Unearth the No. 1 Cause of Structural Failures

Unearth the No. 1 Cause of Structural Failures

by Walt Keaveny, MS, PE, PG, Risk Manager, 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty

What is the leading cause of residential structural failures? Did you guess expansive soils? Sof t organic soils? Improper drainage? How about inadequate engineering design? Low-strength concrete? Poor framing practices? Nope, none of those. What may surprise you is that the leading cause of structural failures is avoidable. Warnings to avoid this significant construction liability are found in project specifications, common codes, and industry standards. What then is this real hazard that is misunderstood and overlooked? Improperly compacted structural fill material.

2-10 Home Buyers Warranty (2-10 HBW) is the national leader in new home structural warranties, who has nearly 40 years of forensic analytics and investigations that concludes fill material is the leading cause of residential structural failures. These failures can occur anywhere that existing or new fill material is used to support a foundation. Since 80% of all structural failures are due to soil movement beneath the foundation, proper use of structural fill is every bit as critical as determining building location, selecting trade partners, and a sellable home design.

Structural fill material must be of sufficient quality and density, or else it can consolidate, causing excessive settlement. This may result in damage to foundations, framing, and interior finishes. Structural distress resulting from improper fill is likely to begin soon after construction is completed. Due to common over-irrigation of the new landscaping and concentrated roof drainage, the fill quickly consolidates under the new foundation load and it is saturated and further weakened. Less than a one foot thickness of improper fill may cause serious distress. The damage caused by fill is typically more severe and costly to repair than other causes of structural failures. This is because the entire foundation is commonly underlain by fill. The average cost to investigate and repair a qualifying fill claim is about $50,000. This does not include the cost of the home builder’s reputation for quality construction practices.

To avoid structural failures caused by fill material, builders should confirm that prospective land to be developed with “existing” fill was properly compacted and tested. Developers typically sell land “as-is”, leaving the home builder liable for any existing fill. “New” structural fill to be placed by the home builder should be properly compacted and tested to verify the density. This is an industry standard practice, and a requirement of the local, state, and International Building Codes (IBC), the building department, plans and specifications, geotechnical engineer, and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD’s requirements are specified in their Data Sheet 79G Land Development with Controlled Earthwork which states, “For any development in which buildings are to be placed on graded areas, all earthwork shall be designed, engineered, and constructed in such a manner that there will be no adverse differential movement which may cause damage to the structure…” HUD further specifies that, “Field density tests shall be made by the Soils Engineer…” Structural fill material should be placed in relatively thin lifts at, or near, optimum moisture content. Just the right amount of moisture lubricates the fill which allows it to achieve optimum density. Optimum moisture and density for a particular fill are determined using a Proctor test in a soils laboratory. Each lif t should be properly compacted. It is important to note that the weight of the bull dozer or front-end loader used to place the fill is typically not sufficient to compact the fill. Dozers and loaders spread their weight over wide tracks, or tires, to avoid getting stuck, and are not designed to impart sufficient compactive effort like a true soil compactor. Density testing, conducted by a representative of the geotechnical engineer, should be used to confirm and document if proper compaction has been achieved to protect the home builder’s liability.

Home builders can rely on the expertise of a geotechnical engineer, as needed, in order to identify existing undocumented fill, specif y proper cut and fill methods, specify fill quality and compaction criteria, identify onsite and offsite fill sources, and test for proper fill density. The engineer can also assist the home builder to avoid other common problems associated with improperly compacted fill, such as slope failures, retaining wall failures, and drainage problems.

In summary, diligent practices regarding structural fill material include:

  1. Check prospective land for existing undocumented fill
  2. Check fill quality and use proper fill placement methods
  3. Use the proper equipment for fill compaction
  4. Test and document fill density
  5. Utilize a geotechnical engineer as needed

Structural failures caused by fill material are avoidable. Proper fill placement will help protect a home builder’s liability and hard-earned reputation.

Member Advantage Expanded to Include 2-10

2-10 HBW and your HBA’s Member Advantage program have aligned to provide members exclusive discounts on specific 2-10 HBW products; Builder Backed Service Program, Front Line Warranty Services and the New Construction Home Warranty Service Agreement. All three products can be purchased as a bundle, or the Builder Backed Service Program and Front Line Warranty Services are available together, or the New Construction Home Warranty Service Agreement may be purchased separately.

