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apparent repair/concealment , opinion sought

  • 20-05-2021 7:09pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    Greetings,

    Offspring looking at a 1970's semi. Front door beneath box room. Door is recessed by about 60cm, so the open-to-the-elements porch is actually beneath the box room floor.

    Anyway, when viewing inside the box room, beneath and all around the window is a solid additional layer of concrete or plastered brickwork or whatever. Its poor looking because it doesn't extend all the way across the room. its about the depth of a brick. It extends from floor to ceiling and is completely solid. Other houses in the estate do not have this 'feature'. I cannot tell if it extends downwards beneath the floorboards - but sure where would it go, the open porch is beneath.

    Now, I cannot imagine the vendor letting a surveyor drill holes or pull up floors to properly examine this work.

    So here's my thinking. Many houses in this estate have cracking above the porch, extending spider like towards one or other or even both front bedroom windows. None of these appear from the outside to have remedial work done. The render is a type of dashing, very rough - like very small gravel.

    Suppose this house had significant cracks on the inside (nothing visible to the naked eye on the outside, but interestingly when the auctioneer photo is downloaded and
    magnified, there's something like an 'echo' of a crack above the porch. (I'll try to attach the photo). further suppose that the owner decided to fix it by plastering the wall round the window with 4 inches of sand/cement. Could they have used metal braces bolted into the wall to stop the cracks getting worse and then covered it as described above? Is that a recognised fix in any circumstances?

    when viewing the attached outside photo on my laptop, changing the viewing angle makes the apparent crack more obvious - if that's what it is. Its not visible from the roadside nor from any point in the front garden.

    If there was a major crack above the porch, would it stop you buying this house.

    Thanks for any comments.


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,071 ✭✭✭ PMBC


    I cant really understand the post and cant see the porch in the front elevation photo!
    I'm guessing from the year and your description that the external render is pebble dash.


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,322 ✭✭✭✭ Penn


    Your offspring should engage a building surveyor to carry out a survey on the house, and in particular to investigate what works were carried out around the window and why. They won't be allowed to carry out investigative works, but even on a visual inspection they might be able to spot what was done or why. It's also worth asking the vendor beforehand and then seeing if it makes sense to the surveyor based on his inspection.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    PMBC wrote: »
    I cant really understand the post and cant see the porch in the front elevation photo!
    I'm guessing from the year and your description that the external render is pebble dash.

    thanks very much for taking the trouble to reply, despite the rambling nature of the OP.

    Apologies. In an attempt to be concise, I've achieved the very opposite, with added confusion. :o

    I'll try again.

    First indication of a possible problem was a strange extra 'layer' on the wall in the box room. This can be seen in the box room photo. Its strange because this 'layer' is only half way across the wall, making it unsightly - not to mention a little worrying. Its solid, like concrete or plastered brickwork. I suspected it was some sort of ham-fisted repair. But repairing what?

    So I took a walk around and saw quite a few houses with cracks over the front door. I also got into another identical house, which does not have this 'repair' in the bedroom.

    I wondered had similar cracks appeared in this house, and been repaired by a bodger. So I speculated that a bad workman might have gone in, and somehow braced the box room wall on the inside and then covered it up. If there was a really bad crack, would this bodge be an acceptable repair?

    I mention the porch, because I suspect a failure there could cause cracking. I'm wondering that, if the lintel over the porch is failing, is that so serious as to cause the owner to sell. More importantly, is it a reason not to buy - the rest of the house is fabulous.

    The door visible in the front elev photo is a porch door, which is not original. There were no porch doors on these houses. The main front door is set back from it by about 60cm.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    Penn wrote: »
    Your offspring should engage a building surveyor to carry out a survey on the house, and in particular to investigate what works were carried out around the window and why. They won't be allowed to carry out investigative works, but even on a visual inspection they might be able to spot what was done or why. It's also worth asking the vendor beforehand and then seeing if it makes sense to the surveyor based on his inspection.

    Thanks for your reply.

    Yep, surveyor already engaged. I'll tell him to ask the vendor to explain it. Could be a problem there though. This is the third owner, who has only been there 10 years.

