when is structural repair necessary

When is Structural Repair Necessary?

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I've been asked on several occasions, "How do you know or decide when a structural repair is necessary?" That's a good question. Let's talk about it.

Basically, most of our structural problems in the Huntsville-metro area are related to insufficient use of engineers to develop structural framing plans for large, complicated structures, AND the sole reliance on untrained home builders or framers to build such structures. 

This can lead to the following:
  • Inadequately-supported load-bearing walls
  • Inadequately supported non-load-bearing walls
  • Excessive beam and floor-joist spans
  • Excessive ceiling-joist and roof-rafter spans
  • The construction of the entire wood-frame superstructure on an insufficient foundation or a foundation constructed on poor soil, such as expansive clay soil, poorly-compacted fill or wet/organic-laden soil
  • Differential bearing on poor soil and bedrock, or on steep hillside slopes which may be unstable and slowly creeping or moving downhill under the pull of gravity.

ALSO:

  • Long-term wood decay from termite or fungal infestation associated with unknown plumbing leaks, roof leaks, exterior wall leaks, wet or humid crawl spaces, humid attic spaces

The Common Denominator for Needing Structural Repair: BUILDING DISTORTION

All of these problems can lead to or boil down to one common denominator: building distortion.  When one part of the building moves or distorts, relative to the remainder or surrounding structure, cracks will develop in the finish materials, window/door frames will wrack, walls may wrack or sag, floors may deflect, ceilings may deflect and roofs may deflect.

Building Distortion leads to..... CRACKS!

We humans are often overwhelmed with cracks in finish materials---both inside and outside the home.  Cracks in brick veneer/stucco, cracks in foundation walls, cracks in drywall, cracks in ceramic tile or glued-down wood flooring and cracks in concrete slabs scare us to death.  So we seek out experts to determine their cause and significance.  We may call a knowledgeable friend or home builder, or a home inspector, or a foundation repair contractor, or a structural repair contractor or an architect or a structural engineer.  

Who is Qualified to Determine if Structural Repair is Needed?

If we call anyone other than a structural engineer or architect, we take for granted that the person we confide in is competent, knowledgeable and honest. Or we hope/assume he/she will tell us to seek further advice from an engineer or architect who is educated, licensed and trained to determine the issues, if they cannot explain their cause.  

Unfortunately, this is seldom done.  Why?  You tell me?

Instead, we typically rely on the assessment and advice of a foundation/structural repair contractor who makes his/her living repairing homes.  We never ask about their background, education, training or experience level, or whether they have a vested interest in promoting structural repairs, such as commissions or salaries predicated upon sales of their companies' services.  

So, back to the scope of this article.  How does the engineer determine when a structural repair is needed?

First, engineers understand that light-frame wood construction is a very flexible/forgiving structural system.  It can readily conform or deform or accommodate building distortion without loss of building performance, safety or structural integrity.  Hence, minor differential foundation settlements, which lead to cracking in foundation walls or brick veneer or interior drywall, are most oftentimes deemed unimportant, such that it is unnecessary to implement what is typically an expensive foundation or structural repair.  Unless the home becomes unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unlivable, a structural repair may be a complete waste of money.  It has been our experience that more than 90% of all the supposed "foundation problems" or "recommendations for structural repair" that we see on a daily basis warrant only minor cosmetic repairs and do not require expensive foundation/structural repairs.

Once again, we feel compelled to tell the public, "Don't spend 1,000s of dollars on unnecessary foundation repairs!" Call JADE before hiring a foundation repair company! Call us today at 256-318-0982 or contact us today. Our structural engineer can tell you without reservation if structural repair is truly necessary.

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