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Old 08-06-2010, 11:52 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,740 posts, read 8,985,599 times
Reputation: 3858

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The saga of our new-home purchase continues:

The termite inspection was just done on our 1940s Arlington home we're about to buy. Our agent tells me:

"They found evidence of carpenter bee holes on underside of front porch and termite tunnels on joists on unfinished part of the basement. This is not unusual."

Should we be freaking out? The basement is mostly finished, so I'm worried about what's there that can't be seen.

The seller has to have it treated before settlement--but what if the structural damage has weakened the joists so much that they're no longer strong enough to keep holding the house up for another 40 years?

Thanks as always for any advice.

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Old 08-06-2010, 12:11 PM
 
Location: In the woods
3,315 posts, read 8,808,153 times
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Depending on the extend of the carpenter bees, you may be able to just treat the wood, seal up and it's OK.

But are the termite tunnels compromising the structure? You should get a structual engineer in there and make the determination and get it in writing. If the damage is extensive you may consider walking away from this deal. If not, ask the Seller to make the repair or ask for a credit against the price of the house and you can handle the repair. At this point, since you're under contract, any repairs that are structural can only be made by a licensed structural engineer. Don't let the Seller have someone who is a general contractor do the work who might just put a few lollis in there and call it a day.

My house was built in the 1930s; these old houses have issues that the newer ones won't. Nothing to worry too much about -- they're just different types of problems than the newer ones.

Don't inherit someone else's problem! Good luck to you!
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:14 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,740 posts, read 8,985,599 times
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Thanks so much! Really appreciate it.

Where does one hire a structural engineer for a job like this?
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:19 PM
 
Location: In the woods
3,315 posts, read 8,808,153 times
Reputation: 1511
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
Thanks so much! Really appreciate it.
Where does one hire a structural engineer for a job like this?
Well . . . you could ask people on the forum here

Or ask your Realtor for some references. They should know the leading structural engineers in the area.

Or, someone in construction, development, or architecture.

Or, if you're on good terms with your future neighbors (since they own historic houses), one of them might know.

We know of a group out here in Winchester (referred by our realtor but also other local homeowners). But this would be too far for you. Good luck!
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:20 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,740 posts, read 8,985,599 times
Reputation: 3858
Thanks! I'll ask the agent. He's probably afraid we'll bail on the whole deal, so he should be helpful. Here goes nothing.
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:27 PM
 
Location: In the woods
3,315 posts, read 8,808,153 times
Reputation: 1511
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
Thanks! I'll ask the agent. He's probably afraid we'll bail on the whole deal, so he should be helpful. Here goes nothing.
Your agent's job is to help YOU out. And s/he should know that not too many people would be interested in a house with extensive damage. What exactly did your home inspector say about the termite tunnels? Do they bore all they way through the wood or just those "paths" termites make under the surface? If they are the "paths" then that is indeed fairly common, so long as it's not rotting the wood.

Honestly, if you don't feel comfortable with what they're telling you and you're really interested in this house, get the structural engineer. You'll have peace of mind for a few hundred dollars. Best of luck to you!
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:38 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,740 posts, read 8,985,599 times
Reputation: 3858
Well, the home inspector didn't cover termites; I don't think it was part of his duties. (He was exceptionally thorough). The termite inspection was just done today, and I haven't seen a copy of the report yet. (The agent just e-mailed me.)

We're definitely going to get an engineer. I just hope they have some way of "seeing" behind all that drywall in the finished basement (and behind the plaster walls elsewhere)!
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:44 PM
 
Location: In the woods
3,315 posts, read 8,808,153 times
Reputation: 1511
I'm not sure what structural engineers really do; maybe someone on the Forum can share their experience. Be sure to accompany him/her though; it would be a great learning experience.

Plaster walls? Hey, I've got them too. Really strong, solid walls although I need to get a home energy auditor in to see if/how well these walls are insulated. Back them, insulation was not a requirement on these houses. So if they do happen to open a few walls, take a peek and see how well they're insulated. Don't be surprised to find newspapers or old clothes in there though; that's what some people used back then!
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Old 08-06-2010, 01:12 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,740 posts, read 8,985,599 times
Reputation: 3858
Yeah, I love plaster walls. They have a certain feel when you slap them--no "thud," just a cool "thap" that says "Try again, tough guy."

I talked to a structural engineer; tough thing is, even they can't see behind the drywall without cutting/drilling holes. Not sure how big those holes would have to be.

I'll follow up for posterity when I've heard something. Thanks again.
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