6 Signs of an Unsafe Deck

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Unsafe Deck

1) Motion

loose

This is an obvious sign that your deck may need some attention. If you are under capacity, there should be NO movement when you are using your deck. Be sure to know what the maximum deck load is. Decks Go has a great tool for helping to determine this. http://build.decksgo.com/calculators/deck-load-calculator.php

2) Ledger Board

The correctness of the ledger board is very important. Not only is it weight-bearing, but it actually connects your deck and home together. Be sure that it is fastened with ½” galvanized lag bolts, instead of nails. Many times, the ledger boards on older decks used nails. This is dangerous because nails have a tendency to pop out of place. The ledger board should sit up against the home. A gap between your home and ledger is unsafe. The bolts may need tightening or attention in some other form.

3) Loose or corroded Fasteners

Loose or corroded Fasteners

Over time fasteners may become weakened or corroded. If you notice any of the following symptoms you might have a problem.

A) Loose Railings

Wobbly railings are a sign that fasteners are loose and/or corroded. This is a big safety hazard. Also check the height of the railing? Is it at least 3’ high? If not, they might not meet local code criteria.

B) Wobbly Stairs

Do you feel movement when walking on your stairs? Have any of the floor boards popped up? Both of these circumstances are indicative of loose or corroded fasteners.

C) Gap between ledger and house

As we stated above, if you notice the ledger board pulling away from your home, screws may need to be tightened.

4) Difficulty Opening Deck Door

Trouble opening your deck door might indicate movement within the deck structure. It could be that the ledger board is pulling away from the home or that structural elements have become compromised.

5) Missing Joist Hangers

lack of joist hanger

Older decks may not have joist hangers. This can be dangerous over time, and is not built to code.

6) Premature Rot

Premature Rot

Industry standards and building codes deliver building practices that will keep your deck healthy for up to 20 years. If your deck is rotting before 20 years, it may not have been built properly. A common mistake is a failure to install flashing around the ledger board to prevent moisture from being held within the wood. If the flashing was not installed properly or left out of the design completely, often times, you will notice wood rot.

WATER in my BASEMENT! What should I do?

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water in basement

During the summer months, when heavy downpours from thunderstorms occur, you may experience water in your basement.  You ask yourself, “what can I do to prevent this from happening?”  The following are items you can review at your home to help determine the causes for this basement water.

  • Does the grade around your home’s foundation have a slope of 6 inches within the first ten feet of soil/landscape?
  • Do you have gutters on your house? Maybe you need gutters to collect the rain runoff from your roof?
  • If you have gutters are they:
    • Clean and not plugged? (They need to be checked several times during the year.)
    • Extensions on your downspouts of a minimum of five feet away from your foundation?
    • Gutters that are sized appropriately for the amount of water runoff created from the area of your roof?
    • Are there enough downspouts to empty the gutter fast enough?
  • Is the sump pump operational? Do you have a battery backup system if you lose power? Do you need a second pump in case of failure?
  • Do you have a wet basement often? You might need a collection system installed in the basement.

guttersmeasuring slope around foundation

These are some of the basic questions that may  point you in the right direction when solving your wet basement problem. Feel free to email, comment, message, or call Complete Building Solutions with your questions. We offer moisture intrusion solutions and help prevent flooded basements throughout Minnesota.

(612) 868-2922

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To READ UP on WATER MANAGEMENT check out Complete Building Solution’s latest guest column with the Golden Valley Sunpost  HERE

 

 

What is Wrong with my Windows?

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rotted window

Proper window installation is crucial to having a lasting home. The process should be thoughtfully planned out from start to finish because there are multiple steps that can leave your home vulnerable to degradation if they are not done properly.

Good windows are designed to last 30-50 years. However, a typical warranty provides coverage for only 10 years on average. One of the biggest reasons for this is that window manufacturers know how frequently improper home building practices actually occur. So, as a homeowner or management company how can you tell if your windows have been correctly installed?

Here are some signs that your windows were either installed improperly or are faulty:

-Moisture Intrusion

If you notice leaking from your windows, there is definitely a problem. This could be an array of construction defects including flashing or installation issues. Immediate action should be taken to avoid permanent water damage to your home.

-Drafty windows especially during winter months

Drafty windows are a sure sign that your windows are not insulated properly. This is concerning because around 10-25% of a home’s heat is lost through the windows. You are losing heat and paying big $$ for it.

-Difficulties opening, closing, or locking the window

If you are unable to open, close, or lock your new windows, it is likely it was installed improperly.

