 4" and down on the roof about 6". The bottom of that flashing gets double-crimped together with the top of the pans, and everything gets rolled down and flattened. No solder, no caulk, and no way for water to get in. Proper flashing is a beautiful thing....
226 Look mom, proper flashing Here's a shot so you can admire my beautiful flashing from afar....
227 Another shot And here's a closeup. "Is it lapped on top of the rainscreen? Should be lapp..." View Comments...
228 For comparison, let's look at John's work Here is the one porch roof John flashed before he flaked on me. Note that the standing seams are bent the wrong way - the seam part is up and exposed to the weather, meaning water can work its way in, freeze, and pop the seams. He has also pop-riveted the cleat (the small piece of metal at the top of the seam where the seam meets the flashing) THROUGH the copper pan. That's a big no no. And finally, he swore to me that he was laying a bead of caulk between the seams so that water could not blow up that gap between the flashing and the roof panel. (In fact, my questioning him about whether he had put the caulk in is what set him off the day he stormed off the job.)
229 Where's the caulk? I don't see any caulk? Do you?
John's exact words to me: "Why are you asking me if I used the caulk? Didn't I just tell you I was going to put caulk there? If I said I was going to use caulk, I used it! I swear you are really starting to piss me off! You're up my @ss all the time about every little thing! You have to trust me."
Yeah sure John. I trust you. I bet the original builder of the house told the original owners the same thing.....
230 OK, rant over. Here's a shot of the correctly flashed back roof. No more pop rivets. And no caulk (not that there ever was any to begin with!)
Oh, and take a look at the weird staining on the copper roof pans - what looks like wet drips runing down the pans toward the gutter. That's from when John sprayed my brick chimney with masonry sealer without using a tarp to cover this roof. He told me it would wear off with the first rain. It's been well over a month - still there. Hello....it's masonry sealer....it's waterproof....it's not going to wash off with one rain. A-hole. OK, maybe the rant wasn't over yet. I think I need a drink.
231 Eric is pretty speedy In two days, he flashed two porch roofs and did half the front portico. He probably would have had the whole portico done, but Dave was working on the other side and they kept getting in each others' way, so he gave up. He'll finish it tomorrow.
Note: look how the pan actually bends several inches up the wall so that water can't get in. There's a novelty. Hopefully, I can get a shot of the other side for comparison before Eric fixes it....
232 12/8 - Another update! Alas, I wasn't fast enough to get the other side before Eric ripped it off, so here's a shot of it after it was taken off. Here you can see the pan that used to be the right side of the portico. The bent part at the back is what used to go up the wall. Note that it is only about 1" long - far too short to count as flashing.
233 Portico Problem # 2 Let's count the other things that were wrong with our old portico.
This is a bad picture, but this is a closeup of the standing seam that was in the middle of the left side of the portico. The seam runs vertically down the middle of the picture and is actually shaped like an upside-down V - the point is the line you see and the edges go down - you can see the left edge terminating in the white area and the right edge connects to the rest of the pan.
Note that this seam was not double folded - it was simply folded over once. Since there were no cleats holding the seams down, you could actually lift this pan off the other one with your hands. Eric said it is amazing that the roof hadn't blown off.
234 Portico Problem # 3 Again, another tough picture to visualize, but the copper "bar" sticking out from the pan towards the upper left corner was the piece that made up the peak of the portico. Note that it is simply a piece of copper folded once and CAULKED to the tops of the standing seams. The only thing holding it on was caulk. Scary.
235 Portico Problem # 4 The front edge of the portico was face nailed. However, the edge didn't come down far enough so the face nails actually went through the edge of the plywood roof deck. If you've ever tried to nail into the edge of plywood, you know that it doesn't hold nails. Eric pulled all these nails out with his fingers (no hammer or prybar). Here you can see how far the nails had worked loose on their own - look at the nail about 1 ft down on the old copper side (and ignore the new copper side - that isn't done yet).
236 Here's the new portico all finished The front edge is still face nailed, but this time the edge extends farther down, so the nails are catching the trim boards not the edge of the roof deck. There are actual cleats holding the pans down too - another novelty.
237 Shiney New Portico Here's another view.
238 A closeup of the new portico peak The panels from both sides are folded over twice and crimped together. That's not going anywhere.
239 Eric also fixed the bubbled pan that was the original source of the argument that drove John psycho. Here's an "in-progress" shot - I'll try to get a "final results" picture up so you can compare.
Eric had to undo the seam and bend the old pan up more (making it skinner across the roof and allowing more room for John's too-big pan to lay flat. It's still not perfect - there's a small bubble at the bottom where it's soldered into the valley - but that is the best we can do without undoing all the valley work and it looks a heck of a lot better than it did.
240 We now return to our regularly scheduled siding job Enough with the copperwork - let's get back to the siding. Here Dave has installed Azek trimboards over the ice & water shield that covered the rim joist behind the stone front porch stoop (see picture # 214). With the Azek and the ice & watershield, there are now two layers of protection separating this rim joist from the stone stoop. It's still not perfect - because the sill plate is in contact with the cement pad beneath the stones, water can still wick up through the masonry and into the sill and rim joist, but we expect this to be very minimal. And since the rim joist is now pressure treated and can dry to the inside, we don't expect to have any problems even if some moisture does get in.
241 And we have our first bit of siding on the front of the house. Dave is trying to beat the snow here - they're calling for anywhere from 3" to 8" tonight into tomorrow and Dave is trying to get the bottom of the whole front of the house sided above the expected "snow line" so that he'll be able to resume siding on Monday without needing to shovel out the house.
242 More siding on the front And a shot of the bay window roof. That hasn't been replaced yet because we need to decide what we want to do with it. Both Dave and Eric think it looks stupid as-is - too short and stumpy and out of proportaion. (Truthfully, I never noticed). Dave says that the way the roof deck is attached to the trim, it's all going to come off when he pulls the top trim, so we can reframe the roofline any way we want. I need to decide what I want this to look like - suggestions are welcome!
243 A distance shot Dave got the water table and siding on the right side of the door too - he didn't go up as high because there's more clearance to ground on that side. We should be good for up to a foot of snow now, but let's pray we don't get that much.
Did I mention that it never, ever snows around here in December?
244 Friday, 12/23/05 - Merry Christmas! It's been a while since the last update. Progress had stalled out a bit - we got 8" of snow and Dave took a week off to finish another job. Dave was back this week, and here they are putting siding up on the left side. The siding goes pretty quickly, but getting the windows flashed, the felt on and the rainscreen up takes forever!
245 Look - a whole wall is finished The back of the house is done. Really, truly, all the way done. So pretty! I think I like it better than the stucco.
We will have to do something about the louvered exhast vents for the master bathroom - the wind keeps blowing them open (we get some wicked winds up here because we're on top of a hill.) Oh, and Dave still has to add some trim where the siding meets the stucco in the outdoor shower (we left that because it is over masonry there - no rotten wood or mold behind it). So maybe we're not quite so done after all....hmmm....
246 And, as an early Christmas present to me, Dave worked all week so the side of my house that faces the driveway could be done before the holidays. No more big ugly ripped-up plastic tarps for me -- at least on this side of the house!
There's still a few pieces of siding missing near the soffits. We're still trying to figure out the most attractive way to terminate the rainscreen up there - the soffit vent is a continuous strip right there against the house and the rainscreen cannot run directly into it. We were planning on using some kind of trim piece to stop the siding short of the soffit, but the windows are so close to the soffit that they're messing up that plan. We've just got to try some stuff and see what looks best - we may end up closing the existing vents and installing those round plastic vent thingies into the bottoms of the soffits.
Dave is off all next week so there won't be any updates for a while. Have a happy, healthy holiday season - see you next year!
247 1/10/06 - A new year! The new year is starting off with some half-decent weather - the first stretch of nice warmish (upper 40s/low 50s) dry days since about October. Eric has seized upon the nice weather to start stripping the cedar roof.
248 Cedar problems Like everything else with this house, the cedar was done incorrectly. We already knew that the cedar had insufficient sidelap (see picture # 161). Here's yet another example. The offset between the seams of the shakes should be at least 1.5 inches - here the seams are almost over top of each other.
249 More fine roofing work Here you can see the exposed nail between the shakes. A leak just waiting to occur.
If it were not for the 30# felt on the roofdeck and the courses of felt between each row of shakes, this roof would be leaking like a sieve.
