Sump Pump Running Nonstop

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Sump Pump

Have you noticed that your sump pump is running constantly or more than it should be? A sump pump system really exists as a backup in case your water management systems fail or are not capable of handling periodic weather-related moisture such as heavy rains. Because of this, a sump pump should not be running every 5 minutes or nonstop. If it is, the best thing to do is to have an engineer take a look at the problem. Sometimes natural springs or high-water tables cold be the culprit, but it may be as simple as poor water management. We will examine a few principles that can make a whole lot of difference in protecting your foundation from water.

Working gutters with downspouts & extensions:

Gutters are extremely important for running water away from the home. However, gutters alone will not prevent water from pooling at your foundation. You need working downspouts and extensions to carry the roof water away from the foundation.

When was the last time you cleaned out your gutters? If you cannot remember it is definitely time to do some investigating. Plugged gutters may be contributing to the sump pump issue.

Positive grade:

Another important factor regarding water management is the grade around your building. A negative grade around a building will invite water back to the foundation and could make the sump pump run more frequently. To remedy this, there needs to be a positive grade  around the foundation. International building code states that the ground must fall away from the foundation at least 6 inches within the first 10 feet. This is extremely important if you are interested in preserving both the health of your buildings foundation and your sump pump.

Proper landscape:

Sometimes certain landscaping features hold water near your foundation. One example is a planting bed near the base of your home that has a metal or plastic edging to keep the ground saturated for the plants. The plants may be happy, but your home is not. That sitting water can do damage to the foundation and seep into the basement.

Properly installed hardscape:

Varying types of “hardscape” such as decks & patios can trap water around the foundation. To protect the foundation, these hard surfaces must be built with a pitch capable of draining water away from the home. Proper and correctly installed deck flashing is also an element that is crucial to deflecting water.

Without a professional to take a closer look, it could be difficult to pinpoint exactly why your sump pump is running frequently. However, even just one of the above factors could be causing the issue. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog that will discuss in detail other important factors that go into having a DRY basement.

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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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.

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!

FINE PRINT ALERT

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read-fine-print2

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 over 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.

Energy Savings

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Would you heat and cool your home with the front door and windows open?

Like me, many homeowners are look for energy savings in their homes because we know that energy prices will be and are skyrocketing! We check the efficiency of our furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, kitchen appliances, bathroom ceiling fans scouring our home for ways to save mother earth and our pocketbooks. Checking your home’s performance is the place to start, the ceilings, attic, windows and other energy loss areas. Many homeowners think that spending thousands of dollars on new appliances will save them from dishing out big bucks on heating and cooling their homes. Start with calling Complete Building Solutions, we work with many homeowner associations and homeowners to make their homes perform and become more energy efficient. Read the testimonial below from one of our customers who were elated by our completion of the elimination of bypass, insulation and ventilation correction and saving money far above their expectations!

Complete Building Solutions has saved money for over 115 homeowner associations, townhome and condominium complexes (around 2,000 homeowners in the Twin Cities area alone). Our engineering firm has concrete methods to measure a home’s energy inefficiency and create a path to mending homes. Aside from a detailed attic visual inspection we can also offer infrared camera analytics, moisture testing and negative blower door testing. The negative blower door test determines how many CFM’s (cubic feet per minute) of energy your home is losing. These tests are sometimes done before we work on a home and after the work is completed and sometimes, over a two year period. Typically after a home’s performance is maximized by fixing heat loss areas, a homeowner can save around 25-50% on their energy bills. These savings and your investment will actually pay for themselves over a period of time.

One of our homeowners, Dr. Tracy was elated when we saved him just under 50% of on his energy costs:

“So, thanks again for a job well done! In addition to this very noticeable drop in natural gas usage, we are also noticing that we don’t have to keep the thermostat set as high to keep the house warm, the furnace doesn’t seem to run as often, the upstairs rooms are nice and warm (they were cold in years past), and, of course, no large scale ice build up along the roof lines anymore. There’s some ice in some corner spots but nowhere near as much as in years past.”

—Dr. Tracy

Natural Gas Usage

This bar graph shows Dr. Tracy’s actual gas bill before our assessment and execution of our recommended work scope (left F) and after (right F). These represent the difference in gas usage between February 2014 and February 2015.

Contact us when you are ready to analyze how you can keep the energy you pay for in your home and not giving it away to heat your neighborhood!