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        posted
        I will be house hunting in South Carolina shortly. Whether in SC or elsewhere, builders often put their money into the things that actually sell a house--tray ceilings, nice cabinets, granite countertops, etc. To keep an attractive price, they often short-change basic construction, since no one ever sees that: no sheathing, thin plywood on the roof, inadequate water-proofing, etc. I'm trying to think if there is any red flag that indicates possible cheap construction. I thought about using a stud finder to discriminate 24" rather than 16" studs. However, many will say that 2x4 at 24" is fine for interior walls; and 2x6 at 24" is fine for exterior walls. Any thoughts?
         
        Posts: 91 | Registered: Nov 06, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        A good place to start is to look closely at the stairs if there are any. Trimming out stairs separates the finish carpenters from the wood butchers.

        Some of the short cuts you mentioned are pretty hard to pull off if you had a decent building inspection department when the house was built.

        7/16 OSB is pretty common on roofs these days. It is structurally strong enough for the job, however when combined with trusses 22 or 24 inches on center it can sag between the trusses over time. If there are roof rafters and joists 16" oc it doesn't tend to sag as much.

        Things to look for:

        1. Age of home - if it was built before about 1980 it could have asbestos or lead paint in it. Asbestos tiles aren't a huge problem if they aren't crumbling apart. You can leave them in place and cover them with other flooring without a concern. The problems come when you try to remove them especially if you try to grind the pieces off that don't just pop up. Asbestos insulation is a bigger problem. Normally found on heating ducts and hot water pipes. Not typically used in wall insulation. Asbestos can also be found in some drywall compounds and popcorn ceilings of the era. I avoid popcorn like the plague. Lead paint if it isn't peeling and is covered by other paint doesn't present a problem unless you start remodeling.

        2. Aluminum wire for branch circuits. Another vestige of the 1960's and 1970's branch circuits with aluminum wire. Larger circuits like the main, range wires, and branch to a sub panel can be in aluminum wire without a problem.

        3. Fuse panels/under sized electric service. In older homes the electric service can be undersized for our modern needs.

        4. Knob and Tube wiring - on homes built in the early days of electric service or before the wiring can be knob and tube. You generally won't see this in a home built after the 1940s.

        5. Roof age - a standard 3 tab is good for about 20 years, if the house or the roof is over 15 expect you'll need to replace it. Architectural shingles have a longer life 25-35 years. On an older home look for multiple layers of roofing. If they reroofed without pulling off the original roof you'll need to strip the roof when it comes time to reroof. IMHO it is always best to start with a clean roof deck when reroofing.

        6. Masonite (hardboard) siding. Very common in the south in homes built in the 1980's to early 1990's. If it is properly painted with no unpainted exposed edges it can last a long time. Typically builders never primed or painted the cut edges especially along the roof flashing. This leads to premature failure. If nails are driven too deep it gives water a place to get into the siding and begin rotting it out. Any nails that are driven in too deep need to be caulked.

        7. In SC crawlspaces are very common, basements not so much. Make sure the ground under the house is covered with 6 mil plastic to keep moisture out of the house.

        8. Framing, my first house had 2x6 construction 24" oc on the exterior and 2x4 24" oc on the interior. I never had a problem with it. 2x6 framing is very rare in the south.

        9. Gray plastic supply lines for plumbing. Bad news all around. The fittings tend to break causing a huge mess and large expense to repair. This is a vestige of the 1980's and early 1990's. There was a class action lawsuit back in the 1990's and a lot of it was replaced. That window of opportunity has closed.

        Regardless of the age of the home get a home inspection and make the purchase contingent on the home inspection. Your mortgage company will likely require a termite inspection. Make the purchase contingent on that as well. Termites can make for some very expensive repairs.


        General Disclaimer

        Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

        My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
         
        Posts: 874 | Location: Cary, NC | Registered: Aug 17, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        Thanks very much for the detailed response. Very helpful and much appreciated.
         
        Posts: 91 | Registered: Nov 06, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        quote:
        Originally posted by IndianaGuy:
        Whether in SC or elsewhere, builders often put their money into the things that actually sell a house--tray ceilings, nice cabinets, granite countertops, etc. To keep an attractive price, they often short-change basic construction,


        I bite my tongue.

        Building inspectors make sure it is done to Building Code Standards minimum, well, maybe not in South Carolina
         
        Posts: 984 | Location: No. California | Registered: Mar 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        I wouldn't want to guess how many homes have driers and bathroom exhaust fans vented into the attic or between walls and ceilings, and somehow builders get away with it. Moreover, home inspectors, who should be able to account for how these devices are vented often don't.
         
        Posts: 91 | Registered: Nov 06, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        for me, the epitome of cheap construction is hollow-core doors. the difference per door between solid wood (well, it's long-form presswood, but...) with nice veneer and some panels and the flat hollow-core door is $60-80 retail. that a grand or two. go down that road, your fire resistance is basically 2 minutes, and the longevity is 2-10 years. solid doors should be 10-15 minute fire resistance, and lifetime expectancy.

        if something used as many times as a door is cheaped out for about $1000, what else did they skimp on? when you start remodelling, you find the cabinets, plumbing, probably a cheaper furnace, too many circuits on an electrical branch... basically everything where you can't see it.


        sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
         
        Posts: 5832 | Location: North Burbs, MN | Registered: Mar 14, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of SturdyNail
        posted Hide Post
        Hey. I think I live in one of those houses that Sparky617 and swschrad described; 1960's vintage, wonky stairs to the basement, hollow core doors, and undoubtedly asbestos wrap around my furnace stack. We've been in the house for over 20 years and I continue to look for ways to make the house more substantial.

        You may have already thought of this, but have a flashlight with you when you look at the house. I like the "miner's style" LED light I can strap on my head. Look in cabinets etc... where you may be able to see wall and sub-floor material. Take a screwdriver with you too (when no one is looking, poke at any exposed wood that looks possibly spongy). Get up in the attic--even if it's a crawlspace. You'll find out what the insulation is. You may be able to see stamps on the roofing sheathing that will tell you the kind and thickness.

        For what it's worth, I'm a little envious of you. I wish that I could have another crack at choosing a home. Good luck and try to have fun with the process.
         
        Posts: 339 | Location: Western NewYork | Registered: Jan 26, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        As to hollow core doors, at least around here you have to go pretty far up the food chain to get anything other than a 6 panel Masonite door.

        You're definitely into custom homes where you sit down with a builder and spec out everything. No production builder even on entry level spec McMansions uses solid doors.


        General Disclaimer

        Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

        My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
         
        Posts: 874 | Location: Cary, NC | Registered: Aug 17, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        ah yes, the builder's stairs with scuzwood tread and risers, the cutouts done with a Skilsaw so they are cut beyond the tread into the backbone, sides secured with a nail or two into the 2x4 of a sorta wall that is sorta secured into the slab.

        I spent more time fixing our basement stairs than almost anything else in the gut and rebuild of our basement. from actually having a header secure at the top holding them, to squaring up the tread cuts and sistering the stringers, those hack stairs beat me up.


        sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
         
        Posts: 5832 | Location: North Burbs, MN | Registered: Mar 14, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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