The Builder Backed Service Program utilizes the National Association of Home Builders Residential Construction Performance Guidelines, and provides a platform for quick resolution of warranty coverage concerns via 2-10 HBW’s experienced and knowledgeable warranty administration team. Front Line Warranty Services makes 2-10 HBW the first point of contact for home owners and the New Construction Home Warranty Service Agreement protects home owners against major systems and appliances repairs, including parts and labor, once the manufacturer’s warranties expire.

A recent co-sponsored survey by 2-10 HBW and NAHB indicated that 90% of consumers are more likely to buy a home from a builder who offers a warranty.

Visit http://www.2-10.com/nahb or call 855-280-1328 to find out more.

2013 Bridge Awards Winners Announced

2013 Bridge Awards Winners Announced

And the Winners Are…

The Southern Home and Garden Bridge Awards Gala, presented by GBS Building Supply, was held January 30th and it was a great event. Here is a breakdown of the winners.

New Home Under 500K
JMC Homes of SC, Thomas Green Blvd: Best Overall 

New Home 500k-1M

Goodwin Foust, Treetops Court: Best Overall, Best Bath
Goodwin Foust, Chamblee Blvd: Best Exterior, Best Kitchen 

New Home 1M-5M

Gabriel Builders, Hickory Springs Way: Best Overall, Best Bath
Fairview Builders, Cedar Waxwing Way: Best Exterior, Best Kitchen 

New Home 5M+

Gabriel Builders, Majesty Ct: Best Overall and Best Exterior
Gabriel Builders, Piney Woods: Best Kitchen and Best Bath
Green Building Award
 Addison Homes, Punctatum Place
Full Home Remodel
 Hadrian Construction, McDaniel Ave: Best Overall
Partial Remodel
Howard Custom Builders, Fox Run: Best Kitchen
Howard Custom Builders, Riverwalk Blvd: Best Innovation of Space
Howard Custom Builders, Riverwalk Dr: Best Outdoor Space
Sales and MarketingMatt Vaughn, Brand Mortgage: Lender of the Year
John Wolfrom, Providence Realty: Best Community Promotion
Also presented with awards
Presidential Citation Award
Jon Statom of Palmetto Exterminators
Ron Tate of Gallivan, White, & Boyd P.A.
 Community Service Award
Mark Nyblom, with Rosewood Communities

Committee Chairman Award
Eric Hedrick, Cornerstone Contractors, Government Affairs Committee Chair
Membership AwardMike Freeman of ACA/ Freewood Contractors.
ABCD Award (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award)
(This award was presented to 3 members for their unselfish devotion to the Martha Childress renovations)
Scott Lynch of Hollison Custom Homes
Tom Dillard with Dillard Jones Builders
Jimmy Dias of Dias Home Repair and Renovations.
Champion of Housing Award 
(presented by the HBA of South Carolina)
Frank Halter (accepted posthumously by Brad Halter of Coldwell Banker Caine)
Distinguished Service Award
(granted to a community of a political leader who has made an outstanding contribution to the housing industry yet is not a member of the Home Builders Association of Greenville)
Charles Albin Warth (accepted posthumously by his wife, Becky)
Builder and Associate of the Year:
The BB&T Builder Member of the Year and the Richard A. Ashmore, Sr. Associate Member of the Year award were presented to:
  Robert Markel of Hadrian Construction – 2013 Builder of the Year Award
Bob Barreto of GBS Building Supply – 2013 Associate of the Year Award
The winners were also honored in EZ Home Search, on stands over the weekend. In addition, winners were in this weekend editions of the Greenville News.
A BIG Thank You goes out to the event sponsors:
GBS Building Supply, Presenting Sponsor
Progress Lighting, Dessert Sponsor
2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, Bar Sponsor

NAHB International Builders’ Show

The NAHB International Builders’ Show (IBS) is the largest annual light construction show in the world, and this year, attendees will have access to the exhibit floors of two of the biggest tradeshows for design and construction professionals! Join us for IBS February 4-6, 2014 in Las Vegas!

Enjoy a free 3-day exhibit pass, courtesy of 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty. IBS will be co-located with The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, launching the first annual Design & Construction Week and you won’t want to miss it!

Click here to register for your free pass. For more information about the NAHB International Builders’ Show, click here.