6 ABC Action News Story – Construction Problem Leaves Local Homes Rotting

Link:  Construction Problem Leaves Local Homes Rotting

Thank you to 6 ABC Action NewsNydia Han, PA State Rep. Marguerite Quinn and PA State Rep. Todd Stephens.  If you are or have experienced similar issues please contact your state representative.

Almost there….the Chimney – yikes!

The den, where we had mahogany paneling was remediated this past week.  Once the paneling was removed – what we saw was shocking.  Black mold on the painted interior of the wall across the entire length of the window.  The insulation was full of black mold as well.  From the outside, you could see rotted studs and ribbon board.

We removed the front porch roof and found open insulation – no sheathing on it.  The roof was attached to the house with four nails, not in studs :-(.  The new front porch roof was started and is securely attached to the house. :-)

We have nearly completed the removal of all the old OSB, damaged studs, insulation, ribbon boards etc and sheathed the house with plywood. All that’s left are two windows along side the chimney, the front door and basement door.  We hope to start the siding this coming week.

So, the chimney… we’ve gotten a lot of questions about it.  Before starting this project we had the chimney strapped with a belt as we were advised by multiple contractors that it was about to fall down and it was dangerous to have the kids play on that side of the house – it was a safety hazard.

The chimney was one of the pricier options we selected when we built the house – a wood-burning masonry fireplace (it has its own foundation) and is built from concrete block.  This is the only stucco on the house left to remove.  It’s worse than we expected.  The chimney was built against OSB and was not flashed properly.  The OSB behind it is rotten and the rot appears to extend the entire length of the chimney stack.  We will have to tear it down completely.  The work to rebuild it, if we choose to, (including expanding the foundation – as it wasn’t done properly the first time) is estimated to cost ~$20K!

The lesson we keep learning….the extent and cost of the damage is unknown – until you peel the stucco off.

Photos:  Den & Chimney

Center Bump Out – Major Structural Damage

This entire week was nearly spent on just the center bump out on the rear of our house.  A bit of history on this bump out:

  • The bump out stretches the entire height of the house from the roof to the basement.  The bump out serves as the exterior wall for the breakfast room (1st floor) and the master bath (2nd floor).
  • We settled on the house in December 2000.  Immediately after the first major rainstorm we had our first leak in the breakfast room – we added it to the 90 day punch list.
  • Over the course of nearly 3 years we had multiple leaks in that breakfast room (from the recessed lights, the center light fixture, the middle of the ceiling, the light switch, the patio door to the deck, the two small windows on either side of the patio door.  The builder, David Cutler Group (DCG) came out and performed some form of repair each time (roof, ceiling, sealing outside light fixture and door/window).  The leaks continued every 3-5 months when we’d have a significant storm.  At one point, we were told that we should be cleaning the weep holes of the window in the master bathroom – as that was the cause of the leaks.  Upon going up to clean them – we opened the shutters we had installed – only to find a giant mushroom growing in the corner of the window sill – inside the house.
  • Finally in the summer of 2003, after the light switch leaked again, we opened the drywall above it and found black mold.  DCG responded promptly and proceeded to repair the entire bump out (from roof to basement) – replacing all the damaged stucco, OSB, insulation and performed mold remediation.
  • Fast forward 10 years – we had not had a leak in the breakfast room since the repair until hurricane Sandy in Fall 2012.  The two small windows on either side of the door  leaked and then continued leaking thereafter when we had major storms.

The rest, as they say, is history… and here we are…the last thing we expected was that the NEWEST section of the house would be the most damaged!  The crew carefully reconstructed the entire bump out section of the house.  Everything was rotted in the bump out.

The week ended well.  The bump out was rebuilt on both floors and we did get the new patio door and most of the windows in the back installed.  Hoping for another good week of weather!

Detailed pictures are posted at Center Bump Out.

Feedback Requested: Inspection Companies You Have Used

We’ve received a couple requests looking for recommendations on inspection companies.  Please leave a comment and share with your neighbors other companies that you have used!

We used Advanced Mold Diagnostics.  They identified many issues and a couple trouble spots.  We chose to perform the non-invasive inspection.  The extent of damage when we removed the stucco was greater than the non-invasive inspection detected.  The following was the outcome of our inspection at the end of their 15 page report:

Exterior Observations

  • This is a two story single family stucco clad home with stone skirt on front elevation.
  • There are areas where stucco terminates improperly.
  • There are areas of missing and or improperly installed kick-out flashing.
  • There are missing sealant joints around window and door penetrations.
  • There is cracking of the stucco observed.
  • Stucco is observed to be approximately 1/2” in thickness and it should be 7/8”


  • The stucco cladding system exhibits signs of missing terminations, accessories and sealant joints that we commonly find on homes that have moisture penetrating behind WRB (weather resistant barrier).
  • The stucco cladding system does not meet the ASTM C-926 standard for application of hard coat stucco.
  • Recommend that further investigation via more invasive inspection be performed in order to determine extent of any water penetration behind WRB and into wall cavities.
  • Stucco cladding system should be made code compliant.

OSB Removal Continues

This week the weather cooperated and we made substantial progress.  We installed 7 more new windows.  The rear of the house had the most damage thus far.  All the insulation on the 1st and 2nd floor either had rust or mold on it as a result of the water, and was replaced.  Many of the studs on the first floor also had to be replaced as well as some of the ribbon boards.  Additionally, beyond the damaged OSB, the family room “power lam” window header was rotted and replaced.

The only section of the rear that remains to be tackled is the center bump out, which was by far the most visibly damaged.  This coming week we expect to essentially rebuild that section.  For pictures of this week’s progress – OSB Removal Photos (week of 14-Oct-2013).

Construction Resumed!

First of all we have to say “Thank You!” for all the support and encouragement.  We’ve received numerous emails and many new followers.  Ted was even nice enough to post our first blog comment! The rain wasn’t very helpful this week but we did manage to get two days of construction behind us.  They made significant progress removing the OSB and replacing with plywood on the left front and left side of the house.  We even got two new Pella windows installed on the side of the house! For damage so far, a few of the studs needed to be replaced in the left front wall but this was fairly easy since we were also reframing the window.  The ribbon board was discolored but not damaged.  All fine after it was sanded, bleached and treated.  The insulation behind the “black” areas had mold and was removed and replaced.  The left side wall did not have significant damage.  Some insulation replaced and a few spots treated. OSB Removal Photos Looking forward to the good weather this week.