Think Twice, Cut Once

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

The sawThe saw is one of the oldest carpentry tools in the world. Records documenting their use date back to ancientEgypt. No records however have been found indicating when the adage of measure twice cut once found its way into the construction lexicon. My guess would not long after the first saw was invented.

The saw had remained basically unchanged until modern times when they were able to be manufactured. The greatest innovation taking place in the 20th century with the introduction of the electric powered saw. Electric power spawned the creation of new types of saws. Specialty tools that made cutting not only easier, but quicker.

Joist notching diagramElectric powered saws also had the unforeseen consequence of providing for new levels of spectacular hacking.

While inspecting the floor structure in the basement of an older house I happened upon an interesting construction choice.

Floor structure seems at times to be the bane of plumbers and more often wannabe plumbers. All those boards obstructing a clear run for pipes. What's a contractor to do?

Go to the tool box and find the electric powered saw of course. Modern construction technology at it's best.

And worst.

Floor structure can be cut or drilled. Cutting and notching is not advisable, but allowed following certain specific parameters. In the case of support beams cutting is generally never an acceptable practice, all though limited drilling is allowed.Notch in structural support beam

Large notch in a main structural support beam

This particular house I was inspecting had two solid wood support beams. The two beams ran perpendicular to one another. At this juncture was actually two seams. The beam that ran from side to side was two sections of solid wood with the front to back support joining at this point. The seams were all appropriately supported on a lally column. The issue at this important structural point was that one of the side to side support beams had been notched several inches in order to install a heating pipe. A second pipe, that appeared original, (this says the concept of drilling instead of notching is not new) was installed thorough a drilled hole. The notch effectively reduces the beams over all size and thus its strength to the distance from the notch to the uncut edge less the hole.

The question is why notch when drilling would not have compromised the beam. Most likely it was easier to install the pipe by notching.

Apparently thou shall not notch became a lost practice in later years.

Or someone wasn't thinking. 

 

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
747,510
Carol Zingone
Global Realtor Based in Jax Beach, FL
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty
I have learned so much over the years from home inspections...and can point out areas of concern that are visible when showing homes, keeping my buyers aware that all is not necessarily as it appears. Happy New Year!
January 01, 2013 06:40 AM
Rainmaker
583,124
David Popoff
Realtor & Property Manager, Fairfield County, Ct.
DMK Real Estate & Property Mgmt

James always great AR posts, I just want to make sure that I wish you all a superb New Year with only the best of everything, and all happiness!

January 01, 2013 07:00 AM
Ambassador
1,089,616
Melissa Zavala
Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County
Broadpoint Properties

When you rush a job and cut corners, it never comes out right. This is a perfect example.

January 01, 2013 07:31 AM
Rainmaker
545,969
Gary Frimann
California Broker and REALTOR
Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates
Measure twice, cut once was originated thought by grandfather who was a carpenter (and a perfectionist) when I was a kid. I think it is a great adage which can be used in many facets of life.
January 01, 2013 07:50 AM
Rainmaker
1,217,835
Jay Markanich
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Once I commented on somebody's post (maybe a previous one of yours!) and said that in my experience plumbers seem to be the worst offenders for this sort of thing.  Privately I was contacted and my hiney was chewed up!  At the end of the tirade, over the phone, I simply asked, "What do you see instead as the worst offenders?"  There was no answer!

January 01, 2013 07:57 AM
Ambassador
1,068,214
Charles Buell
Seattle Home Inspector
Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

While some of the best plumbers know better than this and might say they would never do it, the fact remains that this sort of thing is all to common in relation to doing plumbing work.  Perhaps the work is not being done by plumbers :)

January 01, 2013 08:38 AM
Rainmaker
1,186,905
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage
Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366

If people only knew what goes on under their home.  :)

Thanks James.

January 01, 2013 09:02 AM
Rainmaker
468,141
Kenneth Cole
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -

James;  What the heck do homeowners have to do when having home improvements done?  Go to a school on codes?

