50 year old horse with a sway-back to match---time for the glue factory.

By
Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

In older homes that were what we call “stick-built,” finding roofs that sag a bit is not uncommon.

Sometimes this sagging is cosmetic---other times repairs are called for to prevent actual collapse of the roof.

As you can see in the following picture this old horse had quite a sag in half of the roof (from the chimney to the end of the house).  The portion that was not sagging was over the vaulted kitchen and living room areas---and was well supported by an adequate beam for the span.  The back half of the home, where the bedrooms and bathrooms were, was framed conventionally with a ridge board and rafters.  The ridge board was made of two pieces that butted together in the middle.  This span was way too long to rely on a single 2x6 board to support the roof---even if it was not spliced.  There should have been intermediate supports for the ridge beam in at least the middle where the splice was.

Sagging Roof

So for 50 years this roof has been settling---a little more every year just under its own weight, seasonal snow loads and additional layers of roofing materials.

It is not unusual to have an unsupported ridge boards---about all the ridge board does is to give the builder a way to assemble the rafters and to space the rafters.  It would be “possible” to build the roof without it---just like we do with trusses which have no ridge boards---but it would be considerably more difficult.  Once the roof is sheathed and the framing is complete the ridge board really does not serve much function and is not relied upon to support the roof structurally.

This is all especially true of roofs that are fairly steep---like 6/12 and steeper.  These roofs will usually have collar ties and/or intermediate knee-wall structures to assist in supporting the roof to resist sagging.  As roofs become flatter these intermediate supports become even more critical and in most cases you would probably want to support the ridge board to prevent sagging.

It is not rocket science that this very low pitched roof needed more support---and fortunately will be a very easy fix for any experienced framing contractor.  The roof was leaking at the time of inspection so making repairs in conjunction with the roof replacement was recommended.

This old horse was not really ready for the glue factory---or even to be put out to pasture after all.

Now if you want to see a horse that IS ready for the glue factory take a look at this next picture.

Sway back roof

This shed at a neighbor's house, near where I live, has been this way for at least 16 years---leaving me to conclude that a garbage can on top of Grandma's old Desoto sedan must be what is holding up the roof.

 

Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector

 

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Rainer
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Robert Butler
Montreal, Canada, Home Inspector
Aspect Inspection

Charles think in terms of breaking the habit. Catastrophic would be the accelerated collapse.

February 24, 2011 11:30 AM
Ambassador
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Charles Buell
Seattle Home Inspector
Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

February 24, 2011 12:14 PM
Rainmaker
1,172,511
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspector
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

Dear Mr Charles,

I have a serious interest in submitting an offer on that second place. Very sweet deal. My movie royalties are burning a hole in my pocket.

Nutsy

February 24, 2011 03:04 PM
Rainmaker
1,172,511
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspector
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

Mr Charles,

I do not take to being begnored and I walk all roofs and skylights

Nutsy

February 26, 2011 04:23 PM
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Charles Buell
Seattle Home Inspector
Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

But Nutsy, you are my favorite critter to ignore

February 26, 2011 04:38 PM
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My blog is intended to provide information related to home inspections in Seattle, surrounding communities and anyone else interested. Sometimes I will provide information that has nothing to do with home inspections. Enjoy!

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