 -Fog or condensation has developed inside the window unit

Certain windows, such as double and triple-paned assemblies, are filled with safe gasses that aid in the energy efficiency of your home. When this gas becomes depleted, either naturally over time or because of improper installation, the pane will appear cloudy and/or have condensation. Be sure to clean the exterior of the window to verify that the moisture is within the pane.

-Frost on the inside of windows

Frost on the inside of windows is most likely from poor insulation or a bad seal. It presents a danger to your home because, upon melting, it transfers moisture to anything nearby causing cracked paint, discoloration of materials, and can even migrate to your home’s walls and cause water damage.

All of the above issues are indicative of poorly installed or faulty windows. It is important to have those checked by a professional to prevent any further damage that could be occurring within the home and/or energy loss. Complete Building Solutions, an engineering & consulting firm based out of the Twin Cities of Minnesota, specializes in home performance and has combined knowledge extending over 80 years. We would be happy to do an inspection for you. Check out our Facebook page and give us a call today!

(612) 868-2922

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Boulder Retaining Wall and Related Drainage Issues

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Boulder retaining wall

The above picture demonstrates how a boulder retaining wall has moved along side the foundation of a home since its initial construction.  Boulder retaining walls are a common landscaping and erosion control method used in many homes.  If a foundation wall is over 48 inches, it needs to be designed by an engineer and requires plans for ordinance and structural review by the local governing body.

There are many elements that can encourage boulder wall movement, but here are

the three main causes:

1.) Often, the wall has been built on unsuitable soils that lacked compaction and ultimately could not support the weight of the wall. Contributing further to this problem, is the added pressure from the soil and related area behind the wall.

2.) Secondly, sometimes retaining walls are built with improper drainage behind it, including no installation of drain tile, drainage material behind the rocks and/or fabric to hold that material in place.

3.) Thirdly, the poor drainage of rain water behind the wall causes erosion to take place and further soil settlement under the boulder wall itself.  This water often comes from a roof or rain gutter that empties behind the wall.

In this case, as the picture depicts, some of those elements were present. This wall had movement subsequent to its initial construction.  This resulted in damage to the outside parge coat on the foundation wall of the home and a leak developed in the basement adjacent to this boulder wall.

Here are some of the things to consider when constructing a boulder retaining wall:

  1. How high is the rock wall going to be? Will it need to be engineered?
  2. Location of the rock wall, asking is it on stable slopes, consisting of firm, undisturbed soil?
  3. The ground surface above the Boulder Wall. How much water will come through this area?
  4. The proper angle of the rockery face of the Boulder Retaining Wall.
  5. The proper rock size should be used to construct the wall.
  6. Rock placement including the rocks to be embedded into the soil at the base to provide maximum stability.
  7. The drainage must be provided behind the wall to assure that water will not erode the soil behind or underneath he boulders. This includes the use of a drain tile system, erosion fabric, and drainage material such as gravel behind the boulder wall itself.

As a homeowner, before taking on construction of a boulder wall, you may want to check with experts in this area.

 

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Reduce Your Energy Bill – Energy Savings Testimonial!

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eneryg light

As an engineering consulting firm overseeing projects, Complete Building Solutions has been serving Minnesota homeowners with home performance issues for years, and we provide solutions that last!  CBS will typically test for heat loss using a thermal camera before and after improvements and then, at times, will test even a year later.

Over the weekend we received an email from an ecstatic client stating that their energy bills had dropped by over 35%! This is the kind of thing that drives us to continue doing what we do best, advocating for the consumer by ensuring long lasting homes.

This particular project consisted of 53 Minneapolis townhome units that needed serious work done. The attic systems were lacking sufficient ventilation and insulation resulting in a large temperature difference from the inside of the attic to outside. This led to heat loss, condensation, and non-adherance to fire codes. In short, the attics were “rotting” from the inside out, and the energy bills were high.

Here’s the proof. This client’s energy bill decreased by 35% after an attic inspection and the necessary improvements.

 


“Immediately after the roofing project, we noticed things like the furnace running less often, the thermostat not needing to be kept as high, the upstairs room feeling evenly heated compared to downstairs, etc.  We continue to be very thankful for these improvements following our roofing project.”

 

 Old monthly bill versus new monthly bill 

Snip It Energy Bill

This particular bill is based on Xcel Energy’s Averaged Monthly Payment Service which looks at the past 12 months worth of billing data and calculates an averaged amount to pay the next 12 months. You can see the significant drop in charges from the previous years average which was set before the attic improvements had been made.