What a shame some contractors take the easy road and not bother about codes.

I had a plumber ask me if he could put a vent pipe somewhere.  I asked "What does the code say"  When he told me, I responded, "Put it where the code says"

Great post.

January 01, 2013 09:51 AM
Rainmaker
66,797
Lori Williams
Lake Wylie, Gastonia, SW Charlotte, Homes for Sale
Lake Wylie, Charlotte, Gastonia Homes for Sale ABR, CDPE, SFR, ASP, Lori@LoriWilliamsRealty.com
Yep see this over and over on reports!
January 01, 2013 10:51 AM
Rainer
185,253
Christina Hood
Luxury Homes Marketing
Inland Empire Luxury @ KW | 01820455

James, Happy New Year and Congrats on your feature!  My hubby is a contrctor and always states the same thoughts on measuring twice and cutting once.  Some things have not changed through history, indeed! 

January 01, 2013 11:16 AM
Rainmaker
773,891
Mike Cooper
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Pro
Winchester Real Estate Sales, Cornerstone Business Group Inc

Oh boy, James, I see those kinds of crafty cuts fairly often in this area.  I guess we just don't appreciate true craftsman short cuts.  8-)

January 01, 2013 12:40 PM
Rainmaker
626,489
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Gary, Couldn't said it any better :)

Doris, In this instance I think it was a plumber or at the very least a contractor. Makes it even more worrisome. 

Kathy, Thanks. Yes I would think not making a big notch would be clear to anyone, novice or professional.

Richard, Sure does.

Brian, I have to agree that is probably the thinking in some instances. 

Clint, Thanks, best of luck to you in 2013.

Fred, Happy new year to you too. I think it comes down to trust. You put a lot of trust in people you hire. Some do not live up to that trust. 

Ellie, Good goal. A sharp saw make easier work ;)

Richie, :)

January 02, 2013 06:25 AM
Rainmaker
626,489
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Carol, Thank you for saying that. It has always been goal to educate. Happy new year to you too!

David, Thank you! A superb new year to you too!

Melissa, No it does not.

Gary, I agree.

Jay, The silence speaks the loudest :)

Charlie, You have to wonder.

Tom, They eventually find out.

Kenneth, What's easier isn't always in the code :)

Lori, Not surprised because I see it over and over too :)

Christina, Thanks, happy new year to you too. 

Mike, No, I guess we don't :)

January 02, 2013 06:34 AM
Rainmaker
358,433
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, a Saw is a wonder yet can be a dangerous item in the wrong hands ; ) Plumber can have a little care for carpentry.

January 02, 2013 06:35 AM
Rainmaker
68,436
Beth McIntyre
Keller Williams Realty

Jim,

You have the best posts! Do you generate all your own content? If so, my hat's off to you!

January 02, 2013 09:16 AM
Rainmaker
626,489
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Don, Especially the electric saw :)

Beth, Thank you! Yes it is all my own content. 

January 02, 2013 09:48 AM
Rainer
170,105
Robert Butler
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection
Aspect Inspection

Plumbers get blamed for cutting structure framing and it is often true, especialy with large diameter drains and pipes. Other trades compromise the same framing just as frequently but usualy their pass-throughs are smaller so the consequences are less damaging.

January 03, 2013 08:42 AM
Rainmaker
626,489
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Robert, A plumber with a sawzall can mean trouble :)

January 04, 2013 04:53 AM
Rainer
277,079
Steven Cook
- Pierce, King, Kitsap, Thurston, Mason Counties
No Longer Processing Mortgages.

Jim -- I really appreciate your "code check" illustration to help us better understand what you were talking about.

January 10, 2013 02:03 PM
Rainmaker
626,489
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Steven, Pictures really do help. My clients also appreciate them :)

January 10, 2013 02:46 PM
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Rainmaker
626,489

James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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