Home repair problems often difficult to spot

In today’s economy, many people are making the decision to enlarge or alter their existing homes instead of selling and buying a new one. Choosing a knowledgeable contractor when you are not a house expert can be like me trying to find a reliable mechanic for my car.

Price is always a consideration when choosing a contractor to do the work on your home; however, to get the job done right, experience and a good understanding of how buildings work is even more important.

Here is an example of what I mean about understanding how buildings work.

I was called in as a consultant to settle a dispute a homeowner was having with a roofer and a vinyl siding installer. A tree had fallen on the house. The insurance settlement allowed the homeowner to put on a new roof, install vinyl siding over the old siding, take out the interior plaster walls, insulate the walls and install new drywall, add insulation in the attic, and install new energy-efficient windows and doors.

Upon arriving at the property I could not help but notice that the roof had horizontal waves running from side to side. When I entered the attic I found that the roof decking was badly warped and covered with black mold.

The homeowner had called the roofer to complain about the warped decking. The roofer said the problem was that the vinyl siding allowed less ventilation into the attic. The vinyl siding installer claimed that the ventilation was adequate. Needless to say, the homeowner was frustrated.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that the crawl space was damp and had no vapor barrier installed over the dirt, and the new bathroom vent fan was discharging into the attic instead of being vented outside the house. Of course the wet crawl space was a condition that had always existed, so what changed?

What changed was how tight the house was. Before the renovations all the moisture migrating from the crawl space escaped out of the house through the leaky doors, windows and walls, causing no problem. However, once the house was sealed up with new insulation, windows and doors the moisture had nowhere to go but into the attic, where it condensed on the underside of the roof decking, resulting in warping of the decking and mold.

The solution was relatively simple. Install a vapor barrier on top of the soil in the crawl space and vent the bathroom fan outside the house.

The problem was a failure to understand the impact that changing one part of the house may have on other parts.

I have seen numerous instances of failure to understand houses as a system. This is why it is critical to make sure that the contractor understands the impact the changes will have on your home.

As of July 1, 2008, contractors in Georgia must be licensed. To find a qualified contractor, follow the tips at tinyurl.com/yapjk7b.