Porches, Decks, and Carports
Photographs of issues with porches, decks, and carports found during home inspections.
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Is the porch structurally part of the home, or is it separate from the home. In many older pier and beam homes, the foundation for the porch helps to support some beams, and there may be one roof over the home and porch. In some newer porch designs, this is not the case, since the porch may have been added later. IN this photograph, we see a problem that can be common to the attached and detached porch: the column is at an angle. In this older home, the structure is being effected. Another not so obvious problem in this picture has to do with the height of the porch. Since the porch is three steps above the grade level (building inspectors actually measure, but the three step rule is a good estimate), you will need a railing with balusters, and a handrail for the stairs. A basic handrail has been added with a a basic railing, but you do want to prevent small children from falling down.
Most porches are built on slabs at grade level. The problem for the columns will be moisture. If you notice, there is a gap between the bottom of the column and the porch slab. This is to limit moisture exposure of the column. The problem is that water is still rising up effecting the column. Eventually, this column will no longer support the roof above. The grading has to be dealt with, and repairs to the column made.
Moisture problems from above are common for porches as well. Since these are added onto the structure of the home, some care is not always given to how the porch or deck will deal with water flowing down. Gutters can help, but you also want designs where the water will shed from the surface of the materials. Since the upper porch has decking that does not shed the water well, we find moisture damage is various framing pieces of the porch.
I was about to walk out onto this porch roof, when I realized that I could fall through the sheathing. This is one problem with porch construction: people simply do not complete the job. The sheathing needs to be covered with a roof covering material, like composite shingles. Here we find the sheathing has experienced moisture problems. Below this decking, I found a good deal of moisture problems/damage in the framing of the porch.
Most of the time, porch construction issues are due to homeowners building their own or hiring a handyman who knows enough to get himself into trouble. Builders can make their own mistakes though. A porch outside of the garage has brick columns. From the ground, they look fine, but when going up on the roof, we can look down upon these columns to find that they are open at the top. With this design, water can enter into the column, causing the damage from the interior out, before the homeowner would notice.
Porch decking can be a problem if loose or damaged, but we do not often think about damage to porch slabs. If the slab was poured as two pieces, a gap is left to deal with the expansion of the cement. This is done in driveways as well as sidewalks. The gaps are often filled with wood strips. If the gap increases enough, the wood strip may be popping out of the gap, as we see here. This becomes a trip hazard.