Solution to Foundation Being Started Too Low on New Home

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I started the other posting that dealt with the foundation on my home being started too low, and now the builder wants to correct it. I met with the foreman of the project today, and got his recommended solution. I would be curious to hear some opinions on this solution, and if there would be any concerns in doing this.
The backstory: I am building a new home. At this point, the foundation and basement walls have been poured. The lot provides for a fully exposed basement in the rear of the home, with evenly sloping grade on either side. When starting to backfill around the walls, the foreman noticed that the footer was poured too low and, as a result, the top of the basement walls don't allow for proper slope on the driveway. (The driveway would end up sloping down toward the garage... the top of the concrete walls ended up being flush with the curb of the street.)
The proposed solution: The foreman's recommended solution is to "raise" the home. They would do this by adding two layers of concrete block on the top of the current poured concrete walls (equating to "raising" the house approximately 16 inches). The basement floor would then be raised accordingly, so that the height of the basement ceiling would remain at 9 feet. (To raise the floor, they will be filling in the basement with more stone.) Essentially, I will end up with a poured concrete wall with approximately 16" of concrete block on top.
Does anyone see any problems or concerns with this solution? If I do continue with this solution, are there any particular "problem-spots" that I should look out for during the construction of the home?
Thanks again for any responses! Everyone's input is greatly appreciated!
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In a previous post snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote...

See my previous post on the subject. Hire your own engineer, but have the contractor pay for the engineer's services to design a fix for the problem the contractor created. If the contractor won't do this then fire him and get a new contractor.
BTW, the proposed CMU solution could work provided all the construction details for tying the block to the concrete and the house to the block are properly followed. That's why you need your own engineer.
--
Bob Morrison, PE, SE
R L Morrison Engineering Co
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IMO it is never practical. The legalities of construction law are what they are.

A builder is responsible for his work, and doesn't want another builder's work hanging over him. This will make it harder to find another builder.

Well, this is a place that people turn to to complain and learn, so you are going to hear complaints here. And I agree with your point about "most good builders" but I think at this point we are questioning if he is a good builder. The plans call for the top of the foundation to be at a certain elevation. IMO, this is something that makes someone a good builder or not a good builder.
S
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S, Shooting the right grade is definitely important for a builder, but how do you know the grade written on the plan was right and not a mistake? Over the past 15 yrs I have never seen a print that is 100% accurate. No matter the architect or engineer, or if the plan was hand or CAD drawn. Marson was right saying that contractors get a bad rep here. And when architects make mistakes, try to get damages from them and see how far you get. They will say that the contractor should have found the error. I think all the facts should be clear before a judgment is made.
Tim
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Responses inline...

If the problem was a mistake in the plans, the GC should have said so. And comparing architects mistakes with builders mistakes is comparing apples and oranges. Sadly, a few bad apples reflect badly on everyone. So, I'll give someone a good rep right now.
The contractor who fixed the collapsed roof where I work did a nice job. We're very pleased with what he did and how he did it. Problems that came up even 2 years later were fixed promptly, at no charge, and without attitude. My cousin hired him to do repairs at her townhouse a couple of years ago, and just hired him to remodel her place in Florida. She's sending him and a crew down there, from Illinois, thats how much she trusts him.
And, we have a friend who custom built a house recently and their contractor was very reliable, dealt with some real difficult flood zone issues, and two years later comes to fix things as needed without any hassle.
So there, two good reps. But neither of these builders did anything that would generate a question to this newsgroup either.
And as for suing an architect, well, if the plaintiff can demonstrate damages, then he'll have to pay up. The plans for my home addition call for the foundation to be built a certain way, for I-beams to be used in certain places, etc. If my addition was built the way the plans call for and didn't hold up, you better believe the architect will be liable.
So please don't whine about bad reps in this discussion. It reflects badly on all builders, because this isn't some guy complaing that the stud wood isn't furniture grade. He's building on a slope and the foundation wall holding back that slope and all the water that comes down it will not be from a single concrete form, but from some stacked workaround.
S
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If a mistake were made on the part of the architect with regards to an elevation from benchmark, e.g. T.O.F. 7.83' lower than hydrant halfway down the block and it should have said T.O.F. 6.83' lower, it may not be noticed right away depending on site conditions. Wall sections on the print would show wall heights so they would be the same regardless of the benchmark. When the builder for the O.P. saw it, he didn't try to hide it like some might.

