An Ounce of Prevention = A Pound of Peace
By Christopher E. Carter, P.E.
The other day I crossed paths with Joe Johnson with ABCO Engineering Corporation. We got to talking, and started comparing notes about different things we see in our areas of specialty. Since he generally does new home quality control and inspection, and I generally do home investigation and repair design, we instinctively began brainstorming simple things builders could do to avoid construction problems on the front end and warranty problems on the back end. Here’s the list we created:
- Direct your geotechnical consultant to test for swell/consolidation down to moisture variation depth when determining foundation type. He’ll know what this means.
- Invest in a third-party constructability review of the submitted design documents. Include superintendents in this review process.
- Give subcontractors a specific work scope to reduce confusion over responsibility between trades.
- Have all compliance inspections documented with pictures. They’re worth a thousand words.
- Establish a baseline relative elevation survey of the first floor and garage level foundations before closing.
- Check the grading certificate for compliance with soil report recommendations – before its thrown in the file.
- Verify that the foundation is set high enough to establish a positive final grade.
- Isolate all flatwork from foundations, columns, cantilevers, trim, siding, door thresholds, and brick or stone veneer. Think expansive soils.
- Don’t place load-bearing columns on soil-supported patios, porches or other flatwork.
- Install a 6-mil plastic membrane over foundation dampproofing to serve as a bond-breaker between the soil and concrete.
- Implement MMTF (Moisture Management Task Force) guidelines for below-grade crawl spaces. This tends to discourage mold claims.
- Make sure flashing is right at all doors, windows, skylights, chimneys, vents, gutters, wall/roof intersections and so on.
- Verify the building envelope is sealed – this tends to discourage EIFS and other water entry claims.
- Verify that steel reinforcement is designed and specified for the area behind foundation wall beam pockets.
- Install sump pumps in all sump pits where no gravity drain system exists.
- Don’t enclose planter or landscaped areas with sidewalk unless underdrain or through-drainage is provided.
- Rout all downspouts to drain outside foundation backfill zone to daylight.
- Tie-in the bottom of basement window wells to perimeter foundation drains so that any water that accumulates in a window well will be directed into the foundation drain.
- Provide a void space under basement structural floor plumbing.
- Install rubber compression joints into vertical sewer lines that penetrate basement slabs-on-grade.
- Remove temporary supports left under basement structural floor beams.