250 We also knew that the starter course of shakes was wrong There should be 3 rows of shakes on top of each other making up the starting course. We only have 2. Note how water stained the bottom row is.
251 The roof deck under the starter course When you don't have 3 layers as your starter course, water can work its way down onto the roof deck. Here you can see the staining exactly corresponding with the seams of the shakes.
THIS EXPLAINS ALL THAT PEELING PAINT ON THE SOFFITS AND FASCIA NOW, DOESN'T IT???? All the water that finds its way through the starter course of shingles gets dumped right into the soffits.
Unfortunately, it also means we need to replace the whole main roof sooner rather than later, as it is no doubt having the same problems. If we wait, our soffits will rot out, which will be even more costly to repair.
252 More staining Here you can see how it extends the whole length of the roofline. Nice.
253 This is a shot of the east side of the roof It's the same way.
254 More leakage This is the edge of the shake roof - note the water staining all the way down the edge board. Rain was blowing in under the cedar because there was no drip edge or ice/water shield to keep it out. Again, the water soaked into this board and found its way out at our fascia and gable trim - no wonder our $5000 paint job only lasted a year!
255 And half our new copper roof is done It sure is shiney - I'm probably blinding folks who live on the opposite mountain.
Eric had to extend the pan closest to the house - John didn't make it long enough for the water to flow into the gutter. It looks kind of bad, but it was the best we could do without ripping out the pan (and half the siding). I tried to get a picture but it didn't come out - I'll get one tomorrow.
Also, remember that vent stack that John cut, saying it wouldn't be a problem? Ever since he cut it, there's a distinct sewer stench when the wind blows a certain way. I specifically warned John that I thought that would be a problem - the vent stack had clearly been added onto "after the fact" and I figured it was for a good reason. Once again (hopefully for the final time), John's arrogant "trust-me" attitude comes back to haunt me. Tomorrow Dave will extend the vent stack back above the peak of the roof and Eric will sleeve it over with copper.
256 Chimney Detail This is a closeup of how the copper roof is tied into the chimney. Eric used the existing counterflashings since they were in good shape. Unfortunately, they are a little short (they were cut to the height of the cedar) so while it's weathertight, it's none too pretty. Once all the copper turns brown, it won't be noticeable though.
257 And now....back to Dave! In all the excitement of the new roof, I wouldn't want to neglect the siding progress. Dave has stripped the final bit of sheathing off the 2nd floor and gable above the screen porch. We got lucky here - only one moldy stud under a window....not coincidentally, this is the exact spot shown in the final picture in this album - that crack with the brown water staining was directly over this moldy spot. This is the west side of the house and gets lots of sun, so my guess is the walls had a chance to dry out before the rot could really set in.
258 Water stains on sill plate Here are some water stains on the 2nd floor sill plate. Directly below this is the roof of the screen porch. You can see that the rim joist behind the roof instersection is moldy and rotten. We are going to have to rip up a section of the porch roof to get that out of there. I'm half tempted to leave it (it's big, big money to tear off then repair the porch roof), but this is outside my kids' bedrooms - they've already got lots of allergy and sinus issues and certainly don't need moldy floor joists in their rooms aggravating things. So we've got to get it out of here, in spite of the fact that I'll be raiding their college funds to pay for it.
259 In other exciting news Dave put an aluminum hood over the bathroom exhaust vents to keep the wind from blowing them open. Hopefully this will work.
Finally, in other depressing news, our attorney asked me for an estimate of our total repair costs (including siding, roofing, painting, regrading, relandscaping, and fixing some other items that are not up to code and should never have passed the U&O inspection.) I hadn't sat down and tallied everything up before...I was expecting to end up somewhere between $75-100K (which is horrific enough!!) but actually came up with the mind-boggling figure of $164K. Where the heck we are going to come up with that kind of money is beyond me....it makes me sick just thinking about it. Our only hope is that the builder's insurance company actually decides to cough up some money (which is unlikely without a long legal fight that we don't have the money for). Maybe we'll win the lotto or some rich dot-com zillionaire will read this site and decide to sen...
260 1/13/06 - Friday the 13th.... How's this for progress...the day after my last update, they swapped out my ginormous dumpster (shown here on the back of the truck) for this teeny tiny baby one. I guess this means Dave is just about done throwing out pieces of my house. Yippee! There's so much more parking room in the driveway all the sudden!
Just for reference, the wreckage of our house completely filled TWO of those huge dumpsters, plus we threw a lot of stuff out in our regular trash cans too. Kind of amazing when you think about it.
261 More progress The wall above our screen porch has been reinsulated, resheathed, and felt papered. Thank goodness, because it was righteous cold in the kids' rooms without insulation in the walls.
Unfortunately, we've still got a lot of work to do on this wall...
262 OSB behind screen porch roof This is a view taken inside the screen porch looking up. You can see that the OSB is rotten behind where the screen porch roof attaches to the house (and at the front corner, where we could get the rim joist exposed, you could see that it was rotten and moldy as well). Dave thinks he can build a temporary wall to hold up the porch roof, detatch the joists from the ledger board here, then wriggle the ledger board out. That will get him a few inches to access the rim joist - hopefully he'll be able to fix it from there. If not, our choices are to completely rip off the roof or to tear up the living room ceiling inside. Ugh.
263 First floor rim joist behind the porch Here is a view of the rim joist where the porch is attached. This is below the french doors, which we believe have been leaking for a long time (that's one of the reasons we built the porch - because the french doors would leak onto the living room floor in certain heavy wind-driven rains and no one seemed to know why - guess we know now!). Again, to get this out of here, we'll have to tear up the porch floor - we're hoping we can just tear out a little bit and patch it instead of having to rip the whole thing up. That's iffy because the flooring runs perpendicular to the wall - we can't just rip up a few floor boards closest to the house.
Oh well - the porch is a problem for another week....
264 Dave also tore off the last bit of OSB on the back of the house - the little wedge above the breakfast area windows on the back porch. You can see a lot of water damage here, both in the left corner and at the pointy end to the right. The header of the windows has a number of water stains all across it. We believe all of this is from the improper porch flashings allowing water down the wall and under the copper roof deck. We did actually have water leaking inside the house twice about two feet in from these windows - one of the only actual "leaks" we had - so I'm not surprised that this is all messed up here. The leak inside the house stopped when we caulked the heck out of the porch flashings, so I'm not sure if this is all old damage from the pre-caulk days or if it continued to leak into the walls but just not into the house.
We're going to bleach and boracare this over the weekend, then Dave can resheathe next week.
265 Closeup This is a closeup of the water staining in the corner where the windows meet the wall by the door. The dark wood near the center of the picture is part of a paralam beam. Even the drywall is waterstained and moldy here. There was no evidence of this inside the house other than the leak (which actually came from this beam about 2 feet away from this spot) which we thought we had fixed. Perhaps it wasn't really fixed though - this beam is still registering in the red zone on the moisture meter, though we haven't had the leak in 2 years. It is a paralam beam, so maybe they just take a while to dry out, especially since it's been sealed up with insulation? Hopefully it is still structurally sound (the part we can see is solid), as it is one of the main support beams in the house.
266 Closeup of the other end You can see the water staining and damage in the corner. Dave thinks this is from water getting in at the flashings and rolling down the roof deck under the copper. There's probably more damage above, but without ripping off the porch roof, we aren't going to get it out.
267 The rubble that used to be our back step Over the past few weeks, the back step has been slowly disintegrating as we stepped on it and worked around it. Now it's just a pile of rocks. This weekend, our other assignment is to chip off all the mortar so that the stonemasons (who are coming on Monday) can put it all back together.
268 Patch to John's Pan I promised you a picture of the area where Eric had to extend John's pan because it was too short. Here it is - he essentially tucked a longer piece of drip edge under the pan and soldered it. It looks kind of crappy, but you won't see it once the gutter is up.
269 Rainscreen detail Here's a closeup of the detail at the bottom of the rainscreen. The white at the bottom is the Azek water table, then a copper drip cap. The rainscreen terminates about 1/4" above the drip cap and is wrapped in window screen (secured with copper nails) to keep the bugs out. It's been raining, and here you can see the drips of water that have run out of the rainscreen and onto the copper drip cap - just like it's supposed to do. Once we have siding, there will obviously be a lot less water running through the rainscreen.
