Early in the morning, a balcony in Berkeley* collapsed and six innocent students lost their lives. No building owner would ever want to hear about a nightmare like this.
Here are some warning signs that indicate that the condition of your building calls for some maintenance work.
1) Issues with balconies and guardrails
Prone to hazardous dry rot, decay and fungus, balconies deteriorate in due course of time. Cracks allow water to penetrate the concrete and continue to create bigger damages. Also, if the balcony is unevenly sloped, it could lead to improper drainage of water. Some issues related to balconies might look minor. But, if ignored, they could morph into major problems that could have disastrous consequences.
Similarly, guardrails can become a safety hazard if left to the wrath of nature. Guardrails have to be strong enough to support a minimum amount of load. When they are exposed to high winds, they could become detached at fixture points. Also, proximity to the ocean could result in the corrosion of these guardrails.
Be it the balcony or the guardrail in particular, maintenance and periodic inspection by professionals is recommended. Damage to components, wear and tear, missing components, impact of vandalism and rust are the common problems to consider while performing an inspection. Structural inspectors can also point out locations for a contractor and/or handyman to view areas of concern (with an investigative demolition) and concealed structural elements and connections. After the inspection, they might even make recommendations for a remediation plan.
2) Signs of settlement
Time, weather and soil composition are the common causes for settlement; which is sinking or displacement of the foundation. Frequent fall of brick chunks is a sign of a foundation settlement. Cracks on the walls could lead to moisture and water seepage, which in turn create serious damages. Excess moisture can result in the growth of unhealthy fungus. Cracks on steps/walls and sticking windows are some of the signs that need to be taken seriously. Shrinkage/expansion of the foundation, and gaps in the roof are some other critical signs building owners may fail to notice.
Homeowners have to be vigilant, and they need to pull up their socks as soon as they spot the signs of settlement. Major issues, like a sinking foundation, have to be ironed out by leveling. In plain lingo, it is the job of raising the foundation to its original height. This could even involve digging deep and placing piers to balance the structure. Some experts suggest slabjacking in certain cases. In this process, they pump a special mixture and fill the holes for fixing sunken concrete. Sealing is also considered after assessing the moisture level in the soil.
Different homes have different types of drainage systems, but the issues are oftentimes the same. Drainage issues have to be fixed instantly, since they could become foundation-level issues that in turn affect the overall structure. Care has to be taken to make sure that gutters are cleaned and inspected for issues regularly. A best practice is to have both the internal and external drainage systems functioning seamlessly.
A well-designed structure will have the ground sloping away from the home. Though there are multiple options, like dry wells, corrugated tubes, grassy swales and more, it takes a professional to zero in on the right one for a specific home.
Got questions related to structural engineering? Our team of experienced California-licensed engineers can help you with the right advice and services. Call us at (877) 704-5727 or email your requirements to firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation quote followed by a consultation.
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.
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