Too Much Base? Structural Damage Caused by Vibrations

There are many natural causes that can be attributed to foundations cracking, like earthquakes, wind, soil conditions, freeze and thaw cycles, and tree roots. Some vibrations by natural causes can endanger structures, but man-made efforts can create harmful vibrations as well. Construction activities that produce strong vibrations can cause structural damage to nearby buildings or homes.

Demolition and the construction of deep foundations are common sources of strong vibrations. Activities of demolition and construction, such as pile driving a foundation, excavating a fence, jackhammering to break up concrete or rocks, wrecking balls demolishing a structure, and rock blasting with explosives, produce vibrations that may cause the physical deterioration of structures in close proximity.

Building damage falls into two categories: architectural and structural. While architectural damage could be as simple as broken windows or interior cracks in drywall or plaster that homeowners can repair themselves, structural damage may include roof collapse, cracked support beams, utility disruption (plumbing, electrical, etc.) and cracks in the foundation. Significant structural damage can lead to the loss of structural integrity thus endangering the occupants.

A structural engineer can examine and evaluate damage to the structure as well as evaluate construction activities by performing some of the following steps:

  • Determine if any vibration imparted to the soil exceeded the “Peak Particle Velocity” guidelines.
  • Evaluate seismograph/vibration readings (usually measured during construction).
  • Determine whether adjoining structures were evaluated during the pre-construction phase to measure potential shifts, cracks, settling, or uplifting.
  • Investigate the type of construction or equipment being utilized.
  • Measure proximity of damage to location of work being completed.
  • Review documentation provided by those undertaking the construction.
  • Assess weight of the machinery and vehicles traversing the site.

Evaluating structural damage is not a simple process. CED’s structural engineers have the training and experience that permits them to uncover the cause, extent and origin of structural damages. Our engineers understand the methods of vibration measurement and analysis and follow established procedures during investigation. If you require a structural damage assessment due to suspected vibration, call us at (800) 780-4221 or submit a case request online.