I don't think I was whining. The point I was trying to make is that this builder seems to being judged as incompetent without knowing all the facts. And as far as the foundation not being from a single form, foundations are not always poured monolithic. About 6 years ago we poured 26' tall walls for a house basement. Owner wanted a raquetball court in his basement. We poured in 2 tiers. Proper coating, drainage, and site grading and still no leaks. Properly pinned and reinforced, another pour on top of O.P.'s wall should be just fine. But by all means get the fix stamped by an engineer. Covers everyone.
Tim
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In a previous post Tim Mulvey wrote...

That's why they make telephones. If a contractor notices an error, then he should pick the phone and ask a question. I've seen too many instances where the solution could have been resolved in a 5 minute telephone conversation, but the contractor didn't make the call. The remedy is then to design an expensive fix to what could have been resolved simply and easily.

I NEVER have a problem with contractors who ask questions. And I will ALWAYS give credit to contractors who are conscientious and do their best to do a good job. Mistakes happen -- even in setting the proper grade. The question is how does the contractor approach getting the problem resolved? If in a professional manner that makes the homeowner feel confident in the solution, the contractor is a pro who should be commended.
--
Bob Morrison, PE, SE
R L Morrison Engineering Co
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Bob Morrison wrote:

You're a dionsaur, Bob. ;)
R
PS Shame about that meteor...
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In a previous post RicodJour wrote...

Maybe so. I've been doing structural engineering for 35+ years, so I guess that makes me an "old-timer". But, I do have a few contractors in my area that I will recommend without hesitation. They are a pleasure to work with. They do what they say they will do and if they don't quite understand something or if they think I've made an error (hey it happens), then we work out a solution BEFORE it becomes a major issue.
Rico, I suspect you could easily be included in that list. I enjoy your repartee and have long felt that the answers you give are practical and to the point.
--
Bob Morrison, PE, SE
R L Morrison Engineering Co
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Yes Bob, you are 100% right about the builder needing to make contact right after finding a problem. Hiding and covering up problems usually makes the situation go from bad to worse. However, it seems that this builder notified the homeowner right away and did not try to hide the mistake by whomever. Someone else posted this,
"This is your warning sign. Your builder messed up. He can't hide it and he knows it. Now he's trying to get you to give him permission to take the easy way out. This will be the first of many things he'll screw up and put in your lap to deal with. One day, he'll be gone and you'll be stuck with it."
The point I've been trying to make is don't hang the guy without a fair trial. Everyone makes mistakes but it's how you deal with them that really matters. That other poster is ready to throw the builder to the wolves for making a mistake. They had a bad experience with a contractor, so one mistake and you're an asshole that's going to be a thorn in their side for the next thirty years. People like that need to have a wee bit more information than what was posted before letting the arrows fly.
Tim
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In a previous post Tim Mulvey wrote...

Tim:
I agree wholeheartedly. My original response was perhaps a bit too harsh, but I was in the middle of designing fixes for contractors' mistakes and was not in a very forgiving mood. In both cases a simple telephone call BEFORE the contractors went ahead with the work could have resolved the issues quickly and at almost no cost. The fixes will be expensive and time consuming.
The point of my original response was to get an engineer involved. This will make the homeowner feel better and more confident about the resolution of the problem. The cost of this service should be in the $500 range or so. It seems like a small price to pay to keep (and perhaps enhance) one's reputation for professional conduct once an error is discovered. Mistakes happen. The way the builder or any member of the building team (including the engineer) responds to them is what separates the professionals from the those who don't care.
In this particular case, the builder was proposing a solution without any sort of engineering backup. There a many issues that can affect the design of a basement wall. Simply adding a couple of layers of concrete block on top without adequate instructions as to how to attach the block to the concrete, how to reinforce the block, and how to grout it, etc. is simply not being responsible.
In my mind, the correct thing for the builder to have done was say, "We screwed up. The top of the foundation is too low. I will contact my engineer and have him design a fix for the situation. His fee and my work to correct the error will be done at no extra charge to you, Mr. Owner."
99 times out of 100 that will solve the problem. The Owner can see that the builder is willing to admit that mistakes happen and is willing to take responsibility to see that they are corrected in a satisfactory manner -- not simply propose a solution in the hope that the Owner will accept it without some sort of technical backup.
As for the builder paying the engineer -- the engineer's first responsibility under the law is for safety of the public. Any engineer who works on a problem like this one should immediately recognize that his primary duty is the safety of the building's occupants regardless of who is paying the bill. The "professional" builder will recognize this too and will do the work accordingly. Does this mean that there can't be a bit of "give and take" between the builder and the engineer? No, any engineer worth his salt will always listen to alternate ideas of how a thing can be done.
--
Bob Morrison, PE, SE
R L Morrison Engineering Co
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Bob Morrison wrote:

In spirit I agree but having been thru a construction defect case there are caveats that need to be added.
I also replied in the other thread with my personal experience with a "foundation too low," and the response of builders to two different foundation mistakes on two different houses. I hope the OP will go read what I wrote there.
On Bob's comment I'd like to say that if the homeowner pays for the engineer then the engineer works for the homeowner. Getting the builder to hire an engineer may or may not result in an honest report since the engineer is working for the builder. In my case both sides hired engineers and thankfully all agreed on the builder's defects, but that's not always how it comes out. If you mean get the builder to pay you back for the engineer, that's different, sort of...but a person may have to sue to get it back, unfortunately. An engineer in my area, and in most areas from what i've learned, will cost a minimum of $300 and up to several hundred. They should not have to do any soil testing or core samples so it shouldn't be more than a few hundred. Do not by pass getting a good engineer who's working on your side to save a few hundred bucks or to try and make the builder pay for it. False economy. The important thing is get a qualified opinion on what the proper fix is before you go further.
Also, firing a contractor for substandard work is not as easy as it sounds. Though that wasn't part of my own case, I networked with many homeowners in similar situations during our case, and people were getting sued for firing a contractor. I am not saying the contractor is always right in this issue, but it happens. You have to have a contract that protects you to begin with, and most builder contracts only protect the builder. Wording about quality is usually vague or missing, so the homeowner who fires a contractor can actually be in breach. Then it's up to the court to decide, and the court is not always fair. But it's always expensive.
It's not really out of line here to suggest consulting with an attorney, either. You may not find one willing to take the case unless you just pay them hourly, though. Hopefully you won't need a lawyer but if you do, you don't want to go into it misinformed about your rights/responsibilites under your state law, concerning the building trades. Usually people find out the deck's stacked against them there, too.
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This solution is absolutely fine. There are plenty of homes with entire foundations made of brick or block that are well over 100 years old. They're not leaking or falling over and yours won't either. You can hire an engineer or a nuclear physicist to figure it out if it will help you sleep but you've got alot more work to do and your efforts are better spent understanding what got you into this problem in the first place. Was your foreman asleep at the wheel ? Is this an isolated incident that won't happen again ? Is he going to sub more jobs to incompetents ? Maybe there is something wrong with your selection process.
This really is a goof. When you back the truck up and tell the driver to pour tons of cement over your hard work you had better get it right. At that point it is pretty much written in stone.

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...

....
What is the advantage and disadvantage of concrete block?
If its OK to have concrete block below grade (even on the one wall), why wasn't the entire foundation made of block?
What is the advantage and disadvantage of pouring another foot of concrete?
In short, you need him to tell you why the "fix" wasn't good enough for the initial construction, and if its really so great, why wasn't it done that way in the first place. Make him tell you all the bad things. And do your own checking, and question him about anything he "neglected" to tell you. After that you can make a decision.
BTW, this ALL has to go past your building inspector first.
S
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Yeah, that's great advice. Call the building inspector in on this one. And while you are at it notify the police.

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I can only go from my own experience. My builder has tried to get so many things past the inspectors that I've lost track. He stopped show up for inspections because it was too embarrasing for him, either I have to be there or one of his workers.
S
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That's a completely different situation.
Inspectors are like IRS auditors. They are not on your side. Why would you want to call one in ?

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The inspectors where I live are definitely on my side. They don't want to deal with aesthetic issues, but in this case (like mine) there is a question as to whether or not it even meets code. It seems that the inspectors where I live are not the kind most people have to deal with, thankfully.
S
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As far as the driveway sloping down toward the home (it seems that this is your main concern), the builder can put a drain across the driveway and run the water thru 4" PVC pipearound to the sloped side of the home and downhill to a drain sump. Just make sure that the last foot or two of the D/way goes back up from the drain level to the garage floor level Most of the homes around here have similar drains in their D/Ways as we' re all built on a ~30 degree slope and many are below the grade of the road.
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I've been watching the responses but I haven't seen the most obvious one. It is poured, right? Steel or aluminum forms can be slid down over the existing. Use 24" high forms, let the first form tie lay on the existing wall. I assume there are 1/2" anchor bolts there. Weld 1/2" rebar to them or bolt straps to them and put in a couple rods and pour the darned thing. Simple fast and gives you what you want. Sure, blocks would work but I lean to poured myself.

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