Is there a tolerance for levelness?

Originally Posted By: pdacey
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Did a one year warranty inspection this morning. Two story house, slab on grade foundation. Pretty clean inspection. There was virtually no evidence of settlement inside or outside of the house.


When I was inspecting the rooms on the second floor I could feel the floor was not level. I measured it with my ZipLevel and found that the front of the house was 3" lower than the back. I went downstairs and measured the first floor. The front measured about 2-1/2" lower than the back. I took another walk around the outside of the house and there isn't one crack in the foundation and all of the transitions between the main foundation and the driveway, front porch slab and back patio slab are fine. No gaps, no offsets.

Inside the house there is almost no cracking. No separations in the roof framing either.

The only thing I can conclude is that the house was built this way. Is there any limit to how far out of level a foundation or floor can be? I looked through the IRC twice and can find no reference to a tolerance for level.

My initial thought is to recommend to the client to ask the builder to have the designing engineer come out look it over. But if there is nothing in the IRC about levelness then.....?????

Any thoughts?


--
Slainte!

Patrick Dacey
swi@satx.rr.com
TREC # 6636
www.southwestinspections.com

Originally Posted By: dvalley
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Patrick,


Is this slab home on epansive soil which is often referred to as bentonite or clay soils. When soil containing high amounts of clay becomes moist, the clay molecules expand and exert tremendous upward force on a floating slab.

Newer construction methods leave a void space beneath a structural floor and grade beam. This void allows the soil to expand and contract freely without affecting the structure.


--
David Valley
MAB Member

Massachusetts Certified Home Inspections
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"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

Originally Posted By: pdacey
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David,


We do have expansive soils here. But there is no visual evidence that house has heaved or settled 3". All of the joints with the floating porch and patio slabs are true. No gaps, no offset. Same at the joint with the driveway.

And actually, we've been going through somewhat of a drought as well. The soil around the perimeter is quite dry. I even recommended that the client look into a watering routine for the foundation.

With the lack of any substantial evidence of movement (ie. cracking, rubbing doors and windows, etc...) my gut is telling me that it was built out of level. I recommended that the client inquire with the builder to see if the foundation was measured after it was poured. Then we would have something to compare my measurements with.


--
Slainte!

Patrick Dacey
swi@satx.rr.com
TREC # 6636
www.southwestinspections.com

Originally Posted By: Monte Lunde
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Check the vertical plum of the two outside walls, if the both lean in the same direction then you have soil movement. If both walls are plum then it was built that way.



Monte Lunde CCI, CCPM, CRI


Viking Construction Services Inc.

Originally Posted By: kmcmahon
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In Texas it’s called black gumbo! I remember it well. Many homes are built with post tensioned slabs, so although they don’t show signs of cracking, the slab can move with the soil expansion and contraction.



Wisconsin Home Inspection, ABC Home Inspection LLC


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Originally Posted By: lleesch
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Patrick, I am sure you are aware that the TRCC has adopted the old 2-10 warranty almost word for word. I formerly handled homes in litigation for the (used to be anyway) largest homebuilder in SA. The rule that they used ( 2-10 warranty) was a 2% differential was a no action but required yearly inspections for change. A 2 1/2% differential and the foundation required repair. I would suggest that the homeowner contact the builder for evaluation. If the builder did not perform a level check after pour, all measurements are considered zero or the slab is considered to be perfectly flat at time of close. You will find since the TRCC enactment, more builders are shooting grades on the slabs after pour but before frame to establish these measurements. Hope this helps.


Originally Posted By: roconnor
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for out of level construction, but I would have to research that.


Since you are in Texas, the TRCC Warranty standards could be used as a guide (dont think they would apply yet)

http://www.trcc.state.tx.us/links/warranties.htm

However, a common general rule for an HI is 1" in 20' for floor levelness before it becomes a significant concern. Also, since its a new house, perhaps the client could contact the designer to ask about what was specified in the construction documents on levelness.


--
Robert O'Connor, PE
Eagle Engineering ?
Eagle Eye Inspections ?
NACHI Education Committee

I am absolutely amazed sometimes by how much thought goes into doing things wrong

Originally Posted By: pdacey
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lleesch wrote:
I would suggest that the homeowner contact the builder for evaluation.


