The building codes are pretty clear about required clearances from finish grade to untreated wood materials such as siding and trim. It is all too common to see concrete flat-work (like sidewalks and driveways) poured over the top of wood siding—and other types of siding for that matter. (Even installation instructions for cement-board siding requires the same clearances from finish grade that wood siding does.)
Home Inspectors across the country go numb calling out this defect and yet it continues to happen over and over again. This is especially frustrating in new construction where one would hope that there are jurisdictional inspectors that are paying attention as well.
Because this is not a direct safety issue, it is not something that is usually on the radar of the jurisdictional inspectors. On a final inspection, it seems that all they care about is whether hand-rails and smoke alarm/detectors are in place or not. That the siding is going to rot behind the sidewalk in ten years is of little interest to them. As a result the Home Inspector gets to be the “bad guy.”
Take a look at the installation of this concrete block retaining wall.
The siding has been caulked to the blocks. How long before the wood butting into the block wall rots away or provides a pathway for wood destroying insects into the structure? Perhaps never, perhaps next week. Aside from this obvious question is the fact that it doesn’t meet current requirements almost anywhere on the planet—nor does it make common sense.
At the bottom of the wall we can see where the siding is sitting right on top of the patio surface. These kinds of contact points stay wet ALL THE TIME in the North West—-and decay/rot happens relatively quickly. Current requirements call for a minimum of 6″ of clearance.
Repairs will be difficult and way more expensive than having done it right the first time—
—–what call would you make?
Safe—or Out (to lunch).
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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