Challenge Posed During Construction Phase
Building homes is a very complex thing. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that over 3,000 components are used in constructing a house. The single most problematic component for Residential Warranty Company, LLC (RWC) is the foundation, a wall of concrete block resting on a footing, supporting the full weight of the house, its contents, and inhabitants. This component is arguably the most important component. Why then is it the most problematic?
When designing and constructing a concrete block (CMU) foundation there are many very important elements that need to be considered. The single biggest dynamic that we are faced with is resistance to lateral movement. The forces that laterally impact CMU foundations should be considered when using this method of foundation construction. Steel reinforcement, introduction of pilasters, solid grout along with rebar in hollow cores and attention to backfill and soil types go a long way in constructing an adequate foundation wall that can resist lateral forces.
There are external factors that can affect CMU foundation performance. The height of the backfill along with the type of soil (clay, shale, sandy, expansive, etc.) may have required special attention when it was placed. The installation of perimeter drain systems whether internal or external will be evaluated. Is a sump pump installed and has the homeowner been proactive in using and maintaining the system? If the system is day lighted, is the line clear and does it function properly? Hydrostatic pressure created from over saturated soil has tremendous weight that can test the limits of the foundation wall if a potential water condition is not mitigated.
When a claim is made to RWC, a fact-finding inspection is ordered. A licensed professional engineer is scheduled to visit the home and assess all aspects of the condition reported. RWC will contact you and ask for any documentation you have regarding the construction of this home. If upon review of the fact-finding inspection report in relation to the Limited Warranty applicable to the home, the condition of the defect meets the specified criteria for coverage, RWC is obligated to take action. In most instances the mode of foundation movement is lateral and our responsibility is to restore the load-bearing function of the foundation wall. The engineer will evaluate the unbalanced fill condition as he evaluates the foundation wall. Any actions that the homeowner may have taken regarding landscaping, patio installation, modifications to the downspout locations or re-routing of the downspouts along with overall grading and drainage that may have been modified after the home was delivered by the Builder, are noted and taken into consideration.
During this phase of the claim, RWC will again reach out to your company. As the Builder, you have the most knowledge about this home. You have been intimate with this structure from the first idea that a home should be constructed until settlement changes title to your buyer. We understand and respect that you are most knowledgeable. We rely on your expert knowledge and ask that you provide us with the details regarding how this foundation was designed and built. This will include requests for drawings and details regarding any service orders or warranty claims that you have dealt in the first two years of the homes life. Anything that you can provide to us so we can carefully evaluate every aspect of this covered condition.
RWC will be required to provide a settlement offer, or in some cases, make repairs that will restore the load-bearing function to the CMU foundation. We are not obligated to rebuild the foundation wall however this may be necessary dependent on the severity of the lateral displacement. Our efforts commonly involve reinforcement utilizing solid core grouting and rebar installation and more recently the use of carbon fiber reinforcement. This work is most often performed from the interior of the home negating the extensive cost of exterior excavation. It is important to recognize that this work will be accomplished in accordance with a sealed structural repair plan provided by a licensed engineer and the work will be certified at completion by the same professional. Remember, the Limited Warranty requires that the load-bearing function be restored, that does not necessarily mean that a wall that shows signs of lateral movement needs to be plumb when the repairs are complete.
RWC understands that you are truly professional Builders. When we have to deal with this significant structural problem we know you have done your due diligence throughout the construction process and you will be able to provide us with the important data we need to ensure a fair evaluation of the claim and an adequate repair when required.
Written by Don Sechler, RWC Warranty Resolution