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How do I know if a crack on a concrete building is serious or not?

One does not have to be a structural engineer to know that a crack anywhere on a building is not a good sign. Aside from being ugly, cracks can cause a lot of damage to a property that do not necessarily have to do with the structural stability of a structure. The truth of the matter is that cracks come in all shapes and sizes and depending on many factors, can hint at a serious issue or are merely unsightly and can be repaired rather easily.

Cracks that are not structural

Having performed thousands of inspections as a structural engineer, I can categorically state that the majority of the cracks I have seen are not serious to the point where a structural emergency repair is necessary. That is not to say that you can relax and ignore any crack. If you decide to ignore a crack on your house, you are risking that the crack is indeed serious and it could eventually lead to a safety risk.

There are many types of cracks that have strange-sounding names such as "crazing" and "shrinkage". I will try to keep this blog at a layman level and do muy best to explain some of the more common types of cracking that the common person is exposed to.

The most common type of cracking is what I would call a "surface crack" because it is of little structural consequence and it is basically what the name denotes. The origins of these cracks are varied but many times has to do with the manner in which the stucco is applied to the surface or the manner in which the plasterer mixed the stucco (maybe with too much water in the mix). If you look at most properties closely, you will see these types of cracks somewhere. These cracks are not serious in the sense that the structure will collapse. These cracks, however, are serious in the sense that they could allow water and moisture into the property and damage the interior or allow insect infestations. These cracks can be repaired by applying an exterior grade spackling you can buy at your local hardware store, or by merely painting the property and maintaining it throughout the year.

Crack that are structural

Concrete structures are designed by engineers to withstand outside forces. When a building is subjected to forces that the property was not designed to withstand, then cracks will inevitably appear. These outside forces include, but are not necessarily limited to, hurricanes, earthquakes, loads imposed by the occupants, snow, and settlement of the soils underneath, just to name a few.

Here in Florida it is common to see cracks at the corner of a house that are diagonal. An experienced engineer will be able to identify the type of crack and, depending on the severity, provide a solution to deal with the problem. Other cracks can appear next to a window or at the uppermost beams that are located adjacent to the roof structure. These types of cracks are easy to point out, but are more difficult to diagnose and provide solutions for.

Structural cracks are a serious matter since they can become worse over time and eventually render the structure unsafe. Engineers employ different investigative techniques and tools to diagnose different structural failures, but nothing compares to the experience the engineer has. While it is not in the scope of this blog to educate the reader about all the different types of cracking, their seriousness, and their consequences, it is important to note that hiring a structural engineer to look into it is of utmost importance.

If you suspect that there is a crack on your property, I strongly suggest that you seek out a local structural engineer to take a look at it. Depending on your area, an inspection and a report will cost you between $200 to $500. The report should contain the engineer's observations, his conclusions, and recommendations on what the next steps should be. If it is indeed a serious problem, the engineer should tell you right there and then.

Do you need to hire a suitable professional? Contact us (954) 434-2053. In G. Batista & Associates we have highly qualified engineers to carry out the work

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How much does a 40 Year Recertification cost?

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If you are reading this blog, then you have received your notice to perform a 40 Year Inspection.  Simply put, a 40 Year Recertification is an inspection that is required by the State of Florida when a building turns 40 years old.  Additionally, you must to inspections every 10 years thereafter.  You can find a lot of information on the web that will help you understand what a 40 year recertification is.  However, this blog is about the price of a 40 year inspection.  But in order to talk about the cost, one must realize the reason for the existence of the 40 year inspections to begin with.

Beginnings of the 40 Year Recertification

The 40 Year Recertifications were put into law primarily for the public safety.  Building owners perform upgrades and renovations to buildings without pulling permits. Also, Owners many times do not maintain their buildings properly.  As a result, many properties contain unsafe conditions for its occupants.  Examples of these unsafe conditions are as follows:

  • Faulty or exposed wiring
  • Spalling concrete
  • Hidden structural problems
  • Failed roofing systems
  • Possible fire hazards

The law requires that a licensed architect or engineer take the responsibility of the inspection and submit a signed and sealed report.

The Cost of a 40 Year Recertification

The best way to find out how much a 40 Year Recertification will cost you is by calling around and getting proposals.  Of course, a simple search on the internet will yield  lots of information on available professionals in your area.  Each engineer or architect has their own way of calculating how much they are going to charge you for an inspection. The following are the items that most affect the price of a 40 year building inspection (in order of importance):

  • Size of the building (i.e. number of units)
  • Complexity of the structure
  • Accessibility

Size of the Building

As you may have guessed, the size of the building is the factor that most affects the price of a 40 Year Recertification.  Lets take the example of an inspector that has decided he must visit 50 apartments in the case of a high-rise building.  An inspection like this could take most of the day.  Depending on the inspectors findings, the report could be lengthy.

Complexity of the Structure

As an extreme example, lets say that the inspector is to do a 40 year inspection of an electrical plant for FP&L.  On the structural side, there are many unusual structures such as towers and trusses which are difficult to inspect.  On the electrical side, there are high-power devices and mechanisms that are not typical to a regular inspection. Naturally, the inspector will have a very difficult time looking into all the details unless he has much experience with these types of structures.

On the other hand, a much simpler inspection would involve a one-story four-plex apartment building.  Typically, these buildings are constructed of concrete and block and a have a roof structure that has trusses and a shingle roof.  This simple building will also likely have 4 electrical meters and an electrical panel for each unit.

Accessibility

Although this does not tend to be an issue, accessibility can be a big problem. An example of difficult accessibility is the lack of authorization to enter the units of an apartment building.  Another example is where the inspector cannot easily see possible structural problems at the exterior of a 50 story high-rise building.  Accessibility issues can be easily overcome by coordinating with the Owner by planning ahead.

Conclusion

Although the cost of a 40 Year Recertification can vary widely from professional to professional, there are certain basic items that can affect the cost.  Either way, it is a good idea to understand what these potential issues are so you can discuss these with your engineer.  Your engineer can provide you with a proposal once he has a good understanding of your building.  Some engineers  provide a price “per door” or per apartment. Prices can range between $10 per door to $300 per door (depending on many factors).  Others provide a price based on square footage.  Still others take into consideration the location or the structure, its age, and even if it has a crawl space that he may have to squeeze into.

Be ready to provide answers to your engineer.  The better information you provide, the better proposal you will get.  Let G. Batista & Associates provide you with a proposal.