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STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
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CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
COLUMNS & POSTS, DEFECTS
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DECK & PORCH CONSTRUCTION
DEFINITIONS of Mobile Home, Doublewide, Modular, Panelized
DEFINITIONS of ENGINEERED WOOD OSB LVL etc
DISASTER BUILDING INSPECTION & REPAIR
EARTHQUAKE DAMAGED FOUNDATIONS
FIRE DAMAGE vs MOLD DAMAGE
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FOOTING & FOUNDATION DRAINS
FOUNDATION CRACKS & DAMAGE GUIDE
FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
GRADING, DRAINAGE & SITE WORK
HOUSE PARTS, DEFINITIONS
INSECT INFESTATION / DAMAGE
KIT HOMES, Aladdin, Sears, Wards, Others
LOG HOME GUIDE
MOBILE HOMES, DOUBLEWIDES, TRAILERS
MODULAR HOME CONSTRUCTION
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
PORCH CONSTRUCTION & SCREENING
PRE-CUT & KIT HOMES
RETAINING WALL DESIGNS, TYPES, DAMAGE
ROT, FUNGUS, INSECT DAMAGE
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION
STRESS SKIN INSULATED PANELS
STRUCTURAL WOOD ASSESSMENT
TIMBER FRAMING, ROT
TRUSSES, Floor & Roof
WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS
Wood damage assessment in buildings: this article describes methods for inspecting, probing, and otherwise assessing wood structures and wood components (floors, trim, sheathing) for damage by insects or rot. We describe when, where, & how to inspect & probe wood components on buildings when damage (carpenter bees, carpenter ants, termites, powder post beetles, fungal damage, rot damage) is seen, known, or suspected.
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Assessing the extent of structural damage to wood framing members in a conventional building inspection involves the following phases and procedures:
Watch out: Don't assume only one kind of insect damage will be present as the same conditions that invite one insect into a wood structure may invite others. We have found termite damage, carpenter ant activity, and powder post beetle damage all in the same structure, on occasion even in the same wood beam or joist. Our photo (above right) illustrates wood rot found in the same floor joist where there was extensive termite damage.
Using an appropriately-chosen instrument (see below) probe suspect or visibly damaged wood beams, joists, rim joists, sill plates, even flooring or subflooring; we start this step in basements and crawl spaces but may find evidence to justify probing finished materials such as interior trim or wood floors.
Professionals use a wide variety of wood probing instruments of different end-diameters, sharpness, and, importantly, length, as it can be difficult to reach some surfaces that really should be examined. Our photo (above left) illustrates using a simple screwdriver, (my dad's), to probe an area of visible termite damage. And at above right, our pen is probing suspected rot damage at wood siding. An example of probing a finished hardwood floor is at TERMITE INSPECTION & DAMAGE.
Watch out: building inspectors and PCOs should never probe nor use destructive inspection methods without permission of the building owner. Make certain that you have explained the justification for any inspection techniques that involve risk of damage, even just cosmetic damage to the structure. However, in our OPINION, if your finger or pen easily penetrate insect or rot damaged trim, flooring, or other indoor finished surfaces, you have not caused actional damage to that component; rather, you have disclosed it.
We arbitrated an ugly case in which a novice home inspector left screwdriver blade jam marks throughout the finished area of a new home. Don't do that.
Clearly the ground-off ice pick wood probe (far left) is finding less-severe damage than the "to the hilt" stab of my dad's screwdriver demonstrated by our client (close left).
Watch out: while we advise against unwarranted cosmetic damage at a building interior, strategic probing of wood sills, rim joists, or floor structures (or other wood members) can disclose severe structural damage that was otherwise not evident. At below left, even our pen was able to easily puncture this termite-damaged joist that had been "cosmetically-repaired" using wood putty
At below left we illustrate an appropriate use of our fine wood damage probe in an area of suspected cover-up of a termite damaged oak floor framed at ground level with no other access below.When observing the termite damage at below right, probing adjacent wood members as well as along the length of the visibly attacked members is completely appropriate.
And at below right our termite damage photograph illustrates a serious risk: this floor joist looked "perfect" from its exterior, but probing disclosed that it was severely damaged - basically a "hollow skin" of wood. The light colored marks at the upper edge of the joist (and suspected termite activity from other site clues) led us to probe this joist bottom where it rested on the sill plate. Leverng the screwdriver disclosed the damage our photo illustrates.
Demolition or removal of materials for further inspection for insect damage may be justified and necessary. Usually powder post beetles have attacked wood beams, typically rough cut lumber or round "trees" used as joists or beams or sills in older homes. We don't usually need to remove flooring or siding to access and assess such damage, but there are cases where it may be needed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about probing wood members to assess structural damage from insects or rot
Questions & answers or comments about when, where, how & why to probe wood members to assess structural damage from insects or rot.
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