Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Six Pack Construction

Recently I returned from a six-week assignment in New Jersey where I inspected damaged homes for the Small Business Administration.  The homeowners applied for loans to re-build following Hurricane Sandy and I provided the estimate needed for repairs or reconstruction.
Something I saw far too often was evidence of "six pack construction" where a homeowner brought in his buddies who KNEW construction and they went after it.  The most frequent mistake I saw was electrical fires waiting to happen.  Now that the sheet rock is off we can find all the hidden junction boxes or splices just wrapped in tape.  If it sounds as if these scenes scared me, it's because they did.  If the power had not been turned off when the salt water got into these connections it could have spelled disaster.  Copper and salt water  (well, any water, but especially salt water) do not mix.  The connections will quickly corrode.  Some of the homes racked in the high winds.  A house that literally twists in the wind can torque a bad connection, which will make it arc, spark and burn.
Some homeowners told me they had friends ready to come over and help out again.  These folks are truly convinced they know what they are doing and that they are doing these folks a favor by helping out.  In reality this free help may well end up costing them their homes and their lives.
Please remember that this type of work is best left to those with a license and the background to do it correctly.  It is very unlikely that the well-meaning friend really knows the code.  By the way, new code went into effect in many areas as of January 2013. 
The second most common problem was decks.  Those that were installed correctly seemed to come through the flood in good condition.  Those that had the posts barely into the ground floated and warped and need to be replaced.  The few dollars saved by not setting posts deep enough will now cost them thousands of dollars to replace the deck.  Again, the code is there for a very good reason.