Monday, October 22, 2007

Beaufort County Office of Building Code Enforcement

On 1/30/07 I sent the following “citizengram” to Beaufort County Office of Building Code Enforcement (BCE) via the County’s website (

I discovered a suspect connection between roof trusses in a Sun City house that appears incapable of withstanding a hurricane. I have reason to believe that this suspect connection may be present in all the houses of this type, and perhaps other types too. Potentially hundreds of houses. There is a sketch and a photograph at
Needless to say, people who buy houses here have an expectation that they will withstand a hurricane according to current code. If this is not the case, then these homeowners need to be notified and the problem corrected.

On 1/31/07 I received the following email from BCE:

Subject: Roof Trusses
Date: 1/31/2007 11:15:33 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
Reply To:
Dear Mr Konig ,
I have just gotten off of the phone with Frank Gardener , the manager of the Buffton office . He is aware of the truss problem . Mr Phil Napolitono has been instructed to ensure ALL trusses are strapped and installed per code , including houses already completed . Mt Gardeners phone number is 757-1500- extension 325 . Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention . Please confer with Frank regarding future follow up at Sun City .
Thank you again .
Edward T. Nelson , CBO , CEAP

I called Mr. Gardener and he was unable to provide any information. He referred me back to Mr. Nelson. I also had telephone conversations with Mr. Napolitono and with Arthur Cummings, Director of the Office of Building Code Enforcement. I requested calculations for the roof truss connections from both. They have not provided the calculations, nor have they provided an explanation as to why they won’t/can't provide them.

Nothing happened for more than two months. Homeowners were not notified. Valley trusses in “already-completed houses” were not strapped. In April I went to The Island Packet and they ran a series of articles on the problem, ultimately resulting in the re-inspection of more than 2,800 homes built between 2004 and early 2007. Pulte decided to stop installing hurricane clips on valley truss connections in 2004.

Pulte says that two 16d toe nails, 3.5 inches long, can be used instead of a hurricane clip. Experts disagree.

By the end of July about half of the 2,800 homes had been re-inspected. The Island Packet reported that many defective connections were found. Many connections had only one nail or no nails at all. The wood is split in other connections. Some nails protrude from the truss below and other nails miss the bottom truss completely. Some nails are short. At some locations there are gaps between the valley (top) truss and the main (bottom) truss. (see photos) Pulte’s and the County’s “fix” was to insert a screw into the defective connections. Experts take exception with this “solution”.

In an 8/18 article in Bluffton Today Arthur Cummings is quoted as saying: “We’ve found a few that have the proper connections missing…” A " few" bad connections is simply not consistent with the facts. MANY deficient valley truss connections were found. A 10/21 story in The Island Packet says: "In some Sun City homes, county inspectors did not note that some valley trusses weren't properly connected to supporting trusses, putting the roofs at risk of failing during extreme winds....roof repairs ranging from minimal to extensive have been ordered in hundreds of the homes."

Building inspectors from Beaufort County told residents here throughout the re-inspections that the deficient connections are “no big deal”. On what authority? What qualifications do Beaufort County inspectors have to make such statements?
Three engineers, one with a PhD in civil engineering, and author of a report for the State of Florida that addresses residential construction in hurricane-prone areas, and another structural engineer who has made residential construction his life's work, all say that toe nail connections shouldn't be used in hurricane-prone areas. Where are Beaufort County's experts who have similar qualifications? The fact is that not a single engineer from Beaufort County has stepped forward to agree with the position of its building inspectors.

In summary, Beaufort County's Office of Building Code Enforcement:

1. failed to properly inspect roof truss connections in over 2,000 homes built between 2004 and 2007.

2. granted occupancy permits for houses with previously-noted deficiencies without those deficiencies being corrected.

3. when notified of the problem, failed to notify affected homeowners in a timely manner.

4. when calculations were requested, failed to provide them. Nor did they provide an explanation as to why they didn’t provided them.

5. made false and misleading statements to the public.

May 2, 2008

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