While spring is known as the season for growth and renewal in the world of plants and animals, it also marks a season of rapid growth and expansion in the housing market: sellers use this time to list quickly for maximum exposure, while buyer demand swells to its annual high point. For buyers in particular, these next months are potentially filled with the gamut of emotion– from excitement, to anxiety and heartbreak– as they balance the intense pressure of competition with their dream of finding the perfect home. Although aesthetics and ambience certainly play a part in finding the right house, focusing on structural integrity while house hunting can save you thousands of dollars and lots of stress.
Our firm’s construction negligence department works closely with expert engineering professionals and contractors who specialize in evaluating stucco finishes and building codes. After asking their advice, we’ve compiled this list of things you can do before you sign that dotted line to prevent you a world of trouble after.
Get a third-party engineer to look at the house. Of all the tips we gathered, this one was stressed the most by the professionals we asked. Before buying your potential new home, hiring a third-party engineer to perform a full inspection can only help your chances of spotting issues that could cost a heap to fix. Of course, there may be other structural defects that will be obvious to you and can be assessed on-the-spot at a showing. Visible or not, it helps to be informed about structural defects that a house has before you buy so you know what you’re getting into (i.e. avoid a money pit when you can).
Look at the permit history on the house. Using your local county property appraiser’s website or other third-party websites, you can find online a history of permits that have been issued for work that has been done on a particular house. If anything in the permit history seems odd or out of the ordinary (for example, a permit relating to sinkhole repairs) it may point to remaining structural damage, less-than-desirable land conditions, or future constructional issues that could affect your decision to buy the house.
Be wary of areas built out of wood. With stucco being a very common exterior finish for houses (especially in Florida) because of its effective waterproofing ability and beautiful look, it helps if you can spot possible stucco-related constructional defects and potential building code violations. Stucco applied over wood requires a longer and more intricate process (and is subject to more building code requirements) than the application of stucco over concrete. If you’re looking at a house with a stucco finish, this would mean paying special attention to the look and coloration of the second floor exterior: houses with more than one story are typically built with concrete as the structure for the first floor and wood for the second floor. Where concrete is porous and can withstand some water seeping in at the ground level, wood that is exposed to water from, say, a crack in the stucco can absorb moisture and become destroyed over time by softening and crumbling.
If you see a crack, find out what caused it to determine if it’s indicative of a bigger problem. See if a third-party engineer can inspect and provide some information about how long the crack has been there and why it formed. Do keep in mind that cracking may not always point to damage– cracks in stucco can be a natural formation as a house settles over time.
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If you have questions about a potential stucco claim on your residential or commercial structure, please do not hesitate to call Florin Roebig for a consultation at (727) 786-5000 or fill out our case evaluation form located on the Contact page of our website.