To read more about this same clients Energy Savings click here !

 

 

Choosing Ice-Melts

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Ice-Melts

As we speak, our social media newsfeeds are blowing up with snow warnings, schools are closing, business meetings are being rescheduled, and families are stocking up for the incoming storm in Minneapolis.  If you are making last minute runs to the store, be sure to acquire the proper ice-melt that fits your home’s needs. Below is a chart, put together by Consumer Reports, that can help you determine which product is right for your home.

Keep in mind that certain products effect asphalt and concrete differently. According to a recent study, magnesium products “are the most damaging to the concrete”, specifically Calcium magnesium acetate (Lee, 5). Within the same study, sodium chloride products were discovered to be the least detrimental to concrete.  As far as asphalt is concerned, acetate products can be disadvantageous because of their tendency “to break down the bonds between aggregate and asphalt binder” (consumer reports, 1).  The chart below provides many options for safe asphalt de-icers.

Ice-Melts Comparison

For more information and tips on de-icing best practices, check out the following link: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2014/02/best-ice-melts/index.htm .

 

If you are noticing large build-ups of ice around your home check out what our engineer and consultants have to say http://cbsmn.com/blog/?p=149 about PERMANENTLY fixing the problem.  

 

Sources:

“Best Rock Salt and Ice Melts Review – Consumer Reports.” Best Rock Salt and Ice Melts Review – Consumer Reports. N.p., Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

Lee, H., R. D. Cody, A. M. Cody, and P. G. Spry. EFFECTS OF VARIOUS DEICING CHEMICALS ON PAVEMENT CONCRETE DETERIORATION. Proc. of Mid-Continent Transportation Symposium 2000, Center for Transportation Research and Education, 2711 South Loop Drive. N.p.: n.p., 2000. 151-55. Print.

 

 

The Vices of Ices: How to get Rid of Ice at your Home

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Ice Dam Prevention MN

Minnesota winters produce harsh winds, dark skies, and snow. But, the most precarious weather consequence affecting, not only the elderly population, but all generations, is ice.  Ice is a rigid structure maintained by hydrogen bonds and forms when water is cooled below 32°F (0°C). It hosts many of our states favorite pastimes (shout out to the Minnesota Wild), but also poses danger to drivers, pedestrians, and homeowners who are simply trying to maneuver through the labyrinthine byways of a once secure driveway. Needless to say, this challenge is not always a success.

Incidentally, the leading cause of brain injuries in the state of Minnesota is from falls. The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance and the Minnesota Department of Health say, falls are responsible for 38% of all brain injuries annually (https://www.braininjurymn.org/aboutBrain/falls.php). That is a huge number! Ideally, we would like to completely eradicate ice in order to decrease the injuries that coincide, but this is not realistic. However, individually, we can take measures to drastically decrease the problem within our own home.

First, one must be aware of the drainage system on their roof. A functioning roof system will shed moisture off the roof and into gutters where it can be properly filtered away from your foundation and walkways. If you have noticed ice dams, your roof is unable to perform because an issue exists within in your attic. It is important to note that a permanent solution, which does not require continual snow removal of the roof, exists and will increase the life of your roof and structural components of the attic. Check out our blog on attics & energy loss to learn more about the attic system http://cbsmn.com/blog/?p=121. At CBS, we specialize in these exact issues and offer lasting solutions to ensure peak energy efficiency, life span, and performance of your roof and attic.

Roof Ice Dams Solution

*This ice dam is preventing the roof’s drainage system from functioning properly.

A second factor to consider is the foundation of your home. It is paramount that water be directed away from the foundation to avoid ice build-up, but to also prevent basement leakage.

Charles Glossop, owner of Minnesota’s most highly esteemed commercial snow, landscaping, and consulting company, Hantho Farms, LLC, provided us with some of his methods (which CBS highly supports) for the best ways to prepare for this phenomena pre-winter: 1) Downspouts and gutters must be efficiently draining water away from entrances and walkways and 2) A positive slope must exist around the foundation, walkways, and driveways with at least a  6” drop in elevation within the first 10 feet of the foundation (International Residential Code). This positive slope encourages water to move away from your home and 3) Consult a professional before planting trees near your home. If trees are too close, their roots can actually grow into the foundation, causing cracks, and will retain water near the base of the home. If you combine a negative grade and trees in close proximity to a foundation, the tree roots will actually follow the water (which is trapped near foundation from negative grade) and may cause serious damage to the home’s foundation (International Residential Code).

