Chris and Janet Weeks look at the rotting boards and posts on the front of their 14-year-old, $250,000 house and shake their heads.

They bought the large, beautiful, three-bedroom Colonial-style house on Snow Pond Road in Oakland 10 years ago, but under the exterior vinyl siding it’s a mess.

Not only are the plywood sheathing, 2-by-4 framing lumber and sill plates wet and rotted, but also the insulation is soaked and black mold covers the Sheetrock under the insulation.

“I always want everything perfect, and this is not the way I want my house to look,” said Janet, 57.

The Weekses estimate it will cost $7,000 to $10,000 to fix the damage, and it will have to come out of their own pockets because the builder will not take responsibility for the problem, nor will their insurance company, they said.

Chris said they thought about buying an older farmhouse 10 years ago but decided that a newer house would require less maintenance as they neared retirement age.

“I didn’t know if we could afford it, but I said I’d work a little extra,” said Chris, 57. “This had a new roof, new furnace. When I retire, I want to be able to hunt and fish and not have to worry about house maintenance.”

He has been working 75 hours a week for the last 15 years at two jobs to help pay for the house, which they saw as their dream home.

Janet, who cares for two grandchildren at home during the day, recalled the day two weeks ago when she discovered the rot problem.

“We noticed that every time it rained, the foundation would be wet,” she said. “It looked like mulch on the ground. It would never dry. There was always dripping going on. I was out here with my grandson and was leaning on the wall and my hand went right through the wall.”

She called her brother, Brian Jacques, a former contractor, and he came and checked under the vinyl siding.

Jacques, 56, started by removing a small piece of siding and found rotted wood and mold. He continued removing siding and found more.

Janet stayed inside the house, and every time she looked out, her brother was discovering more rot.

“I said, ‘I can’t come out any more — it’s a disaster,'” Janet recalled. “When the insurance company came and said, ‘I hate to tell you it’s not covered,’ I sat on the steps and cried.”

The Weekses called the state attorney general’s office to see if there was any recourse and were told the statute of limitations on reporting the problem is six years from when the house was built.

A letter from their insurance company dated Sept. 18 says the problem is a result of “faulty workmanship and long term exposure to water or moisture,” and therefore their insurance policy does not cover the damage.

Jacques determined it would cost a lost less for the family to fix the mess themselves than to sue someone, so they plan to do that. While Jacques, who is disabled, cannot do the work himself, he’ll get family members to help, he said.

“I can tell my nephews what needs to be done and they can do it,” he said.

The Weekses raised two children, one of whom, Christopher, 30, said he feels badly for his parents, who are generous and caring people and have worked hard all their lives.

“Both of them have been very stressed over it because no one could have prepared for such a large expense on an underlying issue that started when the house was built new,” he said.

The couple does not want to identify publicly the contractor who built the house, as they fear being sued themselves, they said. They plan to fix the damage — and issue a big “buyer beware” warning to prospective homeowners to inspect houses carefully before doling out any cash.

“I would definitely check the exterior — feel all the edges and make sure you don’t feel any moisture, and go around all the windows and check them,” Chris Weeks said. “I wouldn’t want someone else to have to go through this.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 27 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.