What a mess

Got asked to inspect a 4 story storefront and 2 unit condo (upper unit duplexed) that was built in 2005. Of course, the back and sides were single wythe split faced block. The client also had out a structural engineer, a GHC and an architect. Tje SE also brought out a guy to use deep probing radar top check for rebar in the block.

I used my old metal detector (like you use on a beach, looking for lost coins and stuff) and didn’t find any (which is typical for Chicago), but the SE couldn’t believe a 4 story single wythe building without rebar.

We also found a couple of other interesting things.

  1. The foundation wall (measured from top of footing to foundation wall / block interface) was 32" measured 10 ’ from the front sidewalk along the side, but measured 20’ further back, it was 36". The footings were sloped backwards. In any case, the minimum foundation footing depth around here is 48".
  2. No bond beams in the wall. No grouted block cells. “Some” of the CMU block cells located in the courses directly under floor and roof trusses were grouted and “some” had ladder wire in the mortar joint above this course.
  3. Major step cracking at the building corners, including the step cracking extending through the block in the bottom course.

Needless to say, the SE could not believe all these things. But, I saw them, everyday, when I was doing draw inspections some years back.

Looks like there will be a LOT of these type of jobs coming up.

So what was the prognosis from the A/E?:slight_smile:

They were trying to talk the top floor owner (the other two owners want nothing to do with spending any money) into driving piers, installing vertical channels on the wall (to stop the horizontal bulging) and cover the exterior with LP wooden siding.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

How do they get away with building like that in your area. Dam, I would be thrown in jail to attempt building like that here in a small town.

The building dept really doesn’t have time for, nor the resources to inspect any buildings other that the big downtown skyscrapers.

Around here, as soon as the building iis complete and sold, the builder dissolves their LLC and walks away, free from litigation.

I know of some 40+ 3 unit duplex down split block condos where all the owners just walked away when they read my report. They said it was better to just get foreclosed on than to pay to try to fix them. Many are now owned by up to 3 different banks.


Will, back in the mid 70’s, I was a masonry foreman for the Company for awhile, and split faced block was very common, hated it then and hate it now.
All it is good for is a sponge instead of a rainscreen.
The problem was resolved a few years later by spraying with a cementious product that I can’t remember anymore, but completly stopped the water infiltration in the block.
That saved a lot of buildings.

But, single wythe split face block with no reiforcement is unheard of.
Surely would not stand up to the test of time that the building was assumed good for.

At the time of this split block era, the split block was more of a veneer than bearing. But I did work on a project that had the exterior split face as bearing and a back-up cmu on the interior. This was a government job.
That was my first experience with a backwards design. 8"split face bearing block, mastic on the back side, 2"styrofoam, air space and then 4" veneer block on the interior. Built from outside in.


Oh, by the way, I didn’t mention this. The floor and roof joists were all 2 x 4 engineered trusses (bottom loaded, in pockets in the block). About half of the visable ones (some ceiling drywall was removed) were installed upside down. I recommended that all be evaluated by a licensed and insured SE. That will be popular with the other owners.

Would like to see upside down example.