270 Family Room West Wall Dave's been booking along with the siding as well - here you can see the family room west wall and the wall under the breakfast area windows is well underway.
271 Thursday 1/26 - Lots of progress! Two stonemasons, two days, and several wheelbarrows of cement later, we have a front porch again!
272 Back Step And a back step too!
273 Side door riser They also patched up the stonework beneath the threshhold of the side door in the family room. Dave had started to chip this out only to realize that it is actually part of the stone hearth for the fireplace inside, so it had to stay. He did a nice job of integrating it in.
274 Back of house with siding They've been booking right along with the siding...almost the whole back of the house is done except for a little bit under the porch roof.
275 Soffit vent detail Dave finally figured out what to do about the soffit vents meeting the rain screen. The siding goes up into the soffit vent, but Dave has bent a U-shaped piece of metal that loops around the top of the siding, about 1/4" above the top of the siding. That way, the air traveling through the rainscreen can escape at the top but be redirected out of the soffit vent by the metal. And the soffit vents are still open - the U-shaped piece of metal does not block them. Very clever - thanks Dave!
276 Alas, another dilemma Now that there's a corner piece in this corner (where the back porch door meets the angled wall of the breakfast area), there doesn't appear to be any easy way to remount the light fixture. Oh well - Dave will figure something out.
277 More roof problems Last weekend, my husband and I got ambitious and decided to pull up the insulation in the attic above the family room. We did this because the ceiling of the family room is wood paneled and there were lots of gaps between the panels that let cold air down into the room (more evidence of the crappy construction of the house - the ceiling should have been tongue and groove or had drywall behind it to provide a solid air barrier). We are pulling up insulation and laying in foam board to stop the air leaks. We will then put the insulation back.
Anyhow, what I really wanted to show you here is more evidence of roof leaks (note the water stains on the right side wall and where the rafter meets the soffit). This was all hidden beneath the insulation so we would never have seen it if we hadn't pulled it up.
278 Closeup of Soffit staining See how badly the end of the rafter and back of the soffit is stained. The underside of the OSB roof sheathing also appears discolored. This makes sense given what we saw when we removed the cedar shake above this roof - the first course of shakes was obviously leaking and here is the evidence inside the house.
279 2/9 - More progress Over the past couple weeks, Dave has attacked the screen porch. The plan was to get the stucco out from behind the porch roof ledger board by building a temporary wall inside the porch to support the ceiling, prying off the joist hangers, removing the ledger board, stucco, & OSB, making repairs to the rim joist if necessary, then packing out with foam to account for the depth of the stucco, resheathing, and rehanging the ledger board. Whew.
Here you can see the ceiling has been taken down in preparation for removing the ledger board and OSB.
280 Ledger Board Removed Here the ledger board has been removed and we are looking at the 2nd floor rim joist. It was water stained in spots, but not rotten except for the very front corner.
Note that the flat rubber roof on top of the porch will also need new flashing and repairs.
281 Staining over front french door You can see a bit of water staining over the front (north) french door.
282 Staining over back french door This is where the OSB was in such bad shape (picture 279). The staining on the header is worse but the boards aren't rotten. We'll just boracare it and seal it back up.
283 Rehanging the ledger board Here they are reattaching the ledger board and joist hangers. You can see the temporary wall holding up the ceiling in the foreground.
284 Ceiling finished The repairs to the wall at the top of the porch are fininshed. We still need to put the ceiling boards back up and fix/flash the rubber roof above the porch.
285 Part B - the porch floor We knew the rim joist behind the porch floor ledger board was rotten - we could see it from the basement and from the outside below the french doors. After mulling over various options which included completely taking up and relaying the whole porch floor, we decided to attempt to cut out 8" or so of floorboards closest to the house. We are hoping Dave can patch this with boards running lengthwise (parallel to the house) so it looks like a border. If it doesn't look good, we'll have to replace the whole floor, which gets into big $$. Dave will have to do something funky to support the floor here, since the joists run parallel to this cut, but I'm sure he'll be able to make it look good - he does work miracles, after all!
286 Damaged rim joist below french door Here you can see some of the damage below the french doors. These doors leaked into the house once or twice during heavy windblown rains - that's one of the reasons we built the porch in the first place. Here you can see that they obviously leaked undetected into the rim joists far more often.
287 More rim joist damage Again, you can see lots of water staining below the french doors.
288 Closeup of rim joist damage
289 Rim joist removed Here is the rim joist that was removed from beneath the frontmost french door (not the one you saw in the last 3 pictures). It's also not in very good shape, as you can see.
290 New sheathing below french doors Here Dave has packed out with foam and resheathed below the french doors with pressure treated plywood.
291 Porch rim joist fixed The repairs are complete to the rim joist and ledger board behind the porch floor. Now Dave just has to patch the floor and put our porch back together again.
Overall, the west side of the house was a pleasant surprise - although the stucco was very cracked and the wood was waterstained, it wasn't nearly as rotten as the rest of the house. Our guess is that the western exposure (which gets brutal sun during the summer) combined with the better grading (rim joist is about a foot out of the dirt here) allowed the walls to dry out better here than in the rest of the house.
292 Some interior damage Dave has been patching the drywall damage due to stud replacement and when we replaced the window frames/windows. I just wanted to document some of this. Here's the front-facing dining room window - the frame was replaced due to rot.
293 Window above bilco doors This is the dining room window above the bilco doors - the frame here was also replaced. In addition, replacing the studs below the window and to the corner did a lot of drywall damage.
294 More stud replacement damage These are patches left where Dave screwed the new studs into the drywall. This whole room (as well as several others with similar damage) will have to be repainted.
295 Grill area Dave finished the wall by the BBQ grill. The vertical white trim piece here separates the wood-framed wall from the masonry wall that makes up the back of the fireplace. The masonry wall sticks out a little farther, so the trim is there to make the depth transition look ok. I think he did a great job. We're going to leave the stucco on the wall behind the grill - it's a masonry wall and protected by a roof so there shouldn't be any moisture worries. Of course, with this house, you never know!
296 Bay window disassembled The last thing Eric the copper guy has left is the bay window. Here Dave has taken the old roof and trim off the bay window.
297 Bay window reassembled Dave said that the roof was not very sturdy and wasn't insulated at all. He removed the old sheathing, insulated it, beefed it up, and installed new plywood and trim. It's now ready for the copper guy, whenever he comes back.
298 Halfway there.... The front of the house is halfway sided. They won't be able to go any higher on the left side until Eric finishes the bay window roof. The left side and back are completely finished. The right side is all rainscreened and ready to go. Dare I say it....things should be wrapping up fairly quickly from here! (Course, they are predicting up to a foot of snow this weekend...that might slow things down a bit!)
299 2/15 - The front is done! Well, almost done. There's a few pieces of siding and trim missing around the bay window and a piece of crown molding missing from the window over the door. Dave also left a small patch of stucco (for posterity?) over the front door, below the portico. I think I'd like to side over it, if it's not too much of a pain (it's a small patch and pretty hemmed in by the portico roof and door trim, which is why he left it there in the first place). I'll ask him about siding over it tomorrow.
On another note - check out all the snow that fell Saturday. This picture is a few days after the storm - we got 14"!!! Luckily, it's going to be in the 50s for a few days so it should all melt pretty quickly - a lot of it is gone already.
We need the snow out of here so the excavators can come quote the grading job - the guy we had lined up backed out on us so we have to start over from ground zero at a time of the year when most of the good excavators are probably a...
300 Eric also finished the bay window roof I hemmed and hawed over what to do with this roof - it's simply too short and shallow to put a standing seam roof on. I even went so far as to have my sister, who's an architect, draw me up a whole bunch of different more-prominent rooflines to go over the window. Unfortunately, since the bay window is so close to the portico, anything bigger and more prominent just looked like it was competing with the portico for focal-point-status. So we went with the original roofline and a copper flat seam roof (where the seams are folded flat and soldered, instead of standing up). Eric the roofer didn't like it, but I do. And even he happily acknowledged that it looks a heck of a lot better than the gutter-caulked-polka-dotted mess that was there! Now Dave just has to put the siding back and we'll be all set!
I'll get a better picture once the scaffolding is gone.
301 3/7 - A long overdue update Yeah, I've been really slacking on the updates. Perhaps you thought that we had finished and I just wanted to put the whole experience behind me. No such luck...though almost a month has passed since my last update, we're still not done. Dave expects to be out of here this week and to return in 4-6 weeks to install some special order stuff that isn't in yet (more on that later....).
