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Structural Support

Building Problem Solutions

On The Drafting Board

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Complaints: Design & Construction Defects

Posted on December 5, 2017 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (3)
Proper evaluation of design and construction defects requires careful analysis of available information, as well as determination of the need for additional information if feasible. 

All-too-often, attorneys do not have adequate knowledge to effectively handle design and construction defect claims. You should consider having qualified structural engineer perform evaluation before hiring attorney. You can then be able to develop questions for such attorney based on engineering report as well as discussions with engineer about claim. 

Initially, vast majority of home owners do not understand that there are two basic functions for any construction project; design and construction. It is essential to determine which party is responsible for each defect. For some defects, both parties may be partly responsible. 

Early in 2017, prospective buyer called me in to evaluate condition with crack in foundation wall of large one-story house with "slab" foundation. One relatively minor crack had been noted by general home inspection firm. However, I determined that entire foundation was in good condition. 

Prior to my evaluation, buyer had contractor look at foundation. Representative of contractor, which is relatively large firm, presented buyer with written proposal, including plan that was not prepared by engineer, to "repair" foundation by installing 39 helical steel piles........at cost of $52,000. 

Prospective buyer, who decided not to purchase property, did not want to file complaint. After discussion, I filed claim against contractor firm and representative, with NJ Board of Professional Engineers, for; (1) Consumer fraud, and (2) Practice of engineering without a license. The Board has been reviewing complaint. 

Raising Houses in Flood Zones After Hurricane Sandy

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 11:37 AM Comments comments (6)
We have recently been made aware of a problem with state and municipal code officials in New Jersey incorrectly applying DEP and municipal zoning regulations that govern required height of first floor when raising a house in a flood zone.
 
The following is a basic explanation; determing actual requirements for any particular house may be somewhat more involved. 
 
For further discussion, the term "structure-line" is defined as follows;
 
-- For A and AE Flood Zone: Lowest (usually first) floor of house, considered to be top of floor sheathing
 
-- For V and VE Flood Zone: Low edge of "lowest structural member", typically a main beam (girder) that supports floor joists.
 
New Jersey DEP regulations require that, for tidal flood areas, the structure line must be at least one-foot higher than the design flood elevation, which DEP defines to be the base flood elevation (BFE) specified by FEMA using "best available data".
 
Note that, for "fluvial" flood areas (where flooding is caused primarily by flooding of river or stream, not by tidal action), DEP defines the BFE to be one-foot higher than the FEMA-specified flood elevation. This difference, compared to flood elevation defined for tidal flood areas, may be the source of problems with code officials misinterpreting DEP regulations.
 
Based on definition used by FEMA (see Coastal Construction Manual), "freeboard" is the amount that that the structure-line is above the BFE.
 
Municipal zoning ordinances may (are allowed to) specify a freeboard amount that is greater than the one-foot minimum required by DEP.
 
For a recent residential project in Stafford Township, NJ, local code officials incorrectly claimed that the BFE to be used for purposes of building code provisions was one-foot higher than the FEMA-specified BFE. They maintained this incorrect position even when presented with overwhelming evidence showing they were incorrect. They went so far as to require the contractor to spend several thousand dollars to "correct" an issue based on their incorrect application of regulations. Eventually, when presented with facts of the case, a state DCA official effectively backed-off the incorrect claim (although in a back-handed manner).
 
Unfortunately, senior DCA staff also have issued statements that reinforce the incorrect application of DEP regulations and municipal zoning ordinances.
 
Essentially, code officials and DCA have (apparently) been forcing home owners to raise houses one-foot higher than required by legal regulations.
 
To date, there is no published information to determine for how many houses such misapplication of regulations has already occurred.
 
If you are faced with a similar problem, please contact us to provide assistance.

Defective foundation walls; extensive problem

Posted on April 26, 2012 at 7:22 AM Comments comments (25)
Defective foundation walls are a common problem, especially for concrete block walls. Foundation walls around full basement are all-too-often cracked and pushed inward by soil against the wall.
 
In New Jersey alone, at least several tens of thousands of basement foundation walls built in the last 40 years have a major problem with excessive height of soil backfill. Many of these walls have been damaged or severely damaged.
 
This extensive problem most often begins with faulty design. The wall is not thick enough to resist lateral force from soil pressure against the wall. Height of soil backfill (measured from basement floor) often exceeds.........or greatly exceeds........standard limits specified by the building code.
 
Defective construction methods can also be the cause, or contributing factor, for damaged foundation walls.
 
Other factors include improper drainage that allows soil against the wall to become saturated (or frozen), tree roots pushing against wall, and weight of vehicles on driveway adjacent to wall.
 
On the web site, see "Foundation Wall Design" and "Cracked Foundation Wall" for further information.

New Homes; Failure to Design For Wind

Posted on October 15, 2010 at 8:26 AM Comments comments (5)
During evaluation of two new homes (one for new owner; one for buyer) in New Jersey, design plans were reviewed. Each two-story single-family home is in a development containing 200 or so homes, built by the same major builder.

Design wind speed is over 100 mph for each house. The building code (IRC 2006 NJ) requires specific engineering design for wind resistance when design wind speed is 100 mph or greater.

In each set of plans, a standard detail is provided showing an exterior wall, with plywood sheathing. There are no other details that should have been provided if the house had been designed to resist wind force as required by the building code.

It is reasonable to conclude that each house was not properly designed to resist wind force.

Although further investigation is necessary, this lack of adequate design may extend to every house in each development.

New Jersey Home Warranty Program

Posted on October 9, 2010 at 11:52 AM Comments comments (36)
Homeowners in New Jersey should carefully consider the risks of filing a claim through the NJ New Home Warranty Program (NHWP). For many owners, results are frustrating at best, especially for structural defects.

See the article on this site for basic description of the program and detailed discussion about one recent case. Home Warranty Case Study.

 


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