Bad-grading

*The above photo demonstrates a gutter that is not draining water away from the foundation and a negative grade that is holding water near the foundation.

Now, we know it is mid-winter and your negative grade issues cannot be addressed until spring. However, there are some measures you can take NOW to prevent ice build-up. Charles Glossop suggests using a liquid brine BEFORE it snows to “prevent the bonding of snow to the pavement.” Check out Hantho Farms website http://www.hanthofarms.com to learn more about the liquid brine they make and use for commercial snow removal.

To recap, the two main sources that propagate ice are 1) an insufficient roof drainage system and 2) Improper drainage system of your foundation. After the recent snows, and upcoming freeze/thaw cycle, you will quickly know if there are problems within these drainage systems. If you have ice dams, slippery sidewalks, ice build-up on driveways, or around other areas of your home, you may need to start planning for next year. Call CBS to come inspect your property and start working towards a plan to create an efficient and safe environment at your home.

Leaks: Don’t Ignore the Unseen

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Roof Leakage

It is mid-January in Minnesota. We have seen temperatures plunge below zero and return to the mid-thirties (degrees Fahrenheit) multiple times. This varying temperature span is a recipe for attic leaks. Ultimately, the leakage problem exists because your attic system is failing somewhere.

A healthy attic means three things: first and foremost, the bypasses are sealed, two, an airflow is provided by correct ventilation, and three, the right amount of insulation pertinent to your area is present. To learn more about the attic system check out this blog post  http://cbsmn.com/blog/?p=121 .

When your attic is not performing at its peak, leakage can occur. Many homeowners assume that if a leak were present, it would be visible on the sheetrock surface of their home. This is NOT the case. When was the last time you visited your attic? You might be surprised at what you would find.

There are multiple ways that water can infiltrate your attic. One way is through condensation and frost. When your attic system is not functioning properly, warm air will escape through open bypasses and move into your attic. When this warm air meets the cold attic, it will stick to metals first and wood structures second. During periods of cold temperatures, this moisture will become visible as frost. When the weather begins to warm up, this frost will begin to thaw. All of this moisture has to go somewhere, so it leaks onto the attic insulation.

Another way moisture can enter the attic is through the build-up of ice dams. Again, these ice dams are formed because your attic is not performing adequately. As snow melts and water moves down your roof, the dam continues to build.  Water will search for ways to migrate underneath the shingles, through the roofing deck, and into the attic.

This dripping moisture from condensation & ice dams can cause mold to form, but more importantly, the insulation will become damp. Ultimately, this weakens the materials ability to resist heat flow (R-value=resistance to heat flow). It no longer acts as an insulator, but conversely, as a conductor of heat, allowing warm air to escape through your attic. In concurrence with the ineffective insulation, mold may also form on the roofing deck of the attic. The mold will continue to spread and break down the structural materials in your attic. Can you believe that all of this is may be occurring without you even knowing?

Ice build up on slate roof.

Because Minnesota is the 3rd coldest state in the United States (http://www.wdsu.com/weather/states-with-the-coldest-winters/22668580), it is even more important to ensure attic performance.  This is the time to call the Twin Cities premier engineering and consulting firm, Complete Building Solutions. Your attic will be assessed as a whole, and the proper course of action will be determined. We pride ourselves on our ability to create building solutions for your home that last.

High Energy Bills: The Truth about the Attic

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Ice Damming Prevention MN

What if we told you there is a way to drastically decrease your energy loss and ultimately put money back in your pocket?  All you have to do is, look up. Your attic could be needing some serious attention.

It is common knowledge that warm air rises towards the top part of a building. This creates a pressure gradient within the structure. A higher pressure exists near the uppermost part of a building while a lower pressure resides near the bottom. Ultimately, the low pressure near the foundation will pull cool air into the building while the high pressure at the uppermost part of the building drives warm air out through any crevice it can find.

 No wonder your energy bill is literally THROUGH THE ROOF!

You can see why it is so important to have a properly insulated attic. In order for an attic to perform at its best, it must function as a system. Three main areas must work together to ensure peak performance:

  1. Bypasses

Frequently, the ceiling bypasses are not sealed correctly rendering the attic insulation ineffective. Sealing bypasses can be anything from an interior wall extending into the attic, ducting, bathroom fans, plumb vents, lights, and wires. Many times, these bypasses are not insulated at all, leaving the home vulnerable to serious energy loss.

  1. Insulation

Insulation is naturally resistant to conductive heat flow. Depending on the density, thickness, and type of insulation, the level of resistance, or R-value, varies.  A higher R-value will be more effective against heat trying to escape. Your geographic location helps to determine how much insulation you need. Again, the more insulation used, the higher the R-value.

