Are you smarter than an Egyptian? If you’re not using a Water Level Survey to determine the levelness of a house, then the answer to that question is “No!”
The History of the Water Level
Historians say that the ancient Egyptians were the first to use water levels as far back as 1100 B.C while building the pyramids. The bedrock was networked with narrow trenches, then filled with water. The Egyptians understood the physics of water, that water always resigns itself to be completely level, so the waterline was marked on all the trench walls, the protrusions were cut down, and the trenches re-filled with stone to create a level base.It’s amazing that something that was engineered over 3,000 years ago could still be one of the most accurate means of determining the levelness of a home or structure. JADE uses Water Level Surveys (or Manometers) today in our structural inspections. Though they deviate quite a bit from their original inventor’s design, they are still incomparable when it comes to accuracy.
A water level survey can give precise amounts and areas of floor sag or foundation settlement. The water level is superior to a standard four-foot level in this type of application because it shows relative elevation readings throughout the entire structure. This includes around corners and relative elevations from the front entry all the way to the rear bedroom. This information can be used to pinpoint areas in the crawlspace or basement that may have problems such as misaligned load-bearing walls, damage or improper construction such as long-spanning beams or joists.
How The Water Level Survey Works
Before the water level survey begins, a floorplan of the structure is needed onto which we record the field data. This is achieved by going room to room with a standard tape or preferably a laser measuring device and drawing a rough scaled plan on graph paper. Depending on the complexity of the building, this can be a time consuming process. It is important to find how all the rooms line up as well as make note of any offsets, hidden areas and thick walls. An accurate main level floorplan will help in finding the problem areas on other levels of the structure. After the floorplan is drawn, it’s time to setup the water level.
A water level survey starts simply with a jug of water, or in our case a mixture of water and non-toxic antifreeze developed for use in RV’s. The jug is placed on a kitchen counter, fireplace mantel or shelf in a central part of the home or business and then never moved. The jug is attached to a long medical-grade tube that will reach every corner of the building. At the end of the tube is a 6′ upright ruler. The valves at both the jug end and the ruler end are opened so the liquid inside the tube can flow freely within the device and reach atmospheric pressure.
The ruler can then be taken to various points around the building and the water in the tube, held against the ruler, will show how high the water is off the floor. Water will always stay at the same level, so on a perfectly level surface, the water in the jug will be the same height as the water at the end of the tube. If there is a difference in the measurements, it must be in the floor. So a measurement of 50″ in the kitchen and a measurement of 51″ in the dining room, means that the dining room floor is one inch lower than the kitchen. We can do this throughout the structure with a 1/8″ accuracy.
Minor Difficulties to Overcome
Of course, with occupied homes and buildings, there may be lots of obstructions to contend with. Furniture can be a major obstacle to get around and end up with an incomplete survey. Pets and kids stepping on the tube can cause improper readings as well. Rooms with different floor coverings require a transition measurement and so some of the elevation readings will need to be adjusted back in the office. A two-person measuring system works well, with one person holding the ruler and the other untangling the hose and maneuvering it around furniture and recording the elevation readings.
After the elevation survey is complete, we can do a quick field review to find problem areas and that will supply a good idea of where to focus when inspecting the crawl space. Eventually, the elevation measurements will be transferred to a scaled CAD drawing that can be superimposed with the other levels of the structure.
What Will Be Done with the Water Level Survey Findings?
Finally, a repair plan can be developed and refined by using the superimposed CAD drawings and the water level elevation measurements. Yes, it seems like a long drawn-out and complex procedure. However, it is extremely accurate and reliable. Without using this proven scientific method, any other repair plan or structural inspection is merely conjecture.
There are other Home Inspection and Engineering companies that think they’re “Smarter Than an Egyptian” but they don’t use Water Level Surveys. JADE knows this tried-and-true technique is still the best method of evaluation! Contact us today at 256-318-0982 to schedule an appointment!