For now, hey look, the front is done.
302 The Bay Window Here is the copper bay window roof with the siding pieces restored and the window trim on.
303 Hardie over front door Dave did side that little piece of stucco left over the front door. I think it looks a lot better.
304 OK, so the front isn't ENTIRELY done... There is ONE last little thing on the front - this window is supposed to have crown molding across the top - note the missing trim. The crown molding is fypon and takes 3 weeks to come in. Dave has to come back for some other stuff so he'll install it then.
305 We've also gotten light fixtures gutters, downspouts, our radon fans, and all the other little detail-y stuff back on the exterior - you know...those minor details like bolting the electric meter to the wall instead of having it suspended in midair by a piece of conduit.
Here you can see the light fixture on the back porch - that was right in the corner when the house was stucco. Once the siding was on, the light fixture wouldn't fit exactly in the corner anymore. It looks a little odd here cause it's half over the window trim, but that was the only place it could go. No one will notice or care except me (well, and you all now that I've drawn your attention to it!)
306 Dave also ran the siding into the outdoor shower We were going to leave the stucco here because the area is protected by the roof and the wall behind it is masonry (it's the back of the fireplace) and thus not susceptible to rot. But I much prefer the look of the siding. Dave had to fur this out and also work around the pipe chase, so it took a while.
307 Closeup of Outdoor Shower Here's a closeup of the plumbing chase so you can see just how many little cuts Dave had to make here.
As a side note, please ignore the "plumbing valve" thing we have going on for the faucet handles. Since we moved here, we've been trying to find something more attractive that fits the way these are plumbed in but had no luck. And now it's kind of at the bottom of the priority list....
308 West Side Gable is sided The gable wall above the screen porch is sided. Below the screen porch is not, and won't be for a while. We decided to replace the crapola-french-doors that lead to the screen porch and of course the new ones are special order and going to take 4-6 weeks to come in. Dave will be back to install them. Hopefully he gets them in and the wall sided before the painters show up!
I'll post some pictures of our crapola-french-doors tomorrow so you can see just why we're willing to hold up our siding job and shell out another $4500 when we're already flat broke to replace them.
309 Screen Porch Rim Joist The rim joist behind the screen porch has been repaired and the ledger board that attaches the porch to the wall has been replaced. Here you can see how Dave has installed this newfangled thing called "flashing" over the ledger board to keep water from getting behind it and into the walls.
310 Repairing the screen porch floor Here is a shot of Dave adding support so he can run the patched porch flooring parallel to the house. He's actually completed the repair since I took this picture and we have a new floor. I'll get some pictures up tomorrow.
311 And finally, the grading.... Now that we're getting to the end of the siding part, it's time to start thinking about regrading the yard to fix the fact that the rim joist is still BURIED in the dirt. Here's a shot of the front left corner of the house. The foundation wall stops at the bottom of the white trimboard, which covers the rim joist. You can see that the white trimboard is buried and even where it isn't, there is basically no clearance between the dirt and the bottom of the trimboard. We're aiming to get at least 4" of clearance bween dirt and trimboard (for moisture/termite protection) and then we also want to get a decent slope from that height down away from the house. That means we've got a LOT of digging to do.
312 A different angle This is the same spot taken looking down the front of the house towards the front door. You can see just how buried the trimboard (and hence the rim joist) is. If we scrape away all the dirt/mulch from the flowerbeds, we still have the lawn level with the bottom of the trimboard - there's no clearance and no slope. This is a tough spot because we're hemmed in by the walkway to the front door and the driveway, both of which are currently at grade now. We can dig the dirt down, but we've got to send the water somewhere and we're surrounded by high, immovable objects (the house, the driveway and the walkway). I'm still not sure what we're going to do here....
313 Another shot of the same spot.
314 Grading by the bilco doors Note that the bilco door entry is actually the low spot here. All the water runs TOWARD the house and in heavy rains, it puddle in front of the bilcos and leak down the basement steps. Again, we're surrounded by driveway and the walkway to the side door, and again, we're not sure exactly what we're going to do to fix this.
315 Grading near side door Again, you can see that there is no clearance between the bottom of the trim board and the dirt - an open invitation to termites and other critters we don't want around. This is on the other side of the walkway, and here the answer is easy - we're going to get the whole yard dropped down - we've got a good slope toward the back of the house and can afford to dig as much as we want here and still have plenty of falloff for the water to run away from the house.
316 3/10/06 - As promised, another update As I mentioned earlier, we are replacing both sets of french doors leading to the screen porch. Prior to building the porch, the doors leaked in heavy rains - the water came in UNDER the threshhold, not between the doors, and puddled on the hardwood floors (we've got some serious water damage to the floor as well!) It also leaked in at the top of the doors. We never could find the problem and decided to build the porch to stop the leaking.
The doors haven't leaked since we built the porch, but they are wood and I guess because of their leaking and exposure to weather, they have started to get a little spongy at the bottom. Here you can see all the cracking - this door was just sanded and repainted a year ago and the painter told us they were getting funky then.
317 Another shot of the french doors Another shot of the cracking and deterioration at the bottom of the french doors.
318 French door warpage Even worse than the sponginess is the fact that the doors seem to have completely warped. You can see that they don't close right at all - note how out of whack they are here. Dave tried to adjust them, but the doors have actually warped so badly they are cupped so when he'd get the top to line up, the bottom would go out of whack.
This picture was taken in the winter. In the summer when the doors swell from humidity, they get hard to close and we've had to go a few weeks without locking them because we simply couldn't get them to line up with the lock holes.
319 Other french door This door is also warped at the top - here you can actually see daylight between the doors. Did I mention that they're drafty as heck?
320 Back to the first door This is the bottom of the first door. Note that again, you can see daylight. Before we put on that monster piece of gray felt weatherstripping (to the left of the daylight) you could see a whole strip of daylight - it was a gap about 1/8" wide by 6" tall.
Dave told us that these doors weren't shimmed right in the opening - there were only about 3 shims holding them up and when he removed the door trim, they almost fell out on top of him. Perhaps that has something to do with why they are so out of whack. At any rate, he tried his best to adjust them but no luck - so we are shelling out even more money for new doors. Hopefully they'll get here before the painters do!
321 On another note Here is a shot of the chimney that vents our furnaces and living room fireplace. Note that the stucco here is also cracking and deteriorating. This is stucco over cinderblock, and you can see all the joint lines between the blocks. At some point, we're going to have to restucco this chimney. Joy.
322 Another grading shot Here's a shot of the grading to the right of the front door (towards the screen porch). Again, you can see that the lawn is about level with the bottom of the trim board. At the corner, we finally get a few inches of foundation showing - yippee!
323 Moving right along Dave has repaired our porch floor and porch ceiling. The repair to the porch floor looks really good - it looks like a decorative border that we put there on purpose. It does need to be stained, but we'll get around to that when we get to it. The repairs to the ceiling are nice too, though we'll have to repaint, which sucks because the first time I painted that ceiling I was 6 weeks pregnant and sick as a dog - I had to keep climbing off the ladder because I thought I was going to hurl. Bad, bad memories of painting that ceiling....and now I have to do it again. Double joy.
The rest of the porch is still a wreck (some of the screens are out, there's dirt and crap everywhere, etc.) I guess it's staying that way til the doors come in and Dave comes back to finish the siding.
324 Look Mom, No Scaffolding! Spring 2006 After five-and-a-half very long, very cold months, Dave and crew packed up all their stuff today and headed off to another job. For the first time since September, there's no scaffolding around my house and my garage is actually empty enough for us to park there again. So here's the final product, sans one piece of crown molding, paint, and a porch railing (we decided that since the screen porch roof was already all ripped apart, we'd redo the railing around the top of the porch because I never liked how it came out when we built it).
You might be sad to think all the fun is over, but no need to fear. In addition to the french doors and finishing the screen porch, we've got grading, painting, and in all likelihood, a whole new roof coming up in the next couple months. So be sure to keep checking back!
325 Perhaps this is a bit premature but I thought I'd give some credit where credit is due. First of all, if you are in or near Philadelphia and need any sort of home remodeling, Dave's your man. (Buehl Construction, Chalfont PA, 215-997-6443). He did an amazing job with the house and an even better job at keeping us sane through it all. Thanks Dave!