  1. Ventilation

An effective ventilation system helps keep your attic at a temperature which allows for best performance. Keeping attic temperatures down in the summer while also keeping the attics dry in the winter is essential. This allows for a prolonged life of materials and structures as well as lower energy bills

All three of the systems mentioned above must work together in order for a home to function at its best. Having a new home does NOT guarantee this.

Luckily, CBS has ensured peak attic performance in more than 120 townhome association’s in order to eradicate heat loss due to incorrectly insulated ceiling bypasses. Our experienced engineers understand that insulating an attic is irrelevant if the bypasses have not been sealed properly. Our team addresses the attic as a whole structure, not just as individual parts, in order to find the root of the problem and act accordingly.

Be aware! If you have/are experiencing any of the following, your attic may need some attention:

A) Ice dams

Ice dams

  • When heat escapes through poorly insulated areas, the attic is warmed up and melts snow on your roof. This melting snow migrates to the edge of the roof where it freezes and continues to build up and hold water in the form of a dam. This is a serious issue that can lead to further problems such as severe water damage.

For more information on ice dams, check out a previous blog: Ice Dams vs. Natural Ice Build-up

B) Mold

  • As we touched upon earlier, warm air rises and will try to escape out of any open channel it can find in your attic. An open bypass is a great vessel for this air to escape. As the escaping warm air meets the cool air from outside, condensation is formed. This condensation, along with other forms of moisture intrusion, leave your home very susceptible to mold. This mold will be apparent not only within the attic, but on walls and other areas of the home. Think of the health implications this proposes.

C) Nail pops on roof

  • The hygroscopic nature of plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) contributes greatly to the nail pop issue. Plywood is made from several layers of veneer held tonail popgether by glue. During periods of drastic temperature differences (40-50 degrees F difference) between the attic and exterior, expansion and contraction between the different layers of veneer (or within OSB) occurs. What do you think happens to the wood when this takes place? Here’s a hint, we have all experienced this at one point or another. Yes, the wood literally becomes unglued! You can see why this is a problem. The nails are slowly and forcefully pushed upwards due to the conflicting movement (“ungluing”) of the wood. This phenomena transpires more frequently as moisture content in the attic increases, primarily from unsealed bypasses.

Nail pops must be taken care of immediately in order to prevent moisture intrusion, however, if your attic is not insulated properly, they will continue to occur. If you are interested in prolonging the life of your roof, this issue must be acknowledged and corrected.

D) High energy bills

  • Your energy bills could be high because your attic is not sealed and insulated properly. Remember, heat rises and will escape out of any area it can find. If measures are not taken to keep heat within the home, such as sealing bypasses, your hard earned money is being lost to the atmosphere.

Want to learn more about energy savings? Check out this blog: Energy Savings

If you have noticed any of the above issues, it is time to call CBS. Using our expert knowledge to best assess your needs, the root of the issue will be determined and corrected.  Don’t waste time and money addressing symptoms that come from a poorly insulated attic when the real problems are still lurking within. Imagine the peace of mind and money saved by having a smaller energy bill, the lifetime of your roof extended by 15 years, prevention of water damage, and a healthy family. Why not call CBS to take care of the real problem once and for all?

Contact CBS

 

 

 

Foundation Urination

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As you can see in the video above, the title is very fitting.

Earlier this week, CBS was called to investigate a property which had sidewalks tipping towards the front door and block failure. Watch what happened when the soil is excavated away from the foundation! Four to five feet of soaked organic clay mixed with an alluvial layer surrounded the foundation wall. This soil had been holding water for over 20 years as clay will never dry out. After time, the ground water will permeate the foundation and has nowhere to go! The building owner had no indication that their foundation was slowly degrading due to the retained water. CBS is known for drying out properties around the state of Minnesota and this property had the same issues we find in buildings on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, builders/developers are not paid to do correct soil conditions on the property when they do the original dig and build. Inadequate soils should be removed and replaced with compactable aggregates that will retain their shape and shed water at the same time. In this case, the clay surrounding the home was holding water instead of shedding it away from the foundation. Concrete sidewalks and driveways are also susceptible to issues because of soil conditions. The holding of water below the concrete freezes and expands during winter months. In the spring the thawing moisture makes the concrete drop back down creating large cracks.

If you suspect that your building is suffering these issues or showing signs of stress or water, give us a call to help your building perform the way it should!