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Two Hours and $50 Saves $8,000

rotten foundation wall

This rotted 2x10 on top of a foundation wall now needs to be replaced. Two hours of work and $50 worth of material twenty years ago would have saved $8,000.00 today. (C) Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Two Hours and $50 Saves $8,000

This column was inspired by two events that happened within hours of one another. One was at my own home. In both instances, an hour or two of time and a few extra dollars spent years prior would have saved thousands of dollars today. The first thing to remember is I didn’t build the house I’m currently living in here in central New Hampshire.

Last week, a local homeowner, who lives just ten miles from me, hired me to do an in-person consult at his house. He had water leaking into his basement over the top of his foundation wall. I’ve done consulting like this for years and my most exciting consult of all time had me walking all over the Brazilian Ambassador’s house roof on the island of Antigua. I shot a video up on that roof that was later introduced as evidence in a trial.

I was able to discover the source of the leak at the local homeowner’s house in just minutes. The builder made a series of mistakes when building the deck that was on the back of this home. He also made a serious basic mistake when he installed the sliding-glass door that leads from the house out onto the deck.

The deck was attached to the house with a few lag bolts. This is a mistake because lag bolts can be over-tightened and have minimal holding power. The treated lumber board against the house that supported half the deck’s weight had no flashing at all.

The decking boards were installed so they touched one another. Rain and snow-melt water couldn’t get down to the ground fast. Instead, because the deck was out of level, the water sloped to the house.

The sliding glass door didn’t have a flashing pan under it. When I went into the basement and pulled back the fiberglass batt insulation that was on top of the foundation, I discovered rotten subflooring under the door. The band beam joist that sits on top of the foundation was so rotted I could scrape out large chunks of wood with my fingernails.

The roof also had no gutter on it. Many here in the Northeast think it’s a bad idea to have gutters on homes because falling ice and snow rip them off houses. That’s true if the gutter is installed wrong and there are no gutter guards on the roof. I’ve had gutters and the best gutter guards on my home for years and tons of snow and ice cascade down from my roof after each storm. Because my gutter hangs below the slide plane, the snow just slips over my gutters and down to the ground.

Since there’s no gutter on this man’s home, each time there’s a significant rain event, hundreds of gallons of water splash onto his deck and run up against his house. Snowmelt causes the same problem.

When his deck was built, it would have only taken about two hours of work and $50 worth of material to solve the leakage problems. I sat at his dining room table and made a list of all the products his builder should have used. I also made a crude drawing showing how the deck board should have been installed with all the proper flashings and products.

You can get the list of all the best products for free by going to this location at my website: decklist

A link to a better color drawing showing how the deck board should have been attached is available on this free document.

When I got home from the consult, my local septic tank pumping company had just finished troubleshooting why my effluent ejection pump alarm sounded. They had to pump out my septic tank and the second smaller tank where the pump is housed to make the repair.

The one technician asked me if we had a water softener that drained into the house drain lines. “Why yes, we do. How did you know?” The wise young man noticed that there were far too many solids, including undigested toilet paper on the wrong side of the input baffle inside the tank.

When the water softener regenerates, it discharges a very salty brine into the septic tank. This salty brew kills much of the beneficial bacteria that digest many of the solids. The secondary effect of this is the water entering the leach field has too many tiny solids. The tiny solids cause the leach field to fail. It costs many thousands of dollars to install a new leach field.

In my case, the workers, who installed the water softener in my home, spent MORE TIME and effort installing the discharge into my septic system than they would have if they had drilled two simple 3/4-inch diameter holes through my fiber cement siding.

The discharge brine would have exited my home and entered a nearby drain pipe that carries stormwater down and away from my home. Fortunately for me, this workmanship error was caught in time and I don’t have to install a new leach field. All it cost me was the price of pumping the tanks. This past weekend I drilled those two holes and re-routed the discharge lines. The salty brine now goes back into the soil not the septic tank.

If you need me to help you overcome workmanship errors, I can almost always do it. All you have to do is ask. Visit my AsktheBuilder.com website and click the Ask Tim link at the top of each page. Let’s start a conversation!

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