    I'm just wondering if someone might say "Oh, I've seen this done before on a house like this. Its not problem"......
    or "run away! run away!":pac:


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,704 ✭✭✭ Metric Tensor


    I won't preempt the surveyor because it's hard to tell much about these things from photos.

    BUT - this "layer" appears to sit on top of / over the skirting board. I'll politely call that "unusual"! Ask your surveyor to have a good look at the area!


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    I won't preempt the surveyor because it's hard to tell much about these things from photos.

    BUT - this "layer" appears to sit on top of / over the skirting board. I'll politely call that "unusual"! Ask your surveyor to have a good look at the area!

    Thanks for the reply.

    In fact, the skirting board is in fact nailed onto this mysterious layer. Its not obvious, but the skirting on the left hand side is padded to make it level all the way across. Essentially, the last 60-80cm of skirting on the left is not nailed to the wall, but is 10cm out from it. You could actually stand on it.

    As stated in a previous post, I'll reinforce the need to highlight this to the surveyor. Son's first time not getting out-bid in the area, I'd hate to see him disappointed. Right at the top of his budget too.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,704 ✭✭✭ Metric Tensor


    Essentially, the last 60-80cm of skirting on the left is not nailed to the wall, but is 10cm out from it. You could actually stand on it.


    This is slightly better than it appears from first look at the photos but there are still questions.


  • Registered Users Posts: 25,518 ✭✭✭✭ GreeBo


    How does the proud area sound if you tap it?
    It looks a little bit like someone used a random insulated plasterboard they had lying around....how wide is the extra bit?
    4foot by any chance?

    /edit
    looking again its wider than 4 foot, but perhaps its 6/8 foot?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    GreeBo wrote: »
    How does the proud area sound if you tap it?
    It looks a little bit like someone used a random insulated plasterboard they had lying around....how wide is the extra bit?
    4foot by any chance?

    /edit
    looking again its wider than 4 foot, but perhaps its 6/8 foot?

    Thanks GreeBo.

    No, its definitely not any kind of plaster board. Its rock solid and the corner edge is finished without one of those metal edges. In fact it looks like it was smoothed of with wet bare hands. OK, just a badly used trowel. The surface under the paint is rough like sand cement render, rather then proper finish plaster. It looks like pretty heavy duty work - albeit unprofessional looking. AND it looks old. I base that on the fact that there's lots of other recent work done in the house that looks like proper tradesmen were involved.

    As the house is so well refurbished inside and a quality looking extension added - really professional looking finish inside and out - it would be a shame to pass it up. I'm hoping that someone will say that even if the porch was in danger of collapse or the gable had separated at the corner (real wild ideas there, I know) that ANYTHING can be fixed, its only money.
    like 20k on a ~500k house is peanuts, isn't it.

    On the other hand, it might have been an overkill job on an easily fixed crack.

    As you can see, most of what I'm saying is wild speculation, but I'm just throwing it out there for ideas.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    Just to add....

    I'm sure some of you will remember my posts a few years ago when my daughter bought a similar house in need of massive work. I got great ideas on here which helped me to make suggestions to her as to how to proceed (moving the gas main freed up a big area in her kitchen - making room for the washing machine). So that's why I'm back again :)


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  • Moderators, Regional North West Moderators Posts: 43,376 Mod ✭✭✭✭ muffler


    Just to add....

    I'm sure some of you will remember my posts a few years ago when my daughter bought a similar house in need of massive work. I got great ideas on here which helped me to make suggestions to her as to how to proceed (moving the gas main freed up a big area in her kitchen - making room for the washing machine). So that's why I'm back again :)
    You'll have to be charged this time . :pac:

    Its a very strange bit of work. I have not seen anything like that before now. The external pic seems to show a crack running from the bottom right of the window sill.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    muffler wrote: »
    You'll have to be charged this time . :pac:

    Its a very strange bit of work. I have not seen anything like that before now. The external pic seems to show a crack running from the bottom right of the window sill.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond, Muffler.

