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Did Builder Cut Corners w/ Pier & Beam on Clay Soil?

Discussion in 'Residential Foundation Codes' started by Kevin Stokes, Oct 31, 2018.

  1. Kevin Stokes

    Kevin Stokes Registered User

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    Hi all,

    Quick Rundown:
    • Home was purchased in late March 2018
    • Began to see cracking in walls in April
    • Multiple cracks on walls around door frames, cracks in ceiling, several interior & exterior doors won’t open/close

    What we’ve done:
    • Hired structural engineer
    • Engineer report was non-invasive, limited to visual inspection of home and crawlspace, measured home for level
    • Engineer report stated the spacing of piers was too wide and recommend that pier spacing was reduced to a max of 8’ oc. Measurements showed the house had sank roughly 1” down the center when the engineer inspected in early June

    What we know:
    • Expansive/shifting soils are present onsite (soft, sticky, clay)
    • No soil testing was performed prior to foundation design/install
    • Foundation plans were done in house
    • Foundation plans were not engineered
    • Piers are spaced roughly 10’ OC (girders) X 14’ OC (floor joists)
    • Pier depth to a max of 2’
    • Signs that the sonotube piers were not constructed according to manufacturers specifications (does not appear that vibration was performed as the concrete is not compacted)

    To the best of our understanding, IRC 2009 R401.4 requires the builder to perform soil testing or removal/fill if the building official deems it necessary based on quantifiable data that indicates expansive, shifting soils are present.

    • Builder said he had no knowledge of shifting/expansive soils until after construction of the foundation. (Sure, right)
    • City had no building official at the time permits were pulled
    • Plans were reviewed by 3rd party company and approved with stamp on them stating "Follow I-Code for Foundation"
    The builder hired his own engineer who took measurement of the home inside, but did not access the crawlspace. The engineers report states he accessed the crawlspace for a visible inspection (he didn't, we were present during the inspection and it was pouring rain). The report states the sinking of the home is due to expansive soils (we know this), but the builder did everything correctly and to code. His recommendation: gutters and level the home, which contradicts what our engineer determined.


    Is it possible that the builder did this correctly and to code? Logically, it seems like the first step to designing the foundation is to determine the bearing capacity of the soil so that you can determine the correct pier spacing and number of piers to adequately support the load of the structure....is this correct? The builder is adamant that the pier spacing is sufficient (he said he used a calculation app on his iPhone to determine this), and that the 2' deep piers are sufficient for the site.

    We've been trying to get information from the city but haven't gotten anywhere yet. We're on the verge of lawyer up, but fear that the legal cost if we lose could exceed the cost of fixing it ourselves.

    Any opinions on what we should do and if this sounds like standard practice?
     
  2. cda

    cda Sawhorse

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    Is this in an incorporated city in Texas

    Or in county area??

    Is this in a kind of subdivision ,, as in did this contractor build other homes in same area,,, or kind of by itself
     
  3. Kevin Stokes

    Kevin Stokes Registered User

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    The home is in Bastrop, TX. We are within city limits and the home was built on a vacant lot on the city grid that had a previous home that was tore down 30 years ago. It's not in a subdivision, no HOA. He has built several homes in the area but all are recently built with ours being the first. There are 2 other homes within a .5 miles of the same spec and floor plan, but the builder did reveal to us that the city required him to obtain engineered foundation plans for the most recent build of our floor plan due to new regulations that require engineered floorpans for all new builds.
     
  4. ADAguy

    ADAguy Sawhorse

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    Big "ouch", does Texas have a Lemon Law?
     
  5. ADAguy

    ADAguy Sawhorse

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    Do Texas contractors have a minimum warranty requirement? Was this a design/build by the contractor? Was he also the developer/seller?
     
  6. HForester

    HForester Member

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    See 2012 IRC Sections R401.4, R403.1.8 and note b of Table R401.4.1. It doesn't seem to be good enough to say "I didn't know." Texas has many areas having expansive soils.
     