If you need copper roofing done, Eric bailed me out of a tough spot, squeezed me into his packed schedule, and did a wonderful job. DiCesare Roofing, Perkiomenville PA, 610-334-0532.
And finally, thanks to all the wonderful folks on the internet (I won't name names because you all know who you are) who offered their time, opinions, advice, sketches, cell phone numbers, and even money to help get me through this. I have continually been astounded by how generous and caring folks I've never even met have been throughout this whole ordeal. If only all builders were as conscientious and kind as those of you who have helped me along through this....thanks so much!!!
326 7/15/06 - I bet you thought I was never coming back! Took me a while, but here I am. I guess you've been waiting for me, since the hit count on my site has gone up by about 2000 since my last update. Lots of stuff has happened since then, so let's get started.
327 Weird caulk staining... Shortly after my last update, we had some weirdness with the caulk around the doorframes - it was turning brown. The back door under the porch had just a few small brown spots like this...
328 Caulk around family room door ...while the caulk around the west-facing family room door (picture 148) turned completely brown along the top and sides.
329 Behind the spots I dug at one of the spots with my fingernail and found this gloppy black tarry like substance. I did some research and found cases where the plasticizers in caulk and flexible PVC (which is what our rainscreen is made from) interacted badly with window wrap tape and essentially liquified it.
After many frantic phone calls to WRGrace, Ben Obdyke, and OSI Quad (makers of the flashing tape, rainscreen, and caulk respectively), we determined that in all likelihood, this was simply the solvents in the caulk leaching some asphalt out of the felt paper and window wrap. The Quad folks told me that now that the caulk had cured and solvents had evaporated, there would be no more problems. I observed the spots for about a month and they didn't change at all. I also noticed that where the caulk came in contact with the asphalt screen porch roof, it was completely brown yet the roof and caulk were unaffected, so that reassured me that the tape, caulk, and rainscreen were intact and functional.
330 Here's what happened, I think... This is the back door under the porch in progress. Note the rainscreen actually protruding from between the azek and the door jamb. I am assuming Dave cut this flush then caulked over it to cover the gap. Since the gap was so large, it allowed the caulk to come in direct contact with the rainscreen and flashing tape - that explains why this only happened on the doors, and not the windows, where the caulk is only on the surface where the siding meets the trim.
Dave probably should have used backer rod here, and if we have further problems, I will have him cut out all the caulk and redo it using backer rod. So far, though, everything has been fine.
331 In other exciting news We got new french doors. Now that you can't see daylight all around the doors, it should be a little more energy efficient!
332 The screen porch ceiling is back together, but it needs to be painted since it got pretty dinged up while it was down. Ugh. I hate painting ceilings.
333 The window sills became thicker I wasn't happy with the windowsills flush to the trim and thought that thicker sills would make for a more interesting (and historically accurate) profile. Dave added a 2nd layer of azek to each sill, beveling it at the top for water drainage - our old sills back when the house was stucco were thick like this but not beveled (now there's a surprise!)
334 Another shot of the thicker sills I like them so much better than before - I didn't think they'd make that much difference but they really do.
335 Our siding has been painted I was going for a New England Farmhouse look, and so I picked white with white trim. Some might call it boring....I call it serene...and lord knows, I could use some serenity right about now.
336 The back of the house painted
337 A painting casualty The painters performed some frightening acrobatics to get to the peak of the house over the copper roof, and in the process, they squashed the ridge vent pretty badly. They are paying to get it replaced, so I'll get to hang out with Eric-the-roofer again.
338 The painters also painted the chimneys Here's the moldy nasty fake chimney from picture 106. They caulked all the cracks and used a masonry waterproofing paint. Let's hope it works....
339 Other chimney painted This chimney had a huge crack in it - they caulked it and painted it with the waterproofing paint - hopefully that will help with the leak. Oh, wait, I haven't told you about the leak yet. Read on....
340 Our crappy grading is ruining our paint job Well, ok, not really, but the combination of grade so close to the siding and demolished landscaping has resulted in considerable mud splashing on my brand new $10,000 paint job. Needless to say, this does not make me happy.
341 Closeup of the crappy grading... Why, you might ask, do we not just fix this? Well...we filed the lawsuit against the builder for damages, and apparently, once you get lawyers involved, nothing productive can ever happen again (no offense to my lawyer who is probably reading this!).
Seriously, we are not allowed to fix anything else (including the now obviously leaking roof) until the defense sends their own inspectors out, and the defense is doing everything in their power to drag their heels.
If you ever think life is passing you by too quickly, file a lawsuit -- time will grind to a halt.
342 Temporary grading fix To keep the splash from crudding up my new paint job, I threw down some hay over the remnants of what used to be our landscaping. No more mud. Course, our front yard now looks like a stable, but that's beside the point.
343 OK, I've mentioned the roof leak a few times Here it is. It's next to the working chimney on the right side of the house (above the screen porch). Not sure if it's a flashing problem or a masonry problem - I guess we'll find out since the painters fixed and waterproofed the masonry. I suspect the flashing, though...it leaked when we first moved in and we caulked the heck out of the flashing and the leak went away.
Yes...it is very discouraging to have spent an obscene amount of money and STILL HAVE A LEAKY HOUSE. And this time, as I said, we aren't allowed to fix it until the defense decides to get off their butts and get out here to look at it. Needless to say, I am not a happy camper.
344 Here's the puddle on the attic floor from the leaky roof. It's not so bad yet...hopefully we'll get the go ahead to fix it before we need to put buckets up there to catch the water.
345 We had some torrential rains a few weeks ago - like 8 or 9" over 5 straight days of pouring rain. The masonry detail outside under the family room door (see picture 273) got so saturated it started wetting the floor inside too. This isn't coming in under the door, it's actually coming up through the stone.
We're giving it a few weeks to dry out then we're going to hit that stone on the exterior with masonry sealer -- that should fix it.
346 One more problem...maybe? During the torrential downpours, our entire house started stinking like insulation. Our first thought was that something was getting wet, so we used our moisture meter to identify areas that registered wetter than normal, then cut big holes in the drywall to inspect. I couldn't find any evidence of leaking in most of them -- I think the readings were just a lot of humidity outside entering the wall cavity. (I also think the humidity was responsible for the insulation smell - Certainteed confirmed that insulation will smell when it is exposed to moisture or humidity. We obviously have some air sealing issues to deal with so that our house stops smelling like what's in our wall cavities. But that's an issue for another day...)
However, under one window above the back porch roof, we did find some water stains on the sill lumber. The backside of the plywood sheathing felt damp and registered wet with the moisture meter, though we saw no evidence of any actual water leakage.
347 Closeup of water stains We can't tell if they're old or new - they don't feel or register wet, so we're hoping they're old. We've had the hole open for several weeks now and they don't appear to be growing, so I guess that's good news.
348 Outside shot of possibly leaky window Here's a pic of the window from the outside - it's the one on the short wall next to the twin window. I have a couple theories as to why the plywood here might be so wet. Note the valley above where the two rooflines meet -- it rained so hard that the gutters there pretty much overflowed nonstop for 5 days. The overflow created a lot of splash on the siding when it hit the porch roof. I'm wondering if the siding and felt beneath it just became saturated (it wasn't painted yet) or if there was just so much humidity that it raised the moisture content in the wood.
Another possibility is that the window or the roof above it is leaking. Dave came out to investigate and told us that above the window, you can actually see a lot of roofing felt between the cedar shakes - he feels water may be coming in at the roofline and running down the outside of the sheathing.
The only way to know for sure is to get on the roof with a hose and soak the window and then...
349 One last issue The copper back porch roof faces south and throws off a LOT of heat in the summer -- so much so that if you put your hand into the wall cavity on the wall where the roof is (yes, we cut a hole there too!), it feels like you are sticking your hand into scalding hot water. The heat seems to be causing the windows and/or azek to expand and contract, which is cracking the caulk joint at the bottom of the windows closest to the porch roof. It shouldn't be a huge deal because there's window wrap and roof flashing back there to direct the water out, but it's annoying. Dave already recaulked once but it's happening again.
Someone recommended a different kind of caulk (Dymonic FC) that is much more flexible - I think I'll wait for this to get bad then chisel out the existing caulk and try the new stuff.
