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Sobering tales about repairs

21 September 2012

If you have niggling doubts about the standard of your EQC inspection, don’t ignore them.

That’s the advice from a bunch of building professionals I recently interviewed for Progressive Building magazine, a trade publication which commissioned me to write an article about the repair process after it became aware of mounting criticism from builders, architects and engineers.

Their concern is that major damage is being missed in homes given quick “rake, stop and paint” makeovers which will deteriorate down the track, eventually landing us with a quake-induced version of the leaky homes saga.

Take the home owner told his big tilt slab house needed only a cosmetic fix taking six weeks. Fortunately he listened to a builder mate and had an architect take laser levels which revealed parts of the house had dropped 60 mm. The barely perceptible line in the lounge floor – which the EQC inspector dismissed as “carpet bunching” – was where the slab had split and after spending $7000 on further investigations initiated by the owner, insurers accepted the house was a write off.

Of particular concern are large multi-level hill homes.  Sometimes the damage is not obvious and is only visible after removing sections of gib board. EQC says owners must pay if removal of gib does not reveal any damage – but for my money, sacrificing a sheet or two of gib is a worthwhile investment if it provides peace of mind.

One of the architects I spoke to recommends that owners of architecturally designed homes ensure that inspectors scoping their properties are supplied with the original drawings so they are aware of joins between major structural elements.

Many Christchurch homes had slabs poured onto “tailings,” larger rounded river stones which tended to settle in the shakes, opening up voids which make floors sound hollow or “drummy.” BRANZ has decreed that tailings can no longer be used for this purpose, but exactly how this problem can be fixed in affected houses remains to be seen. The injection of expanding resin is one possibility.

Home owners are also advised to request documentation of any repairs so when they come to sell the house, they can provide potential purchasers with proof of the remedial work. Although the council would like unconsented repair work entered on its property files, this is not compulsory, so future home buyers need to be savvy about asking for information before signing any purchase agreements.

Take the case of repairs involving asbestos, which is found in a whole range of building materials, particularly stippled ceilings. Removing asbestos-containing ceilings is a messy and expensive business because of the need to prevent the rest of the house and furnishings being contaminated with asbestos fibres (long associated with a form of cancer).

One option is to install a false ceiling over the damaged asbestos. Again it is not compulsory to notify the council that asbestos is present in a home, but if you don’t put this information on the property file, that potentially puts future owners at risk. What say a keen DIY-er or a tradesman drills through the false ceiling to install new down lights and ends up being showered with asbestos? Would you want that on your conscience…I’m darn sure I wouldn’t!

Amanda Cropp http://amandacropp.co.nz/2012/08/sobering-tales-about-repairs