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planejane
Railroad ties as floor joists???

I'm thinking about buying a 50 year old house that I found out has had many additions. Previous owners closed in a carport and added a master suite above it, and used railroad ties as floor joists. Is this kosher?? Apparently the ties were sealed, so there is no creosote smell in the master, but it still concerns me. Should I be worried? Thanks!

Fencepost
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

Consider a few things:

  • *Railroad ties are not structurally rated; few inspectors would approve their use
  • *Used railroad ties are discarded by the railroad because they no longer meet the railroad's standards for structural integrity
  • *Even though railroad ties can "hold up a train", they are supported across their entire length by the gravel ballast. Each end bears the weight of the rail. Ties are spaces 16-20" apart, so several ties actually bear the load.

That said, some discarded railroad ties can still be quite strong.

You be the judge. You may want to consult a structural engineer, too. I would guess that the railroad ties were used to form the roof of the carport, long before the master suite was built. Have you checked to see if maybe there is a true, engineered floor joist system above the ties? If so, then the ties would be considered ornamental and not structural.

Insist on disclosure of uninspected improvements. If the construction was inspected and aproved, insist on documents stamped by a structural engineer certifying the design. Failure to disclose uninspected improvements may cause your loan application to fail for this property. This may also give YOUR insurance company the power they need to go after previous owners in the event there is a problem. Otherwise, your insurance company may deny the claim.

On the other hand, if you're paying cash, caveat emptor. It's a free country, and you are welcome to accept risk you understand.

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

I would be concerned that this is a DIY nightmare. I would advise having it inspected by a qualified contractor, engineer, or building inspector.
Jack

planejane
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

Thanks Fencepost and jlmcdaniel! I appreciate the info. I will definitely be getting a home inspection done, and now I think I will also consult a structural engineer as well. I happen to know previous owners of this home, and they were the ones who informed me of the railroad ties. They didn't mention if there is another joist system above, as fencepost suggests could be the case. I will look into it, for sure. It sounded kinda hokey to me, and you two have confirmed that suspicion. I don't want to buy a lemon, cute as it is! Thanks again.

canuk
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???
planejane wrote:

I'm thinking about buying a 50 year old house that I found out has had many additions. Previous owners closed in a carport and added a master suite above it, and used railroad ties as floor joists. Is this kosher?? Apparently the ties were sealed, so there is no creosote smell in the master, but it still concerns me. Should I be worried? Thanks!

If indeed railway ties were used ..... Yes ..... be worried.

Considering other additions or remodels that had been done to this home and based on this carport addition ..... red flags ...... don't walk .... run as fast as you can .... away from this house.

If ... by some reason you feel the need to buy this house .... have someone professionally inspect this home top to bottom . Also I would recommend checking the building authority for a history of permits ( if any ) that would support all the renovations/addtitons done to this home.

Just a thought.

planejane
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

Thanks Canuk! I too am Canadian, living in Vancouver, and this house is in Newfoundland, so I haven't actually seen it in person yet. I am going there next month to check it out, as well as a few others. The draw for this particular one is the 35,000 sq.ft. yard with tons of trees. However nice the lot is, you are right. I am willing to run away if a home inspector gives the thumbs down. Since it's a small town, it should be fairly easy for me to find about about permits, so I'll definitely do that as well. While I'm handy and have no problem knocking out walls and other DIY stuff, I do NOT want to have to dismantle half the house! Thanks for the insight and suggestions. I appreciate it!

canuk
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

You're welcome and good luck.

Going to leave the joys of Stanley Park to become a Newfie ... eh ?;):)

planejane
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

Yep, can't afford a house in Vancouver any more! The Newfies are very friendly, so as long as I have a bar in the basement or a suitable kitchen for kitchen parties, I'll be okay. Stanley Park is great, but a 40 minute drive for me! On the Rock, I can get all that closer to home, and with a lot less people! Thanks again.

canuk
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

All the people I've met and known from the East coast are great folks.:):D

I hear you about Van. .... great place to visit but couldn't afford to live there.

Fencepost
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

Sorry planejane, I just naturally assumed you were in the US. Please accept my apology. I have many Canadian friends; I've been up there several times and find it to be *almost* as beautiful as the U.S. ;)

Sarcasm101
Re: Railroad ties as floor joists???

Well, I would go one step further than some here have mentioned.

Instead of just getting a "home inspector", if the property is really your dream place, I would insist the sellers pay for an actual licensed engineer/architect or very reputable carpenter/general contractor to do a more thorough inspection.

If home inspectors in Canada are anything like here in the States, they're a lot like realtors, take a few classes, take a few tests and BAM you're a home inspector. Doing a good job is like so many other jobs, it takes years of experience to truly learn what is right or wrong.

Just my $.02 thrown in.

Also, I understand it sounds great, but 35,000 sq feet is less than an acre. Did you mean 35,000 sq. meters???

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