350 Another shot of the cracking caulk Hard to see here, but it's the tiny pinhole in about the middle of the picture. Like I said, Dave already fixed this once - the entire joint was cracked. It seems to only happen where the windows meet the Azek, not where the azek meets the siding. I'm guessing the windows are the culprit here.
351 Oh, and one last annoyance that isn't really relevant to anything here except that it illustrates once again how shoddily our house was built. When we moved in, we noticed that while the electrical outlets and switchplates were white throughout the house, there were several (18 actually) switches that were ivory. It's like the builder had a box of the wrong color switches and decided to use them anyway - to the point where we'd have two different color switches next to each other in one plate like you see here. We finally got off our duffs and replaced them all with white switches (to the tune of about $5 a switch - of course all the ivory ones were 3-way and more expensive!). Another one of those things where you don't realize how much of a difference it will make until you actually do it -- it looks so much better!
352 9/20/06 - The roofers were here! Wow - it's hard to believe that in just one week, it will be an entire year since the first piece of stucco came off our house and we learned just how much of a disaster our house was. Since then I've gained 20 lbs (I tend to eat when I'm stressed!) and spent about $120,000 and we're still not done (spending, that is. Hopefully I'm done gaining weight).
Anyhow, the roofers came at the end of August and we now have a new weathertight roof. First, let's review the crappy old roof. Note how curled the cedar shakes were.
353 More curling shakes These were so bad that some surveyors who were in my yard to survey my neighbor's property a few weeks ago commented to me, out of the blue, that we're going to need a new roof soon. Gee, thanks guys!
354 Leaking chimney flashing This the chimney flashing around the chimney that leaked a few years ago and just started leaking again. Note how much caulk is there - it's even between the shakes. We did that to stop the leaks a few years ago but now that it's leaking again, the whole flashing is getting redone along with the roof.
355 Here's a fine example The shake has a big hole in it - you can see the tarpaper down below.
356 More curled shakes The starter course is supposed to have 3 layers of shakes - ours has only 2 and they're curling badly. If you get close enough, you can see the tarpaper between them.
357 Another closeup of the shakes Note how closely the seams are spaced - there is supposed to be a 1.5" offset between seams - here they are almost on top of each other in spots.
358 Plumbing vent pipe Note how badly the boot is rusting.
359 Paint peeling on eaves Note how badly the paint is peeling on the eaves here. This was just repainted two years ago. There is almost no paint left on it. The roofers said the shakes were clearly leaking at the edge of the roof here.
360 No Hip Shingle Here's the peak of the gable that faces the driveway. Note that there's no shingle capping the ridge.
361 Here's the valley on the left side of the house where the gable that faces the driveway meets the roofline that runs parallel to the driveway out towards the family room. Note the erosion of the copper (the orange staining) from the acids in the cedar. Eventually, this would develop holes right through the metal. Lead-coated copper should have been used.
362 Valley Cut Too Short This is the bottom of that same valley. Note that it is cut too short - the water never made it to the gutter and actually ran behind it and down to the ground. Needless to say we had a lot of peeling paint here as well.
363 More fine valley work Note the nail right through the valley flashing. Brilliant, no?
364 Apparently, the original roofer was a big fan of nailing through flashing. Take a look at the row of shakes at the bottom of the dormer. It is a dummy row, designed to cover the ....
365 . . . metal flashing that protects the dormer/roof intersection. When this is done (it isn't necessary and was done here for cosmetic reasons), the dummy row should be applied with glue or adhesive, however....
366 However.... Our builder decided to nail them on. When your flashing has this many holes, what's the point of having flashing?
367 Putting on the new roof We opted for asphalt shingles instead of cedar, and for that we needed a solid deck. We decided the best course of action was to lay new plywood down over the old lathe. We could have removed the lathe, but then the roof deck would have been lower than our fascia boards and crown molding along the eaves - that would have been a nightmare to fix.
368 Here's the screwed up valley again Only now it's fixed. And the water actually goes into the gutter. Imagine that!
Note that the roofers also covered our plumbing vent stacks with copper sleeves that are self-flashing at the bottom. Unlike the rusty mess from picture 358, this should last forever and never leak.
Oh, incidentally, while covering this vent stack, the roofer noticed that the original plumber had never glued it together -- the pipe came off in his hands.
369 Here's another plumbing vent all nice and sleeved in copper. Note the little black box next to it. That is now venting our guest bath exhast fan which was previously shoved into the soffit with no actual vent outlet.
370 Here's the leaking chimney All new flashing....no more leaks.
Actually, it only has new step flashing - they reused the old counterflashing because it was embedded in the stucco and would have been very difficult to change. The old step flashing was clearly screwed up so the roofers are confident that this will stop the leaks.
371 Here's the new dormer flashing Actually, it's the old dormer flashing. The only way to replace it would have been to totally dismantle the dormers, something we really didn't want to do. So the roofers covered the old nail-hole-ridden flashing with an acrylic mesh/membrane product, then painted it to match the roof shingles. From the ground, you can barely tell it's there.
372 And voila! The front of our house with a brand new spiffy non-leaking roof. Once again, I must give credit to DiCesare Roofing of Perkiomenville, PA (the guys who did our copperwork) for another spectacular job - it looks amazing. Oh, and if anyone is interested, the shingles we chose are GAF Camelots in Olde Pewter. We were going for a slate-like look and we love them.
Now all we have left is the grading...and the landscapers are scheduled to start MONDAY! So stay tuned....I think our saga is finally coming to an end!
373 10/22/06 - The Next-to-Last Chapter Over the past few weeks, the landscapers were here installing the french drain system around the house. We opted to install a french drain and preserve the existing grade as much as possible because in the front corner of the house, there was simply nowhere to go with the water - the driveway was already higher than the foundation, so there was no way to get another 6" down and still drain water away from the house. Plus the landscapers said that doing that much grading would probably kill or severely damage our trees.
Here you can see that all our landscaping is gone and they've dug a pit about a foot deep around the whole house.
374 Another shot of the moat Outside of the moat, the grading in the rest of the yard will stay as is. A perforated drain pipe will be installed in all the moat areas and covered with stone. We'll build a natural stone retaining wall to hold back the existing grade and slope it better away from the house. This way, the only water that goes into the drainpipe will be what falls into the 6" immediately against the house - the rest will be taken by natural grading away from the house. We're also redoing the underground gutter pipes while we're at is, since the ones the builder installed were never glued and leaked (imagine that! our builder building something that leaks!)
375 Here you can see just how far off the grading was. The one end of the level is resting on the dirt at grade level (the dirt is even with the rest of the yard). The other end shows where the grade was relative to the foundation - in this case, up about 4" onto the rim joist, and that's without any slope away from the house. Yikes!
376 My house looks naked without the landscaping.
Oh well - the bushes that were there were getting too big anyhow. Besides, considering that last year at this time, my house was sporting a festive black tarp, I suppose I can't complain too much!
377 The drainpipes are in place They were wrapped with landscape fabric to keep them from clogging up with mud, then the trench was filled with crushed stone. We'll top this ugly stone with some decorative pea gravel for aesthetics.
We ended up not achieving the 4" of clearance to the stone - the stone runs almost up to the top of the foundation. I suppose we could have had the trenches dug deeper, but this whole thing was already costing a fortune. I think it will be fine - the stone should keep the water and termites away from the rim joists. I hope....
378 The walls are going in Here you can see the natural stone walls going in in front of the drainpipes. We are building up the soil in front of the wall to get more slope away from the house. Eventually most of this wall (as well as the A/C units and radon fan and piping) will be hidden by landscaping.
379 Our yard is pretty trenched up We ran the pipes from the right side of the house straight out to the meadow on the right of the house, and the ones from the left side and back of the house down the hill in the back of the house. So we've got not one but two huge trenches across the lawn. Hopefully if we seed now the grass will come up before winter so it won't be all muddy all year.
380 And voila The walls are in place and the dirt has been graded up to them. We'll do more grading when I get off my butt and decide what I want in the landscaping beds. I'm wondering if I should wait the winter and make sure the drains are doing what they're supposed to do...however, I really don't want this much mud in my yard all winter. Two little kids and a mudpit yard is not a good combination.
381 Here's a view of the walls in front You can barely see them, which I like. Once we get landscaping in, you'll hardly know they're there!
Now...to figure out the landscaping.....stay tuned!
