Before conducting any inspections, get a tetanus shot. After all, you’ll be poking around basements and attics that may have protruding nails and splinters that could break your skin and cause


Mortar chimney cap

Flashing Ridge

Valley flashing

Plumbing vent

Gable end


Corner board Splashboard


infections. Dress the part. Wear sneakers or crepe-soled shoes if you’ll be on ladders or roofs; if you’re crawling around basements and the like, wear heavy-soled boots, and old clothes. Carry a pad of graph paper and a pencil, a flashlight, a pocketknife, a spirit level, and binoculars.

Conduct your inspection alone. You’re after facts, not the opinions of an owner or real estate agent who’s eager to sell. Nor are you now court­ing the opinions of your partner, who may be eager to buy. If your agent or partner must be present, ask him or her to bring along something to read so you can concentrate on your inspection.

Begin outside, scrutinizing the house methodi­cally, top to bottom. As you see flaws and suspect areas, record them on a sketch of the building. Then go inside and repeat the process, as sug­gested in this chapter. Finally, as you inspect, look for patterns in what you observe: If there’s water damage at the top of an interior wall or near a window, look outside for worn roofing, missing flashing, and the like. Water will be the cause of many, if not most, problems.

The Roof

Because water is usually a house’s main enemy, spend time examining the roof—the first line of defense against rain, snow, and ice. Few home­owners would allow a prospective buyer on a sloped roof, whether fearing roof damage or your falling off. Yet even if you’re sure-footed and could obtain permission, it’s probably wiser to stay off. Use your binoculars to take a closer look, unless of course you’ll be inspecting a flat roof.


Sight along the ridge to see if it’s straight. If the ridge sags in the middle, suspect too many layers of roofing or undersize rafters. If the roof sags between rafters, the roof sheathing may be too thin and should be replaced during the next reroofing.

Next, look for flashing at the bases of chimney and plumbing vents. These projections can dam water and allow it to leak through the roof. If flashing is absent, rusty, or otherwise deteriorated, there’s a good chance of water damage.

The valleys between roof sections should be flashed because they carry a lot of water. Thus, where roof planes converge, you’ll see either metal flashing down the valley (an open valley) or interwoven shingles (a closed valley).

Drip-edge is specialized flashing that should protrude from beneath the lowest courses of roofing. It allows water to drip clear of the roof. Older homes lacking drip-edges often suffer water damage because water soaks backward
under sheathing onto the tops of walls (see "Eaves Flashing,” on p. 9).

Wherever roofs adjoin walls or dormer walls, look for roof-to-wall and step flashings, as shown in "Flashing a Shed Roof,” on p. 75. At brick chimneys, consider whether saddle and step flashings are properly counterflashed, as shown in "Chimney Flashing,” on p. 74.


The house shown on the facing page says much to a trained eye. Though nicely crafted, it’s show­ing its age. Despite the gleaming paint on the parts that can be easily reached, this house’s upper floors haven’t been painted in 20 years or 30 years, suggesting that the parts you can’t see probably weren’t maintained either. The fretwork above the porch is splintering, and the green shingle demi-roof over the living room window has worn through to the wood shingles under­neath. Chances are this small roof isn’t flashed where it abuts the siding, so water may have gotten behind and soaked the framing.

Still, it’s a charmer, and it’s got great bones. Skilled carpenters were needed to frame such a complex roof, so there’s probably good workman­ship throughout the house, which is old enough

that its 2x4s are probably full-size 2x4s. The walls are plumb; the roof ridge doesn’t sag; and despite its weathered appearance, the siding is largely intact.

However, if you’re house shopping, you’d want to get a bid for replacing the roof. Because the old shingles are tired, reroofing would likely be expensive, given the complexity of the roof struc­ture and the likelihood of rot up there. Also, from the street, there’s no sign of gutters, so it would be crucial to inspect the joists, the mudsills, and the foundation itself.

Given the age of this house, the foundation probably isn’t reinforced with steel; and that, coupled with poor drainage, could mean big – ticket repairs—possibly a new foundation.

All in all, though, this old house would be an exciting prospect and is certainly worth a closer look.

gathering information

If you feel strongly about a house, start by asking the real estate agent or owner for a recent termite report and a disclosure statement, and read them closely. Most states require such disclosures from owners; if you are working with an agent, such statements are probably mandatory. Disclosure statements describe (1) things not originally built with a permit or not built according to code,

(2) code violations recently observed by an inspector, and (3) other conditions that the homeowner knows need fixing. Armed with this information, you can begin looking for unreported problems, which always exist.

Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:image37Подпись:Подпись: JoistПодпись:Подпись: Clapboards Sheathing Подпись: Window casingПодпись: GutterПодпись: DownspoutПодпись: Splash blockimage38

Building Terms

Girder Sole plate Bracing Mudsill Foundation

These drawings contain most

of the building terms used in this chapter.

For additional terms, consult the Index, the Glossary, and pertinent chapters.


If you see tar or roof cement slathered around chimney bases, plumbing stacks, roof valleys, and other roof joints, assume leaks may have occurred there, either because flashing failed or was never installed. Tar can be a functional, though ugly, short­term fix, but be sure to replace old flashing when installing a new roof.


Because of competitive bidding, buying a house can be nerve-wracking. But you can reduce some of the pressure by making your own preliminary inspection. This will enable you to delay paying for a professional inspector till you’re sure it’s a house you should seriously con­sider. You’ll be able to red-flag special concerns for the inspector. And, as a bonus, after conduct­ing your own inspection, you’ll better understand the inspector’s report.

