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Investigating Foundation Cracks and Building Defects Cause by Vibration or Construction Nearby


One of the most common sources of forensic engineering investigations for civil engineering experts is where damages to a structure are claimed to have been the result of nearby construction. At CED Investigative Technologies Inc., our civil engineering experts have undertaken detailed investigations in order to determine the overall question presented by such cases: Are the damages to the structure due to the nearby construction, or are they “pre-existing”?

The investigation in such cases takes two directions. First, the damages to the structure must be examined and evaluated. Examination of the damage often answers the question of whether the damage was caused by the nearby construction activities or whether the damage pre-existed that construction. Where the damage is in the form of wall or foundation cracks, for example, paint inside the cracks, “rounding” of the crack edges due to age, and insect invasion or habitation inside the crack are all factors useful to the expert in search of the cause. In many cases, the expert investigating the structural damage not only finds that the damages

pre-existed the nearby construction, but he also uncovers the original cause of the damages. Examples would include insufficient or defective materials or methods used on the structure during initial construction or renovation, inadequate water management techniques used for drainage or rainwater, or inadequate maintenance. Homeowners often “discover” structural damage during or immediately after nearby construction, when in fact the damage was already present and had gone unnoticed. Eager contractors and subcontractors occasionally suggest that their costs can be reimbursed by others when a homeowner who lives in close proximity to construction needs work done on their home.

The second area which our engineer experts evaluate in structural damage claims alleged to be the result of nearby construction is the construction activities themselves. What was being constructed and how? If pile driving was involved, what was the diameter of the piles and what machinery was being used? If construction traffic is at issue, what are the weights of the machinery and vehicles traversing the site, and what kind of vibration energy would such equipment and vehicles impart to the soils? Was there any blasting taking place, and if so, how close and how large were the explosions? Did any vibration imparted to the soils violate the “Peak Particle Velocity” (PPV) guidelines set by the Bureau of Mines? Finally, the engineer will analyze any documentation provided by those undertaking the construction? Were adjoining structures evaluated or photographed to measure potential shifts, cracks, settling or uplifting to them? Was the water table evaluated in cases where dewatering would be a necessary construction technique?

At CED we have the experience and training to uncover the extent and causes of structural damage, whether the causes are alleged to have been nearby construction, storms, or defective materials and techniques.

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