Tired of your asphalt buckling?

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Now that the snow and ice have melted off your driveway, you will probably be surprised by the damage that was not there last fall. If your driveway could talk, it would say that it needs some repairs as well as regular care and maintenance.

In these northern states, buckling can be caused by frost heave in the spring or even from driving very heavy vehicles or machinery on the driveway repeatedly. CBS visits many sites where the asphalt has buckled as much as eight inches between winter freeze and spring time.

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Many times upon excavation of the driveways, we find that not only is the soil comprised of organic clay, but many times, eluvial clay is also present. These two soils should always be removed prior to laying asphalt atop, as they will never dry out, and the freeze cycle will turn the wet clay into a larger ice cube.

The other issue that we find every day, is the installation of an insulation board under the soil, between the block foundation and the wet soils. This insulation board not only traps water at the block foundation, it also creates absolutely no thermal break, as many contractors believe it does.

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As you can see in the pics, the trapped water eats away at the block and helps the wet clay to retain more liquid, exacerbating the freeze/thaw cycle. When builders/developers put in driveways and sidewalks, there should always be a soil correction of poor soils, and the sub rate beneath the asphalt topping should be no less than “cobit” that will compact to a density of 95 percent to ensure the asphalt will retain its elevation.

If you see your concrete or asphalt toppings move at your home, winter to spring…call CBS for an evaluation!

Read the Fine Print

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Many of the large insurance companies can make it very difficult for home and building owners to receive the maximum insurance funds in a catastrophe. Additionally, they will constantly move the goal post, re-writing their policy language. After you file a claim, insurance companies send out their inspection adjusters and you are notified of your final claim dollars. Often times building owners are in a situation where they need to negotiate with insurance companies and show evidence to get their full coverage on severely damaged exterior building products. I know this first hand.

Over the decades, after overseeing the completion of more than 50,000 roofs, I have seen insurance companies continually change claim coverage on crucial exterior building components. About 15 years ago my own home was hit by a horrific hail storm leaving nearly two inches of shingle granules in my gutters. Shingle granules are vital in preserving the lifetime of the roof by protecting the underlying asphalt from the sun’s harmful UV rays. This impact to my new 40 year shingles cut their life in half. I assumed my insurance company would cover such loss but they had discontinued granular loss coverage for some reason from hail damage. The news was quite a blow knowing that without granules the shingles will not last…period.

Through 40 years of field and personal experience dealing with hail and insurance companies, I have compiled a team to bridge the gap between building owners and the insurance companies. As a local engineering consulting firm it is our goal to help you in these situations and be your consumer advocate!

Storm damage is covered on your policy. It is my fear that all damaged pertinent materials should be replaced in order to protect your home long term and many times it’s not. Contact us, we want to make sure your home performs and is sheltered from the storm AND fine print.

Looking to Avoid a Construction Defect Lawsuit?

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Construction defect is any contractor’s worst nightmare. Often times, thousands of dollars will be spent on lawyer fees and repairs while company hours are spent working on the case instead of current projects & sales. It can also mean endless headaches, stress, and sometimes even bankruptcy. This is why Complete Building Solutions, LLC is here. We provide support to contactors through the highest form of project management available.

Our expertise lies in building performance. We know how to make buildings last and perform according to state and international codes. Because of this, we often pair up with contractors to act as their overseer to ensure projects are constructed correctly. This brings satisfaction to both the contractor and client. We are a smart investment that is beneficial to all parties involved. Contractors save money in the long run by avoiding a potential lawsuits and clients feel at peace knowing an experienced consultancy has been on site.

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

https://www.facebook.com/completebuildingsolutionsmn/

Remodeling dilemma’s

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home remodel

 

So you want to remodel, but you have questions!  So many times homeowners want to remodel their homes but don’t know if they can.  They ask themselves; 1) can I remove that wall to open up more space? 2) will the deck be able to be converted into a three season porch?  3) can I put in a header to support a load bearing wall? 4) can the attic be converted into living space? 5) how big of a footing do I need in order to support the remodeling I want to accomplish?

Complete Building Solutions, a structural engineering consultancy & engineering firm based out of Minnesota, can help with your dilemma!  We have assisted many customers with answering these type of questions. Our staff and engineers can help determine the proper construction detail you will need. We will work with you to develop a potential budget for your specific remodeling plan, and can recommend several contractors to bid your work.

Keep in mind that many cities in the Minneapolis metro are calling for engineered plans before they will issue a permit.  We can provide you with the consultation and plans required for project advancement. CBS will also explain if your plans just won’t work or are not cost beneficial. So when you are ready to remodel and you have your very own dilemma, please consider CBS to assist you in answering your questions.

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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Thank You Mill City Credit Union for Helping us Give Back

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Complete Building Solutions foundation is built on giving back and helping those in need.  As one of the winners of the Mill City Credit Union “Making the Greater Good Even Greater” Campaign, we are proud to donate our award to the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).  The WWP helps emotionally and physically wounded soldiers embark upon a healthy new beginning and recovery. This organization goes above and beyond to support the men and women who sacrificed enormously by wearing the uniform.

The number of injured soldiers is disconcertingly high.

 

Over 50,000 servicemen and women have been injured in the recent military conflicts.  This number does not include the veterans who have experienced invisible injuries such as PSTD, major depression, or combat related stress.

We are proud to support the Wounded Warrior Project. Our hearts extend to ALL soldiers and their families dealing with wounds of any kind, and we are hopeful that our donation will inspire others to do the same.

We ask you to engage.

 

Please share this program information on your social media so more people are involved with this important cause!

Reduce Your Energy Bill – Energy Savings Testimonial!

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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.

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