That said, it’s smart to hire an accredited house inspector to give you an impartial third – party opinion. Typically, house inspections take 2 hours or 3 hours and yield a detailed 20-page or 30-page field report. A house inspector can also recommend additional inspections, if warranted, by structural engineers, HVAC (heating, ventila­tion, and air-conditioning) specialists and the like.

Table of Contents


• • •





Tool Safety Tools to Own Tools to Rent





Inspecting a House





The Roof 7

House Exterior 9

Interiors 11

Mechanical Systems 15

Estimating Project

Difficulty and Costs 17



Building Materials





Creating a Home That Suits You 19

Documenting What’s There 21

Design Constraints 24

From Preliminary Designs

to Working Drawings 25

An Overview of Renovation 28

Case Histories 29



image36 Inspecting

a House

With a little practice, you can train your eye to see both a house’s potential and its pitfalls.

Подпись: For Nesters: Keeping Emotions in Check When shopping for a house, it's hard to keep emotions in check. Unless you're buying a property solely as an investment, you're probably looking for a nest. If you're like most of us, you'll imagine yourself living there, surrounded by friends and family. Those warm feelings are all understandable human stuff but probably not the best frame of mind for making one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. By all means, listen to your feelings; just don't lead with them. Look at a lot of houses. Read this chapter to get an overview of house systems and learn building lingo. Then scrutinize every house you enter—whether it's for sale or not. Be cold eyed: Look beyond the lace curtains and the fresh paint. Look for problems and try to figure out what's causing them. Then when you begin shopping "for real" and find that certain place that wins your heart, you won't lose your head. Also, if you like a house, check out the neighborhood, and talk to neighbors to see what they are like. Ask about traffic, schools, shopping, city services, and crime. This will help you imagine what living there will be like.

Every house f you know

where to look, you can see how skillfully the house was built or remodeled, how well it has weathered the elements, and how carefully the owners took care of it.

This chapter explains how to read a house’s history from sometimes subtle symptoms and then systematically figure out what caused them. So when inspecting houses, you need to observe closely and search for patterns, whether you’re a homeowner, a house shopper, or a renovation contractor.

► Inspecting your own home, you may be surprised to discover how many areas need attention, whether for safety, repair, updating, appearance, or preventive maintenance. Thus this inspection may guide your renovation.

► If you’re house shopping, your inspection may reveal conditions bad enough to dissuade you from buying. Or, if you decide to buy, those problems may give you leverage when negotiating price. Remember, most aspects of purchase agreements are negotiable.

► If you’re a remodeling contractor, this chapter will likely prove helpful in assessing systems you may be less familiar with, and subsequent chapters will specify techniques and materials that can make your renovation projects more time and cost effective.

Finally, think of this chapter as gateway to solu­tions throughout the book. Consequently, many of the house problems in this chapter are followed by page numbers or chapter numbers that direct you to further explanations or possible solutions. Note: Within this chapter and others, if you don’t find specific cross-references to topics you’d like to learn more about, consult the book’s index.




HAVE BEEN WRITING AND UPDATING one edition or another of this book for nearly three decades. I started the first edition in 1978, when Jimmy Carter was president and most computers were the size of closets. Since publication of the second edition in 1990, building materials and tools have changed so dramatically that I decided to rewrite the book com­pletely this time around, adding new chapters. All told, Renovation represents thousands of conversations with carpen­ters, electricians, engineers, plumbers, painters, masons, archi-


tects, and other building professionals. And its nearly 700 new photos were winnowed from more than 9,000 shots taken on job sites across North America.

That last point—"on job sites”—is what distinguishes this book and is what should prove most useful to you when you’re in the thick of your renovation: It tells which sawblade to use. What nail size and spacing. When to tear out and when to make do. How to lay out and prep a job so it goes smoothly. Because this book contains thousands of tips and techniques from con­tractors who had schedules and budgets to meet, it will also save you time and money. In other words, the methods in this book have proven themselves. So, supported with lifetimes of practical experience, you can proceed confidently.

This book is as much concerned with what and why as it is with how to. Thus, for every topic—from foundations to finish flooring—you’ll find the tools and materials you’ll need, the problems you may encounter, and workable solutions to see you through. Because the information in each chapter follows the sequence of an actual renovation, you’ll know what to anticipate at every stage. Equally important, R 3’s often-ingenious solu­tions will help you deal with the unexpected situations that are a part of every renovation.

Please heed all safety warnings: They are there for your protection. The publisher and I have made every effort to describe safe construc­tion procedures in a clear and straightforward manner. But because of the differences in skill and experience of each reader and because of variations in materials, site conditions and the like, neither I nor the publisher can assume responsibility for results with particular projects.


How to Use This Book

Read the opening remarks in a chapter before reviewing guid­ance for specific tasks. That is, each chapter’s information tends to be somewhat cumulative. The first few paragraphs often introduce vital terms and concepts. Thereafter, you’ll find tools and techniques presented more or less chronologically, in the manner you’d need them in a renovation.

Although new terms are defined early in each chapter and later in context, you may come across terms whose definitions you skipped over earlier. If you need a definition, consult the glossary or the index.

An in-depth review of tools and materials is beyond the scope of this book. If you want more information on either, consider browsing the Web. Although I do mention specific brand names and occasional Internet addresses, please consider them reference points for research and not product endorsements. Most of the brand names are those I encountered on job sites or were praised by a builder whose opinions I value.

image15Maybe it’s always been so, but research has become a big part of renovation. So supplement your reading and Web searches by talking to neighbors, local contractors, and building – material suppliers. Experience is always the best teacher—even if it’s someone else’s experience. A friend or neighbor who’s been through a renovation may be able to recommend reliable builders and suppliers and may also be a calm voice when you need one most. So go to it. As Aristotle once said (though not to me directly), "Courage is first among human virtues, for without it, we’re unlikely to practice many of the others.”