Forgive the theme, but we are obsessed with the horrors of a building’s demise. In part this is because we are currently working on a large commercial repair project (pictured) where multiple gigantic structural members– replaced only several years back– are so rotted through they crumble with the stab of a screwdriver. In part it’s because we have worked on lovely century-old homes that continue to stand proud. As a builder, it’s easy for us to identify the what and how of a structure’s destiny. But homeowners, well, they can be duped. But it’s not their fault.
A building’s skeleton– the core structural members of beams, posts, and connections to the foundation– must be protected at all costs. In our moist climate, the enemy is water. A good Northwest builder knows how water finds its course down and around a building and has studied up on the latest thinking for flashing, ventilation, and drainage. Often, these aspects are invisible to homeowners who see surfaces: nice countertops, pretty windows, a fresh paint job. And often, the biggest errors are the hidden ones: for example, the vycor flashing around the windows that you cannot see once the siding is on. A properly installed window directs water down and around the window in a technically designed cascading series; an improperly installed window has flashing that actually forms minute cups that retain water and send it flowing down the sheathing, ultimately soaking the internal members.
You might be amazed how often we drive around Seattle and Ben remarks: “Watch that window. It’s going to fail in a few years.” Here’s the scary part: some of the builders have hip, modern signs and a well marketed presence. But we have to wonder, is the general contractor really a building professional? Or just a good business person?
Ultimately, we hope these businesses won’t last. Sadly, their buildings certainly won’t. So the scary true story must be told here and there, if only as a reminder to check and recheck your home remodeler’s credentials. Their company may be nice, fancy, highly recommended, or simply inexpensive. But the real question is: who taught their carpenters how to build? And do they stash copies of Journal of Light Construction on their bedside table, keep a ready library of Taunton Manuals, and actively engage engineers in discussing the latest on building science?
Because the tale of two buildings boils down to this: the builder who stayed awake at night reading their JLC, and the one who shouldn’t be sleeping at night while the drip, drip goes on in the handsome but compromised homes they built 2-3 years ago.
At Blue Sound Construction, our mission is to build legacies: solid homes that shelter generations. You’ll find those JLC’s close to our heads and our hearts.