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!

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

LIKE US on Facebook 

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

 

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.

Heaving Concrete and Asphalt – Subgrade

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In Minnesota, there are some excellent references that can be used as a guide for the design and construction of residential driveways. However, what is needed is a code that addresses the key elements of a driveway structure. I find it fascinating that there is nothing in the code that addresses the design or the construction of a residential driveway.

In my professional opinion, the key elements to a properly designed residential driveway are as follows: the proper subgrade with the required compaction, a solid base upon which the driveway material will rest (this blog is based on an asphalt driveway), the right asphalt thickness, and once the driveway is constructed, preventing water from entering the subgrade (water management system).

Proper Subgrade

What is a proper subgrade? The answer – one that is NOT prone to frost heaving.  Damage from frost heaving can result in the buckling of garage door trim which can cause the misalignment of your garage door. This misalignment can make it difficult to open and close the door.

Buckling of garage door tripm. Clay soils push concrete soils upward in winter.

Buckling of garage door apron. Clay soils pushes concrete soils upward in winter.

The subgrade should either be granular or con-bit.  Most subgrades today consist of clays and silts, soils that are considered expansive – these materials are not the proper subgrade.  If you have subgrade consisting of clays and silts, it should be removed and replaced with granular material or con–bit (this is normally referred to as a soil correction). Here at CBS we recommend using con-bit rather than granular material. Whether it is con-bit or granular it must be compacted and it should be compacted in lifts. Each lift should be about 8-10 inches. Once the subgrade is prepared then the base is constructed.

Concrete and asphalt can move as much as 8 inches when the soil beneath it freezes.

Concrete and asphalt can move as much as 8 inches when the soil beneath it freezes.

Many driveway problems occur right in front of the garage door. This is an area where the native soils are used for backfilling and they are seldom compacted properly and are often placed wet. This area is prone to becoming “wetter” over time because other elements feed moisture into it (poor water management systems). Disregarding this compaction and allowing the subgrade to become saturated are the key reasons why driveways settle and are subjected to frost heaving.

 

Moisture Intrusion Solutions: Solid Base & Asphalt Thickness

The next element of importance in a pavement structure is the base. The base is the layer directly below the driveway surface (either asphalt or concrete). AS previously stated, this article is based on a hot mixed asphalt driveway. The base material, in my opinion should be a class V material or con-bit (recycled concrete and asphalt). The thickness of the base will depend upon the thickness of the asphalt.

Let me explain – the design of the pavement structure should be based upon a term called “Granular Equivalent” (GE). The granular equivalent concept defines a pavement section by equating the thickness of the base and asphalt layer to an equivalent thickness of granular base material. Note: this is not my term, but a term used by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN/DOT) for designing pavement sections.

As an example, a class 5 aggregate base has a granular equivalent of 1 per inch of thickness and an asphalt course has a granular equivalent of 2.25 per inch of material.  So, if I have an asphalt thickness of 3 inches, and a class 5 course of five inches, my granular equivalent would be 11.75 inches. If I had an asphalt thickness of 2 inches and a class 5 base of seven inches, my granular equivalent would be 11.50 inches.

So, you see the granular equivalent can be any combination of asphalt and base. It goes without saying that the higher the GE number, the better the pavement structure (I have personally seen this to be true).  Low GE’s might not show pavement distress in the first few years but within 3-7 years, signs of distress will begin showing up.

The next element in the pavement structure and the ones everyone sees, is the surface course. To be frank, I am not sure what specification most residential paving contractors use for their design mix. I have seen HMA thicknesses from 2” up to 3” used for driveways. I think most paving contractors will use 2”-2 ½”. Especially in large residential developments. If you are an individual homeowner the contractor will probably use 2 ½” – 3”. In my professional opinion, I would recommend 3” – 4”.

Now getting back to the GE. I would recommend a GE between 10.5”-12” for residential driveways. Similarly, for reference – the Minnesota Asphalt Pavement Association (MAPA) recommends a GE of 11.5” for driveways also.

Conclusion:

The building codes govern the applications of these materials and practices. Neither the IBC, nor the IRC include information for residential driveway designs. Nor is there a recognized national standard. Maybe it is far “fetched” of me to think that one could be established, but at the very least, I believe the Minnesota State Building Code should address the issue.

Incidentally, I have over 30 years of experience with the Hennepin County Department of Transportation dealing with bridge and roadway designs.