  7. cda

    cda Sawhorse

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    I think the answer is no to both your questions
     
  8. Kevin Stokes

    Kevin Stokes Registered User

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    I believe there is a minimum warrant requirement, but I'm having a hard time finding a definitive answer on this from a valid source.

    Yes, it was a design/build by the contractor and he is also the developer/seller.
     
  9. cda

    cda Sawhorse

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    Good I guess

    So do you have copies of all the building inspector’s reports ??

    And a city stamped copy of the plans??
     
  10. Kevin Stokes

    Kevin Stokes Registered User

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    I have a copy of the pre-pour foundation inspection report that was provided by the city. Here in Bastrop, the builder is required to hire the inspector for the 3 construction inspections. The foundation report simply says "pass." and that's it.

    I have a hard time believing the foundation inspection *should* have passed. One look at the soils on our property and its clear there is a high clay content. I also have a neighbor who witness an employee of the building trying to straighten a pier that had shifted several days after the concrete was poured by attaching a chain around the pier and pulling it straight with a truck. It doesn't sound like the forms were properly braced before the pour. On top of that, I suspect the point of "non movement" is somewhere in excess of 8' below grade. Piers sitting 2' deep in heavy clay really concerns me.

    Yes the plans were stamped by Bureau Veritas, who reviewed them in absence of a city building official. They are stamped "FOUNDATION: Comply with the I-Code for all foundation/slab work"

    I'll try to get some photos uploaded tonight of the piers and plans.
     
  11. Kevin Stokes

    Kevin Stokes Registered User

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    These are the plans we received from the city.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This is the foundation inspection report provided to the city.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Kevin Stokes

    Kevin Stokes Registered User

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    Let me try that again

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  13. ADAguy

    ADAguy Sawhorse

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    Talk about "minimum" plans, I've seen more complete from high schoolers!
    In CA a builder must provide a warranty on products such as this, not so in Tex?
     
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  14. cda

    cda Sawhorse

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    Looks like the city at minimum

    Would have to approve third party


    And

    Not someone not directly related to the contractor
     
    JBI likes this.
  15. tmurray

    tmurray Sawhorse

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    I'm not sure about liability in the US, but here in Canada, stamping a set of plans with a disclaimer provides next to no liability mitigation. Stamping "must comply with the code" on the plans makes no sense because they must comply with the codes anyway and if we could rely on people to do that, us inspectors would all be unemployed.

    That inspection report is next to useless.
     
  16. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    Seldom, if ever, does a foundation pass on the first attempt.
     
  17. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    The basic problem is that the contractor designed the building. This was compounded by the failure to hire an engineer to at least design the foundation and a failure to obtain a geotechnical report.

    If the problem is related to expansive soils the spacing of the piers will not solve the problem. Three strategies are typically used to address this problem.
    1) Locate the footings at an elevation below which the moisture in the soil does not change during the year.
    2) Remove the soil under the building to a level below which soil moisture content will change during the year and replace it with non-expansive soil.
    3) Install a post tensioned concrete mat foundation that will minimize the differential foundation movement.

    Note 2015 IBC Section 1803.5.3 which requires consideration of whether there are expansive soils. 2015 IRC Sections R401.4 and R403.1.8 also recognize this concern. Texas is known to have expansive soils.

    Building inspections will not address these concerns.
     
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  18. jeffc

    jeffc Bronze Member

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    Did your engineer comment on the size and span on the center support beam or the perimeter beam? The plans do not list a species or grade of the (3) 2 x 8 beams so it is impossible to size but they look way overspanned or way undersized.
     
  19. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    Welcome to Texas
    CA has too many pesky rules and laws....
     
  20. Kevin Stokes

    Kevin Stokes Registered User

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    He has not. The only thing he said when questioned about how he determined the spans is "I have span calculator app on my iPhone that I use to determine the proper span"

    I know the girders are pine but do not know the grade or any other details. All framing is pine from what I can see.
     

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