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

 

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.

Reserve Studies

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condominium

Developments that have defined shared property/common areas and improvements have agreements including restrictions on the deed for the use of the property.  This includes its repair, maintenance and replacement of these common areas. The association is responsible for these decisions and for the funds required to accomplish those responsibilities.

A reserve study provides an estimate of the costs of repairing and replacing major common area components (roofs, asphalt, siding, concrete, decks, etc.) over the long term. Ideally, all major repair and replacement costs will be covered by funds identified by the association as reserves.  This then results in the funds being available when the replacement is necessary. A good reserve study examines the obligations of the association including the following items:

  1. Examination of the associations repair and replacement obligations;
  2. Determination of costs and the anticipated timing of replacement; and
  3. Determination of the necessary reserves (cash) for the related expense.

Usually the Association Board has a fiduciary responsibility to manage the funds and property. The reserve study is a vital management tool for the association as it balances and optimizes the long-term values and costs for the membership. Astute potential buyers will examine an association’s reserves and whether a reserve study has been performed. For association members, reserve planning assures property values by protecting against declining property values due to deferred maintenance and the lack of reserves to pay for the aging components.

Your association needs a reserve study and as a member of the association, you want the most value for your dollar to protect your asset.  Many associations think they can perform this task on their own but this puts the Board Members at an undue risk to make these decisions.  This is where Complete Building Solutions, LLC (“CBS”) can make a difference for your association.

CBS is an engineering and consulting firm located in the Twin Cities and has years of experience working with associations like yours. Our staff of experts includes experienced engineering, construction, financial and real estate experts to assist your association in closely examining the components listed above.   We have a proven track record including uncovering every detail of your specific associations components and their related life expectancy.  This determination can then be evaluated for expected replacement costs and necessary reserves needed.  We have performed considerable construction defect work, solutions and cost analysis which gives us a real understanding of the issues at hand.

If your association needs a thorough and in-depth reserve study, please give CBS an opportunity to work for you.  We recognize that your ownership within the association may be one of the largest assets you possess. Let CBS work with you to protect it.  You can feel assured that we understand the dynamics of cost effective measures to keep your association fees in line with your budget.

Looking to Avoid a Construction Defect Lawsuit?

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construction-project-manager-picture

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.

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.

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

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/

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.