DIY Nightmare- Screened in Porch of Doom.

While most homes are constructed in areas where it is almost impossible to build a home without a building permit, in some instances do-it-yourselfers sneak their building projects past the permit office.

Before we dive into this article with Darren our Certified Master Inspector (CMI)® here in Myrtle Beach, it is very important to understand the design and building process along with the necessary steps required to ensure proper building practices and a safe and sound home structure:

1/ Design – Every home must have an architect designing the home using the most up-to-date practices and building codes. This design will be incorporated onto a site plan provided by your local government or a survey provided by a licensed professional surveyor.

2/ Engineering – The designer must then have the design reviewed by the responsible professional engineers (e.g., structural, mechanical, or electrical engineers) to certify that the architectural design meets the most current engineering requirements outlined by the State or Federal authorities.

3/ Permitting – The certified construction drawings must then be submitted to the local Building Department for review and issuance of a building permit.

4/ Construction – Following the issuance of the building permit, construction may commence with building inspections performed by a County or local building official at the following stages of construction. This can include the following:

  • Excavation inspection prior to laying the foundation and footing
  • Foundation inspection prior to covering below ground utilities
  • Framing, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing inspections by professionals prior to installation of drywall on the interior
  • Final inspection and a Certificate of Occupancy (CO)

If any of these steps are missed or ignored, then the end result is a compromised and possibly unsafe structure and house system. If you encounter one or more of the following major concerns detailed below, there is a definite possibility that the seller has not followed the rigorous standard process detailed above.

All of the major concerns listed below were found in a screened in porch addition on a single family home built in 2007, this is a do-it-yourselfer project with very little building experience and most certainly would not pass a local authority building inspection.

Structural (Roof System)
Roof systems consist of roof sheathing (plywood), fastened to roof rafters, which are supported by beams and then the load is transferred to columns or load bearing walls below. This detail (or variations of) is typical in almost all applications and if one or more detail components are compromised or missing it could be a catastrophic failure. Any number of methods can be used to construct a roof system however, it is fundamental that the basic principles are followed. Directly below is a typical detail of what is described above and is more or less the same in all wooden structural applications. The “Beam” is what will be carrying the roof rafters in this example and we will elaborate later in the article.
The Myrtle Beach Home Inspector should be familiar with basic engineering principles and be able to read and interpret engineering tables establishing allowable loads and spans for specific types of structural building materials. Below is dimensional lumber span chart showing the allowable span for 2 x 6 rafter construction. Also below is the screened in porch roof which is in excess of 15 feet.
Now, not only is the roof design unsafe, not engineered and built by someone with inexperience, the roof alone weighs roughly 5000 lbs which of course needs to be supported by something below as mentioned earlier. Below is a typical structural design detail for a sound post to beam connection, take a good look at the photos that follow and see if you can find what’s missing.
The untrained eye would look at this detail and assume everything was ok, however, there are several MAJOR concerns that could even be considered life threatening.
When encountering a situation like this your Myrtle Beach Home Inspector will ask themselves the following;
1/ Was there a building permit granted for the addition?
2/ Was the addition designed and engineered by a professional engineer?
3/ Was the addition built by a licensed contractor or a home owner with the necessary skill set to do so?
If the answer to any of these questions is “NO” then these problems or over-sights are now the responsibility of the purchaser and they will inherently have to deal with them down the road. Therefore, It is also my recommendation that the Buyer not proceed with the purchase.
If you factor in that all the patent defects are not only lacking design, proper installation and include building code violations, they are also lacking common sense in which case it needs to be assumed that there are potentially many latent defects that cannot be seen by the myrtle beach home inspector.
In any scenario like this the potential buyer will almost always ask how much it would cost to repair these items, at which point we will always explain that they should not be concerned about the cost of repairs, they should be concerned with safety, the latent defects, inconvenience of repairs and resale potential of the home, and in other words why they should “RUN”.
We hope you enjoyed this article.
This experience was created by;
Darren Dawson- Certified Master Inspector
Myrtle Beach, SC
(352) 665- 9900
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