Reliable Structural Engineers Blog

Ugly House

Jun 13, 2020 3:50:24 PM / by Bob Mason, P.E.

I have another case study for you. Actually, it’s something I had not seen before, or maybe it was the first time I noticed it! I’ve done structural inspections for hundreds of houses and buildings varying in all kinds of conditions. Some are really nice, million-plus dollar homes. Some are Class A, trophy-type office or apartment buildings. And some are houses worth less than zero dollars they are in such bad shape. This photo is of the third type. 

For some background, the house had a large hole in the roof for several years, and rotted out all of the wood framing through the house under the roof hole. 

The thing I wanted to bring your attention to is the sagging ceiling fan blades. The constant exposure to water and humidity, combined with gravity, slowly bent the wooden blades downward over time.

And in the spirit of adding value, here’s a second case study for the price of one! Do you see the water staining along the sill plate of the wood studwall? There is a concrete slab for a side porch just outside of this wall, which kept the wood material in a state of continuously high moisture. 

Technically, that’s anything higher than 15 to 19 percent moisture content. If it’s kept above that threshold for more than 6 to 12 months, then the wood will begin to rot and deteriorate. Not to mention, it’s a perfect attraction for rot fungus, termites, carpenter ants, and powder-post beetles, which will just walk right in and start eating the wood material used for structural load capacity for the house. This happens more than you would think, sometimes on homes less than 20 years old. It’s important to keep the exterior sidewalk, patio slab, etc. below the elevation of the first floor wood joist. Yeah, it’s great to have a walkout patio from the first floor, but it’s not great having to repair deteriorated first floor wood joists from termite or other damage. 

Hopefully none of you have a similar situation, but if you do have a structural concern with your house or building, please give me a call at 412-770-7590 or email

Bob Mason, P.E.

Written by Bob Mason, P.E.

Bob Mason has been practicing engineering for almost 20 years in a practice focused only on buildings and residential dwellings. With years of forensic engineering and renovation construction experience, Bob has already observed and helped to repair many of the typical issues of your particular building or home.

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