Sun City resident calls roof trusses report a "whitewash"
By MICHAEL WELLES SHAPIRO
Published Thursday, July 31, 2008
Inspectors who checked 2,749 homes in Sun City Hilton Head for roof truss problems say they found about 55 homes where major repairs were needed and hundreds more needing minor repairs.
One resident, however, said the county downplayed the magnitude of the problem.
The eight-month investigation was performed by a private inspection company, England Enterprises, and county inspectors.
The county called for the inspections last year after stories in The Island Packet showed that many homes that county inspectors had approved had roof trusses that were installed improperly.
Trusses are triangular wooden frames that normally support a roof, but in extreme winds prevent roofs from lifting off houses.
In many cases, trusses in Sun City homes were not fastened together properly, the stories showed.
The county's building codes director, Arthur Cummings, summed up the results of the inspection in a brief e-mail he sent earlier this month. His e-mail said there were serious truss problems requiring repairs in about 2 percent of the homes inspected, or about 55.
Cummings' department employs the inspectors who initially checked the trusses to make sure they were installed properly.
Sun City resident Ray Koenig said the county's assessment doesn't address thousands of smaller repairs done on roofs in Sun City.
"Thousands of screws ... were installed," said Koenig. "They weren't installed for nothing."
Koenig, who first called attention to the truss problem, called Cummings' report a "whitewash."
Records from the first 739 roof inspections, provided to the Packet by England Enterprises, showed that 90 percent of the roofs needed at least one repair.
Many of the repairs involved installing screws to strengthen truss connections or adding lumber to reinforce trusses.
County administrator Gary Kubic said the county focused on whether Sun City homeowners were satisfied that problems were being fixed rather than on the details of the problems. Kubic said he's been assured that inspectors have re-checked every home where truss problems were suspected and that Pulte Homes, the developer of Sun City, has followed up with repairs.
The episode raised questions about whether the county's inspectors were doing their jobs effectively, so to restore confidence in the building codes department, Kubic ordered a review by an accreditation organization.
That review, which began 9 1/2 months ago, has been delayed because Cummings did not until recently provide records needed by the organization.
Inspections incomplete without full repairs report
Published Friday, August 1, 2008
Beaufort County officials could have dispelled any questions about the true extent of the problem with improperly installed roof trusses in Sun City Hilton Head homes by detailing every repair made. Anything less invites speculation.
County Council certainly shouldn't be satisfied with a brief summary from the man whose department didn't properly inspect the homes in the first place.
County administrator Gary Kubic moved to address concerns by bringing in an outside inspection team to look at trusses in 2,749 homes where problems were suspected because of a change in construction methods. But he's fumbled the ball near the goal line without a complete report.
This isn't just about whether Sun City homeowners have stopped complaining. It's also about how county building inspectors did a very important job.
Kubic wanted to restore confidence in the department through the independent inspections and repairs and through a review of department operations by an accreditation organization. An important part of restoring that confidence is to fully disclose what inspectors found at Sun City.
Kubic also should have pushed harder for the accreditation review to be done much more quickly than it has. There's little excuse for building code director Arthur Cummings taking nine months to provide information to the organization. A site visit is now set for this month, 10 months after the county hired the group for $20,000 to review the department.
As for the Sun City inspections, Cummings writes in an e-mail that repairs were made to meet "structural requirements" on about 2 percent of the homes inspected, or about 55. Screws were added at every truss-on-truss intersection, which he said exceeds code requirements for wind speed. Some repairs still need to be completed and will be done over the next several months based on homeowner availability.
But Cummings says the county didn't ask for detailed repair reports from England Enterprises, the company paid about $150,000 to inspect the trusses, so he couldn't answer specific questions about the total number and types of repairs made. England Enterprises tells us it didn't keep the individual reports after it finished its inspections.
It also should be noted that the outside company didn't inspect all of the homes that came under scrutiny. County staff inspected several hundred homes. When county staff took over, Kubic said that inspectors who previously had worked in Sun City wouldn't do the new inspections.
The county should have asked for detailed reports. Here's what the Packet found when we looked at the company's reports on 739 homes inspected in July 2007:
• 668 homes needed at least one repair.
• Trusses in 319 homes needed between one and nine screws.
• Trusses in 266 homes needed between 10 and 29 screws.
• Trusses in 60 homes needed between 30 and 49 screws.
• Twenty-two homes needed 50 or more screws.
• 136 of the 668 homes also needed additional lumber to close gaps between trusses. The trusses are supposed to rest on each other.
The county should have a complete record. That is information we paid for. Without it, we've been cheated of a meaningful process.
The county spent lot of time and money to correct mistakes and restore confidence. Why stop short of that goal?