That was my recommendation and that they should request an inspection by the designing engineer as well.


roconnor wrote:
Since you are in Texas, the TRCC Warranty standards could be used as a guide (dont think they would apply yet)


They just went into effect June 1 2005. This home was built in '04 so they wouldn't actually apply. But they are a good guideline none the less.

Thank you all for the replies.


--
Slainte!

Patrick Dacey
swi@satx.rr.com
TREC # 6636
www.southwestinspections.com

Originally Posted By: mcyr
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Levelness should be defined as tolerable if it is in the range of 1/4" in ten feet, whether it is for plumb or level. 2 1/2 " to me is way excessive.


If there are no evidence of settlement or cracks, I would have to assume it was built that way. I guess they did not have a laser available or a dumpy level someone could use, ha. ha..

Being in Texas, that I am not familiar with, I know frost heave is not part of the equation. Settlement....??? To be evaluated by a structural Engineer or Civil Engineer.

Marcel


Originally Posted By: Monte Lunde
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The IBC Code (1805.1 General) states that “The top surface of footings shall be level”. With this statement by the IBC, then everything above the footing also as to be level.


Tolerance

The design engineer can have a tolerance level, but that has to be on the drawings or in the plan specifications. The State and or the local Building Dept. can also have there own tolerance levels. Tolerance level for flatness is normal set for a certain distance between any two points on a plane. (Example 1/4" in 10' span) . You measure between the 10' span for anything exceeding the 1/4"

What you are talking about here is a 2 1/2" slope from one corner of the house to the other corner. This can be a big deal or not a big deal for it all depends on the distance between the two points. ( 2 1/2" slope on a 100' is not a big deal, 2 1/2" on 10" is a big deal), but under your TRCC new law any slope over .75 Inch, no matter what the distance is not acceptable unless it was designed that way.

Patrick, So what is the distance that you are using for this question?

I just look at the TRCC site and there tolerance for footings is +/- .75 Inch over Length of Foundation and Concrete flatness of 3/8" in 32" between any two points for flatness.


--
Monte Lunde CCI, CCPM, CRI
Viking Construction Services Inc.

Originally Posted By: roconnor
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Monte Lunde wrote:
The IBC Code (1805.1 General) states that "The top surface of footings shall be level". With this statement by the IBC, then everything above the footing also as to be level.

Both the IRC abd IBC reference ACI-318 for concrete foundations as a "Reference Standard" (see appendices), which includes specific provisions for general concrete construction tolerances depending on the component. However, these provisions apply to new construction only.

Again, I think the tolerance for new slabs is 1/4" in 10 feet ... or 1/2" in 20 feet. So the 3/4" to 1" in 20 feet for existing houses appears reasonable (lower end for newer construction). Check your equipment used to measure that regularly too!

Just my opinion and 2-nickels not being up-close and personal ... ![icon_wink.gif](upload://ssT9V5t45yjlgXqiFRXL04eXtqw.gif)


--
Robert O'Connor, PE
Eagle Engineering ?
Eagle Eye Inspections ?
NACHI Education Committee

I am absolutely amazed sometimes by how much thought goes into doing things wrong

Originally Posted By: pdacey
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Monte Lunde wrote:
Patrick, So what is the distance that you are using for this question?


Approx. 25'.

The TRCC rules just went into effect on June 1 of this year. This home was built in June of '04 so they don't apply. But, no matter how you look at it, this house was excessively out of level.


--
Slainte!

Patrick Dacey
swi@satx.rr.com
TREC # 6636
www.southwestinspections.com

Originally Posted By: Monte Lunde
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Patrick, agree with your above statement “excessively out of level”.



Monte Lunde CCI, CCPM, CRI


Viking Construction Services Inc.