    The plumbing/electrical/building/diy/motoring threads on here are brilliant for sound non-judgemental advice. I've shoved a fiver into that drawer thing on the side of my laptop - did it come out at your end. :pac::pac:

    If that crack went right through, would it be enough to walk away? Its the only noticeable damage, unless the inside was much worse before the alleged concealment/repair. Plus, quite a few houses in the area have those cracks above the front door, and appear to have gone untreated for 40 years.


  • Moderators, Regional North West Moderators Posts: 43,376 Mod ✭✭✭✭ muffler


    I've shoved a fiver into that drawer thing on the side of my laptop - did it come out at your end. :pac::pac:
    A 10 cent coin popped out after Boards.ie took their €4.90 commission :D

    If that crack went right through, would it be enough to walk away? Its the only noticeable damage, unless the inside was much worse before the alleged concealment/repair. Plus, quite a few houses in the area have those cracks above the front door, and appear to have gone untreated for 40 years.
    If that crack went right to the inner leaf (assuming cavity wall) it would certainly be worrying. However the crack I noticed in the external pic is running from the bottom right of the box room window and down / towards the underside of the adjacent bedroom window which indicates that its not that crack that has been repaired / covered up.

    It can only be assumed that the repair job was structural in nature as some form of block / brick has been introduced above the porch. I would certainly have reservations about this and it will take an invasive survey to determine / reveal the extent and stability of the repairs.

    Have you asked the vendor or estate agent about this?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    muffler wrote: »
    A 10 cent coin popped out after Boards.ie took their €4.90 commission :D


    If that crack went right to the inner leaf (assuming cavity wall) it would certainly be worrying. However the crack I noticed in the external pic is running from the bottom right of the box room window and down / towards the underside of the adjacent bedroom window which indicates that its not that crack that has been repaired / covered up.

    It can only be assumed that the repair job was structural in nature as some form of block / brick has been introduced above the porch. I would certainly have reservations about this and it will take an invasive survey to determine / reveal the extent and stability of the repairs.

    Have you asked the vendor or estate agent about this?

    I'm reasonably sure these are cavity block built houses, as in 99% sure. Yep, agree invasive work required, and I'd be surprised if a vendor agreed to that.

    Assuming the worst, are your reservations based on:
    1. it would be prohibitively expensive to repair,, or..
    2. it can't be repaired.

    If 1, then how long is a piece of string? eg, 0-10k; 10-20k; worse? :eek::eek:

    An email will be sent to the EA tomorrow asking if remedial work has been carried out on that section of wall, and if so why. I suspect the answer will be "it was there when we bought the house 10 years ago, guv!" Either way, the question and answer provided will be given to the surveyor before inspection.

    My feeling is that my son will not be put off, and will buy any way, without concrete evidence against doing so (pun intended). Which would mean invasive checking AFTER buying - and therein lies my concern.


    THanks for your input, and I will say, if buying the house subsequently meant expensive (under 20k) repairs, then as long as it wasn't an emergency, it would probably be acceptable.


  • Registered Users Posts: 25,518 ✭✭✭✭ GreeBo


    The big concern would be subsidence, but I can't fathom how this repair would be involved in addressing that.
    If everything else is spot on I'd probably still go for it myself to be honest.

    What's above in the attic, it would appear the wall has been reinforced for some reason, that can really only be for something above rather than below, so I'd bring a torch and a step ladder next time.


  • Moderators, Regional North West Moderators Posts: 43,376 Mod ✭✭✭✭ muffler


    I'm reasonably sure these are cavity block built houses, as in 99% sure. Yep, agree invasive work required, and I'd be surprised if a vendor agreed to that.
    I keep forgetting about the cavity blocks. Its something we never see here in Donegal. Some would say we are far more advanced ;)

    I agree that the vendor wouldnt want an invasive survey but the least they should do is offer up an explanation. They might even have an engineer's cert but unlikely.

    Assuming the worst, are your reservations based on:
    1. it would be prohibitively expensive to repair,, or..
    2. it can't be repaired.

