Bandon Beach House - A Construction Disaster
Construction problems and how to avoid them. Hint: hire a good contractor.
I've been a contractor for almost forty years and have seen a lot of construction problems caused by water intrusion into buildings, but I was shocked by the amount of damage that water caused to this house in Bandon. We were hired to repair this house, which was about seven years old. The interior had moisture stains on the walls and areas where water had pooled on the hardwood floors, causing them to buckle. The exterior showed some damage: a few areas where metals had rusted, but almost all the decay was hidden behind the siding and was not visible. As we removed the siding boards, we found extensive water intrusion on the entire wall, resulting in mold and decay of the wood materials.
We opened more walls and found water behind the house wrap. There was water infiltration at the window trims, belly band trims and corner trims. This was due to improper integration of house wrap, peel-and-stick membrane and metal 'Z' flashing. Also, the trims had been installed in a two layered build-up that left a 1/2" gap between the siding and trim. This gap had then been filled with caulking. This was the wrong way to solve the problem; as the caulking failed over the next few years, water (and sand) blew into the wall cavities. At one point, the builder tried to fix the problem by caulking around the siding. This had the effect of forcing any moisture under the siding into the house, causing damage to the walls and wood floors.
The problems caused by inadequate job site supervision, wrong material choices and stunningly inept installation techniques continued in every area we opened up. This was a three story building with rot from the bottom to the top; walls decayed, exterior beams (which were not pressure treated) crumbled into sawdust and white mold covered the plywood sheeting. At the deck area, the metal railing had rusted and was dangerously unstable, the joist hangers had disintegrated and the deck screws had corroded so completely that we could not remove them without destroying the deck boards. The deck membrane (designed to protect a lower level) had so many holes in it that water poured through. This was caused by one of the workers screwing the deck sleepers through the membrane, resulting in leakage below.
Over the next few months, we repaired a large part of the home's exterior, in some areas replacing entire walls. We replaced: framing, beams, plywood sheeting, studs and bottom plates. We applied new rain screen house wrap, installed new stainless steel flashings and installed new siding, trims and decks. All fasteners used were stainless steel. This was slow work, but we were fortunate to have homeowners who understood the importance of doing the job right.
This is a stylish, expensive home, designed with many attractive architectural features and quality interior finishes. Clearly, a lot of thought went in to the design and appearance of this home. Unfortunately, not enough effort was spent on making sure the house was built correctly. This was why the house was damaged so severely by water intrusion - poor choices of exterior materials and incompetent construction techniques led to building failure.
How can you avoid having this happen to your home? Hire a contractor who has built at the coast. Building near the beach requires the use of different materials and installation techniques than building in a dry environment. Check references. Not all builders in this area get it right either. We have repaired several newer homes in the Bandon area - built by local contractors.
What happened to this house is not the inevitable fate of buildings exposed to rain and wind. The harsh weather conditions of the Oregon coast can damage building exteriors, and keeping this from happening is a constant challenge to building contractors. However, it can be done, and the key is prevention. A house carefully constructed, with the right materials and building techniques, can remain free of moisture problems for many years.