Originally Posted By: mcyr
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I would like to know who in Gods name approved the 3/4" in 20 feet tolerance is OK for new construction!, for being a commercial builder, this would not fly. Sorry, this would not fly in by book. Who wrote these standards, because I want to respond to that. quality of performance in my book is more closer than this standard wether it is residential or commercial.
Marcel


Originally Posted By: lleesch
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The specs given by the TRCC are very forgiving. But you apparently don’t live here or have ever experienced a PI of 80+. The specs/ tolerances are to be enforced for a period of ten years. We have foundations that will have vertical displacement of up to 16" from the wettest time of the year to the driest. That can be a period of 4-5 months apart. To expect the house to “land” in the same elevation across the entire slab is not even reasonable. The Houston Black Clay soils that we have are some of the worst in the nation. The tolerances are written to allow for this. Most builders will not allow such variances at time of construction. If you have a slab with a 1" drop on one side at time of pour of maybe a 50’ run and at year 5 the slab has dropped 1 1/2". While the slab has only moved 1 1/2" from time of close, it exceeds the limits set out by the TRCC because it is a total of 2 1/2". Now the builder has to fix the foundation. Piers are expensive here and foundation companies are numerous. Add the addtional cost of the plumbing repairs that most like are to occur and the builder is out a bunch of dinero. Like I said, most builders won’t except a slab with that much deviation. Builders are getting smart down here. Third party inspections are becoming more popular at foundation, frame, and final. We have one inspection company in SA that even does the walkthru with the homebuyer. It takes the pressure off of the builder. Not all builders are doing shoddy work. Some even have their own QC department. FWIW, Texas uses the IRC 2003 standards. IBC is not a requirement. Also, TRCC dictates that all construction in Texas, regardless of location, will meet the IRC 2003 standards. For those of you doing new home construction inspections, don’t forget the shortwall specs IRC 602.10.1. Some of the builders have chosen to disregard this part of code because it is not well written. the State of Texas is great at quoting to be in the “spirit” of the code. If you haven’t read the clarification that came out in February this year, you might want to give it a read. Also, there is a PDF file at www.apawood.org called Narrow Walls that Work which should be required reading for all builders and architects in Texas. Look for it under the OSB section.


Originally Posted By: mcyr
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No matter where you are in the Country, I still believe that a dwelling should be level and/or designed for the current conditions of the area.


Structurally, I believe buildings can be designed for no matter what the soil conditions may be. I have built building on piles, regular foundations, slabs. and whatever else design you may think of, and none were or will be 1 and 1/2" out of level.


Sorry.

Marcel


Originally Posted By: Monte Lunde
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Here is a ACI Standard that you might buy for your answers on tolerances.


ACI 117-90: Standard Specifications for Tolerances for Concrete Construction and Materials (Reapproved 2002) Costs about $26.00 Non-members


--
Monte Lunde CCI, CCPM, CRI
Viking Construction Services Inc.

Originally Posted By: roconnor
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Monte Lunde wrote:
Here is a ACI Standard that you might buy for your answers on tolerances ... ACI 117-90 ...

I believe that is the ACI-318 reference standard. However, most are not doing new construction inspection or have the authority/knowledge to enforce/interpret those ACI new construction standards, which is well beyong the typical HI SOP ... so the usual HI guidelines are typically followed (hopefully, with a grain of salt) for an existing home inspection ... ![icon_wink.gif](upload://ssT9V5t45yjlgXqiFRXL04eXtqw.gif)

mcyr wrote:
Structurally, I believe buildings can be designed for no matter what the soil conditions may be. I have built building on piles, regular foundations, slabs. and whatever else design you may think of, and none were or will be 1 and 1/2" out of level.

I tend to agree in general. But keep in mind we are talking about existing residential construction, not new commercial buildings. The HI guidelines consider the possibility of construction tolerances combined with some additional/typical (ahem) movement over time.

Also, there is a difference between quality construction, and building to minimum standards ... ![icon_wink.gif](upload://ssT9V5t45yjlgXqiFRXL04eXtqw.gif)


--
Robert O'Connor, PE
Eagle Engineering ?
Eagle Eye Inspections ?
NACHI Education Committee

I am absolutely amazed sometimes by how much thought goes into doing things wrong

Originally Posted By: mcyr
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1/4" in ten feet is acceptable unless superflat floors are specified. I did not buy the book.


Marcel


Originally Posted By: mcyr
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Bob;

What do you consider tolerable acceptance of level floors in existing residential buildings?

Marcel