    If 1, then how long is a piece of string? eg, 0-10k; 10-20k; worse? :eek::eek:
    2. Everything can be repaired. :)

    1. Its really impossible for anyone to give an opinion on costs without knowing the full extent of any repairs. You would do a lot of work here for less than 20k but Im assuming you're in Dublin so the prices will be higher.


  • Registered Users Posts: 25,518 ✭✭✭✭ GreeBo


    The skirting has also been randomly repaired there... Do any other houses have a Juliet balcony or anything?


  • Registered Users Posts: 21,783 ✭✭✭✭ mickdw


    Thats a pure botch. Wall was either in bits crack wise or heavily water damaged due to issues around the cill.
    Either issue is still a problem so id be very very wary of this.
    As a surveyor myself, if reporting on that botch, i would list it as a significant defect requiring investigation and likely major remedial works.
    A good look around the estate might shine some light on it.
    Silly thing is, if they had done the entire wall, plastered it out nicely around windows etc, it would have got past many people.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,747 ✭✭✭ NickNickleby


    GreeBo wrote: »
    The big concern would be subsidence, but I can't fathom how this repair would be involved in addressing that.
    If everything else is spot on I'd probably still go for it myself to be honest.

    What's above in the attic, it would appear the wall has been reinforced for some reason, that can really only be for something above rather than below, so I'd bring a torch and a step ladder next time.

    There won't be a next time for me - my last visit was a very fleeting one. Given the opportunity to look around, I just highlighted areas of concern - and there was only one. However, I've met the surveyor before - he did my daughter's house. He's very thorough. I'm sure he'll bring a ladder, but I'll be skulking about outside with a step ladder should he need it.
    muffler wrote: »
    I keep forgetting about the cavity blocks. Its something we never see here in Donegal. Some would say we are far more advanced ;)

    I agree that the vendor wouldnt want an invasive survey but the least they should do is offer up an explanation. They might even have an engineer's cert but unlikely.


    2. Everything can be repaired. :)

    1. Its really impossible for anyone to give an opinion on costs without knowing the full extent of any repairs. You would do a lot of work here for less than 20k but Im assuming you're in Dublin so the prices will be higher.

    Have advised son to push EA and vendor for up front explanations, which will be forwarded to Surveyor. Fingers currently crossed. BTW, yes Dublin 5.
    GreeBo wrote: »
    The skirting has also been randomly repaired there... Do any other houses have a Juliet balcony or anything?

    Nope, all houses are simple 3 bed semis. This cracking is visible with the naked eye on probably 50% of the houses I looked at. I know people living in this estate and live very near it. I have never heard stories of widespread - or even ANY - subsidence happening. Nor have I heard of anyone having to do major structural remedial work.
    mickdw wrote: »
    Thats a pure botch. Wall was either in bits crack wise or heavily water damaged due to issues around the cill.
    Either issue is still a problem so id be very very wary of this.
    As a surveyor myself, if reporting on that botch, i would list it as a significant defect requiring investigation and likely major remedial works.
    A good look around the estate might shine some light on it.
    Silly thing is, if they had done the entire wall, plastered it out nicely around windows etc, it would have got past many people.

    Yikes!

    I mentioned above, about strolling round looking for collapsed houses and saw nothing that would suggest problems. One thing I did notice was that quite a few houses have a strange feature. Between the box room window and gable wall there's a small rusty piece of metal rod sticking out. Now it could be old hooks for telephone wires. I can't imagine its that 'rebar' stuff in a block built house. Is there any investigative work that requires drilling a hole and sticking a bit of metal in??

    as for the poor quality of the repair, had exactly that conversation. Thankfully all other work in the house doesn't appear to be of the same vintage or 'quality' :pac: . In other words, whoever is responsible isn't savvy enough to hide problems. I'm going to consider that a positive.


    Anyway, thanks everyone for your continued interest. I'll post up more when I get it. As I said earlier in the thread, I can imagine the outcome will be "buy and be damned!". And given today's dysfunctional housing market, I wouldn't blame him. I say 'him' but its a couple and they're keen to get settled, so let's hope for the best.


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