382 The FINAL CHAPTER - Spring '09 It's hard to believe that it's been 4 years since we started this journey. In the last 4 years, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about homebuilding, I spent more money than I care to think about, and I gained a ton of weight and ended up with high blood pressure from the stress. Oh, and we lost the lawsuit - might as well get that out up front.
On the plus side, the house doesn't leak anymore, the moldy smell has not been back (even though it's been a cold, damp, horribly rainy spring), the landscaping is starting to mature and the house looks really good, don't you think?
So, let's get started with the final update so I can finally close the book on a very unpleasant chapter of my life.
383 What do you mean, you lost the lawsuit?!?! After almost 2 years of hearings and depositions and such (total spent on attorney = about $15K), our lawsuit was THROWN OUT without merit. Why? Well, during the hearing, the builder's attorneys basically admitted the house was built like a piece of S**T, but argued that because we are the second owners of the house and therefore had no contractual agreement with the builder (because the contract to build was signed by the original owner), we had no legal grounds to sue him. Instead, we should have sued the original owner who could have then turned around and sued the builder.
384 More lawsuit Now the original owner built this house as her dream house, then ended up forced to sell 3 years later after the sudden death of her husband at a very young age. She was a young widow with three kids and I'm fairly sure she had no idea what was brewing in the walls (we lived here for 3 years before the smell started - there's no way she could have known).
I was adamant from the beginning that I did not want to drag her into a lawsuit because I didn't think she had any knowledge of the problems. I kept thinking that as a young mom with kids myself, if I had just lost my husband and had to sell my dream home, I'd be barely hanging on the way it was -- being sued for something I didn't know anything about would probably push me over the edge.
I still think I did the right thing by not suing her, but doing the right thing morally is obviously not the same as doing the right thing legally.
385 More lawsuit Our attorney thought he could get around the contractual issue by suing the builder on grounds of negligence. Unfortunately, to make the negligence charge stick, you need to have been personally injured by said negligence (not just property damage, actual personal injury).
We were actually told in court that if the house collapsed and killed one of us, we had grounds to sue the builder, but since we fixed the house before someone got crushed to death under a pile of moldy studs and waterlogged osb, we were S.O.L. So next time, I'll be sure to just let the house collapse on one of my kids -- good thing I have 2 kids, that way I'll still have someone to take care of me in my old age after the house falls on the other one.
Yes, this is the justice system. UNBELIEVABLE!
386 Attorney malpractice? After our lawsuit was dismissed and we started asking around, we were told that our attorney should have known all along that the negligence charge wouldn't stick and that we had no way to win from the start. We were told repeatedly by other attorneys that we could sue our attorney for malpractice and recover the fees we spent pursuing the case.
Alas, our recent experience with the justice system left us pretty bitter and not eager to see the inside of a courtroom any time soon, plus we figured why spend more thousands of dollars on another attorney just to get the money back from our first one. So for better or for worse, our attorney is getting away with this one. I don't think he meant to mislead us -- I think he honestly felt bad for us and hoped that he had found a way that we could recover the money. Unfortunately, the judge didn't agree.
387 The damage (financial and otherwise) OK, so after the costs to fix the house, restore the landscaping, pay the legal fees for the lawsuit we lost, etc., we're out over $150K. In this housing market, we'd be lucky to sell the house for what we paid for it. With the $150K money pit factored in, we're never going to get out of here. I'm very thankful that we had put enough down payment on the house when we bought it that we had the equity to draw on. We're going to be debt for the rest of our lives though.
I also ended up over 50 lbs heavier from what I weighed when this started, have been on and off antidepressants for the past 3 years, and recently got diagnosed with high blood pressure. I've been dieting and working out and my bp seems to be back under control. I feel like I'm finally ready to put this all behind us and get my act back together. Here's hoping this whole ordeal didn't do permanent damage to my health.
388 Naming names... While we were pursuing the lawsuit, I thought it only fair that I not name names because the builder seemed to be making a good-faith effort to work things out through the legal channels.
Now...well, who gives a darn. The builder's name is R. Dennis Godshall of Harleysville PA. He's still building houses in the area. Don't let him build one for you.
(An interesting side-note - did you know that in Pennsylvania, you need a license to become a hairdresser but not to become a homebuilder? There are no statewide licensing requirements for builders in PA - any Joe Schmoe with a truck and a toolbox can call himself a homebuilder. I'm thinking of starting a write-your-congressperson campaign to get that changed, but it's probably futile.)
389 Now for a tour It wouldn't be fair to leave you without a brief tour of the house. The Hardieplank is holding up well - the paint (we used Sherwin Williams Duration) still looks brand new. I'm thrilled with the exterior materials. There have been absolutely no signs of leaks, funny smells, or any of that other business. $150K later we finally have what we should have had in the first place -- a leak-proof house.
These roses you've been looking at are my new favorite landscape plant. They're called knockout roses, they require no fussing whatsoever, and they bloom like mad and look spectacular. I highly recommend them.
390 The left side This is the side where we started the stucco tearoff. Big difference from picture #30, huh?
The porch roof flashing, shingle roof, and new copper roof are all holding up great. No problems to report (which is how it should have been all along, huh?)
The chimney here is the fake one and the only place where the original stucco still exists. We're going to have to restucco it soon though - it's looking pretty bad. We already had to restucco the other chimney - it was leaking and the stucco was loose.
391 The bilco doors This is the window that started it all - the one where we first pulled the outside trim and the crowbar went through the house. All good now. That's a clematis climbing that trellis - beautiful, no?
392 New Heat Pumps Here you can see what we affectionately call the "Heat Pumps that Ate Manhattan." We installed them last year because the 10 year old builder-installed furnaces were dead and the A/C units were on their last legs. Imagine that -- the builder installed cheap products that broke prematurely and cost us money. What a shocker.
Actually, we were able to get a much higher efficiency than our old units and between these and the woodstove, we should save quite a bit of money on heating and cooling. Course, we'll have to reap those savings for about 50 years to recoup the cost of the heat pumps. Oh well.
393 The back The hardieplank looks so nice. And you know, the brick chimney hasn't leaked at all since we put the new copper roof on. Go figure.
394 Thanks for the memories John Remember John, our flakey copper guy? The one who sprayed our chimney with masonry sealer without covering the copper roof below? He told me the sealer would wear off after a couple rains.
Here it is almost 4 years later and you can still see the drips.
395 The back of the house Again, everything's looking and holding up great. This is the chimney we had restuccoed -- it was leaking during heavy rains because the stucco was too porous. Surprise surprise -- couldn't see that one coming, could you?
396 The new chimney Here's a front view of the new stucco on the chimney. This stucco isn't as pretty as our old stucco - it's grittier looking and darker colored. Course, the stucco guy says that's the way it has to be to be waterproof. Too bad our builder didn't know that.
397 Another view of the back After extending the plumbing stack, we've had no problems with sewer odor. Another example of John being wrong. Couldn't see that one coming either....
Someday, if we ever get our heads above water financially, we'd like to put a patio back here where you see the grass.
398 In case you were wondering how the grading worked out Our little "moats" around the house seem to be working well. They're almost hidden behind the landscaping now and the french drains in the trenches seem to be keeping the basement nice and dry. The ground past the moats slopes away from the house nicely, so we seem to have solved our house-sits-too-low-on-the-lot problem.
399 Here's the moat in the front Like I said, you can barely see it behind the landscaping. So far (knock on wood) the trench drains have worked great and haven't clogged -- we do take a leaf vacuum and vacuum the leaves out of the trench each fall but other than that, they've been maintenance-free. And we've got plenty of cleanouts if we do get a clog.
400 Our new view Yes, there's a ginormous house behind us.
Ever since we bought this house, we had planned to buy the hillside behind us and had spoken to the farmer who owned it many times about when he would be ready to sell. He decided to sell right in the middle of the stucco stuff, when we were so far underwater that there was no WAY we could buy the lot. So our beautiful perfect view isn't so perfect anymore. We planted some shrubs to hopefully get our privacy back - grow little trees grow!
401 Inside.... Inside, well, things aren't so pretty. Many of the rooms still bear the scars of the stucco disaster. This is the window above the bilco doors.
402 Why don't we just paint? Hey, it's hard to find time to paint with two little kids at home -- they want to "help" which means everything takes three times as long and, in the case of painting, often ends up very very messy. And we sure don't have any money left to hire it out, LOL!