 

 

 

Sheetrock Cracks from Water Invasion

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With 2016 being one of the wettest years in Minnesota on record, you may be experiencing things in your home this winter you haven’t in past years. Heavy fall rains and the quick freeze may have negatively impacted your home. Water expands as it freezes, affecting building components such as shingles, siding, windows, doors, framing members, drywall, flatwork and foundation walls. Movement from frost expansion can cause degradation to building components and often, complete failure.

Water follows the path of least resistance so homeowners need to ensure they are not inviting water into their building envelope and particularly into the foundation. Poorly installed or under maintained components such as flashings, roofing, siding and exterior  grade will invite water into unwanted areas. Common identifiers are cracks in walls and ceilings and heaving of driveway aprons and sidewalks. Unusual sounds in your home during extreme cold may also be observed. Doors and windows may become difficult to operate. Gaps in wood trim may appear.

Another commonly overlooked area is your attic. Look in there on a cold day. If you see frost on the underside of the roof, you are experiencing heat loss and likely inadequate or faulty ventilation. The frost you see can lead to mildew and eventually, wood rot. Controlling the temperature of the attic is a key part of preventing water intrusion. Figure 1 below is a great depiction of how the combination of heat loss and cold weather can damage your home.

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If you are experiening any of these issues this winter, you need to contact Complete Building Solutions. We can assess your home for possible problem areas and provide a corrective course of action. Don’t let Old Man Winter destroy your home!

Contractors and Engineers Working Together

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Contractors and EngineersOn a daily basis homeowners & property management companies call our firm to obtain city approval for remodels/additions, fix ice dams, find leaks, write scopes/procure bids, create reports detailing their home’s construction defects, etc.

However, what many people do not know is that contractors can and do use our services regularly. Contractors are finding that it is incredibly helpful to have an engineer on hand. Investing a few extra dollars to ensure their company is protected is more than worth it.

Below are a few of the areas contractors hire us for:

-Structural issues

If a contractor is working on a home, often times, the city will require an engineer’s letter verifying that the span and load calculations are correct. Other times, contractors are not required, but choose to obtain an engineer’s opinion before proceeding with difficult work.

-Structural design

If a homeowner is requiring a difficult addition, contractors request engineer designs from our firm before beginning the work.

Structural Design and Plans

-City approval

Most cities are requiring an engineer’s letter to acquire a permit and to perform certain aspects of a project.

-Project oversight

Many contractors are hiring us to perform project oversight. This is just another area of protection for them. Large projects can be chaotic because of the magnitude and variety of subcontractors and specialties on site. Having an engineering firm present allows the General Contractor to prioritize their time with the assurance that their employees & subcontractors are producing correct and efficient work. This is beneficial for both the homeowner and the contractor. The homeowner is happy because their home was built to last and perform and the contractor can sleep easily knowing there are no problems to be foreseen in the future.

Hiring CBS can be looked at as an investment that pays off. Law suits are timely, expensive, and exhausting for all parties involved.  As any contractor knows, it is not a matter of if you get dragged into a lawsuit, but when. Your insurance might cover some of your expenses (no guarantee), but only after countless hours of litigation with your valuable time. Doesn’t it make sense to protect your assets and hire a firm whose sole focus is oversight? We are here to help make you money, build your reputation, and keep you out of court.

For more information, contact us TODAY (612) 868-2922

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

LIKE US on Facebook 

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

 

 

Storm Damage

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The storm Tuesday night was one of the worst wind storms we have had in a while. Did anyone else feel like the wind was going to tear through their walls and bring their home crumbling down? I know I did. Weather Underground reported the wind gusts to be up to 60 mph in the surrounding Twin Cities area. It made for a very interesting drive to work on Wednesday morning.  Here are some of the photos I saw on social media newsfeeds alone.

tree on house

barn

home dmage

According to the Minnesota Commerce Department, if you have noticed shingles that have blown off your roof or trees that have fallen and caused damage, give your insurance company a call. “Minnesotans who suffered property damage from recent storms should contact their insurer as soon as possible.” Read the full article here to get some great tips regarding insurance and storm damage claims.

As your local engineering and consulting firm, we recommend that you attain a proper assessment. This step is crucial if you are thinking about filing a claim. Complete Building Solutions will provide you a written statement depicting the standard level of home product performance, the visible and underlying damages incurred, and any future problems that may develop. This statement will help you maximize your claim benefit to ensure a lasting home.

Give us a call today (763) 544-3355!

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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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