Actually, my youngest starts Kindergarten in the fall, so hopefully I'll get some kid-free time to paint.
403 Actually, we can't paint until... we finish our latest project.
In yet another stunning example of What Our Builder Did Wrong, there's no foam or caulking around our windows behind the trim. From the day we moved in, we noticed that the house was drafty, particularly around the windows, but couldn't figure out why since the windows were double-paned Andersens and should have been well insulated.
We removed some of the trim to try to trace the drafts, and looky here - it's 30 degrees behind the trim. Looks like someone forgot the foam.
(Oh, and that little point and shoot infrared thermometer gun is about $20 online and is a totally fun toy!)
404 Here's what our windows look like behind the trim There's big gaps that have some fiberglass insulation in them, but fiberglass isn't doing anything to block the wind. There should be caulk or foam. We bought a hilti foam gun (another fun toy) and foamed in all these gaps with low-expanding foam, then put the trim back.
405 A closeup of the gap We're slowly working our way around all the windows. We've got a TON of windows so this is taking a while. Plus we hate to mess up the rooms that are already painted, so we might just wait til the rooms need painting again before we attack those rooms.
406 And it's not just the windows There's a whopping gap where the wood floor meets the baseboards too. Here you can see that there WAS caulk at one point, but over the years with the movement of the wood, the caulk has dried and cracked into almost-nothing. Again, very drafty here. Oh, and removing the baseboards is doing a number on the drywall - note my less-than-professional spackle job.
Too bad we didn't think of this earlier -- we probably could have foamed the subfloors from the outside while the walls were apart.
407 So here's how we spent last winter No baseboard, no window trim, drywall dust all over the place. Fun fun fun!
408 The window trim today The gaps are foamed and the trim is back up, but the trim still needs the holes filled and the gaps caulked, and then to be painted, of course. At this rate, I might be done painting by the time I'm ready to collect social security.
Oh, and the wood ceiling in this pic - same problem as the family room wood ceiling -- it's just planks nailed to the joists with no drywall behind it. The copper back porch roof is directly above this - I don't even think there's insulation. In the winter, you can feel the cold air rushing between the gaps in the wood -- as we did with the family room ceiling, it needs to come down so we can put drywall behind it. The fun with this house just never ends.
409 Well, that about does it Not much more to say. Hopefully it stays that way.
Thanks for following me on this journey. I hope you learned something useful.
Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way with your advice, encouraging emails and comments, or just your thoughts and prayers.
For those of you who ended up on this page because your house has a musty smell or a leak and you're googling to find out what it's from, know that it will be a long hard road, but there is an other side and you will get there eventually.
410 The End I'll keep this site up as long as there seems to be interest in it. Imageevent keeps resetting the visitor counter on this site for some unknown reason - by my calculations, we're well up over 100K hits, which I just find amazing. I'm glad I could help you, whoever you are!
If you'd like, please sign the guestbook so I know who's been stopping by.
And as always, feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have a comment or question. "Wow! I'm so sorry to see you dealing with this! The..." "Oh my GOD, I feel so bad for you and your family. I a..." "found your site via gardenweb's forums...I'm so so so..." "What an amazing story...I'm thankful you shared the n..." "Please write an update -- with pictures of the house ..." "Lisa,
Imageevent has also reset my "Delores H..." "I read through your entire saga and all I can say is ..." "So sorry, for all you have gone through,what an awful..." "Thank you for sharing your journey and keeping it onl..." "Thanks for the info!" "Thanks for the info" View Comments...
Please don't take down this site - ever. I have a similar problem, but I live in a condo. After years of fighting with the HOA about whose is responsible for the structural defects, I sued. Basically, I was suing my neighbors, so I wasn't the most popular gal around. In fact, I was physically threatened by three neighbors. I paid about $300,000 for legal, engineering and mold experts. Repairs were finally made, but the next rainy season, there was more water intrusion. More repairs, more water intrusion. That continued for four years. I now live without a kitchen, walls, flooring, cabinetry, etc. My place still smells like mold. All of the tie downs, nails and electrical boxes attached to the studs are rusted. Why did I stay and fight? I wanted to preserve my credit and not have a foreclosure on my record. The $300,000 was paid in small amounts over a long period of time. Each month, I was told that we were closer to a solution - just another $10K here and there. Obviously, I should have walked away and let the bank foreclose. Your website is amazing and informative. I don't feel alone anymore. Enjoy your new home. - Nikki, Thu, 11 Apr 2013 10:46PM
Perhaps you already addressed this, but have you looked into suing the builder? I am not a big proponent of suing people (despite my profession!) but it seems fair that your builder should share this burden. In the end there may be reasons you cannot sue (like a statute of limitations)or recover anything, but I hope you have at least considered it. I feel your pain! - Mary Ann Leichty, Sun, 10 Jun 2012 12:02AM
Thank you for your very informative documentation and taking the time to do so to help others. I just rented a home which we thought was a perfect chance for more room and space to combine families, and the musty smell is driving me crazy. Thanks to your time and attention in relaying your experience, we now know what to look for before we spend money on professionals to look further.
I just happened upon your site as we are just starting our nightmare. Our problem was brought to light by termites. The house is 100% EIFS clad and we're not sure of the extent of damage yet. My wife and I are originally from lower Bucks so we're re very familiar with your area as we still get up that way often to visit family. We now live in Virginia Beach, Va.. We have been in this house for 17years (new when we moved in) before the problem was brought to light. I certainly feel your pain and hope the ache has dulled. - John A Smith, Sat, 19 May 2012 2:24PM
You are a strong woman! Thanks for sharing your story....we have recently moved into a 7 year old house that has a musty smell. I am praying that we do not have a situation as bad as yours was. - Lindsay, Fri, 24 Feb 2012 2:22AM
Just found this site while I was looking for information about bad smells coming from odour damage. I didn't expect to stay so long, then I started reading and thought what a great job you did documenting everything and explaining everything, and especially *understanding* everything that they'd done wrong. I thought of posting to say you're pretty amazing and intelligent. Then I kept reading and the saga kept unfolding until I learned at the end that you are also a beautiful person who decided not to sue an innocent despite having legal recourse to go ahead. I'm sorry that being a smart and kind person hasn't made you more lucky with your house, and the financial and health problems it has caused you. Best regards from Canada - Jon W - Jon W, Sat, 17 Sep 2011 6:43PM
I thought we had problems! My, what an ordeal you've been through. We've had problems with leaking windows & roofing since we bought our house in 1997. We're looking at replacing our second set of replacement windows! The first two replacement installations were incorrect, now we've discovered there may be an issue with the stucco installation over a "fan folded foam core material". We will be getting another opinion or two on the stucco situation before moving forward with total removal. These leaks have caused so much stress & anguish! We look forward to someday having a "dry" home. Thanks for sharing your story, I've learned so much! - Cheryl Geertson, Tue, 24 May 2011 10:48AM
Wow. I thought I saw some nightmares. Like you I documented it, though I'm a little behind on updates. It's really sad the shortcuts and downright stupid things contractors (and amateurs) can do. I'm still looking after several tries to find one with intelligence beyond the second grade, and who owns a framing square. Very very sad. I'm doing many of my repairs myself, and I make mistakes, but for a "professional" contractor, there is no excuse (beyond being lazy and wanting to hit the bar more than work). But enough of my affair - thanks for sharing...I hope your repairs last. Nice home. - Glen | http://www.mannure.org/TheStory.php?story=House, Mon, 25 Apr 2011 7:35PM
Have you considered posting a link for any one who would like to make a voluntary donation. You never know, it might work. - Misty, Tue, 8 Feb 2011 7:53AM
After having flooding in my house on a HUGE hill there had 2 b a problem. Long story short 10 months after initial onslaught with flood chasers out here on a weekend from Texas plus FEMA that acknowledged a miserable roof but could do nothing till Allstate did their thing. Allstate paid the thieves $8000 of a $14000 bill to "dry out the carpeting". NEVER dried out ( u can even just look under the carpet & see the problems. Padding never reinstalled bc I would not deal with a rip off artist nor the roof so now I hv continuous medical problems ( mostly respiratory) so much so I sleep sitting up & then get woken up 2 hours later by literally choking bc I cannot breathe. Atrocious. Amazingly atrocious. - J Harrer, Sat